Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Anxiety and the Adopted Child

If you stop to think about why a child is ever available for adoption, you'll start to understand why most adopted children struggle with anxiety in some form.  Early neglect, abuse, abandonment, and emotional trauma lead to survival skills that impede being able to function "normally" once in a safe environment.  In the same way a soldier has to be trained to fight and withstand interrogations should they ever be caught and held behind enemy lines, an adopted child has in many cases grown up with that hardened knowledge because they have in a sense lived with the enemy.  All they know is fight and survive.  They have to be taught and re-trained how to appropriately react, self calm, relax, feel safe, love, and only once they are able to do those things can they learn.

Learning requires high level executive functioning that cannot be accessed when a child is anxious, worried, scared, or upset.  A child that is anxious is not a child that cannot learn, they are a child that cannot learn until they feel safe.  In the same fashion, a child who's anxiety is triggered by being pulled from a classroom is not going to score well on a test administered by a person the child doesn't know well in an unfamiliar environment.  Their brain cannot access what it knows when its busy being hyper vigilant.

The knowledge might be there, but the brain sees the process of accessing it to be secondary to surviving this "threatening" situation so the child cannot even answer questions that they actually know the answers to because they are busy using their survival skills of avoidance and charm.

Adopted children give "mis-ques" of their anxiety.  A typical child might cry or just tell a person that they are really nervous when asked to take a test.  An adopted child has years of survival skills to draw on so they might appear bubbly, overly happy, smile widely, and tell you how easy it is and what a great job they are going to do.  Inside this child is melting down, but outside they are trying their best to convince a person that they can and will do whatever it takes to keep them happy.

Survival vs academics.

Sadly, most school systems are not educated on how early trauma affects adopted or foster children.  Evaluations are given without regard to how that child's past affects their current ability to perform.

We are dealing with this now and let me tell you it is exhausting. EXHAUSTING.

Two adoption agencies and two social workers are working to help us document things properly so that our child is not further misunderstood and further mislabeled.  We are also hoping to work with an attachment clinic to get a more accurate assessment of our child so we have valid independent information from a qualified source to provide the school.

The fight of an adoptive parent is not over when the child comes home.
On the contrary, it has only just begun.


Emily said...

Isn't this the truth! Fortunately for my girls, the staffing specialist and guidance counselor at our school understands trauma. When L was in pre-k, she was entirely unable to learn anything. She was hypervigilant the whole year. We fully expected kindergarten to be the same, and for her to have to repeat kindergarten. However, when she started kindergarten, she had been with us for over a year and was feeling much safer and more secure. She did great in kindergarten, getting stronger and stronger as the year progressed. Security is a huge thing in learning. Praying for security for your boys.

SammE said...

I'm a retired primary teacher/special education teacher. What you have written is so true. In my last school, there were many children who lived with chaos and harm, neglect and abuse. These poor little ones had large problems learning for the same reasons you have outlined. I'm sending caring your way, for you and your children, that they may find security and attachment, accept love, and begin to learn. samm in canada

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson