Thursday, February 28, 2008

Copy of letter to kindergarten parents

February 27, 2008

Dear Parents and Volunteers:

I am writing this letter to clarify the H. School position regarding protocols that have been put in place for one of our kindergarten students, Bethany J.

Bethany has a clinical diagnosis from an experienced, professional psychologist who has worked with emotionally wounded children for more than 20 years. As such, she is afforded the protections of Section 504 of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. The school is in the process of formalizing a 504 Plan to insure that Bethany’s needs are addressed. This type of disorder is a result of abandonment, trauma, and neglect prior to being adopted by the J's. I assure you the diagnoses are reliable, and very real. Information has been provided by the J's regarding the background of Bethany’s diagnoses. It does not seem reasonable to me to expect all parents to fully understand or appreciate the entirety or scope of Bethany’s condition at this time. We may not fully understand the condition, but we must fully accept and comply with the protocols set forth in the interest of helping her move forward. I am not an expert in the areas of emotional abandonment and trauma. I trust that the adults and professionals in Bethany’s life are farther down the road than I am in terms of understanding what is best for her.

Before presenting the protocol, it is important to note that Bethany will appear very normal to most people. Bethany’s appearance can be attributed to two things. First, Bethany’s parents, therapist, and teachers have set in place and follow strict guidelines for interacting with Bethany. This helps Bethany feel safe and confident in the classroom. This, in turn, allows her to relax and appear “normal.” Second, a hallmark of children with these diagnoses is that their outward behaviors can be what most people take to be normal behavior. However, in Bethany’s case, the presentation is sometimes a mask that covers some very strong insecurities and emotions that are just below the surface. Consequently, what appears to be a charming and normal child to someone unfamiliar with the disorder is something else entirely. Not recognizing this leads to endless misperceptions, judgments about her parents, and the potential to undermine the healing that is taking place.

It is important to understand that we all can have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on Bethany in the classroom. The following protocols are put in place so that you can have a positive impact, and they need to be followed by anyone working with Bethany in the classroom.

Redirect Bethany to K or L if she has a question, needs her pencil sharpened, needs a stamp on her paperwork, is asking for permission or direction for anything, or is ill or injured in anyway whatsoever.
If she is sick, injured or scared call her mother to attend to her. This includes putting Band-Aids on cuts, or treating any illness no matter how seemingly small.
Do not praise her unless you are willing to be trained in how to praise a child with these diagnoses.
Do not test Bethany unless her parents have otherwise authorized you to test her.
Reframe from nurturing touch such as hugs, hand holding, stroking her hair and any other nurturing activities. These things need to come from her parents.
Please reframe from gossiping among yourselves since this information is intended to help Bethany and not to harm her. If you have further questions take the time to educate yourselves or to ask questions.

We will need to restrict individuals from having any direct contact with Bethany if they feel that they cannot follow the protocols as listed above in order to avoid any negative impacts. When you volunteer in the classroom, it is imperative that you follow the protocols.

As you can see, none of these measures are difficult or unreasonable. I appreciate that they may feel awkward because they are not how we typically act with our students and children. The key to implementing them is to understand they are not optional for you and that Bethany is not just like other students or children and cannot be treated just like any other child. She has suffered significant trauma that, unfortunately, makes her very much unlike any other child. Following this protocol will help her feel secure in the classroom and ensure her continued success at H. In turn, the safer she feels, the greater is the potential for her healing. With a little effort, we can make a big difference for one of our students.

The good news is that Bethany can heal from the tragic circumstances of her beginnings, with the interventions put in place by the J's and those working with Bethany. In fact, she has already come a long way in her healing. However, healing will only continue to come through a strict regimen that is intended to facilitate her attachment with her parents and feelings of security at home and in other environments, including the classroom.

It is extremely important to Bethany’s success in the classroom, as well as not undermining the healing that has already taken place, that you follow these measures. Please understand that I am not asking you to do anything that her teachers are not already doing. One of the reasons that Bethany has been successful in the classroom to this point, aside from the diligence of her parents and therapist, is because of the positive contribution that her teachers have given as a result of following these very same measures. Ironically, Bethany’s success has led some to believe that there might not even be a problem. This is a dangerous misconception.

Finally, the J's are open to discussing their child’s condition in a respectful and supportive manner, as well as providing more detailed background on why it is so important to implement these guidelines, with the understanding that they do so in order to ensure that their daughter is able to continue going to school. They invite you to contact them if you have any questions. They also invite you to contact Bethany’s therapist to understand this situation more fully. She can be reached at. If you are interested in learning more, the following websites are great places to start:

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about this letter or the protocol for interacting with Bethany, contained herein.


504 plan for the school and people's perceptions

Hello friend,

Craig and I met with the school today to fill out Bethany's 504 plan. This plan will be in place to keep her safe from those who don't understand, or don't want to understand about attachment disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or more specifically Complex Trauma Disorder.

It is sad that parents have to do things like this because so many people in the public refuse to accept or understand the implications of trauma on children. I have often lamented, "This isn't rocket science, why is it so hard to understand that trauma WILL impact a child beyond what a hug or kiss can heal."

But, I also realize that if I wasn't walking this journey myself how would I truly "get it?" I guess the old adage, "Walk a mile in someone else's shoes," is really true. I really enjoyed someone else's thoughts on this saying,

"It's hard to understand someone else unless you've been in their position before. Like for example Harriet Tubman understood others in the Underground Railroad because she was in their position once. She was like all the other people that were slaves....she risked her freedom for others."

Harriet Tubman continued to guide runaway slaves across dangerous territory for many years, after she had gained her own freedom by running away herself. She put her life at risk each time she entered slave territory to help others, but she willingly and wantingly did it anyway. Why? She did it because she knew firsthand about the life of a slave, and she knew firsthand about life as a free woman. She was a voice for those who couldn't speak for themselves. For her bravery she was nicknamed Grandma Moses, the woman who led her people to freedom.

How could someone, who hasn't walked in our shoes, understand the trials and tribulations of parenting a child whose heart has been so wounded? Can another parent whose child has always been safe at home, and whose child has never seen the trauma found in so many orphanages wordlwide, really be able to "get it?" I fully doubt that most could.

I guess that is one reason why God allows things like this into our lives, so we can pave the road for those after us. Bethany is not the only child in her school with RAD and PTSD. I guess if by doing what is right for our daughter the teachers and other school staff get some education about the impact of trauma on children, then we have done part of what God's plan is for us.

In the meantime, we won't be making any friends among those who want to believe that love is enough to undo the neglect and trauma that Bethany suffered in a Chinese orphanage for the first 13 1/2 months of her life.

See you around.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thank you Lara

Hey Lara, thanks for getting me started!


This is my first blogpost. Yay!