Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Aliens of Another Kind

The blog has been quiet, and I have some catching up to do!  We have been busy doing early holiday activities, decorating trees with friends, attending concerts, beginning a new school semester, and just dealing with "stuff".  I will soon hopefully have more time to blog, as I am not a Good Mommy and this is the only place I store our family memories, so I don't want to get out of the habit of recording things here!

Today Kenny went for additional testing with his speech therapist. I wasn't sure what to expect, as the past few days have been really hard for him.  We are still working on some basic processing skills, making some progress but suddenly taking a huge step backward which has been discouraging for both of us. For example, I have posted about times in the past when his brain simply will not function right, no matter how much he focuses.  I shared about the card game we are playing, removing face cards and having him identify color, suit, or number.  He was down to 36 seconds with one or two attributes, and we were beginning to work on 3 attributes in 45 seconds.  Suddenly, he came to a complete "brain hiccup" yesterday, and couldn't even name just the number in under 120 seconds.  It was like starting all over again, and he and I both heaved huge sighs of despair.

His testing today was to discern if there are language processing issues alongside his auditory processing issues.  No surprises there, of course there are.  It explains a lot, and I feel we are gaining some very valuable insights with this new speech therapist, but it feels as if yet another huge boulder has been heaped on top of us every time something new is discovered that is wrong.  So Kenny not only has a brain that doesn't process the sounds he hears or discerns them well at all (Auditory processing disorder), his brain also cannot  work with the language that he already has properly (Langauge processing disorder).  It explains why he has such a terrible time with word retrieval, even though he absolutely knows the word he wants to use and can describe it in detail, but still can't pull up the word.  Organizationally, he has huge problems that are becoming clearer as well.  Even his therapist who understands all this was surprised when she gave him a card with 15 photos presented in rows, and she asked him to name them. Instead of starting at the top and going left to right as most of us would do, he randomly named them from all over the page.  She looked up at me and just said, "Weird."

We started Kenny on a program that we are desperately hoping provides him with help in the areas he needs.  Many adoptive parents may be familiar with it, "Fast ForWord" offered by http://www.gemmlearning.com/ .  It targets many of the issues that Kenny has, and we can see even in the first two weeks where his biggest weaknesses are, and where he is not struggling as much.  Even after two full weeks he is only able to achieve 3% in one area and 9% in another, while some he is even at 30% or so.  This program self-corrects and readjusts to allow the learner to eventually overcome their deficits...or so they claim.  We can tell immediately that it is definitely hitting Kenny's areas of greatest challenge. Whether we will see long term results or not will not be known for a long time, but I'll share here as we go along in case someone else needs to know if the program is effective.

I was reminded once again, just when I needed it, that this is not a sprint, but instead is a marathon.  I was reading an article this afternoon in the Christian Science Monitor, "Only in America". http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/The-Home-Forum/2012/1128/Only-in-America  It is about a Russian adoptee, Alyosha, who was adopted at around age 7 and who as a young adult would finally find his way, having made it through training for the Coast Guard.  However, a paragraph struck me as describing exactly the way I feel sometimes, not just about Kenny but about all our kids. I quote below:

