15 Ways to Prepare During the Wait

May 2, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Those who have adopted, as well as those currently knee deep in the adoption process, know all about a little thing called waiting. Only it really is not a little thing; it is a big, difficult thing.

The good news is that although the wait is hard, it gives families the opportunity to prepare for their upcoming adoption, so today I would like to share a great checklist designed to help families do just that.


This list outlines important steps, programs, services, and resources available to families built through international adoption.

1. Contact the closest International Adoption Clinic or children’s hospital for a thorough evaluation of the child’s file and a list of specialists relevant to the child’s special needs. (For an informative overview, read The What, Why and How of International Adoption Clinics written by a pediatrician, adoptive mom, and founder of the UAB International Adoption Clinic, Jennifer Chambers.)

2. Make an appointment with the international adoption clinic for a comprehensive exam, evaluation, and testing (as needed) for the child for two to four weeks after arriving home. Ask the international adoption clinic or the hospital’s patient services department if their office has a staff person or social worker that helps families navigate local resources and community service providers.

3. Schedule an appointment with local pediatrician for an initial exam and evaluation of the child. Bring a list of questions with you about local supports he/she would recommend. Ask the pediatrician if their office has a staff person that helps families locate and access resources and services. Also check out the From the Pediatrician:10 Things Parents Should Know written by pediatrician and adoptive mom, D. Youngblood.

4. Connect with one or more of the many online adoption groups as well as groups that are specific to the child’s need(s). There are many groups on Yahoo! Groups and Facebook for adoptive parents and parents of children with special needs – we have a page dedicated to pre-travel adoption specific websites here. An excellent starting place is the Facebook group Special Needs Resources – China Adoption.

5. Look for local adoption-related support groups or mom’s groups to plug into for “real life” friendships and support.

6. Contact your health insurance provider, ask to speak with an advocate or benefits representative, and have a discussion with him/her regarding your insurance plan and coverage. Ask questions regarding the process required to add an adopted child to your plan, when coverage will begin, information on deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, and details regarding specialists and covered services including any exclusions/limitations.

7. Contact your local Early Intervention and/or Intermediate Unit for a thorough in-home evaluation of the services offered by the county/region/state and those for which the child can or will qualify. The Center for Parent Information and Resources website is a great place to start.

8. Contact your local state or county adoption/foster care entity and find out what post-adoptive services they offer and how to access them.

9. Contact your state health department and find out what supplemental services (including potential supplemental insurance) a special needs child may qualify for including requirements and application procedures.

10. Contact an experienced adoptive family to have as a “mentor” for the remainder of the adoption process. Having a mentor who is parenting a child with the same special need can be invaluable. The special need specific groups and the NHBO Mentoring Mom program are both good starting points.

11. Compile a list of supportive family and friends to call when feeling overwhelmed or near crisis. Having a close family member or friend to call when you need to step back and take a break is so important. Actively work to build a support team that you can call upon at a moment’s notice when you are in the trenches.

12. If the child is school age, contact the local school district and begin gathering information regarding enrollment, services, and therapies (including qualification requirements and access information).

13. If there are children already in the family begin preparing them for the adoption and addition of a new sibling. A quick internet search will turn up lots of information, ideas, and resources, but here are a few to get started: Preparing Children for the Adoption of a Sibling, Preparing Big Sister for Our Second Adoption, NHBO Blog Series – Siblings, and if you are a New Mom Through Adoption there is a Facebook group for you.

14. Contact your social worker and home study and placing agencies for additional help navigating any of these resources. Ask what resources they might have experience with and/or knowledge of that might be of additional support.

15. Read! Read everything you can get your hands on that involves adoption including books, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. Being prepared for what you may face when meeting your child and during your first hours, weeks, and months together is so important. Learning about attachment and bonding as well as looking at the entire adoption process from the child’s standpoint is also vital and. Here are few suggestions to get you started (and then be sure to head over to the NHBO Before Travel and First Year Home resource pages): The Connected Child, Attaching in Adoption, Dear Parents-To-Be, and the must-read for every adoptive parent, Realistic Expectations.

Being well prepared for an adoption is vital and we hope this checklist will help families better prepare for the adoption experience and all that comes with it.

Be sure to check out the newly expanded resource section here on No Hands But Ours.

Special thanks to Tracy Whitney for creating and sharing the original version of this checklist.


