Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Memory and Words: RAD vs. FASD

I have always been fascinated with Memory. As a young child I recall telling myself that when I grew up I would not forget what if felt like to be a little kid! The first time I recall marking a memory to keep forever I had to still be in diapers because the memory I wanted to keep telling all the grown-ups about was that it wasn't nice to knock me down when I was trying to walk around the table. My feeling was that the crossed legs of the people sitting on the sofa purposely "Smerfed" me.

Several years ago I learned that a child isn't able to Keep a memory unless the child has connected that memory to a word or to language. Reviewing my own record of memories and going back to my earliest I recognize that is a true fact. As a toddler back in the day of cloth diapers and rubber pants the sound I made when I fell learning to walk was the air rushing out of the rubber pants--and it sounded like "Smurfed" to me.

Over the years I have watched how important Language is for memory and by my own non-scientific study of four children I personally confirm that language and words are vital for a child to retain a memory. My approach with anything that my children have needed to keep in their memory has always been to help my child first connect to words or language what memory they need to keep. With my older children learning the spelling word, or remembering their US History dates were always a slight bit easier since I would coach them and find ways for them to connect the information they needed to retain to words or groups of words they knew.

There is no way to prove that my casual efforts really have made any difference in my older children's ability to retain or remember important information especially the information that wasn't part of their life experience. But I can say they always did very well on academic work where we approached study by connecting things to word or language.

It has been a remarkable experience parenting at least one and it appears perhaps two children who have suffered neurological damage as the result of prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. Memory has been one of the major disabilities Makala has faced. Interestingly enough so to has language, speech and vocabulary.

Most of the issues a child with FASD and Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disabilities ARND resulting in behavior issues seems to revolve around short term memory and the ability to recall the next step--or what has just been asked of the child.

For example, I might ask Makala to go to her room, get her jacket and shoes and come to the car.

Depending on several factors her ability to retain and recall my instructions can vary widely. If she is well rested and in good spirits she might be able to do exactly what I asked without a glitch or problem at any point along the way. However, if she has had a difficult time that day, is tired or we have just been dealing with some kind of conflict she may get to her room and Not be able to recall what I had just asked her to do. She may stand there and try to think or she may even get to her room and start playing with something...not recalling at all that mom is waiting for her so we can go.

Other times she may need to go to her room and get her shoes...bring them downstairs and then turn around and go back to get her jacket and bring it downstairs. At that point she may or may not remember what she was supposed to do with them... ?

It can be completely frustrating for parents, teachers, peers or anyone attempting to communicate with a child who has this glitch in the short term memory and processing.

The lack of consistency can also add a great deal of confusion to the overall situation especially when Mom is standing there thinking that Yesterday, she minded me right off the first time I asked and today she acts like she didn't even hear me!
Or worse--today she is being a naughty child and won't mind me...after all we just had a huge argument about not using the phone to call a friend the 12th time today. She is really trying to irritate me Now!

It is very easy for people with the ability to always process and recall short term memory to view the behaviors of someone like Makala as completely defiant and as a "Behavior" problem instead of a neurological disability caused by permanent brain damage.

Parents may respond with the old, "I told you to get your shoes and jacket! What are you doing standing her turning on your radio and acting like I didn't tell you to get your things so we could go to the store!"

At that point a child like Makala might look up and say, "We are going to the store?" Oh, now I remember to get my shoes and coat... I didn't know we were going to the store, why didn't you tell me that!"

And a Mother might respond back with an answer like, "I told you to get you shoes and jacket and get in the car......" and in my case I might actually realize that I had said to get in the car--but, what my child needed in order to Recall the instructions I just gave was the information about going to the Store... Getting in the car wasn't enough to mark her memory to get her shoes and jacket.

Before I learned about some of the ways Makala has been harmed by prenatal alcohol the whole scenario may (did) go much differently. There were times where I would find myself so irritated at her apparent lack of minding me. There were times I would find myself yelling the old 1--2--3! and expected her to jump up and do what I had told her "Fast and Snappy." Especially, when my mindset and her diagnosis was all about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and my perception of the situation was that she was simply Not Minding me...so she needed a consequence...

I may have taken the time to give her a "Time Out" for not minding me when I told her to do something... All along she may have been doing her very best that day and there is Mom screaming--I told you to do something and you went up and turned on your radio... Clearly you are not minding so sit there until you plan to obey me!

When I am acting as the mother of the RAD child firm and consistant and expecting the Fast and Snappy obedience to my request the behavior I see is all Radish. After all the behaviors I see are completely consistant with the nasty little things everyone with a RAD child thinks are to be expected. Being a RAD parent we all know the whole goal is to show us anyway they possible can to defy us, and need to be even more controlled by us. If the RAD was healing the child would get the dang shoes and jacket the first time I told her too... Clearly this will be one of those RAD days (I might think to myself). So as, I give a consequence to the RAD child and watch the rage, argument or denial of not minding... I see a RAD child being RAD.

But, the fact is my child is more then a RAD child. She also has brain damage. Her short term memory tested Zero at school--she has difficulty processing. While developing in her mothers womb she was exposed to alcohol and drugs.

My child with brain damage may go to her room and not remember anything I had just said. She may find herself in her room and might have thought she went there to play her radio. Or maybe when she knew we were getting in the car she thought she might want to grab her CD and Player too. She might have thought about the CD as her own choice, and by the time she was in her room the little things mom had just said were GONE!

The only thing that stuck was Music and that she wanted to get or hear it for some reason.

