Thursday, April 19, 2012

Great Conversations: Letter Writing and Art Therapy with the Introverted RAD Child

by John and Diane

The following is part of a conversation that took place on our Facebook page that we all agreed to share on the blog, and repost on Facebook so the conversation could continue (as it started as a response to a link to another article and then we all kind of got off topic!) As the purpose of this blog and Facebook page is to help each other we wanted to make sure our Blog pals got an opportunity to listen in on the conversation and join in if they like…. This is by no means a way to end the conversation, but a way to make it easier to continue it… I have taken the names off (except for our responses) to maintain confidentiality on  the blog…

FPR= Foster Parent Rescue author
Other initials are members/friends

                                    CJ: (describing her RAD daughter’s history)

She has been with us for almost 3 years. While we have had problems all along, they have changed as her circumstances have changed. When she came to us she was still having mandatory visits with her birth parents twice weekly. During that time our focus was on resolving her terrible nightmares, bed wetting, night terrors, eating disorder, etc. She had a history of never having been told no about anything---absolutely no limits, so her behavior was just wild.On the eating issue, she was unable at 4 years old to identify any fruit or vegetable, other than strawberries. She was unable to chew meat even in tiny bites because she had never eaten it before. She would eat--literally--only frozen waffles with syrup, sugar coated cereal, candy, cookies and the like. When provided with "real" food, she would gag and be unable to swallow it. She would starve herself rather than eat unless she was given what she wanted, which was sweets. Once parental rights were term'd and we didn't have to do visits, the bed wetting and some of her negative behaviors began to improve. We had to hire a "monster catcher" to come to our home and trap the monsters that caused her nightmares. Slowly we saw improvement in all areas except eating. Now I do want to say she TRIED to improve her eating. She really did make the effort. It seems to be more that she just can't chew the food and swallow it. All medical testing is negative for any physiological problem, so it's believed to be sensory and her therapist suggests it's likely a result of oral abuse at some point. Things were actually pretty smooth for about 6 months following finalization. The eating problem and some minor behavioral problems were really the only issue and we really thought we had gotten thru everything and all was good. She continued to see her family therapist and the feeling was that she was adjusting. Here's where we adults made a huge error. She asked us to please let her stop therapy. We discussed it with our former social worker and with her school teacher, as well as with the therapist. We came to the conclusion that she was just sick and tired of talking about it all the time and was not going to move forward until we allowed her to let it all go. So we stopped therapy. The therapist did warn us that she would need to return to therapy at some point, but that taking a break was probably ok since she was doing so wonderfully. All was pretty well til a few months ago. I mean, we had some issues with behavior and limits and the eating problem was there as always, she would have the occasional outburst, etc. Everyone assured us that what we were seeing was normal and not to freak out about it, so we didn't. She asked us right around Christmas time if she could call her birth dad. That was a very unusual request for her, so we called her former therapist. Went in for a session to see if she could figure it out. After talking with her, she determined that there was probably no ulterior motive and she was just needing closure. This is good, right? So we let her call. Well, it didn't go well at all. Although we had called in advance and set up ground rules, he did not stick to them and we ended up terminating the call, which on the advise of the therapist was on speaker phone and monitored by us. He made a reference to her returning to live with him and told her that he was workin hard so he could hire an attorney and get her back. Although we term;d the call, it was already said at that point. She got very upset and for days asked us continually if that was true that he could make her come back and live with him. We assured her that no, she was our daughter and we will be her parents forever, she will never go live with her birth parents and we will never allow them to come to her home or be around her. She seemed satisfied with that, but we began seeing massive increases in behavior and emotional issues. This is why we put her back into therapy. The new psychiatrist says she should have been given a RAD diagnosis three years ago because all of her records indicate the need for that. We didn't know what RAD was til he said that, never heard of it, really. Her former therapist has mentioned something about attachment problems, but wasn't specific and she said she hesitated to label her with that, so let's wait and see. So here we are now. I hope I am making sense!
CC:  Keep in mind also that all you can your best. We have our child for 8 years and she just can't seem to get past her issues. your best and don't be too hard on yourself
My mouth dropped open when I read that they let her talk to her father and all I could say was "What?" I cant believe her counseler let her talk to her father when she is a child with a trust disorder. That counselor destroyed years of work. We did similiar things like that with letters.. never verbally, so I had full control over what was being said and read. Unbelievable. I am glad you have a new counselor. No wonder you are starting over. That is what you are dealing with now. Now she has false hope, no matter how abusive he might have been to her, she might somehow still want to be with him, somewhere in the back of her mind. So, now you have to start all over! I feel so bad for you. But you can begin again. I am doing the same thing but with a grandma, with letters, with native american children who will eventually have to go back to thier tribe.... Just goes to show you that counselors don't always know what is the best ... follow your own instincts sometimes. In any case... you can do it... you just have to start all over... begin to rebuild the trust. Thank God for the Angels that are coming to your aide..... Hang in there Christy! We are hear to help!!

CJ: I can't wholly blame the therapist because my husband and I agreed to let her call, too. Lesson learned, but at our little one's expense. Lotsa guilt for mom and dad on that one, I assure you. She still asks to call one or the other of her birth parents now and then, but now we always sit down and ask her to think about why she feels like she wants to call them. Usually it turns out that she really just wants to call someone, not necessarily them. She's very, very bright and extremely articulate and able to express what she's feeling. I feel like she knows what's going on in her head and I know she wants to feel better, I just don't know how to help her work thru it. I know everyone else feels the same way with their kids. Your mention of letter writing gave me an idea. I wonder if we asked her if she'd like to write her birth mom/dad a letter and tell them why she is angry, how the hurt her, etc. if that would help her get it out there and on the path to moving beyond it a little? Has anyone tried that or had any success with anything similar?
Hi CJ, Diane here, (co blog author and art therapist) How old is your daughter? I am not sure about the letter writing thing, maybe if she asks to call, tell her to write down what she'd like to say in a letter and then burn it or tie it to a balloon (I wrote a couple of books on art therapy and that is something we did to rid ourselves of 'baggage') but also, if she is old enough, maybe start her on an art-journal.. draw out her emotions in a sketch book.. sometimes can help kids who cant verballize their feelings or identify their feelings easily. Have you heard of a Mandala? its basically drawing things in a circle. The Mandala is a symbol for motherhood (okay, now it gets but anyway, a good activity for a control -kid. Draw a circle and have her draw anything inside it. Scribble in it, then fill in areas.. a good starter activity... something to do to help her express herself when she can't otherwise.. just an idea....

