Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An update on Aleksa!

Ok, a promised update on Aleksa!  I know this last week and a half has been more on Wesley than anyone else... but he was the one having major surgery and the one with me 24/7... so it just made sense :)

Anyway, on to Aleksa!

Aleksa is really doing very well.  She is also absolutely an 8 year old child that has spent her first 5 years in an orphanage and the last three years in a mental institution.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that she has been a challenge, and has faced challenges herself that are exactly what we were expecting to see... yet that doesn't make them any easier to face :).

What kind of challenges?

So glad you asked (ha!).  The biggest challenge is still the lack of understanding and language, though that would be expected in most children with Ds adopted from a foreign country!  Regardless of her previous life experiences, etc...  She is beginning to pick up on things, though slower now than when she first came home.  It's almost like she hit a "full" level and has to decide she can take in more pretty soon.  Or maybe she's working on another skill that we just aren't aware of and language will start more readily after that's mastered. No idea!

In general, she is listening to directions when she understands what's being said, yet most of the time she's not understanding what's being said.  After we've shown her or done hand over hand or... whatever, then she can immediately do it again.  The next day? Notsomuch...

We are also meeting little "battles" with how to appropriately play with others.  It is nowhere near as difficult for her to interact with the other kids as I'd feared it could be!  That's a great thing!  But she does walk up to anyone and just take their toy and walk away, leaving them crying.  Or she'll shove them if they don't let go.  Or, she's started to learn this one, she'll bring them whatever she's tired of playing with and hand it to them as she snatches their toy away.  Better, but still not ok! :)

She has been VERY gentle with the other kids, and even her shove generally only knocks the other kids back a little or occasionally she'll make one of the boys fall down.  But really it's not HARD, and I've yet to see her put a hand on Lynae at all.  She's very gentle with the "baby Lala".  Wesley too, she doesn't mess with his toys (learned that one quickly!).

Toileting-wise she is doing GREAT, only one accident recently except for at nap time where we've had several.  Less drink at lunch tends to help that though!  She did pee all over the place while we were at the doctor's office the other day and left a trail to the bathroom.  That was a fun one... Otherwise she is no longer using urinating all over as a means to control a situation! YAY! :)

Aleksa is learning, with constant reminders, to eat appropriately without shoveling the food into her mouth and is beginning to even chew her food a little more... that's a big deal!  She still looks into everyone else's bowls when she finishes and will try to steal their food, even after a serving of food larger than my own!  She doesn't understand "full" and will finish a meal before I have a chance to sit down... even after waiting for a blessing!  She can eat an entire bowl of food in about a minute flat...

She also is into sharing her empty food containers.  Unfortunately, that means she wants to give her drink cup and bowl to Micah.  Micah has to have thickened liquids and chokes on food... so if there's actually any little scrape or drop left (which right now there isn't, but maybe some time there would be...), it could be very dangerous.

We are also working on SPEAKING, and she IS saying a few things, mama, baby,hi, bye bye, yes... and that's about it.  I wonder how her hearing is because she is not attempting to copy anything close to what we're saying unless we make her sit and stare at our faces (and then she usually gets aggravated LOL).  She also took her glasses off and snapped the leg of them in half while I was gone with Wesley for his surgery, so she's not had her glasses on in almost a week (they are on order and I've requested the script so I can get a second 'cheapie' pair...).

Aleksa will look for a quiet place to be devious, and will look around to see if someone is watching before being mean or doing things she's not supposed to.  That is probably the hardest thing to deal with, because it's when we're not there that it happens... And that makes it harder to help 'fix'.  Thankfully, she doesn't have much unsupervised time, but she can sometimes find a spot in a room where she doesn't think she's being watched and begin either destroying something or trying to take someone's toy, etc.

And lastly... hmm, is it lastly?  Well, we'll just say it is... Aleksa is copying all of the behaviors that she sees anyone else get in trouble for.  We have been WILDLY praising her for doing GOOD things, NICE play, etc... but still she decides to go dangle a pen over the magna doodle, which is a habit of James' that we are trying to stop when he could be coloring instead and getting input that way.  She also saw him sit on the magna doodle while doing this and we took him off it and put it on his lap, told him to play nice with it.  Then she went and sat on one as well.  She, too, got in trouble...  James' glasses broke (welding came undone when he pulled them off) and he no longer has his glasses.  This was while Mike was home and wasn't malicious.  Aleksa saw all of this and the next day snapped the leg of her glasses in half.  Grandma was here and even made her go bring her the other part of the glasses that she'd broken... and she knew exactly where it was.

