As an Occupational Therapist (in my pre-home ed, pre-adoption former life), my pre-registration training included a module on Child Development, which included lectures and some study time around the developmental stages of children. Once I qualified, I quickly settled in Paediatrics as my area of interest/knowledge/growing expertise. During my twelve years as a Paeds OT, I attended a number of excellent courses focussed both on child development norms and the variations we would often see amongst the children on our caseloads. These courses often focussed on physical, emotional, social, psychosocial, linguistic, cognitive and sensory development. It fascinated me! I loved learning the neuroscience behind child development aswell as the more difficult stuff of what happens when things go wrong.
I spent twelve years working with children whose neurology was atypical. Whose brains had developed in a non-standard way, be that the result of genetics, neurological trauma, acquired injuries, or other causes. Many of the kids I worked with were at the more complex end of the spectrum of difference/disability.
And yet there have been times during this last few years in the adoption bubble that I have felt completely air headed. Knowing nothing of child development. Or of what can happen when things go wrong. Having no knowledge of how trauma impacts on a child’s developing brain.
I remember multiple times during our adoption training/assessment/study when we were informed about the fight/flight/freeze response, about back brain, trauma brain, the inability to process in the moment. About the trauma caused to an infant by being removed at birth from their Mummy, the Mum who carried them for nine months.
I remember being told “Think Toddler” when it comes to children who are struggling with a further placement, albeit a more permanent one. How it is not unusual for them to regress and display much younger behaviours or speech patterns. How they made need much higher levels of nurture than would be expected of a peer with no experience of trauma in a stable family.
And suddenly two years in, “Think Toddler” rings round my head. Little Legs is 5 1/2 now.
A short while ago, we finally got rid of dummy. Little Legs agreed that it was time. She chose a teddy to replace it in bed and pretty much went cold turkey, only asking for dummy a handful of times since and hardly ever at bedtime. She is doing brilliantly. Once she is asleep, she generally stays asleep all night. She is however struggling to settle herself in order to fall asleep. Patience is required and we’re in this for the long haul. Self soothing is a skill that she is learning slowly. She also wakes earlier than previously, although ‘earlier’ is almost always still after 7am!
Think Toddler. My older girls all had similar struggles when weaning off their dummies. They were all between the ages of 2 1/2-3 1/2. Toddlers.
Carrying on with the theme of toddlers, Little Legs appears to have developed a fascination with naked bodies. She will randomly wander into my bedroom after I’ve had a shower and ask to touch my boobs, or will come and lie on my knee on the settee and lift my tshirt and press my ‘squidgy tummy’ (her words!). Toddler. Feels slightly disconcerting as she physically is not a toddler, but emotionally it’s definitely toddler stuff.
Transitions are tricky just now too. Again, I remember my older girls all having moments when they were toddlers of struggling to move on from an activity that was just finished, or saying goodbye to someone as they were leaving, or wanting more of a tv programme as it ended.
TV is a big transition trigger here at the moment. Especially as Little Legs has been watching on the iPad by herself. When she is playing or working on the iPad, she is definitely able to finish and hand it back to me. But when she has been watching, usually something on iPlayer or Netflix, she requires multiple prompts that her time is almost up and it has to be at the end of a programme. A natural break.
Tonight she had had a lengthy (please don’t judge me over my holiday down time tactics!) spell watching on the iPad, while her sisters were watching Lord of the Rings with Mr Six and I was making tea. When it came to stopping for tea, she was happy to break and verbalise that she hadn’t finished her programme yet, so please could she finish it after tea. I agreed to this and all was well. She had plenty of warnings that after her programme was finished it would be bedtime. But tears and wailing and calling me Mean Mummy (I’ve apparently been a mean Mummy lots during our half term break) indicated that tonight the tv to bedtime transition was just too tricky.
We had cuddles and I swaddled her for a few minutes while we chatted quietly on her bed. When I left her she was happy and listening for local fireworks, which she is fascinated by.
We definitely are in toddler territory. But for now she’s in bed and so far all is quiet.