First, in case you missed the first three parts to this series and are interested in reading them, here are the links to those posts:
Learning - Older Adopted Children - Part 1
Learning - Older Adopted Children - Part 2
Learning - Older Adopted Children - Part 3
I've continued reading and poking into various little pockets of research that seem relevant to Seth's language and learning issues. So far, everything I've read has been consistent with the first three posts I wrote on the subject and consistent that this is most likely a language issue for Seth and not (yet) a learning disability. If anything I have been spurred further into taking some kind of action because the little that has been written about this subject clearly leads me to understand that if this is not acted upon, it won't simply fix itself.
We've decided that we will not pursue a formal assessment of him. Yet. Though I think action is required, I don't think a formal assessment is going to be particularly helpful at this juncture - the time may well come, maybe even later this year, but not yet. My reasons are as follows:
- He's only a year home; most people suggest that a child not be assessed until they are home two+ years, primarily for language reasons (ironically!). Given that internationally adopted children cannot be assessed in their language of birth (either because they have forgotten the language already or because the language is not readily available), it's tough to come up with a relevant result.
- Seth's had enough to deal with in the past few years. Whatever language and/or other issues that kid has, they are ultimately secondary to the importance of allowing, and enabling, him to relax in his new life. He needs time still. Almost every week, Geoff and I think that he's a little more relaxed than he was the week before, and I see over and over how much more easily he learns things when he's relaxed or having fun. When I had an opportunity, in February, to speak one-on-one with Dr. Gordon Neufeld about Seth, it was also his suggestion that we should first focus on reducing the anxiety that trauma invariably causes and allowing him time/space to continue to settle in. One year, in my opinion, is not a lot of time to deal with his 'stuff.'
That absolutely does not mean that I will do nothing at this point. That would so not be like me! I am hoping shortly to connect with two women by phone who have indicated that they would be happy to help me and who both have lots and lots of work experience working with kids like/similar to Seth. I am so grateful to them, and can hardly wait to talk with them.
In addition to continuing to research, I have also just signed up for an online course that I will complete over the next three+ weeks. By way of background, I will say this:
- The author whose research and writings have been the most helpful to me thus far is a Dr. Boris Gindis, who is a developmental psychologist based in New York. He seems to head up the BGCentre Online School in New York and is their principal instructor. Not only does he have a varied clinical practice with children, but he also does research in the field of international adoption and language as it relates to older children. Whereas many researchers and psychologists write about issues related to international adoptees who are age four and under at the time of adoption, very very few have anything to say about children who are five and older. I've had to laugh at the number of times researchers note at the end of their publications that more research needs to be done in understanding the language issues of older/school age international adoptees. I feel like saying well, just DO it already - I've got your first subject right here!
One of the courses offered by the BGCentre Online School is called the "SmartStart program: Helping your Internationally Adopted Child Develop a Foundation for Learning." One of the purposes of this course is to "understand major remedial issues of internationally adopted post-institutionalized preschool and school age children..." and from what I've read, it seems to be the most directly applicable program for a kids with language acquisition issues (and the potential for cognitive issues) such as Seth.
I just signed up for this course and have twenty-five days to complete it - no small feat when my life is already pretty darn busy. The course is apparently very methodical in how to teach a child how to learn, including suggesting a very specific methodology and even vocabulary.
Here are a few snippets of information that I've taken from the website about the SmartStart program:
- "[The SmartStart program] utilizes typical family activities but bears in mind the specificity of international adoptees and points to basic cognitive concepts and skills which may not have formed in the child's earlier development. The program intends to systematically stimulate cognitive language development in children ages 3-8."
- "At the heart of SmartStart lies the idea of making traditional family interactions cognitively and linguistically remedial for a child. These activities are not randomly picked; they are selected to reflect what is currently known about best practices in promoting cognitive, social, and language development o young children. The SmartStart methodology stresses the utmost importance of adult mediation, lacking in the early stages of the child's learning. The first unit is an explanation of the principles and the other seven are specific sets of activities. A unique and prominent feature of each unit is a vocabulary section: which words to introduce and how to explain an activity to the child in order to make it more remedially meaningful."
But whatever...it is what it is. I'm certainly not going to be an original researcher here, but it does feel a little like trying to find a needle in a haystack and I do hope to become somewhat knowledgeable on these issues so that I can help my own child and also be a resource to other parents who might need pointing in the right direction.
I don't know why these language-related posts get so long, but there it is. I'm pretty much done for now. But I'll be back on the subject - at the very least once I've finished this course in the next three weeks.