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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our Greatest Faith Builder of All, Parenting - Part 1 of...

This is the first post of a new series for the Signs-4-Hope blog.  I have no idea how many posts there will be in this new series, Our Greatest Faith Builder of All, Parenting.  Therefore, it will be labeled which part it is with the mark of ... after it, to designate another one will be coming, just like the ongoing So, You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? series.  This new series will cover topics in relation to the training I have received throughout 2014 and early 2015, via TBRI (Trust-based Relational Interventions, Texas Christian University) and NCBP (National Center for Biblical Parenting) and the 30 years of training I continue receiving as a parent of two biological adult children and their spouses.  No, my husband Charles, and I do not have any adopted children, as God never called us to adopt. However, He did loan us two biological children to raise for His glory and that has been and is, by far, the greatest faith building opportunity I have experienced as a follower of Christ.  My prayer is this series will help parents of adopted and birthed children recognize that in order for us to raise up children to love and follow Christ we must be and must live that example before them, with authenticity and transparency.  Our failures and our weaknesses as parents, God can use and will use, IF we allow Him the opportunity to do so.

Anger is a God-given emotion! 

My interpreting experiences, over the past several months, have placed me in two counseling groups in our community.  One is "Anger Management" and the other "Depression and Anxiety".  I have observed, first-hand, many of the things I have been learning over the past 9 months in my TBRI (Trust-based Relational Interventions) class through Texas Christian University.  The overlap between these is really not surprising, but fascinating for me all the same.

Most of these adult folks, men and women, who for the most part, "look normal on the outside" have endured much trauma during their childhood years.  Their stories are all too familiar to the stories of the deaf children Signs for Hope loves and serves which include emotional, psychological, physical and sexual abuses. These traumas are in addition to lack of nurture, neglect and abandonment. Things no child, no human being, should have to endure, but the result of the sin of mankind via Adam and Eve.  God has allowed me to see, with my own eyes, in these counseling sessions, the consequences of childhood trauma which grows into adulthood trauma, with adult consequences, when left without any interventions.  These folks are often uncontrollably violent and some have taken the lives of others when they launch into their emotional tornadoes which engulf others as they tear down their path of destruction.  Others are daily haunted from within by depression and/or anxieties.  Once again, the tell-tale marks of emotions out of control (fight, flight and/or freeze) and centered in the trauma-brain...the amygdala.  Only, now, that trauma-brain resides in the body of an adult.

So often you and I quickly notice anger in those around us that we love, but how often do we miss it when you and I react in anger ourselves?  How often is it our own anger triggers  an anger-reaction from the ones we love which escalates to a level beyond what it should? 

Anger is not a sin, it is a God-given emotion.  The Bible tells us to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26).  Jesus, Himself, was angry when He saw His Father's house being used for monetary gain and not for prayer and worship, its designed purpose.  However, His response to that anger, turning over the tables of the money-changers,  was not one of sin. Needless to say, I am sure those in the temple, knew without a doubt Jesus was angry and could have done much more than He did. I believe this is one of the greatest examples of meekness in the Scriptures. Meekness is not weakness, but rather it is great power under control.  Jesus could have easily destroyed everyone in the temple courts with a simple exhale. He is omnipotent God.  Think about it.  If Jesus had destroyed them, He would have been justified, but would His justified actions be perceived as being self-controlled or would they have been perceived as being out-of-control? Which made the greater impact for eternity? They had seen His miracles with their own eyes.  I believe His anger, under control, cut to their hearts and convicted them of their wrong-doing. It did not trigger an anger-response back at Him, but instead one of complete conviction of their sin and shame for what they were doing. 

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27

Let's face it, you and I, all too easily, can instantly react in anger given the right circumstances.  We are emotional beings, as God has created us to be, however emotions left uncontrolled can become our demise and can bring with it collateral damage to those around us, those we love.  These are not responses of God's Spirit who is living within us, but rather human reactions that are uncontrolled and have been "triggered" by something.  How does this happen so quickly and unexpectedly?  Afterwards, we might think, "Where did that come from?" Or maybe, "Did I really say or do that?". 

"For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, His Spirit fills us with power, love, and self control." (2 Timothy 1:7 TEV)

Becoming MINDFUL of those things that trigger our own reactions to anger is of great benefit,
granting us the ability to have self-controlled anger-responses. However, if we never stop long enough to notice or become mindful of what our anger-triggers are, we will continue reacting to them instead of allowing God's Spirit to help us control our responses to them.  If you and I cannot become self-controlled with the help of the Spirit of God, how can we expect those around us, those who live with us, to do so?   

What triggers your anger?

Unfortunately, it is all too often those we love the most, or at least those we spend the most time with, are whose behaviors seem to irritate us the most.  These irritations can easily build up, if they are not dealt with in a timely manner, and turn into a trigger for an outburst of our anger...which most not without sin and its consequences.

However, recognizing our "triggers" which can lead to outbursts of uncontrollable anger give us the chance to "catch them" prior to them snowballing out of control and thus granting us the opportunity to bring them under control. If not recognized, this is when the amygdala sabotages our ability to think rationally and fight, flight and/or freeze becomes our default setting. This is a basic strategy that those in the anger management groups are taught.  This is also a basic strategy of the TBRI training for parents and their adopted/fostered children.  Withdrawing, if at all possible, from this volatile environment that is primed for failure, is the first step in controlling an unwanted anger reaction.  Calming techniques can also be employed to help control the amygdala's natural response to that first twinge of feeling threatened.

