Finding A Place For Her: Parenting A Child With Delays

October 18, 2018 0 Comments

When we brought our daughter home in the fall of of 2013 we knew she likely had significant, lifelong developmental delays. A mystery girl is how she was described to us. And still, almost five years later, she is a mystery. No real clear cut diagnoses except developmental delays and an MRI thats shows a slightly smaller brain.

She’s also dealt with tremendous trauma in her short life. Because she is nonverbal, it is trauma that she can’t vocalize or talk through. One of our biggest struggles has been finding where she fits, her place in the world and, most specifically, in school.

Sarah came home in November of 2013. I kept her home and very close to me until the following August when we enrolled her in a local preschool. Although she was five years old they allowed us to enroll her in the 3 yr old class. I tried to talk to them about not only her delays but also her trauma: what trauma behavior looks like, how her anxiety manifests itself. But it was still a very hard transition.

Her teacher was great and very patient, but I did not feel that patience from the special education teacher and some of the other staff. I was getting daily reports of how she simply had to learn to talk (four yrs later she is still nonverbal), how she had to go to the potty nicely (four years later she is still not potty trained). These comments were delivered daily in carpool line and were expectations I was sure she couldn’t meet.

One day we were running late and missed the drop off line. I walked her into the school to go to her class and as we walked down the hall I overheard two of the staff members discussing how difficult she was in not so nice ways. I was devastated. Still to this day it brings tears to my eyes. I picked her up and left the school. Apologies were made but I knew she just didn’t belong there. So we went to the next plan.

In November of 2014 we enrolled Sarah in our local public school in a self contained SPED class. Once again things started out pretty well. The rest of that year went fairly well, but I once again began to feel people’s frustration with her and lack of understanding of trauma and how it effects behavior. She is pretty strong willed and also had zero frame of reference for doing “school work”. When I took an end-of-the-year treat to the speech therapist, and got a snarky comment back about how difficult she was, my heart sank.

We started the next school year in the same classroom, but because of life circumstances of the teachers involved there was little consistency in teacher and assistant. That caused a significant amount of stress for Sarah. She is a mystery girl and she is difficult to decipher and the turnover made for assistants who simply didn’t understand her.

And the more anxious she grew, the more difficult her behavior became.

I talked and talked about trauma but when the suggestion was made to bribe her with food to get her to do her work, I knew we were done. We pulled her out in March and began to homeschool her.

For the rest of that school year and the next two full school years we kept her home and very close. She was rarely away from me. And we saw tremendous growth. I struggled with the best way to teach her and she also grew frustrated with me asking her to “do work”, but we persevered. We did lots of life skills, lots and lots of just playing, and lots of actual school. Academic progress for Sarah is painfully slow. Repetition times 1,000 is the name of the game for her and then sometimes it still doesn’t stick and then out of the blue she’ll get it!

I loved having her close to me and watching her grow more secure in her attachment and watching her anxiety settle. She matured so much during those few years. She also struggled with rages and behavior issues (and we still struggle some days with those things although her rages are fewer and she recovers quicker).

She has learned lots of life skills and her academics have come a long way as well. And I’ve enjoyed having her near me. I missed those first five years and I wanted time to just let her be a baby and grow into a girl ready to trust and learn.

This past summer we added another precious daughter to our family. This allowed me to see how much more mature she is than I was giving her credit for. As we started our homeschool for the year I began to see how she was much more excited to be doing her work, how she was not only able to follow a schedule but seemed to flourish with it where before it frustrated her.

But I also noticed that she seemed bored. Homeschool co-ops are readily available in our area but there are none for kids with special needs. Nothing during the day where she could interact with other kids. And I began to realize that it may be time to change things; that she may be ready for more.

Much like a 5 or 6 year old shows signs of being ready for kindergarten, my almost 10 year old, now with us for almost 5 years, was showing signs that she was ready to venture out a little.

But I held on. I wasn’t ready. Like all mothers it’s my first instinct to protect and for me that often means pulling my kids, but especially Sarah, close and closing out anyone who might hurt her. A mamma-shield so to speak.

Letting the world near her scares me because the world has not been kind to her.
An abandonment she likely remembers.
An orphanage full of chaos and hunger and lacking in touch and comfort.
A transition to safety and love that is not without its own amount of trauma.

She has grown and matured so much and functions so well within our home and our church that I was so tempted to simply keep us in this place. It was safe and although she was ready I kept hearing those hurtful words and listening to my own scared feelings and saying no.

But then.

I am in a Bible study at my church on Wednesday nights that is studying the story of Gideon. This particular week was on letting go. The Lord asked Gideon to let go of what made sense and to trust him to deliver a victory. The secret to moving forward was not in retaining but in releasing. And there it was, I guess you could say it was my fleece on the ground. The confirmation that it was time to do a little releasing. Time to let the proverbial apron strings out a little bit more.

