Thursday, December 31, 2009


Someone has been very surreptitious. Not naming any names though. No amount of cajoling, it seems, is capable of creating a cease and desist order. Things that make you go "hmmmmm..."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Seasons of Love

Trying to focus on the positive. The last couple of days have been challenging. Piece of cake compared to past behaviors but still when taking the steps backward you forget all the progress. Things have totally changed up now but going to take a prescription from Christine and see how it works. "Mother may I" for every. thing.

In light of the positive I wanted to share this. Several (many) years ago (pre-RAD) I had the pleasure of seeing Rent on Broadway. It was incredible. This song moved me to tears (still does) and had to buy the CD the next day (before MP3). Watched the movie when it came out. Not so much. Some of you have heard it but it touches my heart every single time I watch/listen to it. Thinking this song is very appropriate for all of us parenting radical/special needs kids.
Measuring our lives in love. Doing the unbelievable. Loving when they are unlovable. Everyday. Some days I think what I am doing doesn't matter. It does.
Click play. Brighten your day. You won't be sorry.
Lyrics below video.

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure,
measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In
inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you
measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of

525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan. 525,600 minutes - how can you measure
the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried. In bridges he burned, or
the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out, tho the story never ends let's celebrate remember a year in the life of friends. Remember
the love! Remember the love! Remember
the love! Measure in love. Seasons of love! Seasons of love.

The first time I've ever successfully embedded a video in blogger!!!!!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Big Day

Mom's spread always looks like it came straight out of Southern Living Magazine.
The table too...

We're all tired.

Great food, great family, no meltdowns = happy day. Yay for all of us.

Hard back memory books were a hit. Both girls got to open them last night and they spent 30 minutes admiring them.

Naps for everyone this afternoon.

Mom & Dad rocked the house this year. Santa left both girls 2 books in their stockings.

Tomorrow thank you notes will be written. They'll also do a toy cleaning of all old toys to give away to make room for the new.

Funny of the day....G told me to check my stocking and I did. It held a little jewelry box. Both girls immediately started screaming, "It's a ring, it's a ring!!!!!!!!" While I'm saying, "no it's not, no it's not." Opening the box to a beautiful pair of hand-made crystal earrings. Really lovely and I was impressed with G's shopping as our tastes are not the same. Did not tell the girls that I had already been given "The Ring" many years ago and returned it. :) Thankfully G didn't tell them the story either.
Once private, now public
Special K's Journey

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Late, large breakfast and large lunch so tonight we're grazing. The first time it's ever happened here. Popcorn, chocolate oatmeal cookies, goldfish, crackers, cheese, etc. Charlie Brown Christmas later, Christmas stories, maybe a game of Trouble. Tracking Santa on Norad Santa with some geography lessons thrown in for good measure.

No major dramas. If we can make it a couple more hours, Christmas Eve could be declared a success.

Wishing you and yours a very happy (and safe) holiday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adoption Bracelet

Pictures don't do it justice. I've had about 20 thank-you's today.

Charms left to right:
State of Georgia, daughter heart, Mommy's Girl, Japanese Symbol of Love, Big Sister, adoption date heart, starfish (for love of the beach), Georgia Bulldog.

I still haven't figured it out yet but J is sleeping really late every day. I'm letting her and not waking her up unless we have to go somewhere cause I figure her body must need it or she wouldn't be doing it. Usually she's up at the latest 6:30 but lately it's been 8 or 9 before she awakens. I asked her what she thought about it and she said she thought it's because she's never slept well (hypervigilance) so she's making up lost time. She may be right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It's official. The private blog is now public.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Tonight we went to see the Magical Night of Lights at Lake Lanier Islands. 7 miles and too much money. Ugh. But it's tradition. Missed you Chrissi.

Met a fabulous single mom that has two radlets. Can't wait to get to know her better. Hoping she visits here too. Broadening my support system is always a good thing. So excited.

Charm bracelet ready for the big day tomorrow. Low expectations and high hopes.

Private blog is going public tomorrow.

The big day is upon us. :)

Nervous Nelly.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Ornaments

Today the girls labeled Christmas ornaments with the names of people that they miss then we hung them on the tree. A concrete way to acknowledge the life they had before their forever home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Heavy Sigh of....

Relief. The heavens were singing today.

