Food for thought

5 05 2009

In the preparation for a child being placed with us, during the completion of the assessment form, the training and in discussions with our Social Worker, friends and family we talked a lot about what our needs would be. One of the things, on reflection, we didn’t spend enough time on was thinking about our need to communicate effectively with the child that was placed with us. Maybe we made an assumption that this wouldn’t be an issue.

In those first few weeks and months we had to learn a lot about LML, her needs, her routines, which was difficult when she had such a significant communication delay. On a very basic level we needed to learn how to communicate with her, to understand what certain actions meant. For instance there were lots of issues about LML’s eating. For months we tried to get LML to communicate when she had had enough at meal times. Her way of communicating this was to throw the plate or bowl at us. We spent months dodging accurately aimed forks and spoons. We had to learn the signals so that we could whip the plate and cutlery away before it came in our direction. Then we spent months trying to teach the sign for ‘finished’, without much luck at all. Eventually we came to an accommodation with her, which took her lead, and she began to push the plate away rather than throwing it when she’d had enough.

Birth parents may have similar challenges with their child but as adoptive parents we didn’t have the opportunity to develop that relationship with LML over the first 18 months of her life. Even though we did keep in touch with the foster carers and did talk through strategies with them we still had to work it out ourselves. We had no strategies, no experience or knowledge of what motivated her. No idea what those little signals, which indicated that she’d had enough, were.

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