Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shaping a Child's Brain

It has been two months since I wrote last.  My sister didn't end up coming home from Arkansas.  I haven't heard from her in awhile, and I have a gut feeling that things are bad in her life right now.  I hope not.  But all the signs point to it being true.  So the girls didn't see her for Christmas.  They also didn't ask me about it much more than what I blogged back in December.

They had a fantastic Christmas.  Santa brought them both what they wanted.  And then some.  I'm still working on getting them to give up some old toys so that we can make room for the new.

Fast forward to there here and now:

Tuesdays are long days.  We wake up around 5:30a to be at V's Day Therapy School by 7:00a for therapy.  The therapist touches base with us about the previous week, and how we think things went.  She keeps us on path, and writes down our goals for V.  Every couple of weeks, she revisits our goals, and shows how far she has progressed.  She asks us how we handle situations at home, to help us better cope with our little rebel.  She also helps us pinpoint what the "problem" is and what we need to do to help her.

Today was hard.  The therapist came out and asked me if I was certain my sister didn't drink while pregnant with V.  This isn't the first time I have been asked this.  Nearly a year and a half ago, a stranger at work saw my photo of her on my desk, and asked me the same thing.  Other professionals have put it out there.  They all say that she exhibits so many traits.  She doesn't have as many physical markers, but by going by personality markers...  she's a textbook case.

I told the therapist honestly that I had a phone conversation with my sister inquiring honestly if she had consumed alcohol while pregnant with V.  I also told her the outcome, and how very angry my sister got with me for even having asked the question.  I believe she told me she didn't, and was completely ticked off with me for having even questioned it.  What else could I do.  This isn't about me.  It isn't about her.  It is about V. 

M and I asked her what we can do to help her with it IF it is FAS.  She told us to keep doing what we are doing.  To never give up on her.  She explained FAS a little to us in layman's terms, saying that in those situations, the brain cells are actually killed, and there is no getting them back.  My heart broke.  Any parent wants the absolute best for their child.  Being born with necessary brain cells having been killed off decreases any child's chance for the absolute best.  I had a flash of a premonition of years and years of her struggling in school, sports, with friends, and even with loved ones.  This sweet little girl that loves to be snuggled, and will reach to any depth to have 100% of any adult's attention....  could have a life full of misery and anger.  This isn't ever what any parent wants to envision for their child.  Ever. 

The therapist probably saw my eyes welling up with tears.  She quickly jumped to how we can help her.  She said that the good thing about catching it this early, is that her brain isn't fully formed yet.  That we can still shape it to be what it needs to be, to help her be successful in life.  She assured us that with constant praise of the good, and giving consequences for the bad will shape her into the little girl we want her to be.  She told us that we have to have ZERO tolerance for the bad.  No matter how tired we are, we have to just keep showing her no emotion and putting her in the "mini" "chair" or even "time out" if she isn't responding appropriately to our expectations.  She emphasized that once we give the consequence for her actions, and she completes it, that we need to give simple phrases such as "quiet voices", "nice hands", "walking feet", "nice words", etc.  We don't explain to her what she did wrong, we don't argue with her, we don't talk a lot, because we are giving negative attention to her.  This whole exercise is hinged on lavishing positive attention on her whenever she is doing something good and nice.  Which sounds easy, but when you are trying to cook dinner, help the elder child with home work, take the trash out, do the laundry, sweep the floors, sew with a friend one night a week....  it's not always easy to have your brain tuned to "what did V just do that was good that I can praise her for".  But we are always looking for it, and praising the simple things like walking nicely, listening nicely, playing so well with her sister, etc.  

It is like walking a tightrope with the weight of the world on your shoulders.  But I stepped up to this plate.  I said I would help her.  Help her I shall.  She is such a beautiful, talented, empathetic, and funny little girl.  I will do all I can to see she has a good life. 

DQ went to Dance Masters this weekend.  She LOOOOOVED it.  For those of you unfamiliar with Dance Masters, this is when the children get to go to workshops and learn dance from Dance Masters (people who are some of the best and brightest in their field).  It was great fun, and I got to know one of the other dance moms a little better.  Her daughter and DQ seem to really like each other too.  I feel much more comfortable with doing competition knowing that I have befriended someone on the team.  We are talking about rooming together on the weekends that we have to go away for dance and driving up together to split the costs which will help us both!   I am excited.

DQ is also doing very well in school.  I have to brag a bit, she missed four days a few weeks ago due to strep throat.  I received her spelling list on Thursday afternoon.  She showed up at school on Friday (over the fever, but not 100% herself yet) and aced the test.  She's so brilliant.  We had a pirate themed birthday party for her the weekend before last.  She had so many friends and family around to celebrate.  We're truly blessed.

I also wanted to apologize for not writing for so long.  I just didn't have much to say.  Sometimes it is such a struggle with V, that at the end of the day, my energy is spent cleaning house, and going to bed.  I am accepting the fact that it may never be any better, and I have to make the best of what it is.  Whatever the case.  I love both girls, and they are both worth it.

 Aunt TT

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