Saturday, August 21, 2010

Attachment Disorder

Just a little information and then a funny from Gaelle.

Ever since we started this adoption process 4 years ago, I've been reading everything I can find from our library system on international adoption. I've become a regular reader of several adoptive parents and adult adoptees' blogs. No matter how much I've read and heard, nothing can prepare you for the reality of introducing 2 children to your home and family who have come from another country and who have spent time in an institutional setting. It is intense in every way and we are constantly learning new things about attachment, the children, and ourselves.

As the summer comes to a close and we are getting ready to start a new school year, we are seeing the results of lots of anxiety. I'm getting ready to write up some information for Gaelle's teacher on attachment disorder and her special needs and some observations we have and some suggestions we have for her and thought I would put some of it here.

The following information comes from Attachment Disorder Maryland website.

Survival: AD children deeply believe that their very survival depends on their being in control of other people and situations most of the time. AD children make a decision, early in life, probably not consciously, that they will never be in a helpless position again. They lack faith in anyone's control but their own. This leads them to avoid asking for help, regardless of their need for it, because it creates a dangerous context of dependence and is likely to activate AD children’s considerable shame. AD children seek to orchestrate not only events, but the very feelings and behaviors of those closest to them. They will work very hard to control the adults’ attention. This control can appear in many forms, including: oppositional / defiant behavior, passive aggressive behavior, withdrawal and withholding of information, hairsplitting semantic arguments, giving false information, sexualized behavior, aggressive behavior, infantile behavior, bizarre behavior, appearing “confused”, vague / circular or unintelligible language, noisemaking, running away, avoiding physical contact, etc. (significant changes)

Hypervigilance: Hypervigilance is commonly seen in AD children. Hypervigilance is the directing of a significant proportion of energy, attention, and thinking towards monitoring the external environment. Being hypervigilant, AD children tend to scan situations very quickly for cues and then make interpretations of entire situations based on only one or two details. This can lead to responses that are way off base. Because of the energy it consumes, hypervigilance limits an AD child’s awareness of what is happening inside herself and interferes with the ability to think reflectively, problem solve, or respond appropriately to external demands. Hypervigilance can be broken down into two kinds: threat hypervigilance and resource hypervigilance. AD children who are threat hypervigilant feel a constant sense of lurking danger and are always scanning situations for possible sources of danger. Those who are resource hypervigilant feel a terrifying sense of inner emptiness, almost as if they don’t really exist. As a result, they are always searching out their environments for external resources to “validate” or “prop up” their sense of existing. This validation is obtained by getting others to interact with, or attend to, them in some way. In the absence of such external support, these children begin to feel like they are disappearing, almost as if they were turning into ghosts. This causes their anxiety to rapidly mount. In situations in which they are not sure how to respond, resource hypervigilant children will scan the environment for clues as to how to assemble their respond

I've copied the information about survival and hypervigilance because those are the 2 main issues we see with Gaelle. She needs control and she's focused on what everybody around her is doing. Unfortunately, it is not healthy for her to be in control. I've started using the word "trust". As in, "You can trust me to take care of .....(insert a need)." In school this need for control will severely limit her ability to succeed socially and academically. She tries to dominate every conversation even if she doesn't have 2 clues what is being said. If she is in a group setting, there will be one child who is always interjecting...Gaelle. It doesn't take much imagination to see how draining this can be on a teacher.

The hypervigilance will also seriously limit her success in school and life. She thinks she knows what is going on around her but she constantly misreads situations. During VBS this summer she was in a class of 20 - 25 kids each day. Her face was in constant motion as she scanned the class. Did I say constantly? In a group of that size there was the usual jostling which most kids take in stride. But not Gaelle. If she was pushed as the kids rushed to an activity, her face would turn ugly and she would push back. She was misreading the situation. She thought kids were being mean, when they were just in a rush.

It was a good lesson for us. We have worked with her this summer on interacting with other kids. Are they being mean? Do they mean to push me? Do they want to hurt me? Did they do it on purpose? If not, then we don't make a mean face and we don't push them back.

Not only does Gaelle misread the situation around her, she expends so much energy on those external factors, she does not have any energy to focus on learning what is important. So there is no need for her to learn her alphabet or numbers or colors or other vital kindergarten topics beause she needs to know what the grade 2 teacher is doing. And by the way, what is the child 5 desks over from me doing? And Johnny wore his indoor sneakers outside. I need to tell the teacher. And on and on.

Anyway, those are a few of our concerns and issues we need to address with the teacher. There is the behavior and there are reasons behind that behavior. A little understanding can go a long way.

Ok... now a Gaelle funny that illustrates how she misreads situations and how she tries to control things.

Last night we were eating supper and Emily asked us if we had any plans for the night.

Robin: No, not me.
Beth: No, I'm not doing anything.
Gaelle: No. Nobody needs the car so you can have it, Emily.

At no point did Emily ask for the car and really, what 4 year old is in control of the family car? Needless to say, we all just burst out laughing. What else are you going to do? It turns out Emily wasn't asking for the car. She just wanted to know what we were doing? You know, family conversation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Beth, for all this information. I think I have a better understanding of your challenge. I pray that Gaelle's teacher will understand, and know how to deal with her. Mom