Attachment and School

Ready for the bus.

Ready for the bus.

Here’s a look inside Jordan’s attachment development via his back-to-school note this week.

Intro for new readers: Jordan was adopted into our family from a Eastern European orphanage when he was 2 1/2 years old. He is 7 years old now and has Down Syndrome. Usually though, it’s his time socially neglected in his orphanage crib that affects him more than his chromosomes. His perception of the world and other people is so different due to those 2 1/2 years spent alone. He has a great team at school, but adoption/attachment issues and Down Syndrome are an unusual combination and I wrote this letter to give his team a head start towards success.

September 6, 2016

Dear “Teacher” and all of Jordan’s wonderful team,
Please take the time as soon as possible to read this update and the first of the connected articles listed below. I’m looking forward to working with you this year and am glad to have you on our/Jordan’s team.
~Mom

New school year notes:
• [… some other stuff and then:]
• The biggie: “Orphanage behavior” – continued below
Jordan is a little guy with Down Syndrome. He is learning self-control and sometimes he avoids work out of laziness. But when he acts out he is usually driven by his developmental years in the orphanage. I hear it from seasoned social workers, therapists, parent peers and other professionals involved in helping to rehabilitate children from institutional backgrounds, so please give my words due weight. Jordan has an attachment disorder that causes him to seek control of his environment.

Jordan is a sweet boy, but he doesn’t behave like a nice person when he is manically controlling his environment. He is not learning. Controlling might not be the perfect word, it’s just the closest I can get. It’s not a power struggle and it’s not out of curiosity. He controls his environment for a primal, visceral need for safety. And he does it by doing things he knows you don’t want. It’s a demand for structure and follow-through. He needs his people to follow through to show themselves trustworthy and competent.

If he is able to manipulate his aides, he reverts to these behaviors out of a sort of gut-level fear. He usually giggles and laughs in a wild sort of way and behaves hyperactively. When he is stripping, peeing, peeing where he shouldn’t, grabbing, swiping, running, or flipping light switches, he knows what he is doing is not acceptable behavior, but is not able to control himself, because he is driven by fear and needs us to help him feel safe.

At the moment this starts, which may very well be the moment he arrives at school and continue more intensely for several weeks, STOP EVERYTHING. Have him sit down (chair, floor, corner… so long as it is your choice) until he can sit politely. If he swipes, grabs, throws, slaps, or tries to run off, he should return to sitting. It’s a place of safety. It’s where he has a chance to let his fear cool and his trust grow.

At this point, with somebody he trusts, we can work towards more and more interesting and challenging tasks. He knows you there, so you will get some of this! But it’s been a whole summer and he is developmentally another leap ahead from where he was last year. So I think he is going to test you with a new level of understanding.

With somebody he is still testing, he will fight and fight (adoption counselors describe Jordan’s perspective as feeling like he’s literally fighting for his life) and have periods of exhaustion and tears. Any amount of yield/trust is important to praise immediately. It’s also important that the whole scenario play out with no anger on the adult’s part. We are there helping him find safety. We love him and want his success. Our eyes express love, our postures express patience… and we are strong and resilient and able. That’s the kind of leader he is willing to follow.

It is 1000% worth it to spend lots of time practicing “safe sitting” or “strong sitting” so that you have a foundation of trust to build upon. If he misses art or recess or potty time, etc. that’s too bad, but I expect it will take a fair amount of practice to be able to work up to doing those tasks. It’s my hope that you will be able to help him through these issues and be able to participate in more school activities than ever before. He is developmentally ready for them too! But feeling safe comes first.

I can foresee some challenges if he is not ready to comply but he needs to have his diaper changed or go to the bus, etc. I’m not sure what the best options are for that. Sometimes we just do the best we can.

This is the system that is in place to help him succeed and thank you in advance for your participation. This method and understanding comes from a well-researched and understood background. Because of his developmental delay and being non-verbal, we’re not sure exactly which attachment disorder Jordan has, but we can learn a lot about how Jordan’s brain works by learning about kids with RAD. Here are a few links that will help you gain insight into working with a post-institutionalized child with high baseline anxiety and poor attachment foundation. I think you’ll find them both interesting and useful. Let me know as you see additional needs and have questions.

http://www.attachment.org/letter-to-teachers/
http://www.attachment.org/letter-to-bus-drivers-and-monitors/
http://www.attachment.org/teachers/consequences/
http://www.attachment.org/attachment-disorder-articles/

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Summer from the Cell Phone Perspective

Flexibility and being easily amused is probably not on the college course guides for prospective Occupational Therapists, but man, those are just two qualities that Joanna possesses. She is a unicorn.

Therapist awesomeness.

Therapist awesomeness.

OT time with Joanna!

OT time with Joanna!

Carolyn is such a sweetheart.

Carolyn is such a sweetheart.

I am working towards better physical health by using the Couch to 5K app on my phone. I just finished week 3 and can now jog for 3 minutes straight. I am pretty proud of this since I couldn’t jog for more than a few steps a month or two ago when I started. The app says I’m supposed to jog 5 minutes straight next week. I think it’s mad. We’ll see how that goes. :-)

Anna and I walked/jogged a 5K together. She got first place for her age group!

Anna and I walked/jogged a 5K together. She got first place for her age group!

Since we’ve been doing well the last six months, we have wanted to provide respite for family and friends. (That’s like extended babysitting in this context.) I got to watch my sister’s kids a couple times when her baby was born and I’ve got to watch my friend’s son Levi a couple times. It really has been a pleasure each time. Yes, there is more going on in the house, yes, it can be tiring to have more kids, but YES, it is a pleasure and an honor on so many levels to provide respite. One, my kids love having other kids here. Jordan too. Two, I enjoy the extra energy in the house. Three, I can manage the additional energy output, because it’s temporary. Four, I love having respite provided for me and it makes me happy to give back.

Jailbirds.

Jailbirds.

Levi finally zonked out after a few days of visiting a new house.

Levi finally zonked out after a few days of visiting a new house.

Meanwhile, I am using any other motivation and energy to make jam. Yummers.

The plum jam is this color, because of the color of the plums!

The plum jam is this color, because of the color of the plums!

MMmmmmm

MMmmmmm

Blackberry goodness.

Blackberry goodness.

There were some relational breakthroughs for Jordan when Levi was over for a week. Jordan struggles to be socially aware and active. The rest of the world moves so much faster than him that he rarely engages with others in meaningful ways. Levi and Jordan, however, are so close to each others speed. They were both modeling and practicing awesome communication behavior with each other. They observed, tried, played, pushed, were puzzled and teased and basically were awesome. They weren’t always enjoying it, but it was so successful, because 90% of the time, they were tolerating and enjoying each other.

This one makes me chuckle. The bowls of soup had just run out. :-(

This one makes me chuckle. The bowls of soup had just run out. :-(

Jordan's new stroller/wheelchair getting put to good use when Levi tagged along to Jordan's speech appointment last week.

Jordan’s new stroller/wheelchair getting put to good use when Levi tagged along to Jordan’s speech appointment last week.

Blackberry and plum jam.

Blackberry and plum jam.

Peaches!

Peaches!

The peach jam turned out runny (learned that overripe peaches have less pectin) but it's still soooo yummy!

The peach jam turned out runny (learned that overripe peaches have less pectin) but it’s still soooo yummy!

Matchy matchy!

Matchy matchy!

Day 1. Not sure what to do about each other. Trapped in jail for an unknown length of time. Decided to sit on same side of room. (me chuckling)

Awkward beginnings:

Levi tries to engage Jordan:

Jordan engages with Levi!

They were handling this situation pretty well, but I did go in eventually and make Levi let go:

The jumprope

So flexible!

So flexible!

Jordan was happy to hang out like this.

Jordan was happy to hang out like this.

Goodnight sheepies!

Goodnight sheepies!

Goodnight, little farm.

Goodnight, little farm.

This is an elephant cabbage we grew.

This is an elephant cabbage we grew.

This is a normal cabbage we grew.

This is a normal cabbage we grew.

Okay then! I’m off to freeze some cabbage now….

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2016 Summer Vacation!

Warning – this post has some 60 photos plus four videos at the end!

If you visit our home and Ruby sheds on you... just know that it's less than she would have shed on you if I hadn't done this.

If you visit our home and Ruby sheds on you… just know that it’s less than she would have shed on you if I hadn’t done this.

The rodeo had free pony rides! Look at my big girl!

The rodeo had free pony rides! Look at my big girl!

I love that Royal Ridges provides pony rides!

I love that Royal Ridges provides pony rides!

Pleased as punch to get on a horse.

Pleased as punch to get on a horse.

Time for a rodeo! So nice to spend time with family.

Time for a rodeo! So nice to spend time with family.

Maggie is not a fan of having her picture taken.

Maggie is not a fan of having her picture taken.

Carolyn and Margaret played a hat-stealing game with Pappy's hat.

Carolyn and Margaret played a hat-stealing game with Pappy’s hat.

Maggie was about to make a face at me because she noticed me trying to take her picture.

Maggie was about to make a face at me because she noticed me trying to take her picture.

Carolyn is so silly!

Carolyn is so silly!

Over the years, I've grown to love the princesses more and the actual events less.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love the princesses more and the actual events less.

Beautiful girl.

Beautiful girl.

Even Great Grandpa came! Thanks, Dad D. for picking him up!

Even Great Grandpa came! Thanks, Dad D. for picking him up!

Grammy and Anna are two peas in a pod.

Grammy and Anna are two peas in a pod.

Ruby is a big doggy!

Ruby is a big doggy!

Margaret and Carolyn put on veils to come check out how the bees are doing with me.

Margaret and Carolyn put on veils to come check out how the bees are doing with me.

Ooooooooooh.

Ooooooooooh.

Fascinating stuff!

Fascinating stuff!

Brand new comb is beautiful! (older comb is dark)

Brand new comb is beautiful! (older comb is dark)

Again - fascinating! These ladies are making a chain of their legs to guide the comb building.

Again – fascinating! These ladies are making a chain of their legs to guide the comb building.

Anna went to summer camp (day camp) for the first time this summer! It was a big hit. I recommend Royal RIdges!

Anna went to summer camp (day camp) for the first time this summer! It was a big hit. I recommend Royal RIdges!

I scored a big set of this stuff at a garage sale and it was worth every penny. The kids have been inventing lots of strange and wonderful things.

I scored a big set of this stuff at a garage sale and it was worth every penny. The kids have been inventing lots of strange and wonderful things.

I don't know what it is, but it's cool!

I don’t know what it is, but it’s cool!

And now onto camping!!! Jordan's new stroller/wheelchair was a lifesaver. He is pretty happy in it and it keeps him out of the dirt and so he can't run away when we need it.

And now onto camping!!! Jordan’s new stroller/wheelchair was a lifesaver. He is pretty happy in it and it keeps him out of the dirt and so he can’t run away when we need it.

It took me until the day we left for me to figure out how to get my little camp kitchen working, but it was ooooooh, so yummy to eat outside.

It took me until the day we left for me to figure out how to get my little camp kitchen working, but it was ooooooh, so yummy to eat outside.

Sausage and pancake delight!

Sausage and pancake delight!

The weather was cool, but not too cool with warmish afternoons and we loved it.

The weather was cool, but not too cool with warmish afternoons and we loved it.

I love taking pictures of this beautiful girl even though she doesn't like me doing it.

I love taking pictures of this beautiful girl even though she doesn’t like me doing it.

Cheese! Carolyn likes her photo taken.

Cheese! Carolyn likes her photo taken.

Jordan's all curled up in his chair and content.

Jordan’s all curled up in his chair and content.

Hey, I got in a photo!

Hey, I got in a photo!

We stayed five days (four nights) and on the fourth day, the sun warmed up and we spent most of the day in the water!!

We stayed five days (four nights) and on the fourth day, the sun warmed up and we spent most of the day in the water!!

haha

haha

Jordan played in the water too!

Jordan played in the water too!

I just love this brave little girl.

I just love this brave little girl.

And this one too!

And this one too!

A wonderful young lady named Alexis spent the week with us. It would have been much more difficult without her. Also... the intex kayak was a big hit.

A wonderful young lady named Alexis spent the week with us. It would have been much more difficult without her. Also… the intex kayak was a big hit.

I laughed that Margaret laid on her towel on the rockes!

I laughed that Margaret laid on her towel on the rockes!

Throwing dirt and rocks!

Throwing dirt and rocks!

Brian and Jordan have a shared passion...

Brian and Jordan have a shared passion…

Throwing rocks into bodies of water!

Throwing rocks into bodies of water!

Love these two boys.

Love these two boys.

There is something sacred about dirty camping faces.

There is something sacred about dirty camping faces.

If Jordan's arms can reach you, he will grab hold and climb up you like a ladder. Brian found a solution!

If Jordan’s arms can reach you, he will grab hold and climb up you like a ladder. Brian found a solution!

Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.

Beautiful day! Since we had life vests for everybody, it was low stress... even if somebody fell in on accident, they wouldn't sink.

Beautiful day! Since we had life vests for everybody, it was low stress… even if somebody fell in on accident, they wouldn’t sink.

Look at Margaret! She rowed Alexis up and down the shore.

Look at Margaret! She rowed Alexis up and down the shore.

Carolyn was quite brave the first day we swam, but too tired to be brave the second day.

Carolyn was quite brave the first day we swam, but too tired to be brave the second day.

I read Prince Caspian out loud while camping.

I read Prince Caspian out loud while camping.

Cuties.

Cuties.

Waves were bigger the second day, but the water was still pretty warm.

Waves were bigger the second day, but the water was still pretty warm.

Brian and I had a blast.

Brian and I had a blast.

It was quite deep, so I needed a life vest too if I was holding anybody.

It was quite deep, so I needed a life vest too if I was holding anybody.

The logs were lots of fun to climb on and jump off... and fall off. They kept rolling! Both Brian and I got to swim thanks to Alexis.

The logs were lots of fun to climb on and jump off… and fall off. They kept rolling! Both Brian and I got to swim thanks to Alexis.

Cutie.

Cutie.

It was a great time.

It was a great time.

Happy boy!

Happy boy!

Cold daughter.

Cold daughter.

Wrapping up.

Wrapping up.

Farewell for now!

Farewell for now!

Everybody playing in the water… Brian sinking the log:

Brian “going fishing” with Jordan:

The lady at the garage sale i bought these little tents from said they fold up easy to store. I told her after my kids were done with them, there wouldn’t be anything left to store.

Just a little bit of laid back outside time:

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A New Experience – Beans!

We are going to do something new… that is actually totally ordinary. We are going to eat just beans and rice (and things from our garden) for a week. Why? Because we want to stand in solidarity with a family we love which is doing well when they are eating beans and rice instead of just posho or nothing. I don’t think I appreciate what an abundance I am enjoying multiple times each day as I eat what is standard fare for middle class USA. Spaghetti, tacos, sandwiches, steak, salmon, eggs, toast, lasagna… We rarely eat the same meal twice in a row and the children are particular about what things they like and don’t like.