One of the lessons I learned in raising my son was never to compare him with other kids, especially his high-achieving cohorts. As I sat in the stands with other parents, watching our kids play basketball, soccer, or baseball, the conversation was often about the colleges these kids had settled upon, their desire to be engineers or architects. In some cases the parents had groomed the kids for success. One couple even announced their intent to buy Junior a house, so that he wouldn't have to worry about a mortgage.
Sitting among them, I felt like an alien. And I continued to watch Alyosha, my boy who would soon be zigzagging his way through life, happy for the successes of his friends, content to be in his own skin.
There are times when I admit it is hard not to feel like an alien, and not just Dominick and I but the kids as well.  There are times when we get questioned about what grade someone is in and you can see someone quickly doing the math in their head as they look quizzically at us, or when Kenny is asked a perfectly simple question at the dentist's office and he can't give them his phone number...or his address.  We feel like aliens when out in public being stared at as people try to figure out how we all fit together, or when someone looks at Matt's writing knowing he presents as an intelligent young man and being unable to put that presentation together with the printed word he shared.  
There is something definitely alien-like in having the kinds of conversations we have on a regular basis, such as having your 14 year old son ask you, "Mom, do you think I'll ever really be able to make it on my own someday? Do you think my brain will get good enough for me to have a wife and kids and keep a job?" and you don't know how to truthfully answer that.  Or conversations about suicides of orphanage mates, sexual abuses that were halted by your stepping into the bathroom at just the right time, or questions about whether alcoholic and drug addicted parents really cared...and if they did why hadn't they stopped their dangerous behaviors.  
Adding to our alien status is Josh, who insists on carrying blankie with him everywhere right now, shoved in a jacket sleeve at the Christmas parade, slung around his neck like a scarf during school hours, and once last week forgotten in the back seat of the car because it HAD to go to the grocery store with us and it left him dissolved in tears when he couldn't find it.  Now we have added a little OCD returning, as he has suddenly reverted back to an old behavior of hand washing, but this time with a twist.  Now we have decided we want to use hand sanitizer all day long if we can't wash.  It is so bad that he has even asked that he get a large jug of it for Christmas.  
Aliens, I tell you, aliens.
But just as with Alyosha's story, we continue to hold out great hope that one day, every single one of our kids will find their way.  We were never in it for "bragging rights", we will help them achieve whatever is possible, and whatever serves to fill their souls.  And maybe, as Alyosha's dad found, one day after all the zigzagging through life, they will each find their special place and feel confident and successful.  It might take longer than others, but I have to believe it will happen.  Days like today are hard, when Son #1 has to rewrite a paragraph three times just to get punctuation correct, when Son #2 can't find the word "ten" when he wants it, and Son #3 asks again for the hand sanitizer, and I need stories like Alyosha's to keep me on the race track, head up and my eyes only on our own timer, not anyone else's.  This week, at least I take heart that the girls are on the track and moving forward at a fair clip :-)  It'll be their turn next week, I suppose.  
One day, though, we will be looking back and instead of Aloysha's story of finding his way, we will be writing about Angela's, Olesya's, Kenny's, Matthew's and Joshua's successes.  They are there even now, they just don't look like success in the traditional sense.  Olesya came to me today with her eyes aglow as she told me how she had a very hard time with her math lesson, but listened to the lecture again and suddenly she totally got it!  It doesn't matter that she is 13 and it is 4th grade math, as long as she gets it and keeps on working at it.  I need to remind myself of that over and over again.  
Angela struggled through a spelling test today, and when I asked her what the words mean after she spelled them all correctly, she blushed and could only correctly remember definitions for 4 or 5.  We looked them all over, talked about them, and came to the conclusion that we will go back over her entire year's spelling words and look for words she hasn't been able to hang on to, then find fun and creative ways to remember their meanings.  Without a second thought or a groan of dismay, she looked at me and said, "Mom, I think that will be a good idea.  It's no good if I can spell them all right but can't remember what they mean.  I think we should go back and work on words from my other book, too."  And I was once again reminded that work ethic counts for a lot.
Maybe we are green aliens with big heads and one center eyeball.  Maybe there are antennae growing from our foreheads.  We are hard working aliens, and maybe the zigzagging is completely necessary for all of us to get wherever God wants us to go.  That includes Dominick and I, for there are times when I realize how our own path has never been a straight line...and what we would have missed had it been one.  Even this very moment as I type this, we are zigzagging our own way, trying hard to discern what God wants us to be and do.  Some days it is far clearer than others.  
It's OK though, we have the coolest alien family to explore it all with!


Kelly Raftery said...

How boring straight lines are! Why aspire to modeling your life walking and running to the end of one?

Zigzags mean that life is about the journey, the process...there is no one path to follow, but many...and the journey is the point, not the destination.



Anonymous said...

Every LaJoy is a SUCCESS in such a huge way that each of us should aspire to your success. Imagine a world full of the success each of you models. We, the other folk, need to redefine success.

As for being aliens, you and the kids need to get on You Tube and find a recording of "Flying Purple People Eater"--might be a cousin of yours.

Love you,

Anonymous said...

funny, my facebook icon is an alien, for good reasons. Is there a reason why the cost of that reading software is secret? I went to the website and you have to contact them to find out how much it costs.

Eliza J

Anonymous said...

