Whatever It Takes
On a couple of different occasions, our preacher has presented a lesson, such as when Jesus heals the blind man in John 9, and has made this statement: “What parent wouldn’t do everything they possibly can in order to help their child?”
This question cuts like a knife. As I am hearing it, I try all kinds of tricks, such as biting the inside of my cheek as hard as I can, in hopes of preventing an ugly cry right there in front of everyone. I know others are probably doing the same. As parents, we tend to be ok if we know that our kids are ok. Indeed, we would do everything we possibly could to help them.
Lauren Simmerman Photography
Even before we had the girls, I knew that I was wired differently. All or nothing, I do something 200% or I don’t bother at all. “Hyper-focused, sometimes to a fault. Her greatest strength can also be her greatest weakness,” as Daniel sometimes describes me. For a long time I listened to the voices telling me something was wrong with this (with me.) But deep down inside I always knew that God could channel this trait and use it. He uses people of all types of talents and personalities. Even those of us with the tenacity of a bulldog (or bulldogs with pink collars) are needed to do certain jobs.
I love the story of when Saul is converted into the apostle Paul. God saw the traits inside of Saul that, when properly channeled, could be used to greatly expand His kingdom. He also knew it was going to take something drastic, like striking Saul blind for several days, to get his attention and cause him to switch gears. A pit bull doesn’t easily change course. God has taught me a lot of hard lessons about letting go of being self-sufficient and learning to rely on Him. This is also a parallel lesson that kiddos from hard places need to learn when they come home to a new set of parents. I love how He uses each of us to teach each other, all the while learning more about Him.
In the world of international adoption, what most every parent gears up for in the beginning is their child’s medical special need. Shortly after the child comes home, however, the attention shifts more to the emotional needs. The scars that you can’t see run far more deeply than those you can. Early childhood trauma is an evil that wreaks havoc on the brain. Attention, sensory processing and speed, transitioning from one activity to another, and interacting socially are just a few examples of difficulties families may be working through on a daily basis.
Ironically, the overwhelming difficulty of this task is compounded by others, who may be merely trying to help. From a friend or family member who discounts the behaviors by saying, “This is nothing new. Most every child this age does the same thing;” or the well meaning professional who gives a matter-of-fact statement that this is “unfortunately just the way the brain has developed,” a sense of hopelessness and isolation is reinforced.
…You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17
About 9 months ago, something sort of snapped inside my mind, and I decided to stop listening to the lies. I focused instead on the truth–God had already set me up for this specific task. (Another very important lesson I have learned is that He equips us for whatever He calls us to do.) As a bright-eyed 23 year old, fresh out of graduate school, after much prayer, I was directed to a job I would have never chosen. It was an OT job in pediatrics. Even though I never had a single desire to work in peds, I knew then that God was working on something. I had no understanding of the reason at the time, but I did have enough understanding that I simply needed to move forward and do it. During that research study I learned a valuable lesson. The brain is plastic. It can, and indeed, does make changes. And I learned what it requires to make those changes:
There is a threshold amount of input the brain requires to learn or re-learn a skill. Once that threshold is hit, you will see someone perform actions and movements they have never done before. It is like a magic trick! Take a 2 year old child who has never even known that her right arm exists (due to a birth injury.) Focus on and train that right arm over and over and over and over for hours and hours, days and days, and suddenly—Voila! She uses her right hand to pick up a toy for the first time!! It’s one of the most incredible things to witness, and I witnessed it with dozens of different kids.
Three years after I started that job, another program began in Baltimore at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. They were doing the same thing, only with the spinal cord. This also happens to be the same year Jian was born. It gives me chills to connect these dots.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
God has recently made it abundantly clear to me that I am doing exactly the job He wants me to do right now. He has put us here for “such a time as this.” In addition to training up these 2 souls we have been entrusted with, I have a burning desire to share with other adoptive or struggling parents that there absolutely is hope. We have learned that there are treatment modalities that, when completed with intensity, can help to heal the brain. For now, I have compiled this list of resources, but if you would like more detailed information, I am happy to share with you individually.
- Safe and Sound Protocol
- Integrative Listening System
- Equipping Minds
- Interactive Metronome
- Primitive Reflex Exercises
- Amen Clinic
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
- Supplements and Nutraceuticals
- Brain Healthy Diet/Daily Exercise
- Intensive Sensory Processing OT; STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder
We have had so many people from various settings randomly comment about how our girls are thriving. They are unaware that we have been working, on average, 2 hours every day for many months on these skills. In addition to school. And physical therapy. And church. And basketball practice. And weekend tournaments. And work outs. And social activities. Every time I receive one of these comments my spirit is settled, and I am reminded once again that I am doing the work I need to be doing right now.
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4
Yes, as parents, we will do whatever it takes to help our children. Because we are made in God’s image, and that is exactly what He did. We are merely reflecting Him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16