First we did some anger work this morning. Serious whacking out the anger pillow. Did some more talking then I totally stole a recipe from Corey. LOTS of attention, more talking and it was revealed that she was scared to go with Papa & Monya to church. There's so many people that it was totally freaking her out. J had the brilliant idea to try having 30 minutes a week at their house until she feels safe. I can so live with that.

She's been begging for baby time for several weeks now and honestly I have just been putting it on the back burner. My cold has left me feeling so crudy that I just didn't have the energy. So I threw in a dose of baby time. As soon as she saw the bottle come out she was jumping up and down for joy. Then she asked me to please tell her adoption story. So I did. Usually when we do baby time we don't have an audience. Today we did so I had another little one clamoring for the same thing. So didn't happen. She's not ready yet.

Joy! Oh joy! It worked (for today).

And.... I got a foot rub. Gotta love that! ♥♥♥

Really grateful I can get out of my comfort zone and try new things. An open mind is key for this kind of stuff. And it's always wonderful (and comforting) to know that I have brilliant minds surrounding me. I don't have to know it all. I just have to listen and be ready to receive. You guys rock!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There's more

It appears that J is punishing me because she doesn't think that I have enough love to go around and she's pretty pissed off that she has a sister and has to share me.

More drama tonight. Don't even want to talk about it. Maybe later.....


Stick a fork in me cause I'm so done. 3 months of basically feeling like crap. The cold that just never seems to go away and it's just a regular ole pain in the hiney.

Some stuff is going on with J and I can't seem to figure it out. Last week SK required most of the therapy time so J kinda got the shaft. The fall out of that has not been good. She went to Wednesday church program again with my parents and I could tell by the looks on my parents faces that things had not gone well. J would not tell me what happened so the next morning I quizzed my mom. Basic RAD stuff so obviously it was testing.

1. Not following Monya's directions.
2. Controlling with the food.
3. Bossy in the car.
4. Demanding over the radio.

I've worked out a plan (if she gets to go tomorrow night) with my mom that she will pick out what J gets on her plate and when they pick her up I will go over all the rules before they leave.

Yesterday was just NOT a good day. She woke up totally off kilter and it went downhill from there. She ended up on restriction and threw several very large tantrums to show her unhappiness with the consequences.

To end my perfect day the gas grill on the back deck caught on fire. Like flames coming out of the top of the grill. The temperature gauge exploded and it was not looking good. Smoke was billowing over the top of my house. Finally decided it was not going to put itself out so called 911 and by the time they arrived it was almost out. Lovely. All during this little drama J was downstairs throwing a huge screaming fit. Can you hear my heavy sigh?

This morning SK went to the coffee table to pick her homework for Miss. Kristy.
Lo and behold out of the whole stack of papers on the coffee table the only thing that's missing is SK's homework. Imagine that. J is in charge of dusting so she's the only one that touches this stuff. Lie detector test proved she'd taken it. More screaming and lying. Sent her downstairs to throw a fit. She came back upstairs and fessed up. She threw them away.

Not that it would do any good but I could have screamed at this point.

When your kid has come so far it's so hard not to take all this stuff personally. It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me. This shall be my mantra for the day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Totally Saved PW's Life

Last night Cindy and I endured the loooooonnnnnnnggggg lines to meet, greet and sign with Pioneer Woman. Major feat for both of us since we're not "wait in line" people. Totally worth it though. We made it there around 4:30ish even though the signing wasn't until 7:30. Good thing though because once there we discovered that the signing had been moved up to 6! Bad thing....we discovered that 300 other people knew to come in the morning to get their wrist bands so they were waaaaayyyy ahead of us. Wisenhammers. Actually I'm just jealous that I didn't know about this or I would have seriously driven the 1 1/2 hours to Atlanta, 1 1/2 hours back home, then 1 1/2 hours back to Atlanta again for the book signing to get me one of them wristbands.

Did I mention that I hate standing in lines????

Lucky for us Cindy spotted some comfy chairs and we dragged them to the middle of the floor. We had happy butts (and feet) for the first four hours. Noticed that there were more dslr's in one room than I've ever seen.

1 1/2 hours of waiting brought this response:

Then glory be! There was a ruckus and looky who arrived.....

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know you can't see her but she's in there somewhere you just have to trust me on this one.
The woman of the hour (s) sat down and smiled her way through the evening. Don't let her kid you. This woman can do some serious multi-tasking. I witnessed it in action. Smile, sign, remember what you're signing and who it's to, be charming and beautiful. Yeah. Total multi-tasking queen.
Wonder who this is????