As I read your post, I thought about the thousands of cultures around the world, and the many ways human beings define success. In some countries, owning one goat might mean a family is totally successful. I know, that's a random thought, but you know what I mean. In our culture, success is often defined in financial or materialistic terms or in physical appearances or accomplishments. In the end, it truly is about the journey. Are we honoring our Creator by how we live? Are we obeying God by loving others and sharing His Truth with them?

I know, it can be discouraging. Our two youngest daughters are "behind" in academics and in some social matters. I question if they will be able to follow the track our other kids have (or plan yet to) after high school. How much do we adjust our expectations, at least for now, or how much does encouraging them that they can accomplish these same things encourage them to keep striving for thatsuch a goal. I know we aren't facing the learning issues your family does (ours are only still striving to catch up with the langage required in higher academics), but I do identify with the concerns and fears and questions about how to help them arrive at success. I often wonder about what their own success will look like.

One of the biggest problems in all of this comes from comparing. As hard as we try to avoid it, it's a challenge, as we rub shoulders with those whose kids reach milestones before our own. I learned the importance of this with our first and oldest biological child. She was slower at learning to walk (15mo), ride a bike, jump rope, do well in academics. Didn't help that my friends all had "gifted" kids who could do all of those things at early ages (walking at 9mo, reading at 4yrs, etc). But this daughter has a msters in school counseling and works as a middle school guidance counselor in a school with a high percentage of minority students (ten or more languages spoken in her school). We are most proud of her heart for people, always thinking of how to help and encourage others. In her case, the higher degree only meant that she could do what she'd always done and get paid a higher wage for it...listening to and caring for others.

I'm not saying every child will achieve eventual higher degrees. Four of our kids will be fortunate if they can get a degree, and some of those may need to go a different route than our family's traditional state university. Though I know your kids have even more challenges with learning disablities, it's still a big adjusted for me to learn to accept. It's not about pride in saying they have a degree, but in the hopes they can get more than a high school education...especially as some of them haven't learned all that much there! But I belive if any of our kids can learn how to learn, how to advocate for themselves, and how to communicate with people at whatever level that might be, they can have "success" in life. Ultimately though, we believe their relationship with God through Christ is what God really cares about.

I pray you can be encouraged, as you strive to help each of your kids reach their full potential. One of our favorite verses is
Jer. 29:11-13. God truly does know the plans He has for each person He has created. Every person has a God given purpose in life, even down to the most severly mentally disabled individuals. They often teach the world more than the most successful, intelligent people in the world ever could.

Your family has been handed a full plate of challenges. You are already successful, becaue you are a family who knows how to love and serve others! Keep enjoying each moment, as your family lives and learns and laughs together, Cindy.

Sorry...another long and rambling comment from the Midwest.


karen said...

Nancy said it very well.
Some days you might just do no "work" and in wonder and awe realize the huge gift you have already given your kids...a family who shares God's love with each other and others. That is enough! Really! Anything above that is a bonus. You may have your children with you for a lifetime...I had a dear friend who just died who was 90, her developmentally delayed son is 65. Her goal was to stay strong and live as long as she could to make sure she was there for him. She accomplished this goal very well. He could probably have done more for himself than he did in his life, but that wasn't the way it was done in the 40's and 50's. He worked at a local "sheltered workshop", made friends, the staff loved him. He has significant relationships with al of the members of my family. My teen aged kids have learned much from interacting with him. He is a gift to us!
It is unfortunate that those you rub shoulders with haven't "gotten it" yet in relation to your family. Try to cast off their judgements and realize that your sensitive, intuitive, exceptional children are many steps ahead of the other kids in ways that really count in God's kingdom...compassion, love, questioning minds, they understand the concept of "family" more than most children ever will!!
From what I have been reading here over the past years...you are spot on with what you are doing for your children, helping them navigate real life...sometimes the nitty-gritty of school work is really not the most important thing. God has a plan for them, it is a perfect one, maybe striving to fit square pegs in the round holes that society seems to demand is not the right answer for your kids. And that is ok!!!
Also, I felt bad that Kenny had to hear his therapist comment that his approach to looking and identifying rows of pictures was "Wierd"...how about innovative! Maybe how it is typically done is boring!
You have been given a gift in these children and in your ability to have deep and meaningful conversations with them. I envy your abilty to connect on that deep level with each of them. You are honoring God!