Yesterday I went to see the therapist at our local International Adoption Clinic. I have spoken with her over the phone about some concerns I have had, and I decided it might be good if I could go speak with her in person for some advice.
Basically, I have had a nagging feeling that there was something “not right” going on with Matthew. You see, during the adjustment period, it is impossible to tell what your child is really like. They are going through all sorts of changes and emotions and it takes a really long time before their true personality comes through.
In the past few months, I feel like I am finally able to begin sorting through the layers of my child. For instance, last night, we were playing outside and he got mad about something. He screamed right in my face—NO! That was PURE three year old right there. It didn’t confuse me or anger me (truth be told, I almost laughed out loud). I was actually relieved to see this angry outburst in a totally justified (justified in that a 3-year old is ticked off because he’s not getting his way) situation.
So the first layer is: regular 3-year old kid who is testing his boundaries.
Then it gets a little harder. Matthew is stubborn. This is no secret. He was stubborn in Korea. I am pretty sure he is about 10 times more stubborn in America. So there’s that.
The second layer is: kid who just happened to be born stubborn. Kid who is never going to be described as easy-going.
Then comes the control. I believe his history is the biggest contributor to his feeling the need to control every aspect of his environment. And while it is difficult to deal with, I can completely understand his feelings.
The third layer is: control issues.
So I made a list of concerns/situations that I wanted to discuss with the therapist. For the most part, she was totally unsurprised by any of it. She has 2 daughters adopted from China herself, so she is personally no stranger to the issues we are dealing with. As we go through the list, she tells me “normal, totally normal, for OUR kids”. Meaning, yes, these kids will struggle with control. A lot. Meaning, yes, it is extremely common and expected that Matthew freaks out about new shoes, new clothes. She also gives me ideas of how to approach these situations.
And I knew or suspected that most of this was “normal”.
Then she asked me about his language. I explained that it was getting better, that he would have days where he would say sentences–real sentences with verbs and prepositions. Days of clarity. I told her that his language seemed to hinge on his mood that day. Because then there are times….days, sometimes, where he is out of it. He is angry, he is not there–that is the best way I can describe it. To use a train metaphor that Isaac says a lot–he is “off the line”. Those days he barely speaks. When he does, it is to tell me No, I don’t want to. He asks for things that don’t make sense. Yesterday he got up from his nap and cried because he wanted a paint brush.
Her eyes narrowed. She flipped through his chart and then said the words that I have actually been dying for someone to say to me for so long.
That’s not normal. Not even for “our kids”.
I told her my theory that he could be having low grade seizures. Considering his neurological condition, she thinks that this definitely is playing into the situation. She immediately pulled an MD in the room with us and we decided that he should have a 24-hour EEG to monitor for seizure activity.
Because the thing is, as we considered the behavior he displays sometimes, you could consider autism or many other different diagnoses. But autistic kids aren’t autistic SOME of the time. While they might have good days, they don’t have completely symptom-free days and then plunge headfirst into terrible days.
I feel relieved, honestly. I don’t want him to be having seizure activity. I don’t want him to have any neurological issues. But he does and now that I have been working on peeling back his layers, I have to admit, I think the neurological stuff is impacting him–of course it is.
I don’t know what the test will show. I don’t even know when the test is going to be. If it shows nothing, I don’t know what the next steps will be. But I know that the doctors there are very willing to help us through those next steps. I just know for sure that it isn’t normal, and I’m relieved.
As we have worked on peeling these layers away, one other thing we have found is the child that Matthew really is….when you take away the stubbornness, the control, the possible seizures. He is a joy. He is funny, clever, smart. He throws his head back and laughs loudly when something is funny. He is gentle, caring. This is the child that I want to know more of, and I will keep peeling until I find him.