As parents, we naturally look for our child’s accomplishments. It is a unique gift we’ve been given. An Olympian can have his whole country cheering for him, but the only people he wants to see in the stands are his mom and dad.
When my 2-year old daughter Lydia runs a crayon across a piece of paper, she immediately calls for me to look and cheer for her accomplishment, even if it’s just a scribble. I am glad she wants my praise because it is easy to give. How can anyone ignore these eyes?!
She has grown so much in the year since she came home. Despite having only one functioning ear, she can hear a pin drop and mimic a tune. Her words may not be absolutely clear, but those that know her can understand what she’s asking for. All the tests by the doctors just confirmed what we already knew… that she is a healthy baby… a lot on the petite side true to her Jiangxi roots. We have spent the last year marveling at the person Lydia is becoming. It was us, her parents, rejoicing loudest of all when she overcame separation anxiety at the church nursery.
But despite all her many achievements, I have found myself becoming her worst critic. The weekly flow of therapists in our home is beginning to wear on me. With each visit, we talk about Lydia’s weaknesses and after each visit, I find myself suddenly becoming discontent with her progress. I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like measuring my daughter up against some standard set by a council.
I have only myself to blame for this. I was the one that sought out these early intervention assessments for Lydia. Because of her special need, I wanted to be sure we weren’t missing something. I wanted to ensure her vocabulary would develop properly. I am thankful these services exist and that many of them are covered by insurance or provided free through the state. The speech, occupational and physical therapists we’ve met with have provided us with good information and observations.
If you asked me six months ago about glottal sounds and sensory disorders, I would have given you a blank stare. Now I can hear when Lydia is using her throat versus her lips to produce words. I can also see that her need for constant movement may be connected to a need for sensory stimulation and not her plot to exhaust me by 8am.
I see merit in the services these therapists are providing, but lately I’ve felt that I need to stop participating in the cross-analysis of Lydia. I need to focus on her accomplishments and stop looking for all her weaknesses. My daughter doesn’t need a 24/7 analyst at home.
On the one hand, I’m happy to have a few “babysitters” visit each week and play with my daughter, but I need to step away from all the scrutiny they bring. I need to see her as my daughter and not a special needs patient. The love and nurturing I can provide is more powerful than any therapy session. She needs me encouraging her to use any words, even the glottal ones. She needs me chasing after her and cuddling with her. She needs me to be her mother… not her therapist. They get an hour each week but I get a lifetime!
She will have many coaches, teachers, doctors and specialists in her life… but she will have only one mother.
I have been reading this blog for a while. I too adopted a child with special needs although he is minor to some of the kiddos here.
But the delays do exist, primarily I believe because he spent time in foster care – almost 4 years – and that has held him back. We were seeing OT and SLT in Canada and then I moves us back to Australia (my home country) and so now we have gone thru the whole school health assessment, OT assessment, Speech assessment; Each time he is expected to perform again. And I understand the conflict that you share above, I too believe they are halpful but I wonder if we just let him develop at his own pace, which is speeding up as he spends time with older cousins who challenge him, that he will just progress and catch up eventually to whatever marker they indicate.
I hope I make sense – I feel for you – but mostly I feel for our children who seem to have to perform at a certain level to fit into assessment criteria.
That makes perfect sense Joyce. When the school assessment was done, I felt Lydia was indeed performing for them even though they came during her normal nap time. She didn't score very well due to pure exhaustion. Her biggest achievements come in the normal family environment as she tries to mimic her older sister or join in with family activities. I feel time is a gift our children need as they transition into family life.
And assessments are only as good as the persons ability to 'make' the child understand what you mean. Here is an example: my son is 5 and half years old and functions probably about a year behind his age. So I sent him to Kindy (which is the Canadian equivalent of JK) for 9 weeks to learn 2 things: routines and to listen to others as in teachers as authority (Im a single parent so my word is it, and everyone else means nothing to him.) He gained both of these skills and more beside. He did fabulous.
