March 29 – Classic RAD Behaviors: Predictable, but Still Not Fun

For the most part the past two weeks have been ordinary (as ordinary as it gets for Ana). She did pull two classic RAD moves, though, that I think are worth noting.

First, I decided it was time to finally put up the wall stickers she got for Christmas. I had been waiting for a relatively stable time so she wouldn’t immediately rip them down. I thought a calm Tuesday afternoon was the perfect time.

These stickers are totally Ana! They are neon paisley peace signs – very teen looking, which is what Ana is all about these days.

We went down to her bedroom and she was excited. I let her pick where on the wall to put the stickers and then I put them up for her. The first one went great. All smiles and giggles.

Then the evil RAD monster came into the room. Like a switch Ana began screaming, kicking her pillows and bed, hitting herself and reacting in pure rage.

Now, the typical person would have reacted with anger, saying something like this, “Why are you so upset? There is nothing to be upset about. I bought these expensive stickers for you and this is how you act?? See if I ever get you nice things again!” and then hey would leave the room angry.

But, understanding RAD, I didn’t say this but instead continued on as if nothing was wrong. I kept my attitude nice and happy and didn’t make a big deal over her behavior. And I’m happy to report the stickers are still up!

Why did she do this? My best guess is because it made her REALLY happy and she felt all loved when I began putting up HER stickers in HER room. Her pervasive shame does not allow for those feelings, so she resorted to what is allowed – anger. I wish I understood more of why RAD brains do that, but sadly I don’t.

I pull a lot of my reactions from the book, Building the Bonds of Attachment, and that’s how I tried to model my behavior in this episode. I think it worked.

Her second classic RAD moment was when my husband and I went on a date and left her and her siblings with a sitter. Ana HATES when we go on a date. She wants to go with us. So, since she can’t go with us, she pulls out her best stuff for the sitter guaranteeing a frantic call to me mid-dinner that (hopefully) will bring us back home.

This time, she got naked and trashed the storage room in the basement.  We got the call 20 minutes into dinner. I told the sitter to go ahead and give her the sleepy pills and hold her (if needed) for 20 minutes until they kicked in.

I felt bad for the sitter (even though she is trained to handle Ana and her pay DEFINITELY reflects that), but I couldn’t let Ana win that one.

After dinner we did come home for a minute before moving on to our next activity. We pretended like we forgot something. Ana was already in bed so we left well enough alone.

Why does she behave like this?  I figure it’s part separation anxiety (she has bonded with me but we haven’t moved much further than about the 10 month stage developmentally) and part ‘if I don’t get my way, you’ll pay’ which Ana is famous for.

All we can do is continue living our lives showing Ana that even though her feelings might propel her to behave atrociously, we still love her and will always come home to her at the end of the night.

Have any of you found ways to lesson the stress of sitter nights? We typically don’t go out when she is with us because of this. You don’t want to know how many sitters we have gone through!

March 17 – Realization – Ana lives in the moment

Tajik orphans

Tajik orphans

This past weekend we visited family and had a four hour car ride to get there. Just me and five kids in my van for a VERY long time. This long car ride took place after a day at school to top it off. You can surely imagine the mood Ana was in.

To be honest, it started off well mainly because Ana was really excited about going. She loves visiting her grandparents! We have a standing rule now in the van that she is free to make her noises but only outside. That means if she begins the noises I pull over and let her out of the van to get the noises out of her system. So far, this system has been working great (as great as any plan works with Ana). On the four hour ride, however, the plan began to unravel.

Why?

1) It was a BEAUTIFUL day outside making standing outside not a punishment at all,

2) even thought I said it didn’t bother me, Ana knew there was no way that stopping the van on the interstate twenty plus times DIDN’T bother me,

and

3) she was angry about being stuck in the van and didn’t care about anything about ruining my afternoon as well.

DING DING DING! We have a winner!

