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Adjusting Dreams with Kids with Special Needs: 4 Tips to Help Them

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This past spring we attended a high school graduation for the first time as parents of a graduate. During the ceremony, we were inundated with numbers. Ninety percent of the 470 graduates were entering college. They had been awarded $25,502,169 in scholarships. It was not as hard as I anticipated knowing that my child was not one of these students. College is not a good match for him. I know that. What was incredibly hard was watching graduates stand as their names were called along with the branch of the military they were entering. That was difficult. I cringed as I thought about unattained dreams. Our young man had dreamed of being a soldier as long as we had known him.


Unrealized Dreams

I can sympathize with unrealized dreams, as can most people who have lived a few years. My childhood dream was to be accepted to and attend Northwestern University, which was at the time ranked as 14th in the nation and was one of the very top schools in speech pathology, which I intended to major in. My childhood was not without major obstacles and struggles. I fought with fierce determination to succeed at what I put my mind to. I worked for what I got, but so much came naturally. I was not limited by a disability. While so much was unknown to me, I knew enough. I applied to Northwestern and was accepted, but after much deliberation, I chose to attend the state school offering me a scholarship as opposed to graduating with tons of debt. Looking back I know, had I gone to Northwestern, I would not have met Darren. Chances are that this crazy, dysfunctional family and Community Kids and Transfiguring Adoption would not have all come about. I still have that acceptance letter. In high school, I was voted most skilled in business, most likely to succeed, and most likely to be in politics (really???). I remain proud of my accomplishments, but that person seems far away. My dreams had to be adjusted.


Adjusting Dreams and Expectations

I talk often about adjusted dreams and expectations. I join with parents all over who secretly hurt for their kids, who feel twinges when their kids are not being recognized for how amazing they are at awards ceremonies or graduations. How I wanted to scream to the rooftop of that huge, packed out college basketball stadium about the wonders that our boy has achieved, living through horrors and overcoming obstacles those other grads could never imagine.

My life does not look like what I thought it would when I received those high school awards. Does that make me unsuccessful? Are my new dreams any less valuable? My child’s life does not look like what he had hoped. Does that make him unsuccessful? Six months post graduation, we are still struggling with our young man to figure out the next steps. We don’t know what our kids’ futures hold. We don’t know what our futures or the future of Transfiguring Adoption holds. We don’t yet have hindsight. When living as a foster or adoptive family, our dreams and expectations quite often go unmet and have to change, sometimes drastically. Our life looks SO different than what we dreamed or expected. We have had to grieve those dreams and build new ones.


But When It’s Our Kids…

It’s one thing as adults to readjust our dreams and expectations. We have more hindsight, and we have more life experience. We know there are many more types of opportunities for success. While, in the moment, it can be hard for us to access all this, our kids really do not have much in the way of life experience with other possibilities. How can we help them?

  1. Kindly offer reality.
    One thing that we have battled is people in positions of authority who are supposed to be helping kids set and reach goals telling them they can be anything they want. We can’t put a blind person in the pilot’s seat and have them fly a passenger jet. I’m sorry, but the child who is tone deaf is not going to be a famous singer, and the young adult who cannot read, is going to have limited choices. Sometimes we have to help our children ascertain between reachable dreams and those that are unattainable. To allow them to continue expecting something unrealistic is setting them up for a much greater pain and loss. For example, we helped our guy take a practice military entrance test. When we saw the results, we shared with the school and encouraged them to help us in helping him instead of continuing to focus on the military as a goal and setting him up for heartache and failure without a backup plan. They ultimately repeated the test at school and shared with him that no amount of hard work, through no fault of his, would fill the gaps.
  2. Acknowledge their pain and help them grieve.
    Do not just brush the child’s dreams aside. Let them know that it is painful to let go of dreams, allow them to grieve, and help them understand how to grieve that loss.
  3. Share your experiences.
    We have to be careful to not undermine our children’s struggles, but we can express that while our experience is quite different, we have had to face crushed dreams, share what they were, how we handled it, and positive outcomes.
  4. Show them other possibilities.
    Help your child explore other options. Is there something related to their interest that they are capable of attaining? What are other options that they may not be aware of? Help them explore.