For Sarah there will always be apron strings. She will always need to be under someone’s care, she will always need to be advocated for and she will always need to be protected. But it was time to widen the circle beyond our family and church. So I drove to the school one Saturday and I prayed out loud over that school and the teachers and for the Lord to make the way clear.

And He has. He has provided understanding teachers and administration. I also believe that because she is older and her potential and limitations are more clear that everyone’s expectations of her are much more appropriate.

As of this writing she has been in school for about a week. It has gone really well. She loves it and is so excited to go each day. She was standing in my bedroom in her nightgown with her back pack on signing “school” at 6:15 this morning, so enthusiasm hasn’t been an issue. She rode the bus this morning for the first time and that was a little traumatic, but she was all smiles getting off this afternoon and I suspect she’ll be just fine tomorrow now that she knows what to expect.

I know that there will be hard days and hard conversations and hard decisions, but for today I’m going to be thankful for a great start to a new season of life and I’m going to be so proud of how my girl has grown and changed.

She could barely walk and had no language at all five years ago, but today she rode the bus to school and home again. She went to centers and she traced her name. She told me in her own way that she was hungry and that she had fun at school. She also let me know she wants a bath before church.

She may never be typical by the world’s standards and that is fine by me. We think she is extraordinary!

I also want to give a word of encouragement to all the mammas in IEP meetings and making phone calls or just picking their child up into their arms and carrying them out of a place that has failed to see who they really are… you can do this!

I look back now and sometimes think of how I could have been a better advocate for her in those hard days. I wonder if I should have fought harder and stood my ground instead of pulling her home. But my instinct was to pull her close and a mother’s instinct is a powerful God given thing. Listen to it.

I’m so much better at advocating for her now. So much more knowledgable about what our options are. My instincts now are to let her go just a little bit out into the world.

I’ve shed many tears over the fact that there was no place for my girl, but the truth is there is. And it’s my job to help ease her into that place, to help others see her and make a place for her.

Our children with cognitive and developmental needs along with the trauma of being from a hard place need us to learn how to advocate and push for them.

But most of all they need us to remind them everyday that they are safe, and that we will be waiting for them every day when the bus brings them back home.

– guest post by Stacy: email || facebook

Meet Rylynn!

October 16, 2018 0 Comments

Rylynn is a joyful little girl, born in June of 2014. She has been diagnosed with glaucoma and cataracts (both eyes), nubecula of both eyes, no anterior chambers in both eyes and has been in the care of Show Hope. Due to her vision impairment, she was attending school during the day at Bethel from May of 2017 until just recently.

She remains under the care of Show Hope, despite having been pulled from Bethel by her home orphanage.

Rylynn has low vision with light perception and she uses it well to orient herself in spaces she is familiar with. She loves playing with musical toys and toys with lights. Rylynn is a happy and extroverted little girl who loves to run, jump, and chase after her caregivers if they clap or call her name.

Before she was moved back to her home orphanage, one of her favorite parts of the day was putting her shoes on and strapping on her duck backpack to head out to school. She would get giddy with excitement when her nannies told her it was time to go! At school, she loved to run and play tag with her teachers. Before she left Bethel, she was imitating some sounds, but she was super sassy about speaking. They’d tell her to say mama and she’d call out nainai (grandmother) and would giggle. Her teachers are all heartbroken that she’s gone.

Rylynn has always loved to jump and dance. Whenever someone holds her hands, her face lights up as she spins and dances around, usually on her tip-toes. She has a big, bright, and beautiful smile that can almost always be seen on that sweet face of hers!

As Rylynn grows older, she is becoming more independent. She has great resilience and determination. She shows her independence in the way she is learning to do things on her own, but she hasn’t outgrown snuggles from her nannies. She has great self-care skills, such as being able to take her shoes on and off and she also understands commands.

Rylynn is a very curious and fearless little girl. She’s happiest when she’s jumping, swinging, or hanging upside down. Rylynn was recently introduced to the trampoline. Her enthusiasm and love of adventure is inspiring! She loves to explore, participate in craft time in her preschool classes, and play with her nannies and friends too.

Rylynn loves her nannies. She loves to snuggle up and sit close to them while they play or read her a book. Rylnn brings so much happiness wherever she goes, and she is very smart too!

She has such a loving personality and a beautiful spirit and we hope she will soon be able to share that with her forever family!