I realized during about hour 3 that Ana was completely living in the moment. There I was thinking about the rest of the evening, the rest of the weekend, how we were going to go to dinner with my parents with Ana gone crazy, how I could punish her for this without really punishing her, and she was simply expressing her anger at being bored and trying to make me angry too.

It was that simple. No planning. No long game. Just pure manipulative in-the-moment Ana-ness.

So, I changed the rules.

I told her obviously she wanted to yell and I really wanted to get to where we were going so I was going to let her. Then, I gave the other kids headphones for their electronics, put on a favorite CD of mine and turned the speakers to the front and blasted it, and rolled down the window by Ana so the air blasted her and her screams.

At first, she screamed and screamed. But soon the combination of wind blowing in her open mouth and screaming made her throat sore (the crackers she ate as a snack helped as well) so after a short twenty minutes the noises came down to an acceptable level. But I didn’t stop my music or roll up the window. We continued the rest of the way just like that much to Ana’s chagrin.

What did I learn from this exercise?

I must not allow rules to be hard and fast. I must enjoy myself (genuinely) despite Ana’s behavior. I must keep her guessing as to my motives.

March 7 – Ana doesn’t behave well – THAT’S a surprise (sarcasm emoticon needed)

Chinese orphans with special needs
Ana’s behavioralist called and we chatted for a LONG time yesterday. She observed Ana in church a few weeks back and didn’t have much positive to say. Naturally, I understand coming from a behavioral point-of-view how off-putting it can be to hang out with people not educated on how to handle special needs children, but I also know what it is like to have Ana around.

It is hard. It is scary. It is nerve-wracking.

We agreed on the finer points of how the children’s department at church could be more special needs friendly, more sensory aware and more socially respectful of those with differences.

We disagreed, however, on Ana’s role in the whole mess of things.

I know Ana. I know she can be a sweet and wonderful little girl with a wicked sense of humor. But she can also be a bully, preying on both children and adults who shy away from her. She is demanding. She has a very short attention span. She enjoys making people uncomfortable.

So where do we go from here? Since church is currently her only social outlet aside from school her behavioralist and I will work together as a team to train and educate those willing in the children’s department. I’ve noticed that it is not just Ana missing out, but other children with more subtle special needs.

I hope and pray they are willing to give training a chance. I know that many times territorial pettiness appears and I ask, sincerely, for everyone’s prayers that none of that will happen in our situation. Ana and the other children at church need to feel loved and accepted for who they are. That begins with training the adults in charge in how to love and accept them while simultaneously attending to the needs of other children.

I haven’t met a mountain yet that God cannot move!

February 28 – Good at School, Bad at Home – Bad at School, Good at Home

9 year old Bulgarian orphan

9 year old Bulgarian orphan

So this has become Ana’s pattern now that she is back at school after the surgery debacle. On days that I am met at the door by her teacher looking quite grim with a lengthy behavior report, she is an absolute angel at home. And on days when I’m greeted with  a much more relaxed teacher, she is a beast once we cross our home’s threshold. I truly wish I understood this child!

Another pattern has emerged. She looses it around 3:30 every day, without fail. What does she do exactly? She starts by fixating on going somewhere, be it her grandparents, a vacation, Great Wolf Lodge, swimming – you name it. It’s like she creates a reason to be mad. And mad does she ever get! Then her frustration and agitation grows as I tell her (ten million times) that we are not going wherever it is she wants to go.

At that point she starts yelling and banging her head on the walls. That leads me to put her in her room which leads directly to more head banging and kicking the walls. Eventually, I restrain her for about 30 minutes.

By 5:00 she is fine and ready for dinner.

I have no idea why she does this. She has an equally difficult period at school every day around 12:30 – 1:00 pm. We have checked blood sugar levels REPEATEDLY and there is no indication that blood sugar is the culprit. She has had an EEG and the result shows no abnormal brain activity.

I have tried keeping her really busy during that time period – nothing changes.

I have tried making myself 100% available before the explosion – nothing changes.

I have tried changing medication times – nothing changes.

I don’t know what else to try, but I’d like to get to the bottom of this mystery.