Friday, April 15, 2011

Lessons Learned from Empowered to Connect Conference- part 1

Where to begin, really? My brain is still trying to wrap around all that I learned at ETC. It was SUCH AN AMAZING CONFERENCE. It was so worth the cost of a plane ticket and travel to be there. I feel like it was totally life changing for me, understanding where my girly is coming from, and how to help her face her history as a unified team. Ok, this post is long and loaded. I'm trying to process this myself, but I'm SO hoping some other parents can glean something out of my experience. It was TREMEMDOUSLY helpful.

So, I have a new understanding of how our children's (adopted or foster) brain chemistry has literally been changed, due to their "history". Even in situations when our child has been placed with us at birth, as Dr. Purvis put it, EVERY child comes with at least 9 months of history (pre-natal). It is impossible that a pregnant woman, contemplating how to handle her pregnancy (wether or not to terminate), or stressful conversations or lack of with a significant other, or contemplating keeping or giving up her child, or how she will provide for this child...or pure anger AT the child for interrupting her's impossible for the stress hormones (cortisol) to NOT affect our children. And children who go through traumatic separations, or go with needs unmet during the first formative and developmental years of their life, thier sweet little brains are altered. Physically changed. Their precious little brains, shift to survivor mode. Fight, flight, or freeze. Survivor mode takes over and literally does not allow their brains to cognitively function like yours or mine (assuming ours our "normal").
(Here is a great video on Understanding our Children from Dr. Purvis speaking at Tapestry adoption ministry, where she explains some of this, much better than my attempt here!

Better Understanding Our Children - Dr. Karyn Purvis from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Some risk factors she stated were stressful or difficult pregnancy, difficult  birth, Early hospitalization, abuse, neglect, trauma (such as being separated from birth parent or other). ANY or all of these risk factors can cause an imbalance of brain chemistry.

When the little brain chemistry is out of balance, they literally are stuck in survivor mode. Like, ALL the time, even when there is no reason for it (by our judgement). They live in the fear of  having to take care of themselves, and they are on constant alert, looking for how they need to stay in control of situations to get their own needs met. They don't trust us as the mama or daddy to take care of their needs. Especially when our kiddos have been in situations when any of their needs have gone unmet.

Ok, sorry, there was no way to get to THIS part, without that explanation. of the tools I brought home, was to start a little relationship and trust building boot camp. I'm not quite sure how long it will last, but for now our days will look like this for the most part.

Our kids, Kids from "hard places" need some extra stimulation to some of their sensory needs. This will help kick those sweet little brains back into gear, turning down that survivor mode, and turning ON the parts of their brain that allow them to process life in a healthy, cognitive way. Dr Purvis suggested some of these activities to get things started.

1. Keep them HYDRATED. (I found this ironic, since Lucy is constantly on alert, asking where her water is. ALL DAY LONG.) Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
2. Feed them every 2 hours during the day, and a snack with protein before bed. This will help them gain confidence that there is no shortage of food and that need will be met by you. It also can be calming to our kids to have certain foods (sweeter foods, like fruit, tend to have a calming effect, tangy or sour foods can be stimulating. choose accordingly)
3. Physical activity every 2 hours. Dr. Purvis 's institute has a room they call Crash N Bump. Climbing, jumping on a trampoline, spinning on a sit n spin, climbing up a slide and jumping from the top with a buddy...all stimulate different sensory needs in the brain. These activities serve 2 purposes, One- attachment. You as the parent are fully engaged in these activities with your child. Eye contact, praising their accomplishments, working together to count, etc. This builds trust and relationship. Second-the physical activity literally helps engage parts of the brain that have not been used. This helps reorganize the brain and regulate some of those out of balance hormones and areas. This will help them be able handle the input of the world around them and allow "survivor" mode to shut down.

Dr Purvis states that when the brain re-orders, our kids language tends to have a major growth spurt, as well as we start to see the fear diminish (which can be shown in anger, anxiety, or "crazy" behavior). We want to trade our kids...take away fear and give them trust. These activities will help accomplish this by serving to that dual purpose.

I made my own version of Crash n Bump in our family room. A mini trampoline, a sit n spin, and some ride on toys to ride around the table. These particular activities are chosen to help stimulate Vestibular (inner ear) sensory needs and Proprioceptive (large muscles) Sensory needs. Here's a little video of some of our play time in our little Crash N Bump zone. We declared yesterday a jammie day, so excuse our pj's and messy hair. Towards the end, it get's a little boring the first few minutes are my most successful time with her.

I also put a little sensory table in my kitchen that we'll spend some time at during other parts of the day (things like beans and rice, water, or shaving cream). I set up a "schedule" for Lucy and Jack..mostly for my sake, to stay focused on my goals for the day. It sort of falls into a natural rythym. 

I'll be honest, by 2pm, I was TIRED. It's alot of mental energy to stay totally engaged and on task. My house was a total mess, but we stuck to our goals of eating every two hours, and having physical/ sensory activity every 2 hours.  It's demanding, but I think in the BIG picture, it's a short term "boot camp" with LONG term huge benefits. On a typical day, Lucy usuaally has asked me to put her to bed twice when it's not her nap time...her escape from the overwhelming parts of the day. Since Monday when I started this, she has not asked ONCE to escape. It's kind of amazing. I still see the need to continue, and will for a few more weeks at least.
  Here's some snippets of our day.
Snack Time or meals every 2 hours

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Our daily routine (I can't get it rotated! Sorry.)

Playing in the dry rice and beans (they LOVE this! but be prepared to sweep.)

Today I switched the table to shaving cream. Went straight for the hair!Not sure I"ll do this one again soon. It ended in baths for both kiddos!

a nice shot of the herniated belly button :)

I got a new little point and shoot camera for an "anniversary" gift from my hubby. It's so handy!


Amy Bottomly said...

I NEED to get to a Karyn Purvis conference. Sounds so good and SO my life. :)

Blomgrens said...

Thanks for being open and vulnerable! This is so helpful and I've started watching some of the longer videos online, it just takes a while to make it happen!

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