The frustration of not able to communicate or express their wants can have a negative effect on individuals with autism. They may tend to stay aloof, throw tantrum and indulge in negative behavior For autism, assistive technology can benefit individuals (of all age groups) in promoting communication and social interactions. Assistive technology refers to hand-held gadgets such […]
Sixteen years ago when I was trying to locate a woman who wanted to plan for the placement of her child in the hands of adoptive parents, “birth parent” was used to refer to the parent who gave birth to the adopted child. With the increased variety of methods by which families can be created, I guess the term “biological parent” came into vogue. Adoption is only one way to create a family, after all.
What Do Biological Parents Do???: Many biological parents who have to place their child in the hands of adoptive parents do so with significant personal sadness. The circumstances that brought them to the point of having to do so is often quite unfortunate, leaving a personal scar that may never heal. Biological parents may have to PLAN an adoption, because they love their child and want the best for them, realizing that they cannot care for them. It is not necessarily, as i have heard many state, that the child involved was “given away”. This term in actuality is offensive to many in the adoption community.
Baggage Carried: I do not think that as a group people who adopt necessarily consider the developmental differences to which these childern may be prone. Impoverished living conditions, poverty, abuse or genetically carried predispositions may all be contributing factors that are unknown to a prospective adoptive parent and child. In a professional role, there is a responsibility to both be aware of and appreciate this fact. I also believe that it is the role for every professional who touches the life of an adopted child to become an educator for both the adoptee and adoptive parent in terms of the differences that are present. Teaching the adoptee and the adoptive parent how to deal with the problems that may be present, so that functioning is at the highest possible level is extremely important. Parents need to be empowered to locate professionals who are adoption savvy – aware of the issues. As well, the possibility of screening a child who was adopted in
Birthdays: From their perspective, the adopted child will always understand that there is a person or people who chose to not care for them after they were born. Children who walk into your office will carry throughout their lives a feeling of having been rejected, on some level. Birthdays will always represent a day of loss for them. They may be exciting, but sad as well. Sometimes adopted children withdraw from their adoptive family on that day, not wanting to confront this aspect of their lives. Instead, they may bury their head into a solitary activity, avoiding others.
Environment: Children who are adopted may come from homes that are void of adequate nutrition. Biological parents of adoptees who choose not to raise them may do so because of poor financial circumstances. They may have need for the money that the legal process invovled in the actual adoption process may be a motivating factor for them to go this route.
Child trafficking: This is something well documented in China. The following link provides a detailed definition of this term and after reading this, one can come to appreciate how trafficking can influence a person: www.unicef.org/southafrica/SAF_pressrelease_notetrafficking.pdf The emotional toll that this takes on a human being cannot be understated. The article that I reference here gives a very real picture of the very issue.
Orphanages: If a child was in one internationally or domestically prior to placement there may be factors that cause delays in the development of communication skills, nutrition and overall growth. Sharon Glennen, PhD., CCC/SLP has documented this in her articles that are readily available online. In her article “Orphanage Care and Language” she talks of her own experience in adopting a child from Russia. Her travels to various orphanages and observations made during her visits are documented. Amongst the red flags that she notes are a lack of environmental stimulation from adults, delays in language development, low birth weight, limited play opportunities. Some children are left drinking from bottles or may not be assisted in learning how to eat with utensils. One can surmise that the need for a multidisciplinary team evaluation and treatment approach in working with these children is essential to help them reach typical developmental milestones.
In closing, I quote Susan Soon-Keum“ADOPTION is bittersweet,” said Susan Soon-Keum Cox, vice president for public policy and external affairs at Holt International, a Christian adoption agency based in Eugene, Ore., with an extensive program in China. She states that “The process connects birth parents, child and adoptive parents in an unequal relationship in which each party has different needs and different leverage. It begins in loss”. www.cityrooms.blogs.nytimes.com: *“For Adoptive Parents, Questions without Answers” We all need to be sensitive when we deal with all of these parties. Families where there is an “open adoption”, where the adoptive parents and child have a relationship especially in domestic ones, where we as professionals have a possibility of gaining more information. In some cases it will not be and you will have no history at all….there will be gaps in our knowledge of that with which we deal. This is an unfortunate reality with which we all must sadly deal.
We all hope for happy and healthy children. When there is a glitch…when a parent has the unfortunate situation of being told that their child will need help in the very early years, when neuroplasticity is at a peak, emotions may rage. Cuts to the early intervention program, in many areas of the country have heightened anxiety about the future for disabled children, those receiving services through the early intervention program or those receiving services elsewhere. Some parents have expressed reticence about enrolling their child in a specialized education program, or having professionals in their home to offer services to their child. That feeling is respected. Acceptance of a developmental delay or other type of handicapping condition may take a while to set in. That said – I have a few suggestions.
