Today was Boy’s proper SALT introductory session (the one where we actually get to speak to a therapist rather than watch a video). Boy was not in good form. Having dropped off Girl at the grandparents he had a massive toddler tantrum because he wanted to go to nanny and Grandad’s house too. The plan had been for the Hubster to drop off Girl and then come back for us to avoid the trauma but as usual Girl’s dilly-dallying set us back so we all had to go to drop Girl off, a move I knew would not go down well with Boy. So, following his tantrum he was ready for a nap, not very helpful to sleep when the therapist needs to hear you talking!
Nevertheless we had a chat about Boy’s speech and hearing. He can say quite a lot of words which I have made clear all along but to me he also says a lot of gobbledygook that is very frustrating for all of us. For his age he has a good range of words, he is developing his communication and progressing to string words together very well, occasionally using three words together. The concern is that he is dropping letters at the start of the words which is more unusual and this might indicate hearing problems so he will be referred for another hearing test. In the adoption reports there was a very brief mention of deafness on the paternal side, a mere sentence in a big report which is very frustrating because it would be interesting to know if it is congenital deafness. The therapist thinks Boy may go through waves of hearing well and not hearing well, maybe due to infections. I suspect that the gobbledygook is how he has interpreted words and he is trying to say them how he thinks he has heard them because he will say the ‘words’ over and over again in the same way so its not like babbling or noise making.
Anyway the interesting thing was that they have this pyramid that SALT work to and he performs well on all levels, starting at the bottom with attention and listening, progressing onto play, social interaction, understanding and knowledge, talking and finally onto speech sounds which is the only level he is having a little difficulty with. Each level cannot be successfully achieved without mastering the level below it. In some ways I am not hugely concerned, Boy is very with it and I think any problems will be overcome because of how forward and determined he is.
On our little trip to London I got accused by a complete stranger of being a grumpy adult. I was astonished but also totally mortified and to be fair I wasn’t actually grumpy until the grandma started the name calling, then I was incensed!
We were having a lovely time, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, the sights, the sounds. We happened upon one of the Olympic mascots and patiently we waited about five minutes for our turn to take a photo (there was quite a crowd, it was a busy area and everybody else was taking their turn too) and just as I am taking the photo three kids jumped into the frame, they had no intention of moving until they had their own photo taken by their older sister who was lagging two minutes behind (who then proceeded to take about 100 photos). I politely pointed this out to the kids grandma but then was accused of being a grumpy adult, however it was my daughter who had to move whilst they took their own photos, if I really was a grumpy adult I might have pointed this out to them too. Girl has a very black and white idea of right and wrong and was visibly upset that she had waited so patiently (she was excited about all the mascots around the city) but then some other kids had pushed in front and she had to wait again.
So yes after the infantile name calling infront of my young impressionable daughter I was grumpy, her justification that ‘They’re only kids’ just didn’t cut it with me. Even with the problems she does have at almost six my daughter understands the idea of waiting your turn. She understands about being polite and considerate of other people. So justifying your children’s actions with the line ‘they’re just kids’ does not wash, kids behave how you teach them to behave and her children were at least a couple of years older than Girl so were old enough to know exactly what they were doing.
So here is my question. Is it better to be completely obliviously happy children but with selfish behaviour and a complete disregard to other people’s good manners or is it better to sometimes to be a little unhappy about things like queueing and waiting your turn but have good manners and a sense of fairness? Is there a middle ground?
Earlier in the year I was so stressed and poorly all the time my hair started breaking off, it was in terrible condition, frizzy and unmanageable and weirdly I lost my lovely curls, I had to have a load hacked off the length becauseof how dead it was, it was unsaveable.
Well yesterday I visited the hairdressers, I had been putting it off for a while because it upset me a little last time and I didn’t want to go that short again but it had got to a point of ‘it had to be done’, it was in a mess and to my shame I had been hacking at my fringe to avoid returning to the hairdressers so it was a complete mess.
Surprisingly to me the hairdresser commented on what lovely condition it was in and on how curly it was (I really hadn’t noticed as I had been scraping it back into a bobble).
Anyway, this morning I have washed my hair and left it to dry naturally and lo and bloody behold, my curls really are back! This might seem like a strange post but I think it’s an indication of how far we have progressed since the start of the year. Things are much better and consequently my body is returning to full health so I am celebrating being a curly girl again!
Two days ago we received postbox contact from Girl’s birth mum. I opened it hesitantly, I normally like to give it a once over first to prepare my mind for the discussions that may follow but Girl fetched the post and was eager for me to open everything, she seemed to instinctively know there was something interesting in the big brown envelope.
I have always thought I understood the importance of being honest and open about adoption with Girl, right from the beginning it has been something we have talked about with her, offered information and answered questions. We have embraced contact with her birth family, direct and postbox. We bought children’s books explaining adoption, ones that emphasise that families are different, ones that give her sense of belonging - in fact you name it we brought it. We have tried to let the need for information be led by Girl but with the issue of direct contact that has not always been possible, sometimes it has been led by circumstance more than by Girl’s needs.
The postbox envelope we received contained a letter and an envelope of photos and we observed that birth mum looks a lot like Girl’s eldest sister. Girl declared that she would like birth mum to come and live with us which I took in my stride, she always says something like that, I don’t believe it to have any meaning other than she is a kind girl.
I left the letter out on the table and this morning she took the photos out again and her first question was ‘mummy was the names of the two ladies that couldn’t look after me Janet & Josephine*?’. I was a little taken aback by this, it is quite wrong but also the names she said were of her two young cousins – one of whom does share the same name as birth mum. She then went on to tell me a little story about how she chose us, she went looking for a nice house to live in and chose this one. I have heard this story before, it’s clearly how she likes to think things worked out for her and I do correct her (age appropriately of course) but it just adds to her confusion.
Since postbox we have slightly gone back to some habits that we haven’t seen much of lately, major fidgeting, unable to get her words out properly or make a comprehensible sentence, an inability to do things for herself and a certain slowness in activities, nothing major but a definite difference.
Some people are of the opinion that contact is not a good idea, I am not one of those people. Some people and particularly older adoptees I have spoken to think it’s ‘wonderful’ (that’s a word that is used often though I am not sure it’s very appropriate). The older adoptees I spoke to came from am an age where they stumbled upon the fact they were adopted, or had the fact given to them on their 18th birthday (can you just imagine the impact of that?). So all in all I believe honesty is a good policy but I have a million doubts and questions about the way we approach talking about adoption and maybe in a way it could be compared to any mum questioning whether they are doing right by their child.
So I am thinking aloud now, I’m not sure there are any right or wrong answers but it would be good to hear your thoughts though. Is there a good age to start talking about adoption? Is it better to wait until they are old enough to understand completely rather than having them concoct wonderful little fantasies that you have to correct with a dimmer reality? Does Girl’s development delay have an impact on her ability to understand her circumstances and her relationship with people? Are we doing more harm than good by being too open and forward with information at such a young age? Is it too stressful to talk about different mothers; birth mothers, foster mothers, adopted mothers? How can Girl possibly be expected to understand that adopted mother means forever and come to think of it what is Girl’s understanding of forever when counting to 100 can ‘take forever’, getting to the seaside ‘takes forever’? That sort of forever is definitely finite.
We protect our children as much as we can, try to retain their innocence. Do we chat to our children about money worries, death, famine, war? Probably not but adoption is amongst the most stressful situations for a child to cope with and yet we are pushing (however gently) information at them at a tender age and I am beginning to think it’s too much and too complex for them to understand. What are we hoping to achieve by showing a five year old pictures of a woman she has never met (in Girl’s case) and reading her a letter that means so very little?
I decided to have a little ‘experiment’, I asked Girl what she thought some words meant, I told her there was no wrong answer just to tell me what she thought. I asked her what the word Sister or Brother meant and her answer after struggling for a little while was that she did not know. I asked her what she thought forever meant, she did not know. I asked her what she thought adopted meant and she said being born. We looked up the definition of Sister in the dictionary together
(sstr)n.1. A female having the same parents as another or one parent in common with another.
She said she did not really understand what that mean, I explained that she shared the same birth or tummy parents as her older sisters and that she shared the same adopted parents as her brother. I got a blank look in return and that’s probably my point, a lot of what we are telling our children is just words to them that they have no hope of understanding yet so why stress them out with it?
I have come to the conclusion that Girl is not capable of understanding the complexities or actually come to think of it the simple parts of adoption. She is interested when a letter comes and does ask questions, she has older siblings placed elsewhere that she seems to love though I guess it’s a very different relationship to siblings that would have been placed together. She has a lot of friends that were also adopted, we encouraged this to normalise adoption for her, so that she wasn’t ‘different’ but to Girl actually it’s just a word that she does not understand, something that she know’s she is but means nothing.
Would it be unethical to hold back letters from the birth parents until a time she could appreciate and undertsand them better? I definitely don’t want to hide stuff away but if she is too young to understand it why ‘worry’ her with it? Am I wrong to want to let my Girl enjoy an innocent childhood, one where she doesn’t have to think too much about her place in the world? To me her place in the world at the moment should be simple, we are her mummy and daddy and here is where she belongs. End of. No complicated interruptions thank you, let my Girl enjoy her childhood.
*Obviously I changed the names!
Last month I went to see our GP about getting some help for Girl, I felt as though we weren’t getting far enough with our PASW. An appointment came quickly for us to see the Community Paediatrician (CP) and we went to see her yesterday, why oh why did we not do this earlier?
We were in the office with the CP for 30 minutes, she listened and came up with a three prong attack. Firstly (and she had decided this before we even arrived) a referal back to SALT about Girl’s comprehension and tics. Secondly some adoption-based Family Therapy and thirdly a kick up the bum for the school SENCO. I like this very much!
I really feel like we are getting somewhere, the CP’s priority is that we get as much support for Girl as early as possible to minimise any problems later.
I love this song by Jamie Cullum and particularly at the moment it seems to ring true because these really are the days.
These are the times of love and meaning
Ice of the heart melted away and found the light
These are the days of endless dreaming
Troubles of life are floating away like a bird in flight
Cheesy? Maybe, but we are about halfway through the school holidays and our days have been delightful, joyous even. Girl is relaxed and happy, she is not stressing about reading and writing or the politics of school friendship (you know what I mean, so and so doesn’t want to be my best friend anymore, so and so said I couldn’t go to her party, the boys wouldn’t let me play their game). Instead Girl has enjoyed her days playing with her cousins who are over from America for a few weeks and her brother, their friendship is unconditional.
Girl has coped with holidays, late nights, trips out, lack of routine, social workers, a visit to the paediatrician and has remarkably even spent some time playing on her own in her room. Girl has never liked playing in her room on her own, she needs to be close by to one of us; she has always struggled to create her own play and she has mostly needed some prompting on what to do or how to do it so for her to suddenly take herself off to her room for a few hours to play with toys is quite extraordinary and all this has come about since school finished for the summer.
On Sunday we went out for the day and Girl was walking in front of me with her Daddy, every now and again she would turn round and give me the biggest most genuine smile I have ever seen, enough to bring a happy tear to my eye.
These are the days to cherish and remember forever, the days to get us through the bad times with a lot of hope.
So, I have a few concern’s about Boy’s speech, not massive ones and we were referred to SALT just as a precaution by the Health Visitor as she agreed with some of the points I was making. Today was the first appointment and it was a group introductory session. I hate these at the best of times, I just want to get on with things and if I am really, really honest I don’t want to be forced to listen to other people’s problems, I just want to concentrate on my own concerns so it was with some unwilling I set out this morning.
Well I have to say the session was tedious at best (though I did like filling in the questionnaires about Boy’s abilities, I’ve always had a penchant for questionnaires). Only two other families turned up; a couple and a young-ish mum. Clearly both couples had bigger problems than us and forgive me for being so blunt but when you can’t listen to the therapist’s questions/instructions and respond appropriately what chance does your child have?
The session started with the therapist asking us to tell the rest of the group our names, our child’s name and something we liked about our child. Neither of the other couples did what she asked, well they did but then both also added their own ten minute diagnosis of their child’s speech problems. From that point I knew it was going to be a long morning.
I happily watched the video of strategies, it’s always good to refresh your knowledge. Unfortunately between each new strategy there was an opportunity to chat and ask questions. I’ll offer you a few ‘gems’.
Therapist: Avoid offering yes or no choices, instead offer your child a choice such as ‘Would you like juice or Milk?’ so that you are getting your child to repeat words.
Lady sat to my left: My little boy won’t drink juice or milk.
This little chat about what her boy will eat went on for about 10 minutes even then I don’t think it sank in.
Therapist: Try to avoid constant questions, it can make your child feel that they are being tested, instead try to describe what they are doing. For example if you see your child playing with a train don’t ask what are you doing? where is the train going? Instead describe the play such as ‘ooh you’re playing with a train, the train is going over the bridge, choo choo!’
Man on the other side of room: My daughter likes to play hide and seek with her teddy.
Therapist: Oh thats lovely, well describe where she is hiding the teddy, ‘oooh, teddy is behind the curtain’.
Man on the other side of room: Yeah but I don’t need to because when I ask her where teddy is she points and says ‘there’.
Therapist: do your children mimic noises such as animal noises or clapping?
Man on the other side of room: Uhm, not really but she does copy the clapping on the telly when we watch Jeremy Kyle…
Go on, I can hear your guffaws from here, I myself had to stifle a groan at this point because I just wanted to get on with the session and not have to listen to the therapist explain the same thing over and over in different ways to try and get it to sink in.
Clearly Boy does not have that many problems comparatively, he is well ahead for his age in his understanding and seemingly about right in his speech, it’s more to do with him forming words than actually knowing words. So, I await our next SALT meeting where we can get on with actual assesment and I will be voicing my concerns about how daft the idea of a group session is.