A Journey through Complex Trauma (Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is usually difficult and has far more ups and downs than any roller coaster. Several families who have children with Complex Trauma have agreed to share some of the large and small Signs of Hope that have encouraged them in the hard work they've had to do. We hope these provide some signs for other families to look for and celebrate.
My daughter was adopted at 9 months, and by age 2 she was eating a wide variety of foods. But by age 3, when her RAD was at it's worst, she was only eating about 4 things, Ramen noodles, rice, milk and fruit. Her lack of trust was reflected in her ability to take nourishment from mom.
Recently, after about a year and a half of therapy, we were at our favorite restaurant, which has a huge salad bar with many delicious items, and my daughter was refusing to eat anything. But I told her that she had to try one bite of what I offered her (bread pudding). She refused. I said "You have to try one bite," so she did. She was AMAZED that I was giving her a delicious treat! From then on, she has been willing to try just everything I ask her to, and eats a wide variety of foods that she never ate before.
She brings me a tissue every time I sneeze. She is able to talk about her feelings now to explain why she was in a rage/panic. For instance "I thought you were in the bathroom and then I saw grandma's slippers outside the bathroom door and I thought that she was inside and I didn't know where you were".
My daughter has just turned 5, and I realized that until about a week ago, for the past 2 or 3 years whenever I've asked her to do anything, I've gotten "no" for an answer, either directly or indirectly by passive aggressive means: fooling around, doing something else or just standing there. Our old theme song was the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye": "I say yes, you say no, I say stop and you say go, go, go" instead of being totally oppositional, she says "Yes Mommy" or "I can help you do that". Now, after 2 years of therapy, she volunteers for chores and washes her hands, face and teeth without complaint.
Our signs of hope developed gradually over a 2-1/2 yr period. My child had anxious attachment and deep grief issues.
Over a 3 mo. period, tantrums changed to just sitting on the floor and protecting her own head a few times a day, instead of laying down-head-banging tantrums several times a day. Two years later, at age 4, tantrums are no longer a daily occurrence. Here were our signs of progress:
The time frame in parentheses indicates how long this child had been home before she began to show these signs. The child was adopted at 16 months of age and was severely malnourished.
B. is a little over 2 1/2 and has been home from Korea for almost exactly one year. We began attachment therapy when he had been home 4 months. I have been frustrated because the eye contact, though somewhat improved, still isn't always there. We are still working on him gripping me when I carry him. And he is still resistant to being tickled and having laughs with me, though sometimes I can surprise the giggles out of him. But the truth is, he has been making loads of progress.
My daughter O. was adopted March 12, 2000, at age 10 mos. Parentheses indicate how many months she had been home when these behaviors began occurring.
This child was adopted at a reported age of 22 months and showed many symptoms of PTSD and RAD even during the first week with her new family. These signs of hope occurred during the period from 10 to 16 months after joining her new family.
My daughter began a peculiar behavior shortly after we began attachment therapy with her last fall, and it has evolved in such a way that I see it as sign of her bonding to us. She began by asking questions like "If I was squished by a car, what would you do?"--then evolving to "If I was eaten by an alligator and squished by a car, what would you do?"; then finally to the current version: "If 44 dinosaurs, 44 alligators, 60 coyotes and 15 crocodiles ate all my parts, my eyes, legs, nose, and hands, what would you and Daddy and my sister do?" For a while, she was asking this 10-15 times a day, and I always gave the same answer, that we would do whatever it took to get her put back together again. She seems to be wanting affirmation that we really are her parents, and will do what parents are supposed to; that is; take care of her! The queries have now dropped off to a few per a week, but she still asks, with great seriousness.
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Lewis: Oh no! Oh, no! I didn’t know. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!
Family: You failed! And it was awesome! Exceptional! Outstanding! Awww, I’ve seen better.
Aunt: From failing you learn. From success, not so much.
If I gave up every time I failed, I never would have made the meatball cannon!
I never would have made my fireproof pants (they burst into flames)… still working out the kinks.
Like my husband always says, Keep Moving Forward!
Meet the Robinsons (2007, movie)