It's Bakerella! Standing in line with the rest of us peons. Bless her heart.
Lucky girl has been to "The Ranch". Should have been asking her questions but others were hovering. Apologies for the fuzzy picture. Bakerella is not fuzzy IRL.

More waiting in line....that's me ducking out of the way while another Cindy (the young lady behind us) was practicing using my camera so that she could get our mugs when we finally made it to the end of the line.
The girls (mother & daughter) in front of us had driven 5 hours just to be here.

Right about now I made the decision that some hydration was absolutely necessary. Like I wasn't going to make it to the end of the line without it. So I waited patiently in line behind tons of other folks while Cindy is holding my place in line. This is where the life saving comes in.....

I'm next in line when I noticed Betsy at the end of the line......waiting patiently.....and I urged her to go in front of me. Ree was needing something to drink too. Dying of thirst. Yay me.....for saving the day. No. Not really. But it sounds good. Beautiful Betsy was so sweet and very gracious. Only problem....didn't have my camera with me. Totally missed this photo op.

PW had great facial expressions. Very animated. I loved this about her.

5 1/2 hours later we finally made it! A miracle! This is when the babbling started. Babble, babble, babble. I was babbling...not Cindy. Let me clear on that. I totally carried a watermelon. Name that movie. Yes Cindy....I recognize that you're going to be really, really, really mad. BUT....remember I love you before you take me out. :)
PW just took it all in stride, made nice conversation and ignored the babble. Bless her heart.

Moving right along we met Betsy (again) and Hyacinth. Sweet ladies autographed their pages in our books too. Then Betsy asked if I had a blog.... Ha! Told her that yes I do but it's woefully un-Pioneer Woman-like. Ahem.....special needs kids blog entertainment for you girls...unless you like to read about tortured moms living with Reactive Attachment Disorder kids. :)
Then they had to stop talking to us cause we were backing up traffic and PW wanted a picture of the red hair of the sharp gal behind us. It was beautiful red hair. Then we moved along back to our mundane lives and traveled home.
This is where you pick up your ultra cool PW t-shirt. Unfortunately the only size available fit my 9 y/0. Hopefully she'll put these up for sale later in sizes.

Important info for anyone going to PW events. Wear comfy shoes, clothes and carry hydration.

This was totally worth the wait. Thanks for the memories!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thank You

From the bottom of my heart for supporting my friend. This isn't an easy topic and I admire her so much for having the courage to put it out there. She has started an anonymous blog just for this subject, as well as, anxiety, OCD and depression. It is: Truth is Powerful and it Prevails. Hop on over and join her as she starts a new venture. You can visit and comment anonymously too.

Taboo - Edited

A friend of mine asked me to post this to protect her anonymity so she's a guest blogger for today. It took a lot of courage to write this post and since this woman is a friend of mine any kindness, thoughts and support would be appreciated. Not that I expect any but nastiness, judgement or condemnation will be deleted. P.S. For this post only I will allow anonymous comments as long as they are nice ones.

I have always been suicidal.

Even when I was child I can recall wishing I would die at different times of my life. I have no fear of ever actually doing anything to end my life, but I wish for it. There are times that I pray for it. I hope beyond all hope it happens. I will stand on the side of the road waiting to cross the street and think about what would happen if a car hit me. When I am driving alone I will pray that a semi coming from the other direction will hit me. I don't want this to happen for sympathy, I want it all to end. I want the pain to be over. I want to feel peace. Until last week I had only shared this with one person, my husband. (Clarification, I don't feel I will actually take my life because 1. I don't believe I will go to heaven and 2. I will not do that to my children which is also why I would never take a risk with my kids in the car or wish that with anyone else in the car.)

I have always thought that a lot of my issues stem from my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My OCD is more obsessive than it is compulsive. I do some compulsive things like counting, cleaning and organization, but mostly it is the worrying, ruminating, stressing, order, etc. Because things cannot always go right, in the real world, I stress. I fret. I worry. I will NOT let things go. If I have an issue I need immediate resolution. I need solutions. I need a game plan. If you cannot give that to me right NOW I get frustrated.

