Friday, 25 March 2016

Not All 8 Year old Girls.....

I'm not the first person to write a post on this topic.  The content isn't particularly original. It's a topic that will strike into the heart and frustration of every parent with either an adopted child or one with special needs, or both in our case.

Firstly I still struggle with thinking that Katie has special needs. I'm really not reconciled with her diagnosis of FASD and ADHD yet. I accept the diagnosis academically but am still coming to terms with what it means practically. I suspect I will always be coming to terms with it in one way or another. It seems that every day a little piece sinks in a bit more. For me speaking to other people about what's going on for Katie and at home can help me wrap my head around things. Over the past week or so I have had several conversations with other parents about Katie. They were conversations that were both helpful and frustrating in equal measures though. 

Speaking to the parents of other 8 year old girls has given me some interesting insights. It seems that most 8 year old girls are mouthy, door slammy and generally disrespectful and dismissive of everything their parents say or ask them to do. This is reassuring. It's not just our house that has door protectors over the tops of the doors to prevent them being slammed shut. Other girls are needing deodorant highlighting that our little darlings are starting to go through some pre-puberty changes. That might also explain some of the high octane emotions flying around the rooms.

In many ways our house sounds like every other house with an 8 year old resident so I don't want to overplay the SEN card. In many ways Katie is a typical 8 year old. She has moved on from CBeebies and is now watching programmes like Sam and Cat; Liv and Maddie and Millie In-Between. She wants to be grown up and is soaking up the concepts of puberty in Disney Channel and Nick Jnr programmes. She has ideas of wearing fewer items of clothing to look cool and has a passion, bordering on desperation, for shoes with a heel. The difference is she doesn't always understand what she's watching or follow the storyline properly. She's only just starting to understand that the people in the TV programme are actors portraying a character and that it's not real. Having said that I'm sure a lot of the nuances of programmes I watched as a child went over my head as well. That's why I don't jump up and down about some of the lyrics of songs.  I still remember the day I finally understood what Frankie Goes to Hollywood meant when he sang "Relax".  I still sing the version "Relax, don't do it; when you want to suck a Chewit" so it's hardly surprising it took a while to sink in.

In our house though FASD and ADHD hyperactiveness; inattention; emotional frustration; anger; lack of comprehension; forgetfulness; non compliant and oppositional behaviour; rudeness and aggression add a layer onto these 8 year old normal reactions and behaviours that spiral the house and all its occupants into a fiery pit of frustration and desperation and leave me with a permanent knot of anxiety in my stomach. 

The problem is it's just so hard to explain how intense it can be living in our house. The worry that kicks in from the moment my daughter's eyes open; being constantly ready for battle; having to constantly be one step ahead to try and offset an argument; thinking up creative ways of encouraging calm and compliant behaviour; trying to work out which battles to fight and which to ignore and feeling constantly stressed and on edge; having to go back on anti-depressants to try and calm down the anxiety that makes me feel more Meerkat than human. No matter how I explain it the reaction from each person I've spoken to recently was the ubiquitous "that just sounds like normal 8 year old behaviour" and I'm left feeling frustrated and overly dramatic and even questioning if I'm either imagining the severity of our experiences and simply just a totally ineffectual parent. I agree there is much that is "typical" about Katie's behaviour but equally there is a lot that isn't.

This whole issue frustrates the hell out of me and I end up feeling isolated, stupid and questioning myself. So just for the record here is a little list of the things I don't think all 8 year olds do. Feel free to point out which ones you think I've got wrong because I'd love to be reassured:

1. Not all 8 year olds scream and shout and have endless toddler tantrums.

2. Not all 8 year olds totally ignore everything they are asked to do unless the word "sweets" is involved.

3. Not all 8 year olds have the need to control every aspect of life around them with argumentative and aggressive consequences.