This is not something you and I can truly accomplish apart from the Spirit of God.  Being self-controlled is a fruit of the Spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
Below are a few great resources for helping us learn more about God's design for anger and for tools in helping us learn how to resolve our uncontrolled anger problems and then help our children do the same, together.

What Does the Bible Say About Anger?
Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character In You and Your Kids
The National Center for Biblical Parenting

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 12 of...

This ongoing blog series, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?" is written primarily for hearing families contemplating the adoption of a deaf child.  Yes, they will benefit others, as well.  Many of these topics are ones that other families wish they had known prior to proceeding with the adoption of their deaf child.  This is number 12 in the series.
Note:  There are many embedded links in this blog post.  For more details and resources click the underlined words to go to the additional websites for additional information.

So there is no doubt, Signs for Hope believes it is the right of every deaf child, around the world, to be given the opportunity to learn a manual language, a visual on the hands and body language, hence the name "Signs" for Hope and to become fluent in that language.  In addition, we also believe in providing whatever tools are necessary to help ensure the best possible outcomes for them to also learn their everyday written and read language.  These two things will not only improve their lives, in ways we may never be able to comprehend fully, it will also give them access to experience God's indescribable love for them.  

IEPs...Individualized Education Programs

"No one told me I would have to become a full-time advocate for my adopted deaf child surrounding their educational needs.  Now, I am responsible to educate those educating my adopted deaf child, so he can be granted the best possible educational experience throughout his academic years."

Many classroom experiences for all adopted children are challenging for the child, their parents, their teachers and their child's' classmates. Add deafness to that and little to no access to language-learning prior to the child's adoption and the challenges easily multiply.

If you are contemplating adopting a child with deafness and you know nothing about the educational rights of a child with special needs, and more importantly the rights and needs relating to the child with deafness, please do not proceed with your plans to adopt, until you do.

IEPs, IDEA, ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, what do they all mean?  How will they impact the life of your deaf child and those who educate them? 

Myth:  "The laws are in place, I can trust my child's teacher and educational support staff to know what is best and provide for the unique needs of my adopted deaf child." 

Sadly, most public school educators are clueless when it comes to knowing how to meet the educational needs of an internationally adopted child, let alone an adopted child with deafness with minimal exposure to language, if any.
Deaf schools, often, are as unprepared for the behavior challenges, emotional and social delays, as well as, language delays of the adopted deaf child, just as much as the public school.  Numerous books and articles have been written about such things, for the hearing adopted child, but a teacher is rarely, if ever, confronted with these challenges until they suddenly have a new student assigned to their classroom, for the first time. That could be your recently adopted child...with deafness. 

Keep in mind, in the elementary years, your deaf child will have a new teacher each year.  While you will become more skilled in advocating for the unique needs of your deaf child, as you begin to learn what those needs are, over the years, your child's new teachers each year, rarely do. Starting at the beginning is not an uncommon requirement, each year, for parent advocates.

The goal is for the deaf child to learn how to self-advocate for themselves, but it will take many years of training for that skill to develop appropriately and will remain challenging throughout their years of academia.
Allow me to put aside education for a moment and just focus on language learning.  The paragraph below, taken from the article, entitled "Language and the Older Adopted Child: Understanding Second Language Learning" by Dr. Sharon Glennen, helps us understand the realistic process a hearing child faces when simply learning a new spoken language following his/her international adoption and when no one around them now speaks their first language.  By the way, this is referred to as second language learning, not bi-lingualism, as the child's first language dwindles to nothing very quickly when no one else speaks to them in their first spoken language and their first language is not being used to teach them their second language.  

"Consider these facts: the typical six year-old understands over 20,000 English words. A five-year-old child adopted from another country would need to learn an average of 54 new words every day in order to fully catch up in language comprehension abilities by age six. If the catch up time-frame is stretched out to two years, the adopted five year-old would still need to learn an average of 27 new words every day to fully catch up by age seven. However, while the adopted child has been playing catch-up, his six year-old friends have also added an average of 5,000 words to their vocabulary. By age seven, the typical child understands 25,000 words. In order to fully catch up within a two year window, the adopted five year old needs to learn an average of 34 words per day. In summary, expecting older adopted children to develop proficient English language skills within one or two years of adoption is unrealistic."

In fact, expecting an adopted hearing child, one that is already speaking their native language, to reach the same level as their peers (in their first language development) in five years, given their additional social and emotional delays, caused from their maltreatment/institutionalization in the early years, is also unrealistic. This understanding for hearing adopted children gives us a better idea of how challenging it can be for the adopted deaf child, with little to no language exposure in those crucial early years. Add to the above any additional unknown physical and/or learning disabilities you will not even be aware of until the deaf child is home and the language acquisition and educational challenges can be even greater. 

Of course, there must be language in place in order for education to proceed. Unfortunately, all too often, first language learning and education must occur simultaneously for the deaf adopted child.  There is no research, that even discusses how this impacts the long-term development of the deaf child. I wish there was some way--especially for the older deaf child who has not been exposed to language--to grant them a two year "catch-up" opportunity to begin learning ASL, in the home, in the most natural environment possible, before they are thrust into the formal educational environment.

Navigating the education of a deaf child can easily be compared to
navigating a maze!