Saturday, March 15, 2008

Figuring out our Dear Daughter - Part 1

I've been wanting to post about our dd, Reagan, (who just turned five) and the troubles we've had in understanding her. I hadn't wanted to write without knowing what was going on with her, but we've just gotten the results from her psychological evaluation this week so there is much on my mind.

Here is a little bit of her history:
  • Full-term, healthy pregnancy and delivery
  • Happy, healthy, easy baby
  • 9-months - she starts throwing physical tantrums (shocking us since our 1st was compliant)
  • 12-months - learns to walk and talk (earlier than Jefferson did) but we've discovered a VERY strong will
  • By 2 years we have a monster on our hands -we haven't spanked or trained her much due to a subconscious understanding on our part that it will be a difficult task with this one (not that we thought it was ok to wait, we just foolishly allowed her to rule the roost)
  • Read "To Train Up A Child" and began training her and instilling consistant discipline
  • By 3 years, she still ruled the roost and often we thought that she just didn't understand or hear us when we trained and disciplined. Physical tantrums still her normal mode of rebelling. I was often embarrassed by her behavior as I knew it reflected on my parenting.
  • By 4 years, she is still not potty trained and we are at our witts end about it. We're frustrated, she's frustrated. We don't want to go out or leave her in someone's care for fear of the tantrums which involve high-pitched screams, scratching her own skin and pulling her hair. We try ignoring her during these fits. We can't spank her due to our own anger and frustration at her behavior. We can't touch her if she is angry or else she explodes. However, when she repents, her heart truly turns. She loves physical affection. She gets into toothpaste, flour, and starts destroying things. I begin to think that she may be a sensory learning - not audio. We don't get why she doesn't understand our simple instructions. How is it that we aren't getting through to her yet she seems to have the things we say to her memorized? She seem so smart yet so much like a baby in some ways. We put her in 2-day preschool to get a teacher's perspective on her behavior. The teacher loves her (thank God for this woman!) and works with her to help her use words instead of her body to express feelings.
  • This past January, dh and I seek advise from a family counselor on how to improve our parenting since what we are doing is obviously not working or achieving improvement. Reagan's tantrums have become so long and drawn out that they continually interupt Jefferson's lessons, daily life, and also cause Adam to copy the behavior. She throws her entire body on the ground and screams and kicks and rants and raves. She misunderstands us about almost everything and refuses to control herself. Reagan is whiny and fussy and easily upset (however, she is smart and very willing to play happily on her own, interested in learning and reading, can be sweet as cotton candy). I am in the bathroom in tears almost daily with no idea how to be the parent that she needs. Other parents don't understand (especially believers who seem to all act as if they have parenting figured out) - I can't explain her behavior w/o feeling judgement (perceived or real - I admit I don't know) about my parenting.
  • Counselor (January) sees 'red flags' for Asperger Autism behaviors and recommends that we see a psychologist for a full evaluation!! Our jaws drop is shock and I end up in tears at home at this prospect. I know that it's still unknown but this is what really kicks my rear into gear about the truth - God has made her different, unique. People say this, I've know this but here is when I really realize the truth of this fact. I am able from this point on (by God's strength only) to show Reagan much greater patience and kindness and grace. She starts to respond positively almost immediately. We schedule an appt for an eval and watch her behavior like hawks so that we can clearly represent her to the dr. We decide not to discuss the process with anyone since we don't have any info to give. No blogging, or sharing this stress with anyone was quite difficult for me as it lay so heavily on my heart. Amazingly, this is a turning point for our family!
  • February - Food allergies are taken out of her diet. Her skin stops itching and we see marked improvement in her ability to control herself instead of heading straight into rages. She listens better and is getting better at using words to explain her needs/wants/feelings (after much coaching from us and her teacher). We all hug more and practice holding her close to diffuse anger. When she has a major fit (only 2-3x per week instead of per day anymore) she understands the spankings she will receive and her heart turns more quickly to repentance than it used to. She submits more readily and school lessons aren't interupted as often. She is markedly happier and there is more joy in the home. I am not crying so often!

So here we are, feeling thankful to the Lord that He has lead us in so many ways through the process of figuring out who He gave us for a daughter and happy to have something difinitive to help us to develop Reagan into the best that she can be. I will post more specifics on the results of her evaluation and our plan for her education and character growth tomorrow!


Mary@notbefore7 said...

Praise God for His leading and guidance and for you being OPEN to hear what is being said.

What a beautiful thing for your daughter to know - you sought the best for HER according to His leading and in His time!

I can only imagine how tough and emotional this journey has been (and is) for you all.

Praise God for his continually hand in the situation.

Becky @ Boys Rule My Life said...

Amen to what Mary said! I can't imagine the struggle this has been for you.

I relate so easily to you wondering about the judgment of others - whether real or perceived. I'm starting to find that it's the parents with more than 1 or 2 children that realize all children are different and there is no right answer for all.

I'm so glad you at least have a possible answer. I'm sure just having a "name" to give it is at least a little bit of relief so you'll have a direction to go.

I'm also glad to hear that your world and her world are improving! Any improvement is still improvement! Best wishes on it all!

Monica said...

What a journey!! God is clearly leading your family through this. She was given to YOU, entrusted to your care by her Maker to love and nurture. You're doing a beautiful job.

I can't wait to read the rest of the story. Thanks for sharing- such an encouragement to so many who are wondering what to do next with their little ones.

Our second daughter struggles with sensory issues largely related to eczema. It is amazing the difference in her behavior and ability to learn when she is not having an outbreak. As she's grown it's gotten so much easier to deal with because she can verbalize her discomfort and ask for help. She recognizes even before I do where her frustrations and anger lies.

That day will come for you and your daughter will be thanking you for your patience and the way you've shown her unconditional love. You are God's hands working healing in her life.

Life With My 3 Boybarians said...

I very much understand the pain in a mother's heart during this journey.

Thinking of you. *hugs*

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Thank you for sharing this glimpse of what you've been struggling with. I'm sure it's been a heartbreaking and discouraging path to walk. But you encourage others by your faith in the Lord and His plan for your precious daughter.