Yet his report doesnt indicate that, and I am not bothered. But one thing stood out – in the maths assessment he "needed time to develop" the skill of grouping. Now here is the cruncher, when he plays with his cars/trucks he groups them according to: emergency vehicles, big trucks, normal cars and even sometimes by colour. When he helps put dishes away, he gets all the different (Ikea) cups and puts them in piles of colours and then one big stack.
Can my son group?? he most definately can!!! But perhaps he didnt group the way you would expect him to.
I guess my point is that we as parents need to understand what the therapist is asking to direct their understanding of your child. And I do that very often, I butt in probably too often and apologize as well, but really I want them to really make an assessment as accurate as possible in the short period of time allocated.
Thanks for sharing though, I have so enjoyed this blog and reading about all the kiddos. My heart is still so moved by adoption but the cost factor as well as our govts lack of desire to take special needs kids into our land, hold me back.
I just received a HUGE envelope containing results from various and sundry tests that have been completed on Isabelle… as I read through them, I just sat there and cried! It is all about what she can't do, what she struggles with, where her shortcomings are. And as much as I appreciate tackling these issues and digging in to help her, we DO need to take a break from this information overload and just enjoy our babies for the miracle they ARE 🙂
Thanks for sharing your beautiful mama's heart, Andrea!
Wow, did I ever need this encouragement! Thank you so much for this reminder that we are MOMS first, not therapists!!!!!!!!
We attend therapy four times a week for our 9 year old adopted from China 15 mos. ago. I get homework to do with her and it is VERY challenging to play both roles. I needed this to put my priorities in check and let my daughter be MY DAUGHTER and not just my student! (I homeschool, too, so this post ministers to me in that realm too! 😉
Blessings to you!
What a beautiful post! And I have to say, this is something that can be true of all our kids, special needs or not, adopted or not. I find myself honing in on character flaws, immaturity issues, or the like far too often. Enjoying our kids, enjoying the treasure that each little heart is, and just BEING MOM is something I have to consciously choose more often than not. Thank you for a beautifully worded reminder of the value of just being mommy to my Gang 🙂
Thanks for sharing. From a Mommy whose daughter got NO services "because she is ALREADY 3", I can tell you from my side of things I would be grateful for some help. I tried to fight it b/c though S was already 3 just weeks after coming home, she was nowhere near a 3-year-old in any way developmentally after living neglected and very ill for 3 years in an orphanage. But they wouldn't budge so I've gone it alone. I can tell you that I too fall into this trap of over-analyzing S's progress even though I have no one to co-commiserate with. 🙂 Thank your for sharing Andrea so honestly.
What a sweet & honest post. And good advice for someone who is about to adopt internationally for the first time. Thank you.
I've been going through this lately too.
For me, it's sort of the combination of the 3 kids in therapy and 1 that needs it. It started in '07 with Shaoey's sensory stuff and speech (cleft). As a result of my reading on that, I realized some reasons my 2 bio sons were having difficulties. One has stuttering/cluttering and some proprioceptor stuff and the other we recently dx with Aspergers… We adopted Grace in Dec. '08 and I've been fighting it, but I know she has some issues and I'm dreading it. It seems to have started to overtake our lives.
My 12 yr old with Aspergers seems to be taking it hard and feels like he's defective and we're trying to fix him. I tell him we just want to give him the tools he needs, but it is easy to see how he's getting the idea that he's broken. I don't want this to define us or any of my children. I've actually been thinking of taking a break from it all and being mommy… to give us all a fresh start…
Thanks for the reminder that I am mama first!
Although the therapists will schedule us weekly, I was proactive in taking a break over the summer and over Christmas. This might be especially helpful for an older child like your son Charlene.
Andrea – I appreciate your honesty with this struggle and whole heartedly agree with you that Lydia needs you as her momma and not her analytical therapist – but certainly sounds like a challenge to not fall into that role. You are a good momma and am thankful for your wisdom