So... it's been a challenge, but in the great scheme of things, she's still an 8 year old little girl who is learning what it means to be loved and we are learning what it means to be functional, but still severely neglected in an unhealthy environment for a child's entire lifetime.  It's a totally different situation than we've had with any of our other children because she is, quite possibly, the "highest functioning" of our 4 adopted children with Ds (very hard to tell, since the boys are only 4, but obviously right NOW she is at a much higher cognitive and functioning level than they are).  We haven't dealt with 8 years of neglect in any of our other kids.  Five, six, yes... eight... nope.  She's the first!

We are learning together.  She's spending some time in time out.  She's teaching us how to help her learn (by removing opportunities to mess up! LOL) and we are teaching her that we love her without exception and that includes teaching her and disciplining her.  We want her to become the person God created her to be, and we are Praising Him that He allowed us to bring her into our home and to teach us all through her "integrating into a family and society" stages.

I realize this sounds very negative, but I hope that it's understood that that's simply because it's all listed out pretty matter of factly in one page.  She's really doing great, and anyone "from the outside" of our home that spent just a few hours with me would probably say completely different things about her.  She HAS adjusted well to family life in general and when being watched and "cut off early" on the things she tries to get away with, we have lots of great days with good listening and nice behavior!  We just have to always be one step ahead of her to prevent her from getting into trouble as well as giving her opportunities to make GOOD decisions.

Each day she is growing and learning, and we continue to grow and learn with her!  God is good, ALL the time!  Even in the days of struggling with the behavior of a former orphan little girl who doesn't know what it means to be loved... and because of that, I want to love her even more :)


  1. Oh, Miss Aleksa...I just have the feeling that things will work themselves out. It is so hard dealing with behaviors. Oddly enough, her copying bad behavior might just be an age appropriate thing, since I see it in Eleanor (7) all the time. She sees the things Ian gets in trouble for, then goes and quietly does the same thing, just to see if we will react the same with her. UGH. Constant testing...

    If you are having trouble finding cheap glasses that are made well, I highly recommend zennioptical.com. I have sung their praises so many times I am sure people are sick of me, but I have gotten some seriously cute and sturdy glasses for Ben for around $20. My own glasses are from there, and David is next. I think I had to pay a little extra, due to the type of perscription. They do take a couple weeks to come in, but worth the wait.

  2. Wonderful post about Aleksa. We adopted an older child too and I think it's great that you are being honest so others can see the reality, which is good and hard at the same time!! You guys are awesome parents!


  3. Meredith, What a great update about Aleksa. I've been thinking about her a lot, wondering how she is doing. She sounds quite a bit like our Joey. It took us a LONG time (a couple of years, really) to really learn how to help him...and when I explain it, it sounds mean and spiteful. But I know you will know that is not how I mean it.
    We cannot let Joey get by with ANYTHING. We have to be on him like a hawk, like he is under our thumb all the time. Any little slip up, even if he looks like he is THINKING of stepping out of line, we are on him! He is moved from the area, and either given "time in" (glued to us for a time) or "time out"...sit by yourself. Time in seems to work better.
    When we are willing to discipline much quicker, we discipline MUCH less frequently. And Joey is HAPPIER. He knows his limits in no uncertain terms, and functions within them (for the most part)
    And he does the same thing as Aleksa with seeing what someeone else does wrong and then trying to copy it. BUSTED!

  4. I've been following your blog for a long while :) So neat to follow the progress of your kids even though I don't know you!

    I recently attended a workshop on attachment and trauma and how trauma "rewires" the brain, especially in young children. It has helped me tremendously in how I understand and consequently deal with the seeming strange or "naughty" behaviors in my own children. Even their styles of learning.

    Anyways, I was thinking that trauma has that affect on ANY brain, regardless of if the child has DS or not. A brain is a brain! You can bet that Aleksa's 8 years in institutions has left a lot of trauma that has stunted her development. From what I've read delayed language development or just "not getting it" can be a big one. Regardless of her DS, she IS an older adoption which is challenging! From what I can see though, the structure and family she has now is exactly what she'll need to help her progress and learn : Keep up the good work!

    - Grace

  5. I love how obvious it is that you love that little chickie. All good things come to those who wait...she will get there.

  6. Thanks for the update! Thanks for sharing, she sounds like she is doing so well and is fitting into your family! A thought about how fast she is eating, maybe give her two plates, Plate one that has her full meal on it that sits just out of her reach, and plate two that sits in front of her. Serve her food, a little at a time, from plate one, and allow her to eat off of plate two. This might help with how fast she is eating since you control it. It also gives you the opportunity to say "one more spoonful and then all gone" I know this is more work for you, and you do have 7 other kids, some of whom maybe can not feed themselves, but I thought I'd throw a suggestion for you to try if you choose to! Love your blog and your kids =)


  7. I think you might appreciate this post by another blogger about his sister with DS