Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Term 'Catching Up'

I've begun to hate the term 'catching up.' The reason? In order to catch up, the one behind must move/develop at a significantly faster pace. For example, two cars left the garage at the same time. Car 1 can travel at 60 mph and Car 2 has some engine trouble and can only travel at 30 mph. Car 1 reached the 60 mile mark in one hour, and is still driving, but Car 2 is only at the 30 mile mark. In order for Car 2 to catch up to Car 1, Car 2 must travel FASTER than Car 1.

So for my child of 13.5 yrs. to catch up to her peer group in, say, 7 years. She will have to gain 16 years worth of development in those 7 years. Unless she reaches a point of accelerated learning and development, it's just not going to happen. The big question is, can my child reach a level of learning and understanding and the capacity to process and gain from experiences that will lead to this acceleration in learning or will she always be behind her peers? Can she learn enough to get by in a socially appropriate and responsible way?

The other questions I'm wresting with are:

How do you teach a child how to think?
How do you teach them to WANT to think?
How do you teach them that they NEED to think?

One of the blog posts in the suggested blog I mentioned in my last post hit the nail on the head when she said that the "glitch" brain doesn't recognize a problem, so there isn't anything to solve.

It's extremely interesting and frightening to see my 2.5 yr. old surpass my 15, 13 and 10 yr. olds in many things. They notice it, too. One doctor pointed out that this would happen, but I didn't think if would happen so quickly. It's truly astonishing how much learning happens in infancy and toddlerhood that gives a human being knowledge that they use for the rest of their lives.


Anonymous said...

I'm the Anonymous whose adopted at 14 daughter got it together by around age 16/two-years-home and caught up by 18.

It seems likely your older girls have a lot going on -- so there's not much you can do until you nail down nail their issues are. Executive function, processing speed, working memory, mental illness, CAPD, dysgraphia, impact of prenatal drug/alcohol exposure, IQ, etc. will all impact if your girl can catch up to her peers.

I'd also take the IQ test results with a grain/boulder of salt. Intelligence is fluid and crystalline -- the former is your ability to respond on the spot to a situation, the latter what you've picked up along the way. They're obviously related -- how can you respond if you've got no experience? Orphanage life = lack of experience, so she may be smarter than she "presents" to doctors.

My K caught up by 18 -- because she woke up one morning and decided to try and serendipitously had a lot going for her:

- identifiable and addressable learning disabilities
- no mental illness
- average IQ
- older siblings / classmates to model "normal" behavior

My husband and I held K to the exact same standards as our biological children -- none of the self-proclaimed trauma mama, unproven, Nancy Thomas-esque theraputic parenting. Kids tend to live up (or down) to expectations.

Karen said...

I've been really struggling with the same questions and issues you are dealing with. Our 13 year old daughter came home from China in December. Our 7 year old is much more mature and capable. I can't even get my 13 year old to function at preschool level academically. VERY FRUSTRATING!!!!

Goldmine24 said...

Pretty wise advice about needing the data to influence your plan/expectations/reality. It is heartbreaking to know that their brains have been significantly affected by deprivation, etc. Some of may be retrievable, some may be part of another diagnosis. In the meantime, I've heard that some folks try to give their older adoptees the preschool/early childhood experiences they never had. Sensory type stuff, I am no expert so Just suggesting. Start with some simple stuff and let them loose. Like shaving cream on a table top/outdoors perhaps, my girls love a bean and/or rice table. Fill up a small plastic kiddie pool with beans and let me play pour, dumping till they experience some of the preschool rituals that they missed. I've also heard of starting them all at K level and go through it together. Maybe that's too much for you but at least you have some options. I'd also encourage reading simple baby/toddler/young books that teach simple messages, sharing, love, family, etc. I'm sure someone out there in adoption community can assist. Do you read "there's no place like home" Jean Mulhavill. She has several older girls that have needed that type of schooling when they arrived home as 10-13 year olds. Time permitting check her archives on homeschooling and learning challenges. Hang in there, check out some options and be open to changing your concept/plan of how these girls would progress once home. It may be that your timeline for starting back up in your business and home education also needs to be re-evaluated for your own peace of mind. All the best to you and your sweeties!

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that some if not all 3 of your oldest have some sort of learning disability. Other kids from China adopted at the same age around the same time period, are much, much further ahead. I wonder if a combination of homeschooling and public schooling might be helpful? The girls aren't really with typical peers for hours on end like they would be in school and I imagine there is more "Chinglish" than English being spoken at home. Children learn from each other as well and it seems like your 3 oldest are just learning bad behavior from each other. Blossom might particularly do well where there are incentives and a more "competitive" educational environment. ("Who can line up quickest and most quietly"- type stuff) Kids with the types of issues you mention normally have a cohort of professionals working with them- SPLs, OTs, PTs, behavioral therapy. I know you try to do it at home, but kids like what you are describing need 1:1 time for some things, and group time (to learn cultural norms, and same age peer pressure, which can be a positive thing in some instances) to learn how to behave. I wonder if it's a cycle of the "blind leading the blind."

K said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I truly believe that having good standards is crucial, too. I'm tired of people saying I should lower my expectations. I know my expectations are reasonable and that's why I know there are some unaddressed things going on.

Goldmine, my girls arrived home and joined my daycare babies and toddlers immediately. They did circle time every day and loved it, played with all the baby and toddler toys, etc... as well as having their older kid stuff. We started with pre-school level education materials, too. I've taken them through the steps from infancy forward, but two are stuck. I've been told that this is the point at which they cannot fake their way through any more. This level requires thinking and knowing.

Karen, I'm going to check out your blog right now. Perhaps as I find out answers to help my children, you'll find something that helps your child, too.

Anonymous said...

K, I really understand your concerns. I am the Anonymous mom with 2 girls similar to yours. They are 13 and 14 and have been home 2.5 and 3.5 years respectively. They have definitely made progress since coming home, are getting many services in the public school, and have 2 older sisters (15 and 18 who were internationally adopted as toddlers) who are excellent role models for following healthy purposeful routines.

But in spite of all the good consistent therapies and modeling, the 2 younger girls almost appear like they have reached their potential socially and functionally. I absolutely have not given up, but I cannot deny what I observe. Neither girl has any sign of serious attachment or emotional issues. They are helpful and well intentioned, love praise and trying to please. So I know it is not that they don't want to learn. It appears that they simply cannot make the leap into independent thought and functioning.

I agree with the earlier commenter that wonders if your girls might actually be bad influences on each other. I can see that my two keep each other from advancing in learning, language, reasoning, etc. It's almost as if their brains have no need of adding anything. Even though they are in school all day with typical and higher functioning kids, they still reduce to the "least common denominator" of skills due to the great deal of time they are together as sisters.

They spent so long in completely dull non-stimulating institutions that they have ruts in their brains that would take real motivation to overcome. And there's the rub. They have no real motivation to change. Their environment provides everything they need in an infinitely better way than in their institutional lives. They don't really care about rewards because they have no sense of ownership and do not care if they get anything new. They don't abuse their things. They just don't care if they have them or not. They are actually content to sit and do nothing. Just watching others is enough enjoyment for them.

Even though they are trained to do their self-hygiene and many household tasks they would never do any of those things without being checked on and made to re-do it if not done properly. They both learned these skills very early on, but they only use them because they are made to use them. They absolutely would not do any of it unless made to do so. They are not belligerent or defiant at all. They simply cannot make the leap to assimilate the fact that these tasks are part of normal daily living for people. So remove the supervision or task master and they stop dead.

Please don't get the impression that I am frustrated or unhappy with my girls. They are truly quite happy in their lives and in our family. I am just describing our reality. Their environments for 10 and 11 years possibly coupled with a little lower intelligence to begin with has rendered them incapable of independent functioning, at least so far.

I should add that my older 2 adopted daughters had all the same services and therapies that the younger 2 have. In fact, one of the 2 older ones has autism and still has progressed to the point that she will be entering college in another year. Yes, the college offers a wonderful support program for kids with learning and/or social differences, but the fact that she is becoming more independent all the time is striking. Environment early on makes all the difference.

I have not related my experience to discourage you in any way. Rather, I wanted to let you know how deeply I understand your current situation. Your girls are different from mine as all kids are different. And my fervent prayer is that yours will continue to learn and grow as much as possible. You are certainly putting your heart and soul into it. You are an inspiration. Keep up the good work and God bless you!

Pam said...

Hi! Long time lurker, I really admire you for taking on this challenge and persevering. Jia You! 加油! This isn't exactly what you're asking about, but I really love the book "Myth of Ability" by John Mighton that a friend recommended to me. It talks more about potential, and academics (math).
It's not exactly what you're discussing which is, if I understand correctly, is more about motivation and even some social learning. But I think it could be a complementary book.

What ~are~ the individual girls good at? Where are their strengths?

Maybe it's time to separate them a little and get outside stimulation and inspiration? Like, sending one of them to a different adult for lessons (doesn't have to be academic).

The reason I mention this is~ I recently coached a team of my nieces and friends, their mom (my cousin) was the other coach. I found that it was challenging for mom and daughter to interact sometimes-- she was typical Asian tiger mom and daughter had gotten used to ignoring her criticism... daughter did much better with feedback from Other Adults. Sometimes it helps when a new person says the same thing?

Good luck. Big hugs.

(ps., Hey, Anonymous people, y'all know you can use Name/URL to fill in a pseudonym? So that we can tell all us Anon's apart? :) )

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

I hate the term "delayed." Luke isn't "delayed." That implies he might at some point "catch up." Luke is retarded. He's never ever ever ever going to catch up.