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Like Driving into a Brick Wall May 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 11:43 AM
I don’t really know how to begin this other than to say I am so frustrated. Matthew has been home for 6 months today, and if I am being honest, I will say that our communication is just as frustrating as it was when he had only been home one month. On the one hand, his vocabulary is quite extensive. He can name for you almost any object around the house, and as I’ve said before, shapes, numbers, some letters, a ridiculous amount of Thomas trivia. On the other hand, he spends about 90% of his day whining, mumbling, and requesting things in an incoherent manner.
Here is a good example. He loves to watch the birthday video that his foster family made for him. So if I have my computer out, he will repeatedly start banging his body against me, while making noises. Noises that have no meaning but you can tell that he means the noises to be endearing. And because this is how our entire day goes and has gone for the past 6 months, I feel annoyed. Not endeared….if that is even a word. So I ask him what he wants. He mumbles, “klsndogioankldngocake”. Notice that he throws cake in there at the end. I say it again, “what do you want?”. To which he responds, “lkkdnsoighoidjbnkcmvibirthday”. Do you want to watch your birthday movie? BIRTHDAY MOVIE!! BIRTHDAY MOVIE!!

I realize that to some people it may seem that he doesn’t know how to tell me what he wants or maybe that he forgets the words and needs to be reminded but that isn’t the case at all. When he wants to, he becomes very animated and can express a lot. For instance one day, he let go of his balloon outside of the grocery store and it was windy and it blew away. For days he would go on and on, saying, “man-oo (his word for balloon) lkdsjlkgjsalgjlkahgahg FLOATED AWAY!!!!!”. Yes, there is mumbling but it is more there because he has a lot he wants to express and is so very excited to be telling you something.

I know, I know, the differences seem subtle, but it is also his attitude when he does this. He also tends to be much more verbal and clear when others are around. People say all the time that they can’t believe how much he knows or how well he is doing and yet when we are at home, I feel that he is choosing NOT to communicate in a clear way.

Then there are times when he bursts out with complete sentences, which leave Jason and I staring in disbelief. The night we spent in the ER, we asked him where Isaac was, just making conversation, and he replies, “Isaac in his bed, sleeping, with a nightlight.” HUH??? Did you seriously just say that? Clear as day? And a few weeks ago, I took him to a little drop-in childcare place at a local church. I told him it was school because he is always begging to go to school. That night when I was telling Jason about it, Matthew interrupted us to say, “Today was Matthew’s turn to go to school.” To which I again say, “SERIOUSLY??????”.

You also have to understand that those 2 sentences are the most he has EVER said at any time in the entire 6 months he has been home. EVER. That is why I remember them verbatim. Six months is a LONG time to live with someone who does not communicate with you. Obviously when you have a baby it is different, but when you are dealing with a child who can’t or won’t it is a world of difference.

I completely see that whether he “can’t” or “won’t” is still up for debate. Both have a strong case going for them. I don’t know if it is because he lacks the ability to communicate or is refusing to communicate. I only know that he doesn’t.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I feel so very manipulated by him right now, which makes me angry first, and then makes me feel so petty. I know that kids have so little control over their own lives, so that is why potty training is hard, picky eaters are hard. They can’t control much, but they can control when and where they go potty and what they eat. I never thought about communication as a way to control until recently, because that is what I think he is doing. I don’t fault him for looking for ways to maintain some sort of control after his life went topsy-turvy 6 months ago, but I just want to scream, “yes, you are making this really hard for me (congratulations!!), but don’t you see that you are making it so hard for yourself too??”.

Then I wonder, could it be medical? Could there actually be something that is caused by the clefts in his brain to make him unable to communicate at some times and able at other times?

And then I internally berate myself because I am 32, and he is 3.

But I am human, and the way I feel is the way I feel.

The truth is that I feel like our bonding and attachment has hit a standstill right now, and I hate that. I hate it. I want to “be there” with him, and I’m just not. And it’s not even that I’m not there, it is that some days I honestly feel like I’m losing ground. I did not want to be feeling like this 6 months in. I did not expect to feel like this 6 months in.

Today we were outside and the boys were riding tricycles and Matthew did something that he chooses to do a lot. He positions the tricycle in front of some sort of a roadblock…..a drainage pipe, large landscaping rocks around the mailbox, or in this case, a brick wall. And over and over, he attempts to drive over it or through it. Sometimes he does this for 20-30 minutes, working quietly. Today he whined and struggled. So I went to him and tried to put him on a clear course. He immediately drug his tricycle back and began banging into the brick wall again and again. Such a metaphor for our relationship right now.


