Nine years ago my ex-husband and I brought our beautiful new daughter, Ana*, home from Russia. We already had adopted our son, Drew*, a year earlier. Ana was 20 months when she finally made it home. Our son had been 16 months when he touched down in the US. Even though we had gone into the adoption of our son wanting a ‘normal’ infant we accepted him despite his scary dossier – fetal alcohol syndrome, born 10 weeks early to a mother with no prenatal care, asthma, slight CP, and poor growth. We knew the minute we saw his picture he was our son, regardless of his challenges. Because of that, we were not scared off, at all, when we received the referral for Ana, a little girl with severely deformed arms. She’s a thalidomide baby, we were told. We could handle that.
Because of her significant special needs we were allowed to make only one trip instead of the required two to adopt her. That was wonderful for our pocket book, but it meant that we had less than two days to meet her and decide if we wanted to go through with the adoption. Of course, how anyone can meet a child they’ve been bonding with via pictures for months on end can change their mind is beyond me, but nonetheless, the process was put into hyper-drive.
Let me preface this section by saying our translator and liaison in Russia was an awful, angry, American-hating, child-hating man. In short, he was no help to us.
Immediately upon meeting Ana for the first time we knew something bigger than deformed arms was wrong. First of all, she was 19 months old and 13 lbs. She looked about 3 months old (failure to thrive). Then, she simply rocked, expressionless, on the couch our entire visit. She sort of moaned which increased in volume if we touched her. We were concerned, to say the least, after our two hour first visit. This was a totally different experience than we had had with our son just a year earlier (they were from the same baby home).
We went ahead with the adoption hoping that once Ana got home she would come round.
That didn’t happen.
We found out from our agency that Ana had been cribbed her entire life. She was diagnosed with moderate-severe autism by her second birthday. She was also diagnosed with Holt-Oram syndrome, a congenital disorder that caused her deformities, not thalidomide. By three she was diagnosed with severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech. She could make all her sounds; she just couldn’t combine them to make words. Her receptive language (what she understood) was fine, though.
Autism packs quite a punch. Hers was institutional autism which is a little different from classic autism, but the treatments are the same. Our lives suddenly became a series of speech therapy, occupational therapy, doctor visits, and ER visits. When she was three her father and I separated and I moved to a large city to be closer to a children’s hospital, her doctors and a (supposedly) better school district, better equipped to handle her special needs.
Fast forward seven years. I am now remarried, have three more (biological) children, ages 6, 2 and 3 months) and we live in truly better school district. The problem is that no matter how many therapists she sees, no matter how many behavioralists treat her, no matter how many IEP meetings and amendments are made Ana’s behaviors are getting worse, not better. Experts assure me her IQ is normal. Other experts assure us she is no longer on the autism spectrum (lots of sensory stuff still going on however). So, why is she unable to be in a regular education classroom? Why does she self-injure daily? Why is she unable to visit her father because of property destruction?
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine with an adopted daughter with RAD was telling me about past RAD events they had experienced. It suddenly dawned on me that she could be describing Ana if Ana could talk (she does communicate, by the way; she just doesn’t talk). RAD, I began to think. Could it be that simple?
When we started down the international adoption path we had heard countless horror stories about kids setting houses on fire, killing family pets, killing the family, etc… Ana didn’t do any of that! But as I began to read up on RAD, the more convinced I became that was exactly what Ana was suffering from. It explained all the behaviors her myriad of therapists couldn’t.
So, begins my journey to attach Ana at ten years old.
I decided to blog about the entire process, failures and successes, from the beginning because I desperately want to know other’s daily experiences, and simply cannot find anything on the internet. I’m hoping that our experiences provide inspiration, comfort or just encouragement to other families trying to attach their child(ren).
*These are not their real names so crazies can’t look us up and kill us