Thank God medication helps. Medication nearly completely takes care of all the compulsive things. The obsessive things wane and ebb. The ruminating is gone most of the time. The stressing and other things tend to rear their ugly heads more often than not but are much less with medication. I can get myself in such a downward spiral that it is difficult to climb back out. That is typically where the suicidal thoughts come in.

A couple weeks ago it was as bad as it has been in the many years that I have been medicated for the OCD. I was just in a bad place. Nothing really had triggered it that I can think of, but it was not good. I was pissy, angry, and started fights. I wouldn't let the arguments go. Once I get something in my craw, there is not letting up. I can realize this, I can see the progression, but there is no stopping it. My husband is a saint for putting up with this behavior. It is almost a self fulfilling prophecy. I think everyone is mad at me, and I make it happen by acting like a jerk. I was feeling all the old feelings and praying life would end. Begging God for an accident. Praying for anything to stop the pain I feel and the constant whirling, thundering, roaring frustration in my head.

Last week I opened up to a blog friend what I felt. God almighty smiled on me that day and she understood. Not only did she get it, she had been there. It was perfect timing. She happened to ask me how I was while I was sitting in my chair at work with tears just streaming down my face and I decided to tell her exactly how I felt. What a relief. I had no idea that releasing that would not bring shame, it would bring relief. I had a great night at home with my family. They noticed the difference. The weekend was fantastic. Things were looking up, I think talking about it released me. I broke it's grip on me by speaking about it.

Monday I had a productive day at work. Monday night it hit. I was tired. I could not wake myself Tuesday morning. I was unable to hold my eyes open. I slept 20 hours on Tuesday and 18 hours on Wednesday. It was not the sleep of depression. I think my body was healing. Letting go of the stress allowed my body to relax and get some much needed down time. It was glorious. I have had a completely different outlook on life this past week.

So, I decided that I would share with another friend I met on the internet. I told her I was embarrassed. She chastised me about my embarrassment and told me that "we all have issues" and I shouldn't be ashamed. She actually gave me some suggestions for activities that would help own my feelings and release the stress. Wow. Now I was on a roll. This felt great.

I don't know what has come over me. I shared with someone in real life. She is someone I feel I can confide in. It was awesome. Each and every time I spoke of it, I felt more chains falling off me. It was as though I was taking charge. The very next day, someone else told me that they were struggling. This person is more than an a acquaintance, but not someone I would call "friend". She is fabulous. I like her but we just don't have that relationship. When she shared with me, I really felt led to tell her my issues. I did. You know what? She just looked at me with unbelieving eyes. She was astounded. We have the very same issues! When she was telling me how she sometimes felt, I was finishing her sentences. I really felt like she was placed in my life so that we can support one another. Had she made that comment to me a week ago, I would not have opened up with her the way I did. God's timing amazes me. He placed these wonderful, understanding women in my life so that I could begin a journey and get me to a place of partial healing that I needed to open up with the perfect person. I am amazed. I am blessed that I can be of support to someone and be supported by the same person who really "gets it" because she lives it.

Don't be concerned. I do have an appointment with a psychiatrist. I am becoming a patient of my son's awesome doctor. I figured what better way to have someone understand our home life than to see the doctor who knows exactly what kind of stress we have at home. I think it will be good. I am open to different medication or a medication increase. I will do anything that helps.

So my fear? That YOU will think I am nuts. That YOU will think I am not being a good mother with my issues. I am afraid to put myself and my issues out there. So why am I doing this? More healing for one, but first and foremost, because I know first hand the stress relief that immediately came when I realized I was not alone.

You are not alone.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's a Miracle!

J posted on her blog!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


J made it through the evening with flying colors. She had a great time and Papa & Monya said she was a joy to be around. Maybe more invites will be coming. I really believe they would enjoy having a relationship with J if they would just make the time. Both of them are workaholics. They start their day at 4 AM and go until 10 PM so it's nothing short of a miracle that they've made the time to do something with her.

My apologies for the long post before. Consider this your entertainment for wading through the previous post. :)
3 days without my addiction of choice. Coke. As in coca cola. Today was a full, throbbing headache from lack of caffeine.


I used to believe that kids didn't remember stuff in the pre-verbal stage. But they do. Younger children remember it and it comes out in behaviors. Memories will return even if the children were very young. I've had several therapists tell me of children straight out of the womb having body memories of being placed with another mom, being moved, adopted, abuse, etc. Babies that have no concept of time will have body memories and then have behavioral issues around the same time every year. Their body will instinctively know and remember a trauma that occurred. How???? I have no idea. I do know it's another stellar reason to wear your baby if at all possible.

There's little bit about it here.

Adopt US Kids has some helpful info here.

Honestly, with 3 plus years of living and breathing PTSD and trauma anniversaries it's hard to explain all of it here. Articulating this subject is very difficult because it's so complex.

Yesterday in therapy we found out that J was sent to the cellar (her words) a lot. Today she stated that she was made to sleep in the cellar quite a bit and sent there for behaviors to sit in the dark. She was with this foster family on and off from the time she was 9 months old until she was 5. Explains why she is off the charts terrified of dark areas. We're not talking typical scared of the dark stuff. You can see the PTSD in her eyes. Total fight or flight response to dark areas, (closets, when it's becoming dusk before we turn the lights on....). It has become much better over time but you can see it as soon as it is triggered.

I found a pretty good explanation online by Kelley Gallagher but blogger wouldn't let me do the link so I've copied and pasted here:

I don't agree with all of the helpful information but it does give you a general overview and what works for one child might not work for another so take what works as you know your child better than anyone.

Children & Trauma

Children who are old enough to laugh and experience pleasure, can and do experience trauma.

Trauma is a sudden, unexpected, dramatic, forceful or violent event which involves emotional shock and mental confusion. It may involve bodily harm such as physical/sexual abuse or domestic violence. However, trauma also refers to the overwhelming, uncontrollable experiences that psychologically impact victims by creating feelings of helplessness, vulnerability, loss of safety, and loss of control (James, Bevery, 1989). Traumatic events may be violent or non-violent.

Traumatic experiences shake the foundation of a child’s belief system—destroying their sense of safety and security, shattering their assumptions of trust, and challenging their faith in the future.

Trauma has a profound impact on the emotional, cognitive, behavioral, social and physical functioning of children. Experiencing a traumatic event/ or series of events overwhelms the coping skills commonly used to handle expected problems in life, and strips children of their sense of safety and security

According to the National Institute for Trauma & Loss in Children, the number of children in the United States exposed to a traumatic event in a one year period exceeds 4 million. Children are exposed to trauma as surviving victims, as witnesses to violent or non-violent incidents, by being related to the victim as a family member, friend, peer, or simply because they live in the same community or go to the same school, and/or by simply listening to the details of the traumatic incident.

Trauma or Grief?
Trauma reactions are different from grief reactions. Trauma reactions overpower grief reactions.
This information taken from What Parents Need to Know, by William Steele, TLC Institute, 1997

Generalized reaction is SADNESS

Grief reaction stand alone

Grief reactions are generally known to the public and the professional

In grief, most can generally talk about what happened

In grief, pain is the acknowledgement of the loss

In grief, anger is generally non-destructive and non-assaultive

In grief, child says “I wish I would/would not have…”

Grief generally does not attack nor “disfigure” our self image

In grief, dreams tend to be of the deceased

Grief generally does not involve trauma reactions like flashbacks, startle reactions, hypervigilance, numbing, etc.

Generalized reaction is TERROR

Trauma reactions generally include grief reactions

Trauma reactions, especially in children, are largely unknown to the public and professionals

In trauma, most do not want to talk about what happened

In trauma, pain triggers tremendous terror and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and loss of safety

In trauma, anger often becomes assaultive even after non-violent trauma

Trauma guilt says, “It was my fault. I could have prevented it.”

Trauma generally attacks, distorts and “disfigures” our self image

In trauma, dreams are about self and potential victim

Trauma involves grief reactions in addition to trauma specific reactions

Responses to Trauma

Traumatic events may cause both physical and psychological reactions in children. A child’s reaction will depend upon the severity of the trauma, prior exposure to trauma, developmental phase, personality makeup, characteristic coping style, and the availability of support to assist the child in understanding and working through the traumatic event.

1. Re-experiencing
a. Intrusive or involuntary thoughts and/or images
b. Recurring nightmares or bad dreams
c. Reenactments of the traumatic event in play
d. Physical reactions/ Somatic complaints when exposed to events that are similar to or symbolize the traumatic event (headaches, stomach aches, etc.)
2. Avoidance
a. Cognitive – unwilling to talk about it
b. Emotional—dissociative reaction
c. Physical – avoids reminders or displaces fear into other situations
3. Hyperarousal
a. Sleep disturbance
b. Irritability or outbursts of anger
c. Difficulty concentrating
d. Hypervigilance or overprotectiveness—extreme concern with self or other’s safety, anxious in crowds, seeking out “safe places”…
e. Exaggerated startle response
f. Attachment reactions—wanting to sleep with parent, not wanting to be alone, clinging…

Trauma reactions can be mistaken for depression, oppositional behaviors, anger and aggression (behavior disorders), attention deficits and attachment problems.
-TLC Institute
Traumatized Children Need:

1. To know they are not alone with their terror and grief
2. To hear the stories and see the reactions of peers also traumatized by similar events
3. The opportunity to express their feelings of sadness, fear, terror, guilt, etc.
4. Tools to allow them to express and experience their feelings in a safe place
5. To learn that their reactions are normal
6. The opportunity to re-attach emotionally to the adult world which they often perceive to have betrayed them by letting this traumatic event happen
7. To have time and trauma-specific attention needed to help them find relief from their terror and develop a sense of power
8. To replace the terror and the sadness with happy memories
-What Color is Your Hurt, TLC, William Steele

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Although most research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been done with combat veterans, research and interest in childhood PTSD has been growing over the past 5-10 years. Children exposed to traumatic events may have a range of PTSD symptoms, behavior disorders, anxieties, phobias, and depressive disorders (Schwarz and Perry, 1994).

Many children exhibit signs and symptoms of PTSD following a traumatic event. However, when the symptoms persist for over one month or when the symptoms greatly interfere with the child’s ability to participate in daily activities, close attention should be given to that child and his/ her needs. Some traumatic events continue to be overwhelming to both children and adults long after the trauma has ended. Trauma is especially challenging to children because they are still developing their sense of self, have a limited perspective on life due to their age, and have a limited repertoire of coping mechanisms.

It is important that the child receive a comprehensive assessment by a licensed mental health professional to make an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan. However, it is helpful to understand the basis symptoms of PTSD in order to make accurate referrals and suggestions to families:

Re-experiencing the traumatic event (thoughts, dreams, and play themes).
For example, you may observe children:
• Repeatedly acting out traumatic events/ themes in play.
• Reporting distressing dreams about the trauma or sleep disturbance.
• Feeling distressed when exposed to events that resemble the trauma or at the time of the anniversary of the trauma.
• Acting or feeling as if the trauma is happening again.

Avoidance anything that may remind the individual of the trauma and
A general numbness to all emotional topics.
For example, you may observe children:
• Avoiding all activities that remind the child of the traumatic event.
• Withdrawing from other people/ changing friendships, etc.
• Having difficulty feeling positive/ happy emotions.

Increased “arousal” symptoms/ Increased anxiety.
• Having difficulty falling or staying asleep.
• Appearing irritably or quick to anger
• Having difficulty concentrating.
• Heightened startle response.

The symptoms that the child is dealing with must be interfering with the ability to participate in daily activities: school, family interactions, etc.

A Developmental Look at Trauma
Information adapted from The Scared Child, by B. Brooks, PhD, & P. Siegel.

Infants & Toddlers (Birth to One Year)
It can be very difficult to determine a very young child’s response to traumatic events due to the limited ability of these children to communicate verbally. However, it is important to look for changes in a young child’s behaviors. Children who have been trough a traumatic experience may exhibit the following signs of distress:
• Increased fussing/ irritability.
• Loss of developmental steps already achieved.
• Inability to progress developmentally.
An infant will not be diagnosed with PTSD—However, infants do experience trauma and need assistance in reclaiming a sense of safety, security, and trust. Problems will persist and increase if a sense of safety and security is not reestablished for the infant.

Preschoolers (Two to Five Years)
Preschoolers live in a world that combines their understanding of reality with magical thinking. Events that happen in sequence are believed to have a cause-effect relationship. For example, if a preschooler yells at his/her mother and later that day his/ her mother and father get into a physical altercation—the preschooler will often feel that they caused the altercation. In addition, preschoolers are egocentric. They believe that the world revolves around their needs. Finally, preschoolers often do not tell their parents/ caregivers about their fears/ feelings. They don’t have the words to express what is going on inside of them. Look for these signs of distress:
• Increased anxiety, clinging behaviors, fear of separation.
• Developmental regression.
• Aggressive play with peers.
• Playing the same game over and over again.
• Expression of magical thinking… “Daddy left because I was bad”.
• Expression of having positive feelings about an activity without the physical expressions to validate this feeling. For example, some children will report enjoying an activity while appearing sad, sullen, withdrawn, and fearful.

