I felt it in my gut - something was not right. I adopted this child at the tender development age of 7. And while he was bright and funny and adorably sweet, he was also so angry and very volatile. I could go through a laundry list of the behaviors that were “off.”
When we adopted him, our family accepted the rationalization that the social worker gave. It made sense. After all, he was just adjusting to life without his biological parents. Of course. And there was so much trauma in his background. Who wouldn’t be angry?
Still, we had to do something to help this child. I had adopted him and his sisters. Within a month of placement, I had them in therapy with a PlayTherapyÒ therapist. Her assessment was “his nervous system just needs time to sort itself out.” We accepted that, and the encouragement to keep on loving him and setting and holding limits and boundaries
Well, I did that. I did more! New therapists, different therapies. I did regressive therapy with him during which I gave him a baby bottle while rocking him and looking into his beautiful green eyes, telling him I loved him, and that he was safe with me. I did horse therapy with him. All of these modalities were great and had their place. But I kept asking, “Do you think we need to see a psychiatrist?” And hearing, “No, he is just testing you. Keep your limits, stay consistent, keep expectations. He will be fine.”
Nobody but me seemed bothered by the pictures he drew of our family van crashing. Or of the tombstones with our names on them. His teacher never even commented on the picture of the devil that he brought home. He said it was him. His behaviors continued to escalate, affecting our entire family.
I started pressing our family doctor to recommend a pediatric psychiatrist!
At that time, finding a provider that was on our insurance proved to be a nightmare. We soldiered on. It took his acting out to the point of running away and getting into trouble before we were taken seriously. He was admitted to a hospital and finally diagnosed at 14 years old! After 7 years of us saying, “Hey, help!” And his diagnoses were complex.
I’d love to say that they gave him a magic pill. That we went on our merry way with our son who was cured of all ills. Unfortunately, that’s not how it went. Had we started him on meds with an accurate-as-possible diagnosis from a younger age, I think we would have had a better chance for a positive outcome. I remember how I felt so alone on the computer at night, searching for what I could do to help him. If I had it to do again, I would have kept up until he saw a doctor at a much younger age.
We know our children, right? We are their best advocates! Listen to your gut. It’s usually right. If you suspect something is different about your child, this information will be helpful.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.