Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Abel: 3 Months Home

Three months seems forever ago and like yesterday all at once. Three months ago we brought home a very scared, anxious, feral little boy. Three months ago we were truly worried how he would integrate into our lives.  If only we knew how appropriate Abel's name was for his new life. This little boy who was so wild, so difficult, so scared.(The pictures are blurry because he was in constant motion, which meant we were too.)

Three months ago a lot of things changed.

Me met this little boy who cried all.the.time.

He cried about absolutely everything. He seemed like a truly miserable kid who really didn't know what he wanted much of the time. In reality he was a little boy who had never learned to regulate his emotions, and his emotions were always extreme. In walks these people who don't know how to talk anything but gibberish and making him do things that he doesn't necessarily want to do. Like stand still. Or sit down. Or play with a toy. Or chew his food. We made his life miserable for awhile. Unfortunately there was no avoiding it.

But kids do what works, and crying worked for him in the institution. He got what he wanted much of time with those tears. When he came into our care he quickly learned the tears (or sometimes fake crying) wouldn't work. Now Abel has real communication. He is developing language. He can ask for things using signs, often putting 4 and 5 signs together, which gets him a response. He chuckles every time it works for him. "I want cup please" gets him his favorite past time of spinning this little cup on a chair, which would last for an entire day if we let him. Instead he gets 5-10 minutes and then it's time to be part of the real world again. In the last couple of days he has starting coming to me signing, "Play go please." and pointing down the hall. This is his way of asking permission if he can go play in the bedroom with the other kids. (not something always allowed depending upon his mood!)

Abel can sort colors quite well. If there is a food reward he does so effortlessly. Without the reward, he will intentionally mis-match the colors, shaking his head "no" while he does so. Sometimes even crying and sobbing as he holds one had with the other, trying to get it to put the color in the right place, but it's as if his hand has a mind and will of it's own which cannot be forced to do the correct task. Sometimes he will sign "sit" instead of matching the color, which means he wants to sit on time-out (which for him is about 30 seconds) Sometimes he likes to use time-out for an escape. Then out comes the food and suddenly the colors go exactly where they belong the very first time. Axel used to do the exact same thing. It is probably one of the strangest phenomenon I have seen, and yet I have read other adoptive parents of older kids describe exactly the same thing. It is very frustrating, both for me and for Abel. Fortunately, because of food rewards, we're were able to find out not only can he sort objects by color, but also by shape and size. YAY!

When we first came home back in April and the weather finally turned so we could spend time outside, we showed Abel the swings in the back yard. He was petrified of them. It wasn't the motion, because he loved to hang on the trapeze thing we have back there. I couldn't figure it out. Clearly this was fear...PRIMAL fear....I didn't know  how to get past it. Even food couldn't win him over on this one.

The one afternoon while scrolling through pictures of our time in Serbia for his adoption, I was reminded of an experience we had with Abel out on the playground. We were trying to keep him busy for the two hour visit and walked outside. It was one of the first times he happily walked with me without dangling some type of food in front of him. And then I had to wreck it by bringing him to the swings and indicating I would put him on one. OH.MY.WORD!!! The child absolutely FREAKED OUT! It was then I noticed, for the very first time, the towels that were on the swings. These towels are multi-purpose. They are used for bibs, wash cloths...and for tying kids into chairs or swings. Abel was a really difficult kid go have out on the playground, and I suspect keeping him in the swing was one way to manage him while out there.

It took weeks of food bribes, and making him sit on the swing for three or four seconds at a time before he learned he wouldn't die on that swing. day we were all out in the yard, when I turned back to see this. I cried real tears.

It wasn't easy, but the struggle over the swing set the stage for many other situations around here.

Here we are, nearly 3 1/2 months home. Abel is so ABLE to do so many things! Because he conquered the swing, he's now willing to try other things that would have been impossible for him to work through just three months ago.

And the growth!! When we came home Abel was the same height as Asher and four pounds heavier. Now he is 2 inches taller and 15 pounds heavier!

Asher and Abel are now inseparable buddies. They do everything together! We didn't know how much Abel depended upon Asher until I took Asher to Philly with me. That's when we realized that Abel really takes a lot of cues from Asher, waiting to see what he does when we give them directions together, looking to see if Asher seems afraid in certain situations or if it's O.K. to have fun with whatever we're doing. 

We got the last of medical specialists seen several weeks ago. The end of September he will have the first of three surgeries. Usually I try to get all the procedures done at one time but we just couldn't get everyone scheduled unless we waited until December, and that is just too far away. He'll have his dental work done first, then the of October his tonsils and adenoids out and an ABR, and later in December some urological things taken care of. 

It has really been an interesting 3 months as we and Abel learn about one another. He has come so very far! 

From this worried little boy who couldn't sit still for a fraction of a second

To this very confident tween who is READY to head off to school in the fall!


Amy said...

This post makes me so happy! Watching Abel blossom has been a joy.

Unknown said...

Oh Wow Leah! What a wonderful post!

Stephanie said...

I enjoy your updates about each kiddo. It's been really great to see the progress in Abel. He clearly needed a home that would allow him to learn how to live life. I think it's wonderful that he found you, Dean, and the other 3 A's. I can't wait to see your 1st day of school picture coming soon!

Becca said...

Leah, once again, I am *mesmerized* by your children and your accounts of their progress. Totally mesmerized. I'm always shocked by the growth that children newly out of orphanages and institutions have in such a short period of time. Wow!