Rylynn in January 2018

Rylynn in June 2017

Blog Posts:

Rylynn at Show Hope

Rylynn at Care Center Impact

There is a $500 agency grant for Rylynn’s adoption with Madison Adoption Associates. Other grants may be available based on the adoptive family’s circumstances. Agency grants are awarded as agency fee reductions. MAA also partners with the Brittany’s Hope Foundation for matching grants, which are given out twice a year January and July) and to families that are officially matched with a child.

Rylynn needs a family with an approved home study to be able to move forward with adopting her. If you have an approved home study or a home study in process and are interested in adopting Rylynn, please fill out a free PAP Waiting Child Review Form, which can be found here.

Trauma and the Holidays: Tips for Navigating the Holidays Well

October 15, 2018 0 Comments

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, right? But with a child who has experienced trauma, the holidays can be everything except wonderful.

This month we are focusing on the impact of trauma and how it can be exacerbated by the chaos and busyness of the holiday season. It is our hope that, through this series, you’ll be better prepared to help your child face the holidays this year and, in turn, this season will be a bit more wonderful for everyone.


It is almost that time of year! The time where we spend time with family and celebrate. Words that may describe the holidays for us include: fun, excitement, gatherings, food, sweets, gifts, activities, and joy.

Our newly (or even not so newly) adopted kiddos may have a different response. A triggered trauma response.

To help our beloved kiddos navigate this time of year, I have come up with five common trigger categories and tips to navigate them.

(Some of them overlap, and the tips could probably be listed in all five, so keep that in mind.)

1. Anniversary dates.

This one may not apply to all kiddos, but for those of us lucky to have trauma-versary dates during the holidays, it can take some extra care. Be mindful of these dates and follow your child’s lead about celebrating things like family day.

Do not be scared to bring up the dates and help them name their feelings. Remember the body keeps the score and helping them put words to why they are feeling off can be helpful.

2. Lack of felt-safety.

Many times, during the holidays we and our kids are in new situations that can be stressful. New places, new people, new foods. The big tip for this one is to prepare ahead. Talk at length about expectations, including where you are going, how long you will be there, what to expect activity wise etc. Role playing ahead or providing a story timeline will help some kids. Make sure to keep the kids hydrated and fed, and I always bring a few snacks they like if I am unsure of the menu.

3. Unpredictability.

Every year it seems like something comes up and we must change our plans. This can be very triggering and put our kids in a tailspin. Transitions are hard for most kids anyway, adding in the holidays takes it to the next level.

Try to minimize sudden transitions. We give lots of warnings about time in our house such as, “After we decorate this one last cookie we need to go home.”

Using visual aids can also be helpful for this. Keeping a normal schedule as much as possible between the holiday craziness is key.

4. Displacement.

Going out of town for the holiday? Or having family come stay with you? This can make our kids feel displaced. Keeping the same bedtime routine, lovies, etc. is helpful. If they are giving up their room to guests, help them establish their own space wherever they will be sleeping.

5. Overstimulation.

I don’t know about you, but my kids never get overstimulated (kidding!). The main tip for this is to prioritize gatherings and limit them. We only do one extra a week at the most.

Tips for this one are to use one (or more) of the following scripts:
“We can’t this year.”
“Thanks for thinking of us but we won’t be able to.”
“Maybe next year.”
“No way!”
Are you nutso? My kiddo would melt down in the first 38 seconds.”

OK, maybe not the last few, but you get the idea. I am giving you permission to say no to all the things. You will thank me January 2nd.

There are also some general tips that will help overall.

1. Prep your friends and family or avoid interactions with those who don’t understand.

Our family does not live close, but we are thankful that they understand and support us. Last year we met them for Thanksgiving (my awesome mother-in-law rented a house about halfway between us all and invited us and my brother in law’s family). The kids had a blast spending time with their grandparents and cousins. We were not overly stressed about the trip because we knew they would all be supportive, and they were. Of course, we had several trauma incidents, including one at 3AM that probably woke the whole house, but we got kindness and no weirdness from our family.

2. Make sure your kids eat right, get enough sleep and spend time playing during the holiday season.

Extra sugar, less exercise and less sleep is never a good outcome in our house. We prioritize regular bedtimes and big muscle movements as a prevention measure.

3. Plan ahead for emotional emergencies and have an escape route.

For outings that made it to your priority list, I have a few suggestions. If your kiddo is old enough, come up with a code word that means “I am feeling overwhelmed” or “I need you”. Your kid can use this word, and then you can go talk privately and figure out the next step. Maybe they need food or drink or five minutes of quiet.

Also, we will take two cars to some events if we feel like one of ours won’t make it the whole time. This gives us a way to take home the kid(s) that are done but allow the others to stay.

4. Do not ignore the sensory diet during the holidays.

This is easy to let fall away, but keeping our kids regulated with their needed sensory diet should be on the important list.

5. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

As an example for all the above recommendations, I would like to share about my husband’s annual holiday work party…

This is a party with hundreds in attendance, kids invited. I will share Best Case, Worst Case, and how we prep. This year, we will have a brand new 2.5-year-old in our family – we expect to travel to China mid-November. She is our fifth kiddo, and third from China to give background.

Best Case:

The kids all get dressed in their holiday outfits after school with glee and happiness. Everyone’s socks are right, there are no scratchy tags, and everyone is happy to get dressed up. Our new kiddo is on her way to attachment, and happily goes with the flow.

(Hey, I said best case, so I am going all in).

We arrive at the party and the kids wait patiently to see Santa and get their gift. They all smile nicely for the picture, and no one fears Santa. They love the gift they each received. We move on to the food, and the children try all the new things and decide they love baked brie. There is no complaining and they say it is the best food ever.

Along the way we all great hubby’s coworkers with happiness and cheer. The kids do not say it is “boring” or “can we leave yet?” When it is time to go, everyone leaves nicely, and all go to bed easily, not affected by the extra sugar at all.

Worst case:

The clothes are scratchy and wrong. One kiddo will only wear a Spiderman shirt, dirty shorts and crocs (even though it is snowing). We arrive late and frazzled. Our new kiddo immediately melts down because she is overwhelmed.

We see Santa. Two kids cry. One tries to escape, knocking down the 40 foot Christmas tree in the process. They tell the elf giving the gifts that the gifts are awful. They refuse to eat the food, except for the cookies and hot cocoa. They refuse to say hi to anyone.

When it is time to leave, they decide now its fun, and pitch a tantrum in the middle of the floor. They stay up until 1am because of the healthy dinner of cookies and cocoa. This bleeds into the next day.

What we are planning:

I give the kids choices in their outfits, and make sure the correct socks are clean. I feed the kids ahead of time, and make sure the meal contains protein.

We will take two cars in case of a trauma reaction.

I plan to wear our newest and know that she will probably avoid Santa and not be in the picture. That is ok.

I try to find a few things with protein for each kid in the food line. We will leave early. We will have no plans except to stay home the day after for recovery.

When considering what to add to our calendar during the holiday season, one thing I always ask myself is, “Does this activity further the vision and purpose of the holidays for our family?”

Remember that it is ok to say no. Less is more. If it is not fun for most of you – don’t do it.

Most regrets occur because of over-doing it, not under-doing it.

Happy Holidays, friends.

– guest post by Kathy

Fully Known, Completely Loved

October 13, 2018 1 Comments

“I’m fully known and loved by You You won’t let go no matter what I do And it’s not one or the other It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace To be known fully known and loved by You I’m fully known and loved by You” Known by Tauern Wells /// There’s a popular song that’s …Read More

Waiting For You: Jamison

October 12, 2018 0 Comments

Jamison is a happy little boy with a warm smile, born April of 2011 with a cleft lip and palate. In August of 2015, Jamison underwent surgery to repair his cleft lip and is said to have recovered well. Jamison is an active and talkative little guy who enjoys toys, games, and reading picture books. …Read More

Saying Yes to God

October 11, 2018 1 Comments

As he walked into our post delivery recovery room, he closed the door behind him. He walked over to my bedside to give us an update on the birth of our preemie twin girls. They had been born 6 weeks early and delivery was tough for Isabelle, twin two. The evening before was spent holding …Read More

Find My Forever: Alice

October 10, 2018 0 Comments

Alice is an adorable little girl, born in January of 2015. This sweet girl has been through a lot in her short life, having lost both of her eyes to retinoblastoma. She has been in remission since her operation and now has prosthetic eyes. Alice has such a bubbly personality and is very attached to …Read More

A Violet Covering

October 9, 2018 0 Comments

Everyone wears a hat in life. No matter your age, race, socioeconomic status, or place you live. Some people wear their hat with pride, some wish their hat was invisible, and some of us wear hat that seems more like a sombrero and everyone can see it. There are times we have the opportunity to …Read More

Waiting To Be Chosen: Samson

October 8, 2018 0 Comments

Samson is a handsome and clever boy, born deaf in August of 2009. In September of 2013, Samson had cochlear implant surgery. He is currently studying at a cochlear language training school and is performing well. His teachers praise his fast progress. Though it took him a while to adjust to the school and being …Read More

The Beauty of Owning Their Own Story

October 7, 2018 1 Comments

Our family just enjoyed another week at the beach, and it was glorious. The gift of time since coming home for each of our children truly has made a difference in so many ways. We are able to help them feel safe in a vacation home and enjoy new experiences together. This particular trip gave …Read More

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