Thursday, October 1, 2009

Just for reference

When Genea started school last year, I had no debate with myself as to what I would tell her teacher, if anything. There was nothing to debate. If Genea was going to make it through the door, the teacher had to know where she was coming from in all ways. I wrote up pages of background (although at the time she was still on the medic alert bracelet so there was a lot of that to describe). I met with the teacher at least twice, maybe more, before school started. I brought Genea to school and let her roam around the classroom until she was done, with the teachers permission and participation. Daddy and Teena came to school with Genea and I and we all 4 roamed around the school until Genea felt she was done. A lot of preparation. Mostly, in retrospect, aside from making Genea as comfortable as would be possible, I wanted the teacher to know she was different. She doesn't look different and in a lot of ways you might not realize something was different until you had spent some time with her. I did not want to have the teacher wasting any time wondering what might be different. She needed to know everything she needed to know in order to teach Genea. From the "Mom" perspective, I wanted the teacher to know Genea is not just being a brat if she stares at you blistering your eyeballs instead of answering your question. If she screams so loud other classes think the fire alarm has gone off and barricades herself under a desk blocking you with a chair, it might look like it is because she is not getting her way. It is not. It is because her brain perceives an emergency where no one else would. So please don't yell at her and please don't get harsh with her. Please just be gentle and give her some help and tell her it is okay (because she may be big but she is my baby that I didn't get to have as a baby!).

When Genea started first grade, things were much improved. So much, that I wondered if I should even talk to the teacher at all! But then I thought, well, I might be a little overconfident here. I might be seeing things through my Mom- eyes instead of reality- eyes. I decided to send the teacher an email and then I decided to share it here. It is always a struggle for me to decide what I should tell anyone about Genea's background. If it
is anyone elses business or not. But I guess I think of teachers in the same way as doctors, they need to know it all. Or at least most of it, in order to do their job. So here is the email.

Dear Ms S,

When we met the other day I mentioned I wanted to tell you a few things about Genea and did not want to do it in front of her, or all the other parents. Genea comes from Ukraine. She was adopted from an orphanage there when she was 15 months old by another family. She had a lot of medical and emotional needs that the other family was unable to handle, so they terminated their parental rights and my family adopted her 2 years ago. Obviously all this caused her huge trauma, and we are just now at a point where she has begun to recover. So I just wanted to let you know that bit of background. Genea might have reactions that seem strange, or disproportionate to the situations. She struggles with social skills, though that has improved. Mrs. E thought it would be important for you to know that she has a hard time concentrating and gets distracted very, very easily. I don't remember exactly what Mrs. E used, I am sure you could ask her, but she would separate Genea and try to minimize the distractions in order that Genea could get her work done. Although it looks like she has a raging case of ADHD, it is actually something called "hypervigilance". She constantly monitors her environment for changes, sounds, people, and activity.

Genea is a smart child and she is helpful and considerate. She is a loving, wonderful girl, and is trying so, so hard to overcome her challenges. She adores school and for the most part will appear just like all the other kids. She has some sensory involvement, you might notice if you touch her arm she will rub it when you look away. Her speech pattern is a continued concern for me and if you could direct me to who I might bring those issues up with I would appreciate it. After classes get going that is, I am positive you are heinously busy right now!Anyway, if you have any questions or are interested in more information, please feel free to let me know. Thank you so much.

As it turned out for kindergarten there could not have been a better teacher. She loved her job and all the kids. She was gentle and loving and enthusiastic. Structured and scheduled. She knew how to ease transitions, teach to all the different learning styles and how to be firm. Brilliant! I want Teena to have her to!


  1. I reached the same conclusion about the teacher's need to know about P's background after a disastrous grade 1 year in which we did not divulge much (back in the days before we knew about RAD). Grades 2 and 3 we went into the mode of educating P's teachers, principal, assistant principal, resource teacher, music teacher, gym teacher -- anyone who had contact with him in the school. At one point in grade 2, P started paying visits to the custodian whenever he left his class to visit the washroom, and so we felt it was necessary to even semi-educate the custodian. With the exception of P's grade 2 classroom teacher (unfortunately), we have found everyone at the school very appreciative of our divulging this info, and very sensitive about respecting P's feelings and privacy. We have also disclosed various tidbits that our psychologist suggested along the way as well -- usually to the principal. One of these disclosures led to the school matching P with an in-school counselor who meets with him twice a week to practice social skills. Just this one thing alone has been absolutely amazing in terms of the advances P has achieved in this area. All of the reactions combined have helped P even more.
    Why do your posts always spur such long comments on my part?!

  2. Yay for great teachers. So few "get" our kids that it's a miracle when one actually does.

  3. That's a wonderful letter. I give all the kids' teachers a letter about older adopted kids and English language learning, and I am thinking (after our hideous CPS experience last year, and after reading Lisa's blog) of getting our counselor to write a letter about Anastasia's desire to manufacture dramatic/tragic situations wherein she is a victim. I guess being removed from her home may have been one of the first times in her life when she got a lot of loving-kindness and there is still the idea that she might like a bit of that, especially from people whose attention my waiver from her onto other children (like her teachers).


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