4. Not all 8 year olds bounce around and fidget and fiddle whenever they sit down.

5. Not all 8 year old find it impossible to sit through a meal without getting up and down constantly. 

6. Not all 8 year olds find it impossible to follow more than one instruction at a time.

7. Not all 8 year olds need melatonin to enable them to sleep.

8. Not all 8 year old wash their hands until they are sore (most barely wash them at all).

9. Not all 8 year olds worry incessantly about being sick and the sell by dates of food.

10. Not all 8 year olds get fixated on a topic and ask questions endlessly (for days) on it.

11. Not all 8 year olds are incapable of organising themselves to do anything (except cartwheels).

12. Not all 8 year olds are anxious about starting new work at school because they haven't understood what to do and don't handle transitions very well. 

13. Not all 8 year olds require constant supervision to prevent them searching the cupboards or my handbag for sweets, cakes or lipsticks, despite being told not to do it. 

14. Not all 8 year old will lie about everything.

15. Not all 8 year olds will tell you confabulations where they've become confused about things that have happened or they've been told during their day and think it's happened to them.

16. Not all 8 year olds need a time warning before starting or stopping most things including having a bath or a meal. 

17. Not all 8 year olds will point blank refuse to do anything they've been asked to do. 

18. Not all 8 year olds forget the maths they have learned repeatedly, then remember it another day only to forget it again the next day. 

19. Not all 8 year olds get sensory overload and hyperstimulation from too many things happening in one day and too much going on around them including colours and sounds. 

20. Not all 8 year olds spit in your face when they are angry.

21. Not all 8 year olds punch and kick when they are angry.

22. Not all 8 year olds struggle to spend any time alone.

23. Not all 8 year olds struggle to amuse themselves or access their imagination.

24. Not all 8 year olds are born with a head that is too small. 

25. Not all 8 year olds have had their brain damaged by someone choosing to drink alcohol during their pregnancy. 

These are just a few of the things that my daughter does that other typical 8 year olds do not do. 

No, she is not just like any other typical 8 year old. Sadly I suspect she will never be a "typical" any age and I wish people could understand that. I wish people wouldn't smugly tell me that she's behaved well for them because I know that the effort she needed to use to behave so well means that she will have none left for when she is at home. I'm delighted she has behaved well but that isn't a reflection of our lives. 

It is really helpful for me to hear what other 8 year olds are doing but I wish people wouldn't dismiss what we're all going through as the same as everyone else. 

What are your experiences of 8 year old girls?  Thank you for sharing....


  1. When the differences are of intensity and frequency of behaviour it's almost impossible to get that across to people who don't already understand.
    It can be like speaking another language sometimes. What you're describing when you say 'tantrum', for example, will be very different from what some of your friends are describing when they say 'tantrum'. Sometimes I think talking to parents with neuro-typical non-traumatised children is like talking to Americans. We almost speak the same language, but there are some big differences.
    Anyway, I hope you find a few people who really do get it. It can help so much to have just one friend who really understands. Take care.

    1. I love your American idea (apologies to my American audience). It is true. Our terminology is understood like a shorthand by other adopters or people with children with SEN but doesn't really explain the comparison to he parent of a child who is neurotypical. We need some new words. Trouble is then no-one will understand them lol.

  2. Our daughter turned 8 last month and is moving away from babyish things (TV programmes and toys) but ricochets back to them at times. She is asserting herself more and can argue her point with increased clarity. She still loses her temper regularly but can rein it in quicker. I think Katie has a more challenging time of it and wish thoughtless behaviour pre birth wasn't affecting her life so much. You are both managing so well and have come so far together x

  3. Just sending you lots of love. xxx

    1. Bless you hon. It's enough to make me take to dressing up lmao! Xxx

  4. Invisible special needs kick my butt in many ways. I'm now nervous to share ANYTHING because I may morph into something really ugly when listening to the response. You mentioned the intensity. THAT is what makes many seemingly normal behaviors difficult for me. I'm exhausted because the reasons behind the behaviors are so much more complicated and I don't even really understand it all. Yet, I have to try to understand it to support my children. Just typing that is exhausting. Keep on. I understand you have both abnormal behaviors and the "typical" behaviors are much more complicated than that.