8 Questions Frequently Asked About Our Large Family

May 1, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

May is here and this month on NHBO we are focusing on Large Families. The China special needs program has changed significantly over the years, and one of the big ways is that family size is no longer an issue for those in process to adopt a child with special needs. Gone are the days of “family-size waivers” for families with more than 5 children at home and many large families are choosing to grow through the China special needs program.


We are a big family and attract attention everywhere we go. People are floored so many children can sit through a meal or doctor’s appointment with manners and good behavior.

They also believe they can ask any question that comes into their curious little brains. Today I am sharing a few of the crazy questions and comments we hear regularly.

Family Photo- with CA

1. “How in the world do you handle all those children?”

God is First. We don’t handle them. We love them with God’s help. First and foremost, a relationship with God is foundational to all successes in life. Being in step with God’s will brings strength, guidance, and assurance all is well. Everything begins with prayer and as long as Scott and I are praying together, God keeps our hearts, thoughts, and actions aligned. Each time we have gone forward with an adoption, we BOTH had to know it was the right decision for our family and the only way we knew that was communication with God and each other.

It is NOT easy to move forward. We usually describe it as an elephant in the room. We know it’s there but we don’t discuss until we’ve prayed and have a decision. My prayer is always for God to press on Scott’s heart what is right and true. All in time, we come to the decision by allowing God to be First!

We can handle all God has called us to because it is His plan and He is First!

2. “How do you love so many at one time?”

Love each other like crazy. Scott says all the time we are able to love all our children because we love Each Other like crazy!!! Marriages need to be strong to handle the many facets of adoption. There is no way we could do this without each other. Complete submission and dedication in our marriage comes before the needs of our children and after following God. We are best friends and share everything. There are times when you feel you can’t go one more second and it is in those rough patches, a spouse can make all the difference.

I have sweet precious friends that are single and raising beautiful families too. I know they are surrounded by amazing people that support them in their journey as well. It boils down to putting your trust in the One whom has called us to this life. He gives all of us what we need for each day we wake up.

Scott and I certainly give God the glory for the Love we are able to pour out on so many and love each other well!

3. “Well you all certainly had to be called to adopt all those kids!”

We are ALL called. James 1:27 teaches to look after orphans and widows. That can look so different for you and me. Our family was called to birth and adopt our children. You may be called to foster, support an orphan or orphanage, support a family adopting, or whatever you hear God telling you. The bottom line: You have to be Listening and Willing!!! We adopted our Chinese children because God showed us their faces, and they were waiting for us to come. We will go until they are all home, and we will know that being completely surrendered to God’s will.

We certainly did have to be called to birth and adopt all our children because God ordained it all!!!

4. “You sure do have your hands full!”

Our hands are full but mostly our hearts. When you are living a certain life, it’s not something you think about in tiny parts and decisions. It is a daily flow and rhythm of living and loving. It is being and doing the necessary things for everyone to stay alive and thrive. As basic needs are met, love begins to bloom because everyone is learning to be a family and feeling secure. When we are out and about, it does look like my hands are full especially walking through Target with six kids riding on the shopping cart, but there is strategy behind that practice and a whole lot of work back at home that brought us to this place. Love does not come easy or fast. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears come first.

Yes we have our hands full, but our Hearts are the fullest and our life meaningful.

5. “How are you going to send them to college?”

Educating our children is a one day at a time adventure. Two of our children have graduated college and living beautiful productive lives. One is in college now chasing the destiny God has laid before her. Six are home learning as we do life, and I don’t worry about their future. God meant for them to be in our family, and He is molding them into what He wants them to be. When the time comes for everyone to go to college, God will help meet every need. Right now we are called to get them home.

I LOVE our home life and confident God has their futures all figured out… I don’t have to be concerned with that just now. (Jeremiah 29:11)

6. “Well you won’t ever retire, will you?”

Where in the Bible do we ever see someone retired? Choosing to have children is a lifelong commitment. It isn’t a choice made that ceases once they graduate college or get married or have their own kids. We are still extremely involved in our big kids’ lives and wouldn’t want it any other way. When we brought our children into our family, we committed our lives to them. Our family hinges on this amazing scripture: 1 Peter 4:10, ”Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.”

Scott and I will probably never have the retirement most people will enjoy but we will live our lives completely and fully to the measure God has set for us through our retirement years.

7. “What do your big kids think about all these little kids?”

Sacrifice. We tell in our adoption story the amazing way our big girls (little then) wrapped their hearts around bringing home little EK when she was just 11 months old. None of us imagined we would bring home 7. There is no way adoption would have worked had they not been FOR it. Being for it doesn’t mean easy either. It is hard to be a child in a family and more being adding yearly, but God covers that too. Our big girls have changed and matured so much through watching and accepting their little siblings into our family. Our littles are SO very blessed to have their big sisters in their lives. ALL of our children are SO very blessed to have so many to love them.

God did a mighty work in our big girls’ hearts when He brought us to adoption, and we can’t imagine life any other way!

8. “You sure are blessing those kids and just so proud of you!”

The opposite couldn’t be more true. As much as we are blessing our children choosing them for our family, THEY are blessing us more than we can even put into words. We are different because of them. There are days when we think what if we had missed life with them, and other days we wonder what in the world did we do? But when all settles down and we remember the calling, we are the ones being blessed just for saying yes!

Blessings always abound when you say yes to God!

In the end, we can’t imagine standing before God and Him saying, “What in the world were you doing choosing all those children?”

What’s your biggest fear in raising a big family? Trust God. He is over it all!


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Shay Ankerich is mom to nine going on ten kids (seven from China), wife to Scott, and a homeschooling mom. She loves Jesus, adoption, blogging, reading, photography, and long walks. You can find her writing at A Beautiful Symphony about Family, Home, Adoption, and School.

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Sensory Processing Disorder and the Tween Years

April 30, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The most difficult thing about parenting a tween or young teen with sensory processing disorder is constantly reminding oneself that people don’t outgrow SPD. It may feel that way for a few years during upper elementary because it’s likely by then that your child learned successful coping strategies for most age-appropriate sensory experiences. But then the tween years hit, and a whole new sensory world opens up. Puberty, orthodontia, middle school, large growth spurts, higher expectations to meet cultural beauty norms, and ever-expanding social experiences.

It’s enough to make you scream, let alone your child living with SPD.

With large growth spurts and puberty comes a resurgence of hormones. We’ve found that the Tongginator struggles more with sensory issues during hormone surges. The 18 months prior to her first period (when she also grew six inches) felt exceptionally difficult. She struggled to self-regulate, more so than the average tween/ young teen. She still needed her sensory diet, but most of the activities felt “too babyish” or “embarrassing.” The husband and I learned to step back, allowing her to find new and different ways to regulate her sensory needs. And we basically rode out the storm while she did so. Playing on a playground was no longer “cool,” but riding her bike, going for a walk or swim, or jumping on a trampoline seemed okay. No more therapeutic brushing because that’s completely inappropriate now, but using a loofah in the shower rather than a washcloth helps.

Puberty brought with it a gamut of new sensory experiences. I will try my best to be delicate here, so let me simply say that the average tween or young teen girl often finds it difficult to adjust to bras, feminine products and new hygiene requirements. Now add SPD to the mix. If your child struggles with motor planning, teaching her how to shave her underarms can be both challenging and hilarious. If she has tactile sensitivities, bras and maxi pads just aren’t comfortable. Face wash, deodorant and acne cream “feel weird.” As a mom, you have to be willing to go the extra mile to teach new skills, not to mention finding brands and products that “feel okay.” And you have to do all of it with humor, patience and a tremendous amount of sensitivity.

As girls with SPD age, they also have the additional challenge of ever-increasing expectations to meet cultural beauty norms. A nine-year-old girl can wear sensory-friendly clothing and sport a messy hairdo with few social repercussions. Oh, how I wish that were so even three years later. Make-up, fashionable clothing and more complicated hairstyles: it becomes the norm in middle school. For the most part, we allow the Tongginator to take the lead in these areas. We expect her to keep herself clean, and to dress modestly in weather-appropriate ways, but that’s pretty much it. She’s managed to find clothing that is both comfortable for her and fashionable. She now wears a small amount of make-up (face powder, blush, lip gloss), but we tried out several brands before she found one that she couldn’t “feel” on her face. I pay more than average for her to have her hair cut in a salon – her hairstylist does a better job than most, so typically her hair looks neat and cute with little effort. My view is that – when I can – I will go the extra mile if it means minimizing the social challenges that come with SPD and one’s appearance.

And then there’s middle school: larger class sizes, crowded hallways, locker combinations, gym uniforms, navigating more complicated class schedules, the social jungle that is the school cafeteria. It’s a rough road in middle school. The husband and I – and thankfully her elementary school – did what we could to help with the adjustment. For example, the Tongginator felt extremely nervous about middle school lockers, so we started practicing in July. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts, I actually purchased a second combination lock so that we could practice side-by-side. It finally “clicked” when she could watch me while attempting it herself. We found gym shorts that felt comfortable and looked “the same” as the school gym shorts, though there was nothing I could do about the uniform top. For that, she just had to deal. Parenting a tween/ teen with SPD is a delicate balance of compassion and “you just have to cope.” The husband and I walk that rocky path with a lot of prayer and a bit of humor.

Social challenges ramp up in middle school for all tweens and teens. It can be especially tough for our sensory kids. Consider the ever-expanding list of social experiences – church youth group, school dances, more activity-based experiences such as paintball and amusement parks. Talk about sensory overload! Plus, middle school brings with it more nighttime activities – especially difficult for a tween with SPD who struggles to fall asleep after being overstimulated. The husband and I do our best to help the Tongginator select activities that stretch her without overwhelming her. One late night a week – on Friday – is difficult, but doable. Newspaper club and band are a great fit, but the school play? With its scratchy costumes, stage lights and heavy make-up? Yeah – that’s a recipe for disaster. But again, we gently guide and support rather than dictate, even if the Tongginator’s choices scream out “that’s a mistake.” Honestly, we won’t know until she tries it, which means we must have a lot of patience and compassion during a first attempt. After the first go-around, though, it’s all about “you knew what you were getting into, honey, so you just have to deal.”

And then there are parental expectations… there are some things the Tongginator most likely will never outgrow. She’s still a messy eater, often dropping and spilling more food than her five-year-old sister. I sweep under her chair more often than I do her sister’s. She will always be clumsy – watching her help unload and load the dishwasher induces a stress reaction every time. I have to leave the room. (Seriously.) But that’s just reality – she’s most likely not gonna outgrow this – so we have to accept who she is, how she is, with a loving attitude.


Tween and young teens with sensory processing disorder feel even more self-conscious than their typical peers. They know they are different. They feel those differences even more than they ever have before. Middle school kids aren’t known for their tact, so they might even point out those differences, and not always in a kind manner. It’s our job as parents to help our sensory tweens understand why they are the way they are – to give a name to it. It’s our job to gently stretch them so that they learn to accommodate more of the world, since the world won’t stretch to accommodate them as they age. They won’t outgrow SPD, but they will grow in their coping strategies to deal with their SPD.

And it’s our job to love and fully accept them for who they are, how they are, no matter what.

Urgent Aging Out Child: Rebekah

April 30, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Rebekah is 13 years old and will age out of the adoption system on her 14th birthday in November. Rebekah is an HIV carrier and lives in a group home setting with other children who have also tested positive for HIV. She was with her birth family and cared for by the community until she …Read More

International Adoption Clinics: Services and Locations

April 29, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


I can still remember getting ‘the call’ during our first adoption process. Our agency coordinator was on the phone and they had a file for us to review. I remember the many different emotions I felt as we opened the file and photos and began to read. Within an hour of opening the file I …Read More

We’ve Got This: Parenting a Child with CP

April 29, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


My son has Cerebral Palsy. Mild Right Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy to be specific, which means only the right side of his body is affected. If you see him running by on the playground or the soccer field, you might never even notice he has physical difficulties. If you have an idea in your mind of …Read More

Sensory Bins 101

April 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Over the years, we’ve had a lot of fun with sensory bins. A few of my little loves are sensory-seeking (often craving sensory input of all kinds), so these bins can be a super interesting way to get them what they need. The great thing about sensory bins is that the possibilities are absolutely limitless. …Read More

Find My Family: Jade

April 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Jade has resided in a foster family since birth. She is fond of playing with other kids, and shares toys with them. She pays attention to keeping clean, she likes wearing pretty clothes. Jade was born with a cleft palate which was repaired in 2009. She has delayed language and cognitive development. She goes to …Read More

I Never Felt Called to Adopt

April 27, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


I never felt called to adopt. For me, adoption was simply the way God chose to build our family. In 2011 we adopted our son Sean who is now seven years old. In 2013 we adopted our daughter Elliana who is now five. When people first started saying that adoption was a beautiful thing for …Read More

Xia Waits

April 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Xia will turn six years old in May. She is outgoing and active-she’s described as an extrovert. Xia likes to play with other children, listen to music, and watch TV. She likes toys with bright colors or toys that play music. Xia attends kindergarten which she enjoys. She turns her homework in on time and …Read More

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The content found on the No Hands But Ours website is not approved, endorsed, curated or edited by medical professionals. Consult a doctor with expertise in the special needs of interest to you.