The RAD mom thinks, oh great I have to take some time and make sure she knows who is in charge around here. I just wish she would stop trying so hard to control everything. I call her down and drill her as to why on earth didn't she bring the shoes and jacket I told her to get and why was she up in her room listening to the radio while I was waiting for her to get in the car. Now you will not be getting a treat at the store--or you need to take a time out--or whatever other RAD mom trick I have been trying that week...

The Secondary Behavior Issues of children with Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder only happen when the child isn't understood. The behavioral issues are in large part caused and do to the lack of understanding people around them have for the fact they Just Don't REMEMBER and especially what you just said!

Here is mom--all RAD Educated and Ready to pounce on the moment as a good RAD Mom should--not understanding that it was NOT RAD it was the fact my child just didn't have a good working memory that moment... Things can turn into this war of the will. Mom is trying everything to beat down the Attachment barriers with this child. Using RAD Mom tips...

The child is in trouble and has received a consequence for something--They might not even remember until Mom reminds them again. The RAD mom says, "I told you to do something and you didn't obey!" The child still doesn't remember what... Won't answer to mom for what they don't remember--can't pull it out of their mind and answer Why they were listening to the radio!?! Which really irritates the RAD mom who sees this as those games RAD kids always want to play just to drive mom crazy! And it all goes from their whatever the RAD Memory of that moment will become.

However, as the ARND mom it is a completely different life. The FASD or ARND mom sends her daughter to her room for shoes and jacket... and notices the radio is on...
Thinking about what the day has been like and how much brain activity or lack of activity the child has had that day, or about how the day has been overall. The ARND Mom realizes that there was a Memory Blip!

The ARND mother isn't all bent out of shape believing this child is intentionally trying to make her angry but instead the ARND mom simply says, "Makala, honey we need to get to the store will you please get your shoes and coat and come to the car!"

The child upstairs suddenly thinks--"Oh, yeah I was supposed to be getting my shoes and jacket and wanted to get my CD Player too! Silly me I got sidetracked again!"

She grabs the shoes, jacket and the last thing she remembered she wanted and skips downstairs with a smile on her face to a mother who finds herself delightfully relieved that the day of the RAD mom and Rages has given way to the day of:

"It never hurts a mom to say something twice and give her child room to grow."

When Makala comes down the stairs the ARND mommy just says, "Oh, you got sidetracked because you wanted your CD player Next time you will do a better job remembering what mom wanted you to do--and be able to think about what you wanted at the same time." Let go!

Life has changed since I have learned what the difference is between being a RAD mother and the mother of a child who is doing her very best. Life has changed for everyone in our home. And interestingly Attachment has become much less of an issue and much more of a real thing. The simple fact that my child has a mother willing to not see everything as only one thing has changed her life completely. Now that I am the mom who is showing her that I understand her REAL difficulty--and will do what I can to help her manage her life with brain damage she is attached to me.

She never would have learned to trust ME had I not learned to understand that she was far more then a child with justified reason to need proof that I was someone she could trust to attach with. The proof she needed was really as simple as learning to understand her and finding the ways to recognize what or where she was having difficulty and helping her in a loving way.

I changed how I view everything just about a year and a half ago. Rather then seeing life through the RAD glasses I have been seeing it through the fact that there is much more involved then just her attachment issues. Once I learned that my child lives with real, life long and unrepairable brain damage I have learned to find the ways to spot her blips and glitches and help her overcome them. Of course Attachment isn't an issue any longer my little girl has someone on her side now why wouldn't she attach to someone willing to spend the time and energy to learn about the issues she faces--and develop the attitude and patience of someone willing to Love her Anyway!

We have not had a single REAL RAD RAGE in our home since Mom has found the Real Button to push. She no longer needs to RAGE because there actually is someone who is willing to understand where all that rage came from. It would piss me off too if I just couldn't remember something and a nasty angry B-word decided to treat me like a criminal for something I could help and wish I understood was even happening. The last thing anyone wants to love is a hostile and controlling person who looks for anyway to teach a child life is all about Fast and Snappy and proving attachment to a mean person who didn't care enough to even understand me.

Why would anyone attach to someone who was always waiting for them to prove they had Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Yes RAD is real. Yes, Makala has Reactive Attachment Disorder and you better believe that she meets nearly every symptom she is old enough to be measured. No doubt about the fact she has attachment difficulties who wouldn't under her situation? RAD is a hard job for a mother or caregiver and children with RAD need to have clear and concrete boundaries... all the RAD blah blah blah stuff is pretty accurate in most cases.

The problem is that so many people seem to think that the RAD is what is most important to help or force a child to overcome. There are even Attachment Therapies that suggest that unless the RAD is healed no other problem will be able to be addressed so all attention must be made on hyper-control RAD parenting.

I would run from this thinking or this kind of attachment therapy. Wait I did run from it that is what this Blog and the Adoptive Parents Network is and has always been about!

Makala is not just a child with RAD. She is a person a beautiful little girl who had a very horrible start in her life. She is a little girl who has walked around confused on most days of her young life. She is talented in so many ways--she is a Bright Person who longs to connect with other people and doesn't know how. She has every right to have Reactive Attachment Disorder in fact, I would think something horrible would be wrong if a person in her shoes didn't have RAD.

But, under is all is Beautiful Makala the light of joy. A little girl who is a survivor and I love survivors because they are the kind of spirit I am. She doesn't need to prove to me that she is attached to me. All I need to do is prove to her that I am attached to her, will take time to understand and will always look for the good she is under all the hurdles her daily life put in her way.

It is so funny how RAD goes away when a mother sees more then Just A Child.

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