a serious issue addressed

Someone that we do not know commented on our previous post, asking us to please mention Flynn's lack of fear to our doctor on our next visit.

This is a serious issue and I want to address it. As many of you know, a shutting down of emotional reactions is one of the ways that some institutionalized children find to deal with the changes and upheavals in their life. This is not something to be taken lightly. And if you had read our China travel blog, you would know that we have already discussed this issue.

Our pediatrician is not a specialist in attachment issues, and should Flynn have ongoing attachment or sensory issues that need attention, we would speak to the therapists at the International Adoption Clinic here at the Children's Hospital. But let me also say that, previous to our adoption trip, we took various classes with these very therapists from the Children's Hospital, and they told us time and again that they ask that parents try not to call for Early Intervention until the child has been home at least three months. The reason for this, according to the therapists, being that many institutional issues resolve themselves in the first months, as long as the parents spend a lot of face time with the child working on developing healthy attachment behaviors.
Once this early bonding work has been done, if there are ongoing issues that call for concern, we are encouraged to contact a clinic or therapist for an evaluation.

Rest assured that we are not oblivious to potential warning signs. As mentioned in our previous post, we will be keeping an eye on Flynn's emotional responses. Her lack of fear could indeed be a shutting down, a protective measure she has put into place to shield her from uncertainty and upheaval. It could also be that she has a fearless personality. Or it could be a bit of both. We will know more as she learns to relate to us in healthy ways, as she learns that we are here for her and that she is safe and loved.

We do think it's a good sign that she is able to express joy and affection so readily. She is not "blank" or apathetic as some children are when they leave the institution. This does not mean she doesn't have any issues. She most certainly has been affected by her stay in the institution, and one can see that she has some sensory issues from lack of sufficient attention and stimulation. But she is healthy, strong, fit and frequently joyful. For the time being, as per the advice we were given in the attachment classes, we need to give her the time and the leeway to recover and develop on her own.
The next step will come when the time is right.


tiffany said...

I think you are on exactly the right track. Sophie began coming out of the shut down state gradually once home it took many months (over a year??) for her to fully pop out of it. Today (age 5) she is a healthy, well attached, balanced little girl. It took exactly what you are saying, love and attention and lots of it. Luckily she was our first and I was not distracted and was able to give her my all and it payed off in spades.

Welcome home! Loving seeing Flynn settle in and she does look so comfy and in love with her home and her parents.

A Beautiful Mess said...

Mia and Mike,

Sophie came home @16 months old having been in SWi then to foster parents then back to the SWI. We thought she was doing pretty good considering. The changes in her attachemnt to us changes every month and continue to change and more importantly strengthen!

Something that I read as we prepared for our little one which has stuck with me "attachment is a PROCESS"

Our girls are survivors in the truest sense!

*never doubted that you were "on it" with any issue that could come up for Flynn!!!

kris said...

It's weird. Maybe I'm the odd man out here? I don't see Flynn as shut down AT ALL. She looks engaged, sounds engaged, and seems to be developing a bond with both you and Mike. I realize she may have issues in the future, and that she has (as you said) these sensory ones now, but some kids are just easy going. My brother's 4th boy was like this. Didn't care a bit what was going on, where they were, and was fearless of new people, docs- took everything in stride and was just not at ALL a grumpy or fussy kid. unlike their last child (5th) who is terrified, anxious, and TO THIS DAY at 14 months of age cries when any aunt or uncle picks him up. He'll be okay for a sec, and then melts down. He's extremely fussy, combative at times, and just not so easy going. And these 2 were born of the same parents.

I get the sense from your writings and her pics, that Flynn is like Colin. Just a take it as it comes kind of girl.. and with a great attitude to boot. Now, this doesn't mean she may not have attachment issues- but you guys are obviously so in tune with her and I know you'll be on top of it should issues arise. I think I just get frustrated that people always jump to conclusions that ANY thing that seems "different" in adoption = attachment problem- no, not you 2, just in general this seems to happen.

I think Flynn is just a lot like her parents in this case. :O)

Stacie said...

I also think that kids who have been through so much just have a more stoic personality and are quite unflappable. That may change as she learns that you will be there no matter what- for anything- but my guess is she will always be one tough little cookie.

You are so right about waiting. Most AT's don;t want to here from you until after the child has been home a year unless things start to backslide or progressively get worse instead of better (which was our case with z's ptsd). You have great instincts as a mama - the only thing you need to do is trust your gut. Nobody else knows your kid as well as you!

Great job.

Vivian M said...

Kerri was shut down and had blank stares, and if she got overwhelmed she would go blank at any given moment. It does not seem Flynn is doing that at all. However, she may be holding back as a protective measure. I agree with the attachment therapists that you should wait a few months (that is usually when their true personalities start coming through) as long as you are bonding and doing all the right things to help attachment along.
I think you both are on the right track and doing the right things, and I also commend whomever spoke up their concerns for pointing that out as well, since it is very important that adoptive parents go in to the parenting/attachment process with their eyes and minds wide open.
Thank you for sharing this post.