PG: Bless your heart.......I probally have said this but I talk about our daughter the most because her rad is the most severe.....she used to write me notes all the time and at school in her journal write how much she loved me but I knew it was all fake.......but then there was the day that she told me she loved me and there was somthing about it and I knew it was real......does she love me enough I don't think she does but she does love me enough that she would be sad if she lost one morning she got up and said last night I dreamed that you died and when I woke up I had tears running down my face and I thought yes....she loves me .....then after I dropped her off at school I got to thinking how did I die and I thought did she kill me???? oh know...well thankfully I just fell over I am telling you these kids can heal....our 17 yr old has....yes we still have issues but it's more like teen issues but more extreme....but I know he's he's threatening to do college by homeschool lol.....I am posting this because I lose my post
There are things that I wonder if our kids will ever get over......but we do believe in the power and that has gotten us to where we are today.....hang in there it does get better.......
 oh about the drawing when Sarah used to draw pictures of our family she was huge and we were little and they say that's because she felt powerful now she draws us bigger....
JZ: Christy, our kids must be identical twins, you have described my 8 year old RAD precisely. John, I'd love any info you could give me on the introverted tantrums as that is mostly how she copes with stress.
CJ: She turned 7 in February. I should have been more clear about the letters! I was thinking as you suggested...write, but don't send. Just allowing her some avenue to get it all out, say what she wants without any fear of judgment. Perhaps suggest that she is the only one who needs to even see them. I don't know...,I'm grasping at straws, I guess. Even tho she is in counseling I feel like she isn't honest even there. You can see it in her eyes and her expressions. LOL I like the art journal idea. I think she would be very willing to do that and would actually enjoy it. I know her former therapist used art therapy with her sometimes. Her pictures were usually of her being chased by some kind of monster and my husband being her rescuer or protector in some way. She rarely included me in those types of pictures. If I was included, it was when she drew family pictures and she always made me cooking or cleaning and even if I was stirring a pot of food, I always had flowers in one hand. I just sent my hubby into town to pick up a sketch pad for her and a new box of crayons. Fingers crossed!!!!
So, your husbands shopping list was a whistle, crayons and a sketch book. LOL. funny. Interesting about the art: Her drawing you in steriotyped ways is okay, it means she is idealizing the woman role, the mother role, and that is okay for her right now as a child, she is or was looking for the steriotype Mommy, and was drawing you in that role, and Dad too, as the protector... all okay considering. If she is still drawing pics of her being scared or running away from something, and dad is protecting her, have dad draw with her, and ask him to draw a sword in her hand (or whatever it is that he is using to protect her, a sword, a cloaking device, a superpower, whatever) to help her feel more empowered and continue that with each drawing, having Dad share his ability to protect her with her and then eventually encourage her to draw her own ability to conquer the monster in her drawings.
you might also want to draw pics with her (next to her, not in her personal sketchbook, because you dont want to invade her drawing, and take over her "control") Ask her to draw a pic of you on Your sketch pad, then ask if you can add something to it. Add a sword or whatever, again, whatever her monster fighter would need, a shield, or a magic ring or something that would imply that Mom is Super Mom.... start letting her see the woman as a more powerful and trustworthy role model.
PG:  The more they start bonding the worse they get which could explain part of the getting worse as they get I think the teen attitudes are a lot more dramatic......

CJ: Ok, I am armed with a whistle and even hid a spare! At great risk of sounding completely batty, I feel more in control just knowing I have a whistle. Tomorrow we're going to discuss the whistle and why we have it. Didn't want to bombard her with too much tonight as we also gave her the sketch pad and crayons. She LOVES the idea, Diane! She did two pictures tonight, one of grass, trees, flowers, butterflies.The other one is of fish swimming in the ocean. Pretty normal stuff, I think. Should I suggest that she draw pictures about how she feels, or just let her draw whatever comes to mind on her own? If nothing else, the drawing really helped keep her focused and calm. Thank you so much for your input, Diane! Patti; I have wondered if part of this might be that she feels herself getting close, so she intentionally throws a wrench in it. The more I read, the more confused I get so I have stopped reading for now.
Foster Parent Rescue : I felt the same way about the whistle. I really feel so much better just knowing I have it. It has really reduced my own stress and burn out, and my RAD kid (the one who gets whistled the most) just has to see it now and he pretty much quits his bad behavior. LOVE IT.
      • Diane Steinbach
I would tell her she can draw whatever she likes, maybe some time draw with her (on your own paper mind you... ) and tell her you are going to draw how you feel today... and approach it like that... she may just mirror you, but that way she will understand the idea of it, and then after a while see if she sticks with drawing on her own, she may do it naturally when she is mad in her room (John just posted an article on the introverted tantrum by the way). I think its good that she is drawing the typical stuff, although again, it could just be what she sees as typical from other kids, but it gets her used to using the materials,..after a while see if she can do abstract stuff, (do the mandala thing) I will try to post some instructions on the blog soon on that type of stuff. For now, just let her do what comes naturally, but take the opportunity to follow her lead and draw with her when you can or if she invites you to. Good bonding opportunity.

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