How can I tell if some of the behavior we experience with E. is related to trauma/attachment issues or simply a learning delay or disability? If it is defiance or normal childhood ignorance?
We are learning more and more about PTSD/RAD/trauma effected children recently. I have been meeting up with a wonderful group of ladies watching Nancy Thomas videos a few times a month. Great information! I have only seen two sessions but so far I am really impressed.
E. has been through so much in his short little life, and part of his early childhood is missing. No one knows what happened to him from birth to age 8 months. Who knows what trauma he experienced besides nearly starving to death? The fact that he went through the stress of malnourishment, being in an orphanage for years and then moving to a family he didn't know in a new country would be enough to effect him for sure...either emotionally or physically.
When the average person or even a close friend or family member (outside our immediate family) sees E., they see a happy, cute little boy who is eager to please. He rarely has behavior issues at preschool, does fine in the care of others, and loves to make others laugh.
At home, sometimes, there is another little boy. One that is sometimes defiant, that doesn't seem to know answers to questions, that can throw a huge tantrum and who rarely listens or follows directions. Up until the last year we thought this was due to a learning disability. We are starting to get a better idea that this might be something more.
Let me give you an idea:
Me: E, please go get ready for bed.
E. comes out of his room with mismatched pajamas and a whiny look.
E.: Is it ok if I wear these pants with this?
Me: I know there are matching pants with that shirt, lets look.
I look through his drawer and quickly find the matching pair. No biggie.
Me: Good morning E.
E. sneaks around the bathroom taking a really long time.
Me: What are you doing in there?
E. I am taking off my diaper.
Me: You didn't put a diaper on last night, because you don't need one anymore! When did you put a diaper on?
E. Hmm. I peed it.
I look at the diaper which is relatively dry, except on the outside, which feels slightly wet. Strange.
Me: Can you please get dressed? There are clothes folded on top of your dresser for you.
Me: Don't put on S's clothes though!
Hubby can't find S's clothes, which I also laid out on the dresser. He calls E. into the room. E. is wearing S's clothes.
Me: E., why are you wearing those? Take them off, and put on the other ones. Where are the other clothes for you?
E.: They are in the drawer.
E. had taken the clothes he was supposed to put on and put them in the drawer, under a few other items. Weird.
Another good example:
Me: E. why are are doing that?
E: S. is...
Me: How old is S.?
Me: S. is three. How old are you?
E.: Uhhh... I don't know how old I am.
Me: Well think about it a minute.
Me: No, try again.
E. Uhh, seven.
This goes on and on while E. guesses several possible ages AVOIDING the number 5.
Me: (knowing he is lying and DOES know he is 5) I don't think you will be able to graduate preschool and go to kindergarten if you don't know your age. Are you sure you can't remember how old you are?
E.: I don't know.
Me: You need to sweep the floor in the kitchen until you can remember.
E.: I'm mad at you!
I let E. sweep for a minute and occasionally ask him if he can remember. Then, after a few minutes of sweeping, he suddenly can remember he is 5!
He has also done this when playing a color game, pretending he doesn't know the color and going around the entire color wheel trying to "guess".
Now some of you are going to say this is normal five year old behavior. I understand that many people do not understand how frustrating it is parenting these trauma effected children. Please know that this is a small picture of what I go through parenting this child everyday. And imagine that this is going on all day long. Then, when he goes to school, or grandma's, and to hear that he does not have any of the issues I describe while in their care...oh I hope you can imagine.
Why does he do this? Control. And that gets under my skin. I am trying my hardest not to let it. In the video (please bear with me as I have only watched it once and am not great at remembering details) I learned that kids effected by abuse, trauma, etc. use the back portion of their brain the most. This is the fight or flight portion. E. is here a lot, it is home to him, and he does what it takes to get reactions from us (mainly me) so he can stimulate this area. Our goal is to get him to use more of his frontal lobe, the cause/effect part of his brain. The part that helps with attachment, good decision making skills, etc. We want him to use and strengthen THIS part. So when he does something looking for a reaction, and we get angry and frustrated, he can see this and feel somewhat content and satisfied. When we react in another way, throw him off a bit, it will get him to start using the frontal lobe more. This is what I am excited about learning more about!