I have realized that parents whose children receive early intervention services or those who would like their children considered for program participation are genuinely unsure of the process or they are not educated about what might qualify their child for services in a particular area. Others are unaware of what they would expect to see in terms of skill development in a variety of areas. That is unfortunate. Parents need guidance and there are resources available for you. Especially of concern is that you learn about when typically developing children acquire specific milestones like crawling, sitting, standing, speaking, eating solid food, drinking from a cup, assisting with dressing. There are many more that could be mentioned. Below is information that may be helpful:
DVD: A Life to Love: Preventing Accidental Injury to Our Most Precious Resource-available in English, Spanish, Chinese Creole, Arabic and Russian (produced by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services @ 150 William Street New York, NY 10038. NYC residents can call 311).
So – your child has received an IFSP (individualized family service plan) or the IEP (individualized education plan). They are now going to start receiving services. You receive copies of reports and now have to absorb in black and white what your child’s difficulties entail. These are very hard for a parent to read. Maybe you need some support in understanding the disability, learning how to help your child. Does this sound familiar? This is now your life and your child’s life. You have to look the problem right in the face, just as the people in the picture above are doing to something that is unknown to us, but in the distance. You are not sure really what it is but as the figure moves closer, a new reality takes place for you and your child.
Good news is that those who work with infants, toddlers, older children and adults with disabilities or learning differences can act as invaluable supports. They can help advocate for your child and aid you as a parent in understanding the nature of the problems with which he or she lives. Professionals can help you learn how to teach your child about compensating for the difficulty that they have so that they develop into functional and safe adults.
There is an important key here – we are talking about your CHILD. Parents do a disservice to your child if this is not something that is not openly discuss at home, from the time that your child is young. You may readthis and wonder how in the world do you talk to a child about the problem that they have and at what age?.
Preschool aged children with disabilities are in classrooms with typically developing classmates, depending on the severity of the problem. At younger and younger ages children are consequently becoming aware of differences in others. This concept mayy already be discussed at school before you have gotten around to it. Your child deserves to hear about their personal situation from their parent or other primary caregiver first. So – here are a few jumping off points for you.
With a child as young as preschool age, you might start very simply at pointing out things that a child may see around him or her. Perhaps you pass by a person who is blind and walks with a seeing eye dog. Talk about what the dog does. A family member wears glasses, a person is in a wheelchair, the universal symbol for handicap accessibility. Discuss theese situations.
Your child’s teacher, school director, religious leader and/or the pediatrician might able to guide you in recommending books that describe the disability specific to your child. They may also know about books that describe children in general, who may have disabilities or difficulties in learning.
Television shows such as “Dora the Explorer“, “SpongeBob Square Pants“, “Little Bear” and “Sesame Street” have episodes in which the children have disabilities. You may choose to watch these shows with your child and discuss this if the situation presents itself.
Talking to your child, especially as they are young adults of what they have to do to keep themselves safe. For example, if they take medication then perhaps they should not be drinking alcohol. If they have a physical disability and want to drive a car, they may need to be guided in terms of adapting the vehicle. Again – be guided by professionals treating your child for especial significant points to discuss with them.
Part of maturing as a person is understanding who we are. If we do not truly do so, then how can we take care of ourselves as we grow. Consider this true story. A young man who lives with ADHD at his Bar Mitzvah (a right of passage into adulthood; typically at the age of thirteen, within the Jewish religion) prepared a discussion about the Torah portion for that week. He presented it to his family and friends. The discussion was striking. The young man said that he thought that the Biblical character, Moses, had difficulty controlling his anger and had an impulsive side to him. He illustrated that within the Torah reading for that week. Further, he related this to himself. He was able to openly discuss his own disability, having recognized it in someone else.
The next day, the same teen-ager left for school and by the end of a year demonstrated some ability to calm himself down in moments of anger more efficiently so that he was not physically hurting other people. In this particular case, it is an ongoing process – but his awareness of the problem is ultimately what is enabling him to compensate for it. He has taken ownership for this particular aspect of his personality.
Resources are out there to help parents as well as adults. Here is a sample of a few that might be meaningful for others reading this post but you can generally find this information by just typing into a search bar the name of the disability, illness, problem and information for parents, children and adults generally are found.
CHADD (children and adults with ADHD) www.chadd.org has a link that is designed to give parents information
American Speech-Language Hearing Association: www.asha.org has a link for “self-help groups for speech-language and swallowing disorders” and “resources” which links you to ways to help a child or adult understand a hearing disorder
American Psychiatric Association www.ParentsMed.Org provides resources about medication for children as well as adults
If you go into either www.pbsparents.org or www.nick.com and type in a search for information, programming related to children with disabilities a number of resources are loaded and provide assistance for both parents and caregivers.
If anyone reading this has more information that they think would be useful for others, please comment so that others can benefit. Thanks.