Anonymous said...

okay, i'll own up. i left that post. it was not to condemn you in any way. there is absolutely no doubt that you are all doing the right thing. you are so wonderfully calm and devoted to your daughter. thank you for explaining the lengths you have gone to. i have read a lot of blogs (which absolutely does not make me an expert) and i rarely hear of parents going to the lengths you have. the only real concern i had was when you said she didnt blink when the dog jumped up beside her. i would have! understand my heart...i have a son who was tested at age 2 for hearing issues because he was not speaking. the professional doing the testing was young and not a mother. for a whole 'nother year my son went without a diagnosis. at three we had him tested by the school because his language was only thirteen words and most of those were made up. one person out of a panel of 6 experts used the word "apraxia" in a sentence that also contained the words "might be". i fought hard as my sons only advocate to get a diagnosis and speech therapy. as a homeschooler, i fought even harder to have the local school provide the therapy (we only have one income).so all those times when friends told me "hes a late bloomer" etc were actually cruel reminders of my delinquency. i only got a diagnosis after i listened to my own bells and flares going off. not one person had had a constructive word to say. so please, dont be offended...and thank you for explaining. it is my prayer that you have helped ten more people more fully understand what is truly involved in bringing these jewel babies home. sometimes love isnt enough, but it is a powerful boost. again, bless your family, you were obviously meant to be together. she is beautiful.

Maia said...

You're right. It's really too early to tell. Though there certainly wasn't anything wrong with the comment that the person left- it was obviously well intentioned, and came from a good place. And, let's face it, a lot of kids do face these issues - and it's great that you guys are educated and recognize the signs over the long run. But Qiu Qiu has just gone through such a huge change - and even though she is obviously bonding to you guys like crazy (love those eye contact pictures!)she's probably still in shock on some level. I think it took several months, at least, to really feel like I knew the "real" FF - the one who wasn't dealing with the huge changes in her life, getting over malnutrition and neglect, and learning a whole new language to boot. And even though she was affectionate and open in a lot of ways, looking back, there were some pretty major signs that she was suffering. It's just that she didn't show them in an obvious way (her silence. She was so, so, so quiet for so long - and we just thought she was a naturally quiet child, or maybe it was something to do with her cleft issues. And it turns out? She's not a quiet child. At all. Very loud, my girl is). But she has come out of her shell now. Big time. And whoever said bonding is a process is SO right - I always keep the three year rule in mind - that true, secure bonding takes at least three years with your child. And it already looks like you guys are off to a great start!

Anonymous said...

What if you are making a bigger deal of this than it needs to be, folks. What if she has no fear of doctors because she has no memory of one being bad to her, or hurting her. This is a more likely scenario.

Carrie said...

I think your doing great- you know way more then I did when we came home-Miss M has a severe case of sensory issues due to lack of attention and we are doing well with her . after about a month home she started crying at night. I will just stay with and hold her and try not to cry myself but it does take time before they come out of the fog of things! I am glad Miss M can tell us she loves us this much she says and holds her arms out really wide but it took time. Now she has shown fear, love and being upset in the right places. She still does laugh a lot when she is nervous-we call them her nervous giggles. But in time she will learn of course she is in therapy also. I am so glad you are so aware of all the help and timing of when you should seek it-your a great Mama!

Cheryl said...

We brought Reese home at 2 1/2, and we went to see an AT about two months after that. Why? Because she was having some issues bonding with my husband, and since she was older, I didn't feel that we could afford to waste any time. Fast-forward a year, and she is such a Daddy's girl! It's amazing the difference a year makes! Basically the therapist told us we were on the right track, and keep doing what we had been doing. It looks like y'all are doing great. We did have to put Reese in day care soon after we got home, and they were great in working with us. We asked that she stay with the same caregiver as much as possible, and to realize that she might have issues that were different from the other children's. The hard part was family members who couldn't understand why we didn't encourage her to go to them. Reese will be four inless than two months, and has been home for 14 months. I think she just went to my dad and gave him a hug and a kiss voluntarily for the first time last week. You are fortunate that you have a great clinic nearby, and you have chosen to be proactive in educating yourselves about these issues. She is precious!

Yoli said...

I think you are one of those few people that are very well prepared. We had a very different scenario with our son. Completely shut down, to the point of looking autistic. He came out of it in the time he settled with us at home. We got the same advice from Early Intervention. You have to let the child acclimate to her surrounding first, then see if you need that thearapy. I know you are not one of those blind parents, but I can see how a person that does not know you, and has not been reading your blog, can react to those words.

Heather said...

You all are going to do fine together. You guys are prepared and, most of all, you know what to look for and where to go for help if you need it. Remember: Attachment parenting is the new black.