School Aged (Six to Twelve Years)
School aged children have a more realistic outlook and awareness about traumatic events. This is helpful in creating an understanding of the event. However, this is also challenging because school aged children are aware of the real threats of this world. School aged children also understand the impact of their feelings on others. They may stay isolated following a traumatic event to protect others from their feelings. Look for signs of distress including:
• Reverting to developmentally immature behaviors.
• Self blame for traumatic events.
• Reckless behaviors that may result from the knowledge of not being able to control all events in his/ her world.
• Significant changes in school performance.
• Difficulty concentrating or becoming intensely focused on schoolwork to the exclusion of having fun.
• Increased defiance/ rule testing.
• Changes in friendships.
• Sleep disturbance.
• Increased aggression.
• Magical thinking and increased fears.

Adolescence (Thirteen to Eighteen Years)
Adolescents have a grown-up grasp of reality of the traumatic situation. However, their behaviors will swing from that of a mature adult to that of a very young child. It is important to watch for signs of PTSD in this population.
• Many adolescents believe that only peers can understand what they are going through. However, a marked change in an adolescent’s relationship with parent(s) should be noted.
• Increase in risky behaviors, such as experimenting with drugs, sexual activity, and truancy. Adolescents who experience a traumatic event often feel that the future in limited. They have a belief that whatever they are working for could be taken away without warning.
• Negative self-image.
• Feeling of powerlessness.
• Engaging in revengeful fantasies and feeling guilty about these fantasies.
• Isolation from friends/ others. This may signify depression and increased risk for suicide.

Treatment Options & Types of Community Referrals

Traumatized children have special therapeutic needs. They have a difficult time trusting new adults and building a secure relationship in which to explore the traumatic event. Therapy is aimed at assisting children in reprocessing the trauma in a safe and supportive environment. In addition, children may need to change previous patterns of helplessness and feel more in control of their lives by developing new coping skills, self expression tools, and problem solving methods. There are a variety of treatment options that may work alone or together to assist children experiencing the painful symptoms of PTSD.

Behavior Therapy: Behavior therapy works to address the child’s intrusive thoughts and behavior patterns created by the trauma. Children also learn relaxation techniques, identification of feelings, and connection between feelings and behaviors.

Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy assists the child in identifying their personal values, goals, and the influence of the trauma on the child’s thoughts/ behaviors. Cognitive therapy may also help the child to reinterpret traumatic events and feelings in more positive ways.

Art & Play Therapy: Art and play therapy are particularly useful with young children because play is a comfortable mechanism/ tool for children to express themselves—using toys/ materials as words. Story telling, problem solving, re-experiencing trauma, communicating feelings, and releasing feelings are all part of the therapeutic process.

Family Therapy: Family therapy is also helpful as it offers parents and siblings a supportive environment to share their fears/ feelings/ and reactions. Caregivers are provided with guidance and education on ways to support their child and take care of their own needs following a traumatic event.

Group Therapy: Group therapy can also be helpful in encouraging children to share their experiences and reactions to similar traumatic events. Group members help one another to normalize the feelings, fears, and behaviors that are problematic for children following traumatic events.

Medication: Medication can be helpful in curbing the symptoms of PTSD. The symptom relief that medication provides may assist the child in participating more effectively in supportive therapy options outlined above. Medications may be able to assist with severe anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Helping Children at Home
Suggestions adapted from the National Association of school Psychologists.
Trauma & Children handout compiled by P. J. Lazarus, Ph.D. Florida International University.
1998 National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814

• Establish a sense of safety and security. Children need to feel protected, safe, and secure. Be sure that all basic emotional needs are met including love, care, and physical closeness. Spend extra time with the child to let them know that you care about them and want to provide comfort and security.

• Listen to the child’s words and behaviors. Adults frequently worry about saying the right thing at the right time—it is perhaps more important to actively listen to the child in a nonjudgmental way. Children are often reluctant and inexperienced at telling their story of the trauma. It can be very helpful to ask the child what they feel other children would think/ feel about the event. In addition, children have an easier time talking about what they saw, smelled, heard, and physically felt during the event. It is more difficult to attach feeling words to these experiences.

