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Making the Grade: High Fives and Fist Bumps Instead of Hugs, Please

September 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I still remember her. She was the best. My 1st grade self loved her big smile and her early 80s old-lady perm. Everyday, she’d stand by the classroom door at the end of the day and hug each and every one of us. I was excited to go to school everyday because of her and her Mr. Rogers-ish ways. It’s a parents’ dream — a kid who loves school and has a teacher who showers their son or daughter with affection.

Except when it’s not exactly a dream.

Touch is a powerful thing. It can hurt tragically, and it can heal supernaturally. It makes neurons fire in our brain like the fourth of July. Touch is a remarkable God-given tool to build relationship and connection from the neighborly casual to the most intimate. And, it’s something our children who have had hard starts often have a hard time with.

Some kids can’t get enough of it; some kids struggle to accept and receive it at all. And when they struggle with touch, we as parents struggle along with them.

When our kids are small, we can hold them, literally “wear” them, cosleep, guard those moments when we feel trust and connection can build. But, those small kids grow bigger and our strategies to help them give and receive appropriate physical touch have to grow with them.

A few weeks into the school year, what do you do when you realize your child has the warmest, sweetest preschool teacher in the world or the veteran 1st-grade teacher who has a poster above her desk that says FREE HUGS HERE? You thank God that your child got that teacher and that you know he or she is being taught by someone who cares about their heart and not just their brain.

And, then, you might want to think about writing an email with a gentle request. Touch is important in the classroom; research and personal experience tell us so. But, high fives and fist bumps can do the trick and allow you to save those hugs and kisses for home.


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Want a little jump start on that email? Here are two examples to get you started. The first is for the teacher of a child who goes after hugs and kisses from everybody; the second is for the teacher of a child who has a hard time giving and receiving affection. Copy and paste, switching out names and pronouns as appropriate. Or, simply let them be a starting point to create an email all your own. I’d love to read your final product, if you do. Send it to me; maybe yours will become the template for another family.

Regarding a Child Who Gives Indiscriminate Affection

Dear Teacher,

We so appreciate you. You know how to successfully teach a child to do something he or she has not yet done before –which would be magic in and of itself. But, somehow, you manage to not only teach a child but teach him or her in a room full of children. Each one of those children learns in his or her own unique way. And, each child comes from a different place and brings his or her own unique needs into your classroom everyday. What you are able to do by teaching each child individually and the entire class corporately is nothing short of an everyday miracle. We don’t take that lightly!

On top of all that magical teaching stuff, we know you care about each child. You care about their stories. We can tell. We can tell when you look right into their eyes and greet them in the morning (that doesn’t go unnoticed). And, we can tell when Jenny talks about her day and quotes little things you said (yeah, she does that). She knows you care. And, that’s so so important to us as parents… really really important. It’s because we know you truly care that I’m reaching out today and asking you to do something for Jenny that may seem slightly counterintuitive.

Jenny had a hard start. Children who aren’t in safe families where big people take care of little people often learn strategies to get what they need. One of those strategies is physical affection. It makes sense really. Big people respond to little people when they put their arms up and when they want hugs or a kiss. It works. But, it isn’t right. Our job, as moms and dads, is to show our children that we’re the big people who will take care of them, that we’re not temporary, we belong to them and we belong with them. Some days, John and I send that message well to Jenny and she receives it well. Other days, it’s a real struggle on both sides.

Would you be willing to help us in all this as you have Jenny in your care? It would be really helpful if you would partner with us to teach her that there are better, safer strategies than physical affection to get what she needs. At home, we are working on teaching her that we are always available and willing to give hugs and kisses but if there’s something she needs, she use words and simply ask for it. She often hears, “You know, if you need something, all you have to do is ask!” Another thing we have tried to teach is that hugs and kisses are for family, and high fives and fist bumps are for everyone else. We want to guard hugs and kisses as best we can so she learns boundaries and sees them as a “family thing.” So, can I ask you to do something that may feel a little strange at first? When she reaches out to hug you – as I expect she will – can you redirect her with a high five or a fist bump?

We want her to continue to feel the care from you that she has been because that’s important. We want her to know that we’d never send her somewhere we didn’t think was safe and that we trust you to take good care of her and teach her well. We know touch is a great way for her to experience that care. But, I truly believe that she’ll get it through the high five or fist bump paired with the consistency and personal attention that we know she is getting from you.

Let us know what you think as you find time to respond. We would love to keep the lines of communication open so that you are not only partnering with us, but we are partnering with you.

– Jenny’s mom

……………………….

Regarding a Child Who Struggles to Give and Receive Physical Affection

Dear Teacher,

We so appreciate you. You know how to successfully teach a child to do something he or she has not yet done before–which would be magic in and of itself. But, somehow, you manage to not only teach a child but teach him or her in a room full of children. Each one of those children learns in his or her own unique way. And, each child comes from a different place and brings his or her own unique needs into your classroom everyday. What you are able to do by teaching each child individually and the entire class corporately is nothing short of an everyday miracle. We don’t take that lightly!

On top of all that magical teaching stuff, we know you care about each child. You care about their stories. We can tell. We can tell when you look right into their eyes and greet them in the morning (that doesn’t go unnoticed). And, we can tell when Jenny talks about her day and quotes little things you said (yeah, she does that). She knows you care. And, that’s so so important to us as parents… really really important. It’s because we know you truly care that I’m reaching out today and asking you to do something for Jenny that may seem slightly counterintuitive.

Jenny had a hard start. Children who aren’t in safe families where big people take good care of little people are affected in significant ways. One of those ways is in giving and taking in affection. It makes sense. When a child hasn’t experienced safe and sufficient nurturing as a baby, closeness can be really hard. It can make them feel vulnerable and threatened. We’ve been working on that as a family, practicing giving and receiving hugs and kisses. And, we’ve celebrated a lot of growth there. But, we’ve always been very careful, intentionally guarding that closeness, reserving hugs to family only and practicing the exclusivity of our family, something Jenny, unlike most children who have not experienced a hard start, needs to learn.

We are excited to have her a part of your class this year, but we’re also a little anxious. We are concerned that as we widen her circle, the small but significant successes we’ve seen may be hindered. Would you be willing to help us in all this as you have Jenny in your care? Would you be willing to reinforce what we have been working so hard for at home? One way you could do that is by not giving her hugs or kisses; they’re a “family thing.” We do want her to trust other caregivers who we trust and build appropriate connections there. We aren’t opposed to touch; we know touch is important to connection. But, high fives and fist bumps are best for her (and they’ll go a long way with her!). Hugs and kisses are for family, for people you love; high fives and fist bumps are for everyone else, people you like and who like you. That’s what we want her to learn – which is way more important to us than all the letters and numbers combined.

Let us know what you think as you find time to respond. We would love to keep the lines of communication open so that you are not only partnering with us, but we are partnering with you. If you have questions, we welcome you to ask. I can’t promise I’ll have an answer for you, but I’ll do my best to find one as I know you are doing for my child and the rest of her class.

– Jenny’s mom

image by Emily Adcox


Child Who Waits: Moses

September 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Look at tiny sweet Moses and fall in love!

Born in September of 2014, Moses is just less than 18 months old. How he needs a mama to love him! Moses is described as a playful little guy who loves to interact with his caregivers. He likes to make sounds and call to different people and objects he sees, and he loves to laugh aloud when he finds something funny. He enjoys playtime and he’ll reach for nearby toys he sees. Although his caregivers describe him as quiet, he loves to smile and make noises when his caregivers tease and tickle him!


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Moses was only a few days old when he was found at the orphanage. He is currently in care at the orphanage where he was found. As of May 2015, he could raise his head if lying on the abdomen & could turn on his side. At that time he was not yet sitting or crawling, but could search for sound source and track moving toys. He was really good at visually following moving toys and people, and his caregivers reported that he can search for the source of sounds. He was also said to laugh loudly, and could pick up a toy near him to play. He could also smile at being teased. It would be great to see and update on little Moses and find out all he has learned to do and how he has grown and developed since May!

Moses is officially diagnosed with microtia and facial difference. He is also said to have a brain injury. A CT scan in his file, done in August 2015, does not show any brain abnormality. There is also an auditory test included in his file, which indicates sensory nerve deafness of his right ear. His file does not indicate any surgeries.


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Sweet Moses is described as a lovely child, and his caregivers wish for him to find a loving family and to have a happy childhood and beautiful future. They state that “we believe he will bring more happiness to a family.” Moses is so in need of a loving family to help him reach his full potential.

Moses’s file is currently on the SHARED list. If you already have an agency, advocates are happy to share his identifying information with your agency case worker so they can locate his file on the shared list. Just send us an email!

Also, WACAP is offering a $4,000 grant for qualifying families. Seriously interested families should download and complete their pre-application (no fee, no commitment) HERE. You may email the completed pre-application to WACAP with your request and the first available case manager will respond.

Making the Grade: Choosing a Classical Approach

September 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Our decision to homeschool began like many other families’ journeys, I’m sure. We wanted to give our children a Biblical worldview, be a bigger part of their lives (no parents ever regret spending too much time with their children!), and have the freedom to choose our studies based on individual interests.

We also hoped to create a thirst for knowledge in an environment that was connected, flexible, personalized, relaxed, playful, and loving. Ultimately our goals for our children are to be independent, to be successful at whatever they choose to do, to love each other (and hopefully come home for holidays!), and mostly to love the Lord.

I know our desires can be accomplished in many different education environments here in the U.S., and I truly believe that there is not one correct way to teach children. I think there are so many wonderful alternatives for families, including public school. Homeschooling is not for everyone, just as public school or private school is not for everyone. I respect every family’s decision to educate their children in the manner they feel best. I’m simply thankful that families are free to choose education for their children. For now, we feel that homeschool is the best decision for our family.


