Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Parents' Words Make a Difference

She has one child who is blind. And another with autism. Pat Linkhorn explained to me that people must see her children apart from their circumstance. 
My kids aren’t special needs kids -- 
they’re kids with special needs. 
“When people say ‘special needs kids’ it implies the whole package is wrong. They’re normal kids who simply have a unique condition,” said Pat.             She candidly writes of her child with blindness in this Letter to God:
            “I thought you'd made a terrible mistake when my child was born and I said some pretty rotten things to and about you. It seemed so unfair. I couldn't believe that you'd given me this child as part of "the plan." I was sure you'd made a horrendous mistake and I'm sure you got tired of me begging for a miracle in one breath then turning around and saying mean things about you in the next. I'm truly sorry.
            This child has changed my life. She's made me be all that I'm capable of and more than I ever imagined.
            And I know now that all the times I accused you of deserting me, you were, in fact, carrying me just as the Footprints poem says. Miracles might be in short supply today, but just for the record, thanks for letting me see.”
            Through Pat’s teaching, I learned my word choice is critical. The old childhood chant, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is false. Words can deeply wound a child and her parents. For the little effort it takes, I want to choose words that show I recognize and respect similar parents and their children.

Special Needs Alphabet
What are those professionals or other parents saying? To give you a jumpstart on their lingo, here’s a list of common acronyms associated with individual challenges -

ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder
ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
AS - Aspergers Syndrome
ASL - American Sign Language
BD - Behavior Disorders
BIP - Behavioral Intervention Plan
CAPD - Central Auditory Processing Disorder
CP – Cerebral Palsy
EMH - Educable Mentally Handicapped
FAE – Fetal Alcohol Exposure or FAS - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
GT - Gifted/Talented
HI - Hearing Impaired
IEP - Individualized Education Program (sometimes called Individualized Education Plan)
LD - Learning Disabilities
LEP - Limited-English-Proficient
MCAD - Medium Chain acyl CoA Dehydrogenase (disease in which the body is unable to break down fats to make energy)
ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder
PDD - Pervasive Developmental Disorder
RADReactive Attachment Disorder
TBI - Traumatic Brain Injury
TCI – Therapeutic Crisis Intervention
TMH - Trainable Mentally Handicapped
VI - Visually Impaired

Do you have more acronyms to add? Leave your comments below.
©Copyright, Brenda Nixon.

Monday, April 7, 2014

When Love is Not Enough

Here's a scenario: a family with two adopted teens attends a church. The teens have emotional and psychological problems that demand regular therapy. Perhaps residential treatment. The adoptive parents - aloof or unwilling to admit their teens' deep-seated psychosis - deny them consistent professional treatment. 

Does that constitute neglect?

If a child was born needing a breathing apparatus to live, is it neglect for parents to remain aloof or unwilling to learn how to apply a breathing tube?

These teens of which I describe are anti-social, angry, manipulative, disrespectful, chronic liars, non-compliant, and steal without conscience and remorse for their inappropriate actions. 

To the extreme. 

One adopted teen is sexually active as a heterosexual, the other adopted one is an active lesbian . . .often seen engaging in sexual behavior with her lover inside the church building. Fondling each other in the pew! 

These teens have had multiple school suspensions to the point the parents are "homeschooling." 

The adoptive mother has a narcissistic enjoyment of sympathy as she claims, "I don't know what more I can do?" She fails to supervise them in the building - drops them off at times to go do her other business - and is argumentative when fielding sincere suggestions to help the teens and hold them accountable for inappropriate behavior.

Her teens aren't just adolescent trouble-makers. In my professional - uninvited - opinion, they have attachment issues. Probably Reactive Attachment Disorder. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is most common in foster and adopted children. Here's some info on RAD:

"The young person with RAD has a great gaping hole, an intense - unmet - craving for love and approval, but doesn't believe it can be genuine when it is given. Relationships are more like contracts: I give you this if you give me that. For example, a girl will have sex in order to have the status of having a boyfriend, A boy will be friendly in order to have privileges of sharing another's games. He may steal from his friends or parents in order to get what he wants. She will lie in order to keep receiving the benefits of a relationship. I know these characteristics are common in many teenagers, but with RAD youth they go to an extreme. The incidences of crime, drug use and teenage pregnancy are almost universal.

"Many run away, or get arrested. Suicide and self mutilation are very common.

"If they feel they can get away with it and still have something they want, they will still do whatever they want. By this time their skills of manipulation are well refined, and they don't tolerate frustration well.

"Caring for a teenager or adult with RAD is very draining, because of the constant manipulation and lying."

 Dr. Patricia Jones of Wolf Creek Academy, a therapeutic board school, says, "Rebellion, disrespect, lying and stealing, lack of remorse for their actions, an inability to properly engage with the family, as well as anti-social behaviors seen outside the home, may become the 'norm' for the teen."

Aside from regular therapy, one of the best parental responses to teens with RAD is CONSISTENT ROUTINE and CONSEQUENCES. Love alone is not enough.

The teens in my scenario live in a chaotic, crowded home with working parents who don't hold them accountable. Who aren't consistent. The church minister does not hold the parents accountable. His diatribe is "be longsuffering." 

It's all neglect. Of the seriousness of the issue and acting at the onset. Of giving parents the proper counsel. Of showing the balance of law and love to truly help the teens which protects other church members. 

And so the cycle of lying, manipulation, church vandalism, false allegations against the laity, belligerent behaviors, no consequences, and thus good members leaving continues.

If you're a teacher - or clergy - with RAD teens in your environment, Here is a helpful description of RAD, what not to do (i.e., sympathize with the child), and how best to help

If you're a parent of a child with RAD, here are Positive Parenting Skills. Because love is not enough.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Growing up with Booger Man

Ice cream was a sumptuous luxury when I was young. Most evenings before bedtime, Mom allowed my older sister Lee Lee and I to dig out a bowlful of this tasty treat. Then, we’d scramble up to the kitchen table, pull out a chair, and sit with dangling legs to consume our cool, creamy delight. Over ice cream we chatted, giggled, and swapped stories that would bond us for a lifetime.
            Lee Lee’s obsession for ice cream was infamous. Mom lured my big sister into doing her chores, homework, or getting ready for bed with the promise of ice cream. When she had ice cream, she wolfed it down like a starved animal. I, on the other hand, slowly and daintily savored each chilly spoonful.
            One evening, the two of us were at the kitchen table eating our ice cream when I noticed – Lee Lee once again had downed hers. Now she was ogling mine. I glanced over at my big sister’s empty bowl then back at my mine. I looked up at her spying eyes then back to my melting mass. Tension mounted with each spoonful lifted to my lips. I tried to quietly swallow. In the charged silence, I sensed Lee Lee’s envious stare at my ice cream like a starved lion waiting to pounce.[Tweet that]
            I also sensed a third person – Booger Man. And he was spying my ice cream! I knew because he was my sister’s imaginary companion who came out at convenient times – for her. In our home, his presence calmed her during thunderstorms, aided her when she wanted something, and was the target of Mom’s punishment when Lee Lee made a mess. But, Booger Man had an ally in Lee Lee, because she always campaigned for his rights.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Better Communication with Teens

    “Dad, are you mad at me?”
         “I’m not mad honey.”
         “Yes you are!”
         “No I’m not.”
         "You look mad!"
           Parents and teens argue. But consider this; sometimes it’s because adolescents don’t “read” facial cues correctly. Often teens translate a parent’s worried or panic expression as anger. Then they respond to that perceived emotion. Thus the vicious cycle of misunderstanding and miscommunication.Sound familiar? Do squabbles with your teen begin like this or get sidetracked with these accusations?
Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, director of neuropsychology and cognitive neuroimaging, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, suggests that the teen brain actually works differently than an adult’s when processing emotional information from external stimuli. 
In her landmark study mapping the differences between the brains of adults and teens, Dr. Todd put volunteers through a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and monitored how their brains responded to a series of pictures. The volunteers were asked to discern an emotion based on the facial expression in each picture. All adult volunteers correctly identified the emotions. However, many of the teenagers misread and misidentified the emotions based on facial expression. 
When Dr. Todd examined the brain scans, she discovered her teen volunteers even utilized a different part of their brain when looking at the faces.
Teens see things differently

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy, Happy New Year

It's almost here! 

Thanks for reading my blog all year. You’re welcome to share it via Twitter, Facebook, or forward to someone who may benefit too. 

I hope you'll encourage soon-t
o-be or new parents in 2014 with a gift copy of The Birth to Five Book, available from me - ask for it signed - by mailing $12 (incl S&H) to: P.O. Box 1302 | Mount Vernon, OH 43050 (U.S. Only). Hurry, my price offer ends on January 15, 2014.
When I was a new mom, one of my parenting goals was to practice discipline with an instructive attitude. I didn't adopt the attitude that my kids were in a me-against-you war. Rather I tried to maintain the attitude that they needed my help to know right from wrong, how to gain satisfaction in appropriate ways, and how to succeed in life through appropriate talk and behavior.

Now, what's your New Year discipline resolution? (tweet)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Successful Discipline

Years ago I spoke on discipline to parents who attended a Baby Bonanza & Kid Expo in Columbus, Ohio. One of the things I tried to impress on audiences was, "discipline isn't a 'me against you' approach but, one of instruction."

You are the teacher; your child is the learner. When you confront inappropriate behaviors with this definition, then you're on the right road to successful discipline!
Kids Royalty Free Stock Photos - Image: 12716888
To help you remember this definition, below is a list of successful discipline tips:

Stay consistent - disasters arise when kids are given mixed messages
Be proactive - plan ahead how to constructively confront and correct a child's behavior
Balance rules with relationship - children need both
Adjust your method to age and development - what works on a 2 year old may not work on a 10 year old
Separate the doer from the deed - love the child, not the behavior

Feel welcome to print out this list and stick it on your frig or filing cabinet as a reminder.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankfulness is Taught and Caught


Kids are born self-seekers. Their survival depends on it. But society encourages acquisition and, while it may be more blessed to give than receive, getting IS fun.

Gratefulness is not innate. Children must be taught the attitude and art of gratitude.

Parents, you are the first and most influential teachers to your children.(Tweet that) How do you teach this valuable attitude? One that'll affect their friendships, family, and future? 

First, slow the greed avalanche these ways:
 * Limit TV viewing…especially during the holidays when advertisers target children as a way to get into parents’ pockets.
 * Decrease trips to toy stores. Make shopping an “adult” activity.
 * Set limits on the number of birthday and holiday “wish list” items.
 * Remind kids their list is suggestion only. It’s not a “mommy – or daddy – do” list.
 * Focus on the intangible wealth. Good friends, laughter, safety, and freedom are indeed welcomed gifts.