• Help the child retell or reexperience his/ her story. Children need to retell their version of the traumatic event or reenact this experience in play. This is a big step in the healing process. Once the child has put words to their perception of events, they may repeat the story over and over again. Adults should listen supportively to the retelling of this story. Reenacting the trauma in play may also occur repeatedly. This experience offers the child the opportunity to make sense of the trauma and perhaps to gain mastery or a sense of control over the trauma.

• Validate the child’s feelings. Help children to understand that all their feelings are acceptable. Children will most likely express a multitude of difficult and contradicting feelings that may include guilt, shame, rage, anger, sadness, pain, isolation, loneliness, and fear. Children need to understand that all of their feelings are “normal”.

• Allow children the opportunity to regress as necessary. Regression is one way that many children “emotionally regroup”. Try very hard to be patient and not to ridicule—regression is usually a temporary coping strategy.

• Clear up misconceptions. Help the child to understand important details of the traumatic event. Include detailed information about safety plans, prevention, and security issues.

• Educate yourself about trauma and crisis. The more you understand about the traumatic events that the child experienced, the more confident you will be in assisting the child to achieve a positive resolution.

• Affirm that your children are capable of coping and healing after the trauma. Reinforce that children can heal from traumatic events. Outline the people who are available to the child for love, support, and security.

• Seek professional consultation and encourage mental health treatment if necessary. Find mental health professional who has experience working with traumatized children. Keep in mind that asking for help can be very difficult for the parent(s) due to their own challenging feelings and beliefs about the traumatic event(s). Much support may be needed to identify the need for and to facilitate this community referral.

Tips for Teachers

Your students may be tired – you might want to provide some extra quiet time with soft music. Stress to the children to go to bed early.

Your students may startle easily – they are on the look out for danger – keep distractions to a minimum and keep your regular routine.

Your students may become more irritable, aggressive and acting tough – keep firm expectations in place. They are feeling powerless.

Your students may forget what they have just learned – instruct in short chunks of time with lots of psychomotor activity – drawing, cutting, creating, etc.

Your students may regress in their behaviors – remind them they are to talk like, act like “big girls, big boys,” etc. in a gentle way.

Your students might withdraw and want less to do with their friends – encourage them to participate in activities.

Your students might develop school problems you haven’t seen before – stay firm but loving, chances are when things are calm, the problems will go away.

Your students might have more stomach aches, head aches, etc. – push them gently to stay in school.

Your students might fixate on one issue that is happening in his life – allow him to talk through it – he is trying to gain power over it.

Your students will need more nurturing. They may want to be physically closer to you. We need to do all we can to let our students know they are safe with us at school, and we are there for them. Abandonment is a major fear for children.

Minimize homework – they may not have help at home.

This is a good time for writing about different feelings in journals. This is a good time to draw pictures of them also.

Take extra breaks during the day. Physical exercise is very important to release stress.

Give honest brief answers to children’s questions. You may be the best source of information they have.

Create opportunities for children to talk with each other.

If a child keeps asking the same question over and over again, it’s because they are trying to make sense out of their confusion.

Keep your sense of humor and bright outlook on life – you may be the only stable person in your student’s life.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monumental Event

Tomorrow evening a monumental event is going to occur. My parent's church has a Wednesday evening service with a chef prepared buffet and afterward age appropriate programs. My mom called yesterday and asked if they could take J. I'm over the moon that they are taking an interest in having a relationship with J. A year ago this would've been impossible but she's come so far. She's such a great kid and I want them to have a relationship with her. My relationship with my maternal grandparents was very close. Almost to the point that it was hard to discern parents from grandparents. They lived next door so it was only a run through the woods, then the pasture, and around the pond to their house. I was richly blessed to have them so close and to have such a special relationship. Hoping my daughters are as lucky.

New is still hard for her sometimes so they're going to start small and only do the dinner to help her be successful. Hoping and praying all goes well so that they will invite her again for her to do the programs. Who knows....maybe they'll try an overnight sometime. :)

BTW....we've officially made it through the lovely journey of annual traumaversary. It's getting better every year. Consistency, tools to deal, greater healing, more all helps. Expecting next year to be even easier.

Saturday J is going to work with another RAD friend who's in the thick of her annual traumaversary. Should do wonders for J's feelings and her friend.

Did you know that some kids have traumaversaries from body memories that happened at birth? That still astounds me.