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We just started our fifth year together, and I feel more confident than ever that homeschooling is right for our family. I do not know if it will always be the best decision, but it is working well for now. And for several reasons, homeschooling has been especially beneficial for us as we have added two precious loves to our family through adoption:


Home environment to build attachment.

This was so important specifically for one of my children who showed indiscriminate affection to any nearby adult. By keeping their worlds small, we have been able to build attachment in a safe and nurturing environment: our home.

They are learning how to be a family and stick together, as they understand the roles of mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparent, friend, teacher, etc. Likewise, we are able to demonstrate and practice healthy boundaries, teach social cues, life skills, and coping techniques all throughout the day as needed.

Being together all the time allows us to predictably respond to needs in a connected way as the occasions arise, which will hopefully help them to heal from their losses over time. It also gives us relaxed time to connect through play and nurturing activities. We don’t get everything right every time, but we try our best!


Individualized teaching to meet educational, nurturing, and healing needs.

I am able to teach the academic skills my children are capable of learning based on their development, not simply their chronological age. And of course, I have the ability to encourage them to do more when they have mastered a concept and I feel they are ready to handle something new.

I know many traditional schools offer tremendous opportunities for children with special needs, but I’ve found through my limited personal experience with IEPs and service plans that the professionals in my local public school system simply don’t understand the impacts of trauma, neglect, and the severe loss associated with adoption. My explanations, while also trying to protect stories, get placating smiles and nods. I pray that’s not true for everyone else, but the school system here simply isn’t equipped to help all of my children in the best way possible.


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Promoting memory retention using a classical education philosophy.

There are so many education philosophies, but we landed upon the classical method when we began homeschooling in 2012. That decision ended up being one of the best for my children because of the emphasis on memorization in the grammar stage. With almost all of our memory work put to song, it’s relatively easy to empower all of my children to succeed. The “lyrics” are fun and catchy, which help to combat one of the unfortunate outcomes of trauma and neglect – difficulties with memory retention.


Flexibility.

Flexibility with everything. Cocooning. Doctor’s appointments. Surgeries. Hospital stays. Helping our children learning how to communicate in a new language. Everything.

I don’t think I could jump immediately back into school work after bringing children home via adoption. There’s a certain amount of plain ‘ole surviving life that takes place upon arriving home. Likewise, the often countless doctor’s appointments, meetings with specialists, surgeries, hospital stays, and other unforeseen events can make it difficult to keep a normal school schedule.

I have been so thankful for the grace and flexibility when needed, even if it has meant schooling through the summer to catch up.


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I know our educational choice won’t work for everyone and it isn’t the best decision for all families. But homeschool has been perfect for us. There, of course, have been challenges while homeschooling as well. But that would come with any education environment, and the positives far outweigh the negatives for us.

I think the most important education consideration adoptive parents need to keep in mind is what will work best for their child. Our choice to educate at home works best for our children right now, but that choice will look different for every child!

NicoleNHBOSig

Find My Family: Alexa

September 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Meet Alexa! Alex was born in October 2003 and is almost 13 years old. She loves dressing up and is an exceptional artist. Alexa has many good friends at school. Alexa’s caregivers wish is for her to find a loving family who can help her reach her full potential. Alexa herself has expressed her desire …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Annabelle

September 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Oh my. Meet Miss Annabelle. This sweet baby girl is just one year old, and new to the list at HIC. Annabelle came to the orphanage when she was nine months old, and was found to have Down syndrome, and a CHD (ASD – report is in her file). You can read more about Down …Read More

Our Red Thread of Hope: An Advocacy Success Story

September 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

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The Chinese have an ancient proverb that says, “An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.” Back in July 2015, the Lord called our family out of the Ethiopia adoption program, where had waited for over …Read More

Urgent Aging Out Child: Victoria

September 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Sweet 13-year-old Victoria was found at the age of three, but just now had an adoption file prepared. She is now available to be adopted thanks to a new orphanage partnership with Madison Adoption Associates. Victoria is a Hep B carrier, but is otherwise healthy. She has just under 7 months to find a family …Read More

Making the Grade: Links for Parents of Kids with Special Needs Part Two

September 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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It’s September which means school is back in session. And this month at No Hands But Ours, it’s all about Education. From IEPs to OT, from homeschooling to Early Intervention, we’re covering the gamut of educational topics and how they relate to the unique needs of the children who have joined our families through adoption. …Read More

Meet the Contributors: Faith

September 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a …Read More

God’s Path: Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

September 19, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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Four years ago, we were a family of five. My husband and I had two biological sons who are now 15 and 13 and one daughter who is now ten. We had adopted our daughter from China when she was only one year old. She had a hole in her heart, but God healed her. …Read More

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