Friday, March 6, 2009

Observable Progress: Figuring out our Dear Daughter - Part 4

It's been about a year since dh and I determined to dig in our heels, pray more specifically and try to figure out the source of the behavioral issues we had with our little Reagan. You can see how our journey began in Part 1, 2, and 3.

So... I am glad to be able to post such good news about our journey with the Lord to better understanding and helping her over this year!! This is definitely a post of praise and I want to share it not just as a dairy of this part of Reagan's life, but as an encouragement to other families who are dealing with children who are "non-compliant" and don't seem fit the "mold" in behavior or development. Also, I want to be able to look back and always remember what our Father has done in us, the parents, along this process as well!

As many know, Reagan is a beautiful little girl with a grand imagination, great memory, strong will, and lightning quick temper. We love her dearly but were unable to train her to control her compulsions and thus her anger displayed in such out of control behavior that we basically housebound her (while I lived half each day in tears in the bathroom!). Part 1 explains what we faced each day in more detail....

Our first step (last Jan. when she was almost 5) was to begin PRAYING for specific guidance as to what we should do (sounds obvious but sometimes we need God to force us to lean upon Him more I think). We went to a family counselor to get direction on what we needed to change in our parenting and were told to HAVE HER EVALUATED by a psychologist, which we did in Feb.

Her evaluation results gave us some great insight into her inner working and offered us books, methods, and resources to use to improve specific learning skills as well as behavior. We were so thankful for the fact that she had only a slight auditory processing problem but were well aware of the work that lay ahead of us. At the same time that we were digesting all the new info from her evaluation (and praying, praying, praying) we looked at her DIET. Changing her diet by removing all food sensitivities and then rotating what was left, helped her gut to heal and her skin to stop itching. This was the first time we noticed improvement in her behavior, with better sleeping and fewer tantrums.

But this was only the beginning of our "Operation Bolt of Lightning" (so named after the nickname she had earned for her unpredictable and turbulent behavior in her short 5 years with us)! :-) There were ups and downs, moments of real progress as well as bouts of backsliding. And many were the things that God was teaching us about her along the way! As parents we worked hard on keeping calm and not allowing her to push our buttons (I wish that we could say that none of her behavior was related to us but that would be so irresponsible of us). We worked to be more CONSISTENT in our expectations, rewards, and punishments so that she could feel safe and like she was on rock solid ground with us - always knowing what to expect. We learned to work toward her strengths - praise, praise, praise and hugs, hugs, hugs - were like magic medicine in this house in avoiding volatile explosions. Colors, tactile learning techniques, music all spoke volumes to her. Keeping our instructions s.u.p.e.r short and to the point while teaching her to use words to explain her emotions helped tremendously.

In September we sent her to a SOCIAL SKILLS CLASS through IU13 for the fall. It was only once per week but I will admit that I thought it would produce no change. But the Lord had other ideas and was already clearly working in her heart (and all of our lives) to heal and grow her (for His glory!). This class gave her words for communicating better, verbal cues to help her calm down, and the knowledge that she had the choice to change her behavior regardless of others' behavior.

But most importantly of all was when I was blessed enough to have been given the privilege of leading her to RECEIVE JESUS as her Savior one evening in July! I remember praying each day after this that we would see fruit in her life and I am convinced that slowly but surely the Holy Spirit has been growing and improving her!

We see so much EVIDENCE of this that I feel like I could write a book about it! I no longer dread each day - the time that she wakes up - knowing that even if she is a bit grumpy, she won't give me a screaming, raging fit. I no longer find myself crying in the bathroom or emotionally drained from 5 or 6 huge blowouts each day. I no longer dread teaching her kindergarten. Her fits are much smaller in magnitude (crying and bounding her arms and legs a bit while rubbing her eyes hard) and fewer in number (2 or 3 times per week instead of twice that per day!). Instead she is learning to let me know that she's sad or needs a hug or just doesn't like what I've told her to do. She has become a great helper and actually loves to please me and dh (pleasing us was never a motivator for her before!). We are learning to read her body language better so that we can help her to communicate. She is happy and smiling most of the time and shows much greater kindness to her brothers and I can tell that she feels less turbulence overall.

So now, she seems like a normal 6 year old (with a rational amount of training required), she enjoys school (with me always on the lookout for cues and tactics to better speak to her), and talks about how much she loves to please Jesus (this warms my heart more than anything else)!! We know that there is more work to be done (I mean really - when are we ever "done", right?)and we are glad (so hugely grateful!!) for the God-given wisdom to be able to understand her better, train her better, and guide her towards serving Christ in all she does!


Teacher/Mom said...

Wow! That is such a huge praise. I'm working out changes constantly with my kids, so I'll have to read through all your linked posts for some insights. Glad to hear there's another sister in heaven. Blessings.

sbharnish said...

this is great news! Good job Rae!

argsmommy said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing and being an encouragement to others.


Monica said...

I'm crying here, Andrea. What an amazing testimony of God's grace and goodness to all of you! You've walked the most difficult of journeys and now not only have your little girl back, but you have a new sister in Christ. Amazing.

Sharon said...

This is a wonderful post Andrea. I am so pleased for you, and it is a great encouragement to me because I am really struggling with Sam's persistent wilfulness at the moment.

It is truly wonderful to see the Holy Spirit at work in our children, isn't it? I will never forget the moment of pure joy when I first realised that my eldest was responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, rather than me. Absolute pure joy!

~ Sharon