7 Responses to “Like Driving into a Brick Wall”

  1. Wow. I'm so sorry that you're frustrated to this degree right now. And I can't help but wonder if I'll be in your same shoes with our little one in six months. I don't really feel qualified to offer "advice", but the one thing I do when things aren't going right with Olive is I step back and look at MY reaction to her actions. There's usually a reason that she does something; it is paying off in one way or another (whether it's control, attention, etc.) Once I figure out what it is I'm doing to attract the behavior, I try something different. Not sure if that helps AT ALL… I know it's pretty basic, but then again, the simplest things often work the best.The only other thing I thought of while reading this is what our attachment specialist taught us. Basically LOTS of structure and LOTS of love. She taught us to have an extremely rigid, reliable schedule, but to enforce it with as much compassion and love as we could. That took us really far in our progress with Olive. The other thing we found helpful in our therapy was to set aside 10-15 min. daily where we would direct Olive's activities. It's so easy to let the kids play independently b/c then we poor overworked mamas can get some things done. But our therapist encouraged us to sit down with Olive for a small section of time each day and WE directed her play. If she tried to switch tasks, we gently directed her back. This emphasized our authority and also gave us great one-on-one time.Sorry to ramble…I hope things get better for you all!!!

  2. Rachel Says:

    I wish I had some great advice to offer like Elizabeth, but I'm afraid I don't know what to say. I did want to tell you that I appreciate your honesty and I'm sorry this is so frustrating right now. I can understand your emotions and frustration with this lack of communication. I hope you find yourself moving forward again soon!

  3. Lori Says:

    I, too, am really sorry for all the frustration. We have always known (from an early age) that Jack is a little different from other kids. He has several symptoms on the autism spectrum (but is very verbal so it's not the same issue as yours) and just can't get his body sometimes to feel like it should. I've been told that it's like trying to move an antenna to get a radio station to come in that just won't get just right. His body is like that – he just can't get it to feel just right so he does things that don't make sense (and can be VERY frustrating as a parent!!). Things that my friends' children do without a problem, Jack just can't do. Saying all that, I think it's amazing the progress Matthew has made in just six months – and that Jack communicates with us in a whining way and a other frustrating ways (for NO reason) and he hasn't had the trauma that Matthew has. I know it's difficult b/c I live it in a different situation. Sometimes just asking Jack to come to a different room for something causes a huge meltdown and there's no rhyme or reason to it. We are working with an OT for some of these issues. Anyway, I say all that to say that I know it's frustrating, but I think it's unbelievable with what he's gone through that he is communicating with you at all. Just wanted to give you a perspective from a mother that has been through it with a child who has had no upheaval in his life. It's hard I know but you're such a great, loving mother and I know that Matthew probably does WANT to do better but maybe he just can't get his station quite tuned in yet?? And if you figure out an effective way to deal with the whining, let me know, and I'll try it too!

  4. Margie Says:

    Hard stuff. I completely understand the frustration you are feeling.The linguist in me (not speech therapist or teacher, I'm definitely neither of those) wants to suggest that maybe you could focus less on the language and look for non-verbal ways to communicate right now. Matthew had already begun learning a good bit of Korean, and he may be struggling to differentiate between the two languages now in his life. The rocky moments may be less the result of his choice not to speak English clearly, and more the result of the fact that he's still processing thought in the limited Korean he has retained.Has his hearing been tested? Also, has he had an oral examination to confirm there are no physiological issues? Those would be two other things I would want to rule out.I hope things get on an even keel soon 🙂

  5. Mom to 3 C's Says:

    I don't know what to say other than you are not alone! We are home 11 months and attachment is still an issue. And we don't really have the "communication" issues… dd communicates like a normal 21 mo. I never expected this at all! We just keep giving it time, and overall it is getting better, but hard to see daily progress when you are part of the picture. Please don't be too hard on yourself! You are doing a great job!

  6. Margie Says:

    Back with a link to an article I found that discusses language acquisition in children and might shed some light on what's going on. It gets into a bunch of linguistic theory after the first half, but I think there's some good stuff here. The lines that jumped out at me were these:"Normal children can differ by a year or more in their rate of language development, though the stages they pass through are generally the same regardless of how stretched out or compressed. Adam's language development, for example, was relatively leisurely; many children speak in complex sentences before they turn two."Remember that Matthew is re-learning language, which adds a layer of complexity.Here's the link:http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/harnad/Papers/Py104/pinker.langacq.html

  7. Don't have any advise. Just want to say hang in there. This too shall pass. 🙂

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