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outcomes for severely neglected/abused children

(8 Posts)
oodlesofdoodles Tue 28-Jun-11 21:59:20

Adoptive and foster parents - I need your advice.

My bio son was hospitalised aged 7 - 12 months with a severe paralysing illness. For him it must have been excruciating abuse. He couldn't make any sounds (he was ventilated), he couldn't pull faces to let us know how he felt, at his worst he was blind. At one point he couldn't pass urine and had a catheter in his willy. He slowly regained strength to move, breathe, swallow etc. At his most paralysed I would have one (long) cuddle a day propped up on pillows.

On discharge we were told he would catch up by the age of five. No follow up on his development. He's now 4 1/2 and has quite serious delays in his language, social skills and fine motor skills. In fact we are now being told that he could be on the autistic spectrum.

So, my questions are: do some children who have experienced abuse in their first year end up with communication delays? If they do, how do you help them overcome their problems? Do they overcome their problems or is the early experience hardwired for life?

I've been looking at a lot of info on autism, but it doesn't all ring true for my DS, so I'm wondering if there may be paralells with him and an abused child.

ginhag Tue 28-Jun-11 22:13:20

I'm so sorry, I have no experience at all...but I couldn't leave your post unanswered. Mostly because it is heartbreaking that you are worrying that your on could be suffering from 'abuse' when as a loving parent you so obviously did all you could for him. Your cuddle every day was LOVE.

This doesn't mean I can't (try) to empathise, seeing your child suffering must have been awful, and I'm sure I would worry about the impact of such an essentially isolating experience. And I know you were asking for more analytical and useful advice.

But all I can offer is this- from an outside perspective, you have been a wonderful and loving parent. Please don't ever try and compare your child's experience to abuse, you did everything you could, and gave so much love. There was no abuse, no neglect, and an awful lot of love, despite some serious barriers.

You have done SO well.

Here, don't tell anyone, but <<hug>>

ginhag Tue 28-Jun-11 22:16:25

Ps I also don't think that his experience from 7-12 months would hardwire him for life. I really don't.

Hopefully someone with some of the experience you were looking for will show up soon though x

hester Tue 28-Jun-11 22:56:32

oodles, that is a really sad post. How terribly traumatic that must have been for you and your ds.

It's really hard to answer your question for many reasons, but one of the key ones is this: adopted children who experienced neglect/abuse in their first year usually experienced it during the critical first six months. Right from the off, they usually lacked good enough parenting and this affected the formation of their basic sense of themselves and the world. Your ds, by contrast, had learned to love and trust you, and to feel safe in the world, before he got ill. This will have provided him with levels of resilience that abused-from-birth children often lack.

I'm not trying to provide false reassurance. I can't do that because I just don't know. And I can see it would be entirely possible that your ds was traumatised and affected by his experience. But you mustn't underestimate how important your loving presence was to him then and still is to him now.

Lilka Wed 29-Jun-11 07:44:03

I agree with hester. The adoptive children who do the best tend to be those who had a period of consistent good parenting before everything went pear shaped. And your son wasn't seriously neglected or abused., and you haven't done anything wrong. In my experience, yes, if a child doesn't get adequate interaction with its parent for a period of months, that does affect them, but no one can say how it will. I would expect the child to have delays in talking etc, and maybe attachment issues (which can be confused with autism because some symtoms overlap) but some children go on to catch up, form mostly secure relationships and have a great life, others continue to have problems throughout their childhood. It really depends on the childs personality and to na extent their genetics as well. And it may reassure you to know that the brain is now known to be far more plastic than what people originally thought. It takes a lot of actual abuse to affect brain development to the point of no return, and there is every hope that your son could overcome his problems smile

oodlesofdoodles Wed 29-Jun-11 20:01:03

Thanks for your kind replies Ginhag, Hester and Lilka.
I hope you're right about brain development being ongoing. I've been reading Oliver James who says the neuro connections are all laid down in the early years. Terrifying.
I had been thinking that 'all you need is love tra la la la' but actually he also needs some quite structured teaching to catch up. I've been looking at stuff for autistic children but wondered if there is paralell therapy/education programmes for children in care/foster homes/being adopted.
thanks again

Lilka Wed 29-Jun-11 21:18:43

So much more has been found out about the brain in the last decade or so, that no one knew before, and there's a lot more to learn about it yet! I'm not familiar with Oliver James

A huge amount of neural connections are formed before 3 BUT brain development itself doesn't stop until the 20's or even early 30's! Before people believed that brain development was over by 10, but now we know that isn't true. The brain can form new neural pathways well beyond toddlerhood, and the early teens are thought to be a time where quite a lot is going on, and the brain will be forming new pathways, getting rid of old useless ones etc. I know my own DD1 went through huge changes in her teens...really amazing, she had great therapy as well as good home environment, but it wouldn't have worked to the extent it did unless her brain was changing with it! Also, think about victims of accidents, strokes, etc, who relearn how to do things..their brain must be changing

This article is about the teen brain in particular, but hopefully will reassure you smile

Also, this is a great book. It's called 'The brain that changes itself' and it's all about the plasticity of the brain, and details cases where amazing brain development took place e.g. a woman was born with half a brain, whih rewired itself to work as a whole one brain

Now, my DD1 will always have funny quirks, issues, troubles forming relationships etc. But she has a great life, and it isn't doom and gloom smile

As for structured teaching, I'm not aware of any specific education programs for traumatized children. I wish! BUT, you can definitely support him at home with programs, and at school he can access school action/+ and an IEP can be in place to support him. Also, if you were able to access occupational therapy for his fine motor problems, if he doesn't already have it? Speech therapy can help with language problems as well

oodlesofdoodles Sat 02-Jul-11 19:06:16

thank you for the links Lilka
I must have been a bit gloomy when I posted. Summer hols now so we don't have pre-school constantly updating us on his failures!
He does get speech therapy and he is making progress.
I'm glad things have turned out well for your dd

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