By lex, on July 3rd, 2007
The Hobbit, as I may have intimated in these spaces before, works with special needs kids at a local high school. Most of them fall into the category of “severely disabled,” and among their diagnoses are various degrees of Downs Syndrome, Tay-Sachs, muscular dystrophy and severe autism just to name a few – physical disabilities, in other words.
The work she does is physically and emotionally draining, and that’s before she kicks me out of the house. For most people, it would be clear sailing from that point onward, but then she goes to work with young people whose afflictions have sharply curtailed the way they interact with the world, even if it hasn’t emended in the slightest their desire to be a part of all they see. It’s hard. Sometimes she comes home all wrung-out and still there we are, wondering what will be for supper.
Recently she was assigned to work with a young man who has an emotional disability rather than a physical one – reactive attachment disorder, or “RAD.”
The child was a product of criminally neglectful parenting followed by bouncing around in one of those horror show Eastern European orphanages before being adopted and brought home by his American parents. I had always believed in a naive and hopeful way that children raised in terrible circumstances nevertheless had some kind of inner resiliency, a natural tendency to bounce back against even the worst of life’s vicissitudes.
I was wrong. They can’t do it by themselves.
Children who are adopted after the age of six months are at risk for attachment problems. Normal attachment develops during the child’s first two to three years of life. Problems with the mother-child relationship during that time, orphanage experience, or breaks in the consistent caregiver-child relationship interfere with the normal development of a healthy and secure attachment. There are wide ranges of attachment difficulties that result in varying degrees of emotional disturbance in the child. One thing is certain; if an infant’s needs are not met consistently, in a loving, nurturing way, attachment will not occur normally and this underlying problem will manifest itself in a variety of symptoms.
When the first-year-of-life attachment-cycle is undermined and the child’s needs are not met, and normal socializing shame is not resolved, mistrust begins to define the perspective of the child and attachment problems result. In direct consequence, the child may develop mistrust, impeding effective attachment behavior. The developmental stages following these first three years continue to be distorted and/or retarded, and common symptoms emerge.
The kid is also bipolar, as if the foregoing wasn’t enough.
It’s a long and rock-strewn path dealing with a child so deeply damaged just as it’s amazing how much almost irreversible evil can be done to a fragile human psyche in such a short period of time. For those who try to clean it up, to make it better, the hill can seem so high, the destination itself in doubt. Still they soldier on.
There are all kinds of heroes in the world. Police officers and firemen, Navy SEALs, corpsmen and grunt infantry, doctors and nurses – even people in hijacked airplanes who won’t go down quietly. There are also people who adopt kids out of terrible environments and do their very best to bring them into the light. There are people who help them.
Me? I’m no hero, although there were times in my life where I deeply wished to be. It’s OK though, we’ve already got one at home.
Ain’t got room for two.