    1. Bless you Nicole. I totally understand what you mean by not understanding it all. That is what makes it harder because half the time I have no idea how best to manage difficult situations. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes spectacularly wrong. It is exhausting because you can't ever just have 5 quiet minutes because if it's quiet you start to worry about why it's quiet. Big hugs to you xxx

    2. You are not alone my nearly to be 8 year old does many of the things on your list. Sadly i am becoming immune to the spitting in my face!

    3. Aaaah the delights of being spat at in the face. I'll always remember that first time. Like you it barely registers these days although I still think it's awful. I also love being told to "fuck off" constantly which is her new expression of charm. She recently went to brownie camp (blog post to come for that one) and she didn't swear there because "it's not allowed". She didn't seem to understand that the same rules apply at home. ๐Ÿ˜

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. You pretty much describe our home life. I have stopped discussing home with any of the school mums coz I'm sick, Sick, SICK of being told 'oh they're all the same '. Next time I hear that I will hurt someone!! The fact that she can behave for others shows what a bloody amazing job you're doing. But I totally get that it just makes it harder for others to understand what you're going through. Wish I had a magic wand. Wish I could help. Just makes me feel better to know I'm not alone. Xx

    1. You're definitely not alone and you can always contact me if you ever feel you are and I'll set you straight. It does feel isolating though. I often feel like people don't understand. It's been so nice seeing the comments here and knowing I'm not alone even though I wish we weren't all in this position. That she can behave well for others gives me some hope for her future and I hope her emotional responses mature a bit as she gets older. I try to remember she's probably emotionally half her chronological age. It's hard with a lanky, long modelesque young lady though and I easily forget. Big hugs to you xxx

  6. Thank you for putting into words what me and my husband feel on a day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute basis! We have two adopted children, one sounds very similar to your daughter.Unless you live in our world you can't understand completely and it is really frustrating. 'Oh they're just being kids!' is the worst comment ever.I find talking to other adopters does help. Thank you, MummyDibling

  7. The same behaviours but more often and more intense. That's so true! I didn't have the adoption/trauma issues to deal with but raised two boys with invisible special needs and can relate to much of what you're writing about. It is so hard and so isolating. To give you hope, my two boys (who ten years ago couldn't be left unsupervised, and were offered full refunds to leave programs that didn't offer refunds...) are now about to finish 2nd and 4th years of postsecondary education, living away from home on campus (nearby ones, but still), and working summer jobs they're asked to return to. It's still not easy for our younger one but he's getting there. There is hope!

  8. Hi, love your posts so honest,amusing and heartbreaking. I totally empathise with your daily struggles. Our AD is 15 yrs diagnosed at 13 yrs with ADHD and ODD, (and i strongly suspect FAS but we have not as yet sought a diagnosis). We had struggled for years but puberty brought an increase in behaviours and our inability to provide a safe environment for her. She has never been able to accept ANY boundaries. After a long complex process we managed to find her a special school where she weekly boards. It takes the strain out of daily home life but school hols are always fraught and stressful. I wish there were happy endings but parenting a traumatised child is all encompassing. Sending you love and support. X

  9. Just written a long comment about our 15 yrs old daughter with ADHD and ODD hope you received it and able to publish it.

  10. Hi, love your posts so honest,amusing and heartbreaking. I totally empathise with your daily struggles. Our AD is 15 yrs diagnosed at 13 yrs with ADHD and ODD, (and i strongly suspect FAS but we have not as yet sought a diagnosis). We had struggled for years but puberty brought an increase in behaviours and our inability to provide a safe environment for her. She has never been able to accept ANY boundaries. After a long complex process we managed to find her a special school where she weekly boards. It takes the strain out of daily home life but school hols are always fraught and stressful. I wish there were happy endings but parenting a traumatised child is all encompassing. Sending you love and support. X