Attachment Therapy: One Family’s Story. Guest Post by “Forever, For Always, No Matter What”

Many children diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and other “invisible” learning and emotional impairments are in fact struggling to heal from trauma stemming from their early years. Some adoptive parents have found that attachment therapy can greatly improve the parent-child bond. In today’s guest post, Jen Dunlap shares her family’s experience with attachment therapy. If your family has had experience with this type of therapy, what techniques or books did you find most effective?

Our decision to enter into attachment therapy wasn’t made lightly.  It’s easy to be lulled into thinking things aren’t that bad or that we have all the answers.  We ultimately made the decision that we weren’t going to let our pride get in the way of bettering our family.

It’s somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow, since we thought we did everything “right” when our children joined our family.  Co-sleeping, careful about others holding our children too soon, and I committed to being a stay at home mom with a predictable routine and structure.  Therapy has helped me realize that it wasn’t really about us and what we did, but simply about the trauma that happened to our children before they came into our family.

Even though we have only been going to therapy for a few months, and it’s definitely not a quick fix, we have noticed changes.  We have a better understanding of the trauma our children have experienced and how that trauma really does affect the make-up of the brain.  It has given us more empathy as parents, which is crucial in those moments when you need to remain calm yet you really just want to pull out your hair.  The therapist has given us some interesting insight to our children and some of their “quirks”.  Of course, no one knows our children better than us, but a therapist has a different perspective and often a more experienced, educated and objective view.

All of our children really like our therapist and enjoy spending time with her, but they don’t all like the actual therapy session.  Our oldest in particular is a bit resistant.  Our therapist likes to tell him “therapy isn’t for sissies” and she’s right.  It’s hard and quite frankly, he would prefer to keep all the uncomfortable feelings deep inside and not deal with them.  I can’t say that I blame him.  That being said, we’re hoping and praying that getting through the tough things now will only benefit and strengthen each individual but the entire family throughout our lives.

Jen is a wife to one amazing husband and mom to six energetic kids.  Visit Forever, For Always, No Matter What where she blogs about their Catholic faith, homeschooling and adoption.

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“Learning to Love”: A story of hope for children with attachment disorders

This month (April 2008) in Reader’s Digest, Vince Beiser tells the story of the Solomon family, who adopted seven-year-old Daniel from an orphanage in Romania — and months later found themselves parenting an angry, violent, and broken little boy. It took him some time to discover what he had been missing in the institution … what it meant to have a family, and parents who loved him. And when that realization hit him, he lashed out at Heidi Solomon, the woman who had adopted him. She had not given birth to him, had not abandoned him — but she was the most convenient target, and it was up to her to help him heal.

Two groups of children are most frequently affected by attachment disorder: Those with a history of physical abuse and neglect (especially prevalent in foster children), and institutionalized children (particularly the thousands adopted from “warehouse-style Eastern European orphanages”).

What this article brought out — and what we are now discovering for ourselves — is that sometimes the symptoms of attachment disorder do not surface for months or even years after the fact. Furthermore, the therapies used to treat attachment disorder may require an extraordinary level of courage and commitment on the part of the parents (for three months Heidi Solomon kept Daniel within arm’s reach — no more than 3 feet away, day and night). Amazingly, part of the healing involved their adopting a second child, A.J.

Is your child showing any of these signs of attachment disorder?

* (Infant) Doesn’t cry when hungry or in need of change.
* (Infant) Seems irritated by prolonged physical contact.
* (Child 3+) Inability to make or sustain eye contact.
* Lack of “natural” desire to please parent.
* “Fingerpaints” with fecal matter (older children past toilet training age)
* Exaggerated fear of separation from parent (panics).
* Prolonged periods of sleep disruption (sleeps only a couple of hours at a time).
* Episodes of increased violence against property, animals or younger children.

Here are some sites that may help: