Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Adopting Older Kids: Our experience Pt 2

Several weeks ago I started a series I never came back to. I am QUEEN of unfinished projects! It is for this reason Dean is amazed we've ever completed an adoption because there is a lot to get done. I say it's because I work better under pressure. LOL

Anyway, if you're new here, here's a link to my first post "Adopting Older Kids: Our Experience Pt 1".

So what about Asher's adoption? He had just turned 7 when I showed up in his world, what was he like?  You can read about one of my first days with Asher here. Asher was largely unaware of anything other than spending every waking moment of his day stimming with whatever object he could find. Where Axel's adoption was hard physical work, Asher's was mentally exhausting. With Axel I just had to have good reflexes and the patience of a saint. (and I am no saint!) With Asher I had to be constantly mindful of his fear, constantly mindful of what triggered those fears. Oh...and I had to learn what his fears were, because clearly "fear" is what much of Asher's life was based upon.

Asher was the easiest child EVER. How could a kid straight out of the institution be SO easy? Surely he was going to explode before me any minute.

I kept waiting.

It didn't happen.

It all went back to that fear. Asher was scared to death to do...anything! He wouldn't walk without holding my hand. When I let go he stopped there and just froze in place like a statue. When I first met him and told Dean how developmentally little he was, I told him to quick childproof the house because Asher was basically a 6 month old who could walk. I need not have worried, because Asher was too afraid to touch anything. We had to put a toy in his hand and then he was too afraid to put it down. Everything. He was so afraid of everything.  Working through some of that fear really was exhausting. Sometimes I felt like screaming "Just go PLAY already! Pick up a toy and PLAY!"

It has never happened. Asher will pick up toys, but it's rare that he plays with them. Not appropriately, anyway. He is not interested. Asher wants to MOVE now. Like the 2 year old he is now developmentally, Asher is all about running, and climbing, and jumping, and crawling in and crawling under and through. Asher is on the move!!! He is making up for 6 1/2 years he spent in a crib. He has "under" days where he spends every waking moment trying to get under every chair, every table or other small nooks and crannies, even if only his head will fit inside. Other days he spends the whole day trying to be as high up in the air as possible. Climbing the step stool and standing at the top (no hands mom!) Climbing up the bunk beds, climbing up the back of the couch, just anywhere he can climb up and be high. There are "in days" when he spends the day hiding in tiny dark places: in closets, behind doors, in dark bathrooms. The "throwing" days are those where he is constantly throwing his entire body onto furniture or other people.  Each of these different sensory needs are Asher trying to get input into all the areas he missed as an infant/toddler. He's trying to self-regulate his body.

What does this mean for us, as parents? It means on the days when Asher spends crawling around dragging his head on the floor, we need to find a way for him to get the input he needs in a bit more appropriate manner. It means we need to be ready with lightning fast Jedi moves to deflect him throwing himself into us or other kids. It means we need to be aware that on certain days we cannot expect certain things from him because he's just not able on those days. The sensory need of the day is what rules Asher's world and we need to be prepared for all of them.

Teaching Asher has also been difficult. I want him to learn new skills as quickly as Axel did. But he won't. Asher and Axel are two different children. Asher has absolutely no interest in learning things like ABC's, colors or even matching colors. No, Asher's mission in life is to move. Period. As soon as learning materials come out, he completely shuts down. I have to remind myself he is "two", and eventually when he hits "three" our "four", he'll be ready for other things, and since he's 8 years old now, we might be waiting a long time.

If you have adopted an older child, what were some of the things you found difficult? Lets use this as a discussion for those who will come behind us. If you're reading from Facebook, please comment here on the blog so everyone can participate.


  1. Have you considered ways to incorporate cognitive content into gross motor activities (e.g. numbers with hopscotch, patterns by building with mega blocks, colors by playing catch with colorful balloons or scarves, etc)?

  2. Oh yes, we do this all the time. I should make a video of his reaction. LOL

  3. One of our biggest challenges of adopting an older child was her sense of her age and abilities vs. our sense of her age and responsibilities. For example, in Ethiopia, she was the care giver for her family. She cooked, cleaned, watched the younger kids all on her own. Here, we wouldn't let her stay home alone. It drove her crazy. But she had no idea what to do in case of an emergency...she couldn't read English so she couldn't read bottle labels or cooking instructions, etc, she didn't know our address or phone number to call 911 if needed, the list goes on and on.

    Another issue was what the trauma did to her maturity/emotional state. One minute shed be a mature 14 year old. Then without warning something would trigger the trauma and she'd have the mental maturity of a 5 year old. And it would go back and forth