Our friend’s children are sometimes hungry. And sometimes they are so tired of posho that they would rather be hungry than eat more of it. So I guess our goal is twofold. The first is to stand in solidarity, having a similar experience as our friends. The second is to save grocery money, so that we can buy our friends some more food! :-)

Speaking of these friends… these friends are the Waisana family. Hello David and family!!! My parents became friends with them while they lived in Uganda. They have many children… some born to them and some taken in. They are caring for orphans even when they don’t have enough food to feed them all. I’m pretty proud of them. I’m proud of their faith in God that has not wilted in the heat of hunger or any number of struggles. Thank you, David, for holding onto hope in a God who is BIG. If God wills, I’ll meet you all in this life. If not, I look forward to having a party with you and your children in heaven!

Introducing the Waisana family!

Introducing the Waisana family!

Now… I need to make sure I have enough beans and rice for us… I don’t want to eat posho!

Here are a couple pictures of typical Ugandan meals. Posho is made out of a starchy corn flour and boiling water.

Posho and beans

Posho and beans

Rice, matoke (cooked green bananas), beans on my parents' table

Rice, matoke (cooked green bananas), beans on my parents’ table

Ugandan staples.

Ugandan staples.

Mom and Meddie being silly with Matoke.

Mom and Meddie being silly with Matoke.

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2016/2017 School Curriculum

I’ll be editing this blog post as I refine our plan for next school year.

2015/2016 Curriculum choices

Anna – 4th Grade

Subject : Curriculum Choice : lessons/week intended : lessons/week planned : goal for each subject

    1. Reading & workbook
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 5/week : 4/week
    Increased reading comprehension and vocabulary
    2. Math
    Teaching Textbooks Level 5 : 5/week : 4/week
    Increased math skills and confidence
    3. Science
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 5/week : 3/week
    Broader understanding of the natural world
    4. Social Studies & workbook
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 5/week : 2/week
    Cultural awareness and critical thinking skills
    5. Spelling
    Sequential Spelling Level 1 (continued from this year) : 3/week : 2/week
    Improved spelling
    6. Grammar
    Growing with Grammar Level 4 : 3/week : 2/week
    Ummm…. what is grammar for again?
    7. Writing
    Just Write Level 1 : not sure : 2/week
    Familiarity with the process of going from brainstorming to writing.
    8. Bible
    Christian Light Education Level 4 : 2-3/week : 2/week
    A deeper understanding than picture Bible stories
    9. History
    Story of the World Middle Ages on CD with activity book : 1/week : 1/week
    A general sense for the timeline of the human race
    10. Art
    Local classroom OR Christian Light Education Level 2 : 1/week : 1/week
    Craftmanship and fun

Maggie 1st/2nd Grade

    1. Reading & Workbooks
    Christian Light Education Learning to Read (starting with Primer 7) : 5/week : 4/week
    Increased reading proficiency
    2. Writing
    Just Write (Write About Me and Write About My World) : not sure : 4/week
    Learn to love writing
    3. Math
    Teaching Textbooks Level 3 : 5/week : 4/week
    Learn the next level of math
    4. Science
    Christian Light Education Level 1 : 5/week : 3/week
    An easy, general introduction to science subjects
    5. Typing
    Dance Mat Typing – not sure – 2/week
    Become able to type papers and emails
    6. Art
    Local classroom OR Christian Light Education Level 1 – 1/week – 1/week
    Craftsmanship and fun
    7. Music
    She would like me to teach her piano : 5/week : 4/week (one lesson plus practice)
    Learn to read music and find notes with either hand
    8. History w/ coloring pages
    Story of the World Middle Ages on CD with activity book : 1/week : 1/week
    A general sense for the timeline of the human race

Carolyn Preschool

1. Reading
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – often- 4/week
2. Learning to follow directions and make letter shapes
Generic Pre-K or Kindergarten workbook
3. Art
Some kind of self-led art… maybe one of those cut and paste books?

A few things that are in the wings:
Anna does not know her times tables or all her addition facts yet. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that yet.
Field Guide
Maggie: Christian Light Education I Can Write Manuscript : 2-3/week

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