As I’ve experienced adoption from China myself and through watching others come home with their children, I’ve come to the conclusion that non-special-needs is not an accurate description of the NSN program.
Any infant or toddler who has been institutionalized is going to have some special needs – be they related to attachment, sensory issues, general developmental issues, speech issues, personality disorders, etc. They may be mostly resolved within a year, or they may take lifelong work to deal with: something that can’t be “fixed” or “repaired” but must just be lived with. There are some children who spend their years in China in a good foster care situation who may not have developmental or sensory issues, but foster care is not a guarantee of that.
GlitterGirl had pretty serious anxious attachment issues, and we still deal with it here and there. It is no longer an overriding part of our life, but it’s certainly there, and I can see how it forms her relationships with her classmates as well. I worry about how it will show up when she starts seriously dating, as she’s a very touchy-feely person and that may not be the best thing on a date. She also had what seemed to be to be some major sensory issues, and we worked really hard on those for several years. When I read books I realize she was on the lower end of the scale with sensory issues, but it sure didn’t feel like it at times. I still have to keep the sensory stuff in mind, but once again, it’s no longer an overriding part of our lives, as it once was. Most of her developmental delays were resolved within a year of coming home, but it took a lot longer to deal with the worst of her sensory and attachment issues. I think that’s probably a little better than the norm, as I see a lot of people who spend the first two years dealing with developmental delays as well as attachment and/or sensory stuff.
TwinkleToes has major speech issues, as anyone who has followed the blog in recent months will know. We haven’t had as many attachment issues with her as we did GG, which is not what you’d expect since GG was very (very) young and TT was close to two years old. There is some attachment stuff, but comparatively speaking, it’s not so bad. Her sensory issues are the exact opposite of GG’s. Where GG couldn’t handle much sensory input, TT needs a lot more sensory input than is normal. But, it comes in stages, so we deal with it a lot one month and then it fades into the background for a few months and then comes roaring back with a vengeance, and occasionally she needs less sensory input, it’s not a cut and dried thing. The thing is, if I hadn’t read all of the books I’ve read about sensory issues, I wouldn’t recognize her need for more sensory input. It’s not terribly obvious.
I’ve personally known three people who swore their child had no “special needs”, that their child exhibited no signs of being adopted and they could be parented the same as a bio child. According to them there were no attachment issues, no sensory issues, etc. Nothing to worry about. All of those families now have children in third grade or above, and all of them are now having to deal with the issues they should have dealt with when they first came home with their children. From watching them at FCC gatherings I saw problems with all three kids, and I gently tried to suggest what I saw, or suggest a book on attachment I could let them borrow, but the parents didn’t want to hear it. Their “good baby” who never needed to be held and who preferred to be in her room by herself to sleep at night? It would have been a lot easier to create the attachment needed back then than to go through what they are going through now. One of them has a child who is in a special school, because she was expelled from two private schools and then was expelled from the public school she is zoned for – she’s basically in a school for troublemakers because that is the only school that will accept her at this point – the only school that can deal with her violent outbursts. The other two aren’t as extreme – one was held back and is in third grade for the second year and she’s spending two afternoons a week with a.. I don’t know if she’s a therapist or psychiatrist or psychologist or what, but the child is repeating a grade so she can spend the time needed with specialists to try to work on attachment stuff and sensory stuff and still keep up with her school work (which wasn’t that great either, but without the need for specialists she wouldn’t have been held back).
What I’m trying to say is you can work on it when you first come home, when you can possibly do the majority of it from what you learn in books, without the help of specialists… when the brain is still malleable and can more easily be changed… or you can do it when they are older when it is a whole lot harder, a whole lot more painful, and a whole lot more expensive.
If you’ve been home less than two years and you are convinced your child has no special needs then please step back and look again. Maybe they really don’t. But if you haven’t read up on attachment and sensory stuff then how can you be sure? Some of it isn’t all that obvious, some of it is. If someone at an FCC function tries to gently suggest you read a book on attachment, perhaps you should listen. If someone with a child a few years older than you talks to you about sensory issues, don’t shut them out. Maybe you are right and your child has no special issues that need to be addressed – but please educate yourself so you can truly be sure of that before you skip into elementary and middle school and then discover problems that could have been easily addressed at one and two years of age but that now are not so easy to address.
If you haven’t read any books on attachment or sensory issues, then please consider doing so. I recommend reading them before you travel, but if you’ve already traveled then better late than never, right? You can see some of my recommendations on this page, and the books I’ve reviewed have a link to my review of them.
My point here is not to scare people, it’s to try to educate. Social workers and adoption agencies should be doing this, and with the new Hague training I think it is better than it was… but I still meet people who have no clue. They hear “non special needs” and take it at face value. And that is a mistake.
If you’ve read my blog for long then you know that GlitterGirl is a brilliant, happy, friendly, and beautiful little girl who makes good grades, has a lot of friends, and excels at sports. Labeling your child with attachment and sensory and even developmental issues as a baby and toddler does not have to follow them for the rest of their lives. Not labeling them with issues they have can very well follow them for the rest of their lives, though.