Now It’s Your Turn:

  1. Is there anything you would add to this list?
  2. What have you done to help yourself or others to manage the loss of unrealized dreams?

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Actor & Adult Adoptee, Chris Rankin, Talks About Adoption

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Guest Blog by Chris Rankin


I MENTIONED IN AN #ASKCHRIS SESSION ON TWITTER THAT I’M ADOPTED. WELL, I AM!

Being adopted isn’t something I talk about very much. Not because I’m ashamed of it, nor because it hurts, or that it’s a sensitive subject, because, I’m not, it doesn’t, it’s not. It’s my story, that’s all and it’s a personal one at that. Equally, it’s just my life, I don’t see it as a “thing”. It’s my normal.

“The general assumption with adopted kids is that they aren’t or weren’t wanted by their birth parents.”

When I was growing up, adoption was often used as a negative, used as a joke or a put-down. I’d hear people using adoption as an insult, or a joke to differentiate someone from the rest of their family. The general assumption with adopted kids is that they aren’t or weren’t wanted by their birth parents. Well, in some cases, sadly that may be true. In my case, I happen to know that my birth parents didn’t NOT want me, they just weren’t in a position where they were able to give me the life they would have wanted for me. Let’s just say, my understanding of the situation was that I was a “surprise” in the early stages of a relationship neither my birth mother nor birth father were ready to bring a child into.

I also know that my Mum and Dad (my adoptive parents) ABSOLUTELY wanted me. They wanted me more than anything in the world. That’s why they adopted me.

In New Zealand in the 80s (I don’t know if this is still true) all adopted little children and babies were given a little booklet with some information in it about their birth parents and why they were adopted. I’ve still got mine, and it’s the most reassuring thing. It answers all the questions I think I want to know the answers to:

  • Why was I adopted?
  • Who were my birth parents? Not their names, just a bit of basic info about age, occupation, complexion – I get the ginger from my mother’s side.
  • Birth family medical history (nothing to report)
  • Siblings (when I was born, there were others before me from previous marriages, there is every chance there could be more after me)

I think that’s all I need to know. Not once in the 34 years I’ve been on this planet have I ever really seriously considered actually FINDING my birth parents. Sure, I’ve had days where I’ve wondered who they are, what they’re doing, and how often I’m thought of.

Of course, it’s crossed my mind that they, their other children, grandchildren, my birth siblings, nieces, nephews etc, have seen Harry Potter and probably have them stored there on the dvd shelves. That blows my little mind and makes me chuckle. I like to imagine them all sat there going “doesn’t he look like Uncle Brian?”. Do they know they had a brother who was adopted? Who knows?! I don’t know them, and although it would be curious to have siblings, having grown up as an only child, I haven’t felt like I’ve missed out for one minute.


My feeling is that we, as a western culture, often default to adoption as something that rich celebrities do (think Madonna, Angelina). I don’t think we consider why it is that people may want, or choose to adopt nearly enough. There’s the obvious reason to leap to, of course being infertility. But there are and SHOULD be so many other reasons to consider adoption.

“…think about all the publicity there is around adopting dogs and cats… There are thousands of children in care across the UK, all of them need permanent, caring, solid homes to go to, where they can learn to be the best that they can be, and know that they are loved. But we don’t promote that in the same way?”

This might come slightly out of left field, but think about all the publicity there is around adopting dogs and cats. There are thousands of badly treated and unwanted animals in shelters and homes around the country, and we all know about it. We all know that it’s cheaper and more responsible to give a rescue animal a home, rather than hand over hundreds, even thousands of pounds to a breeder. But can the same be said about children? There are thousands of children in care across the UK, all of them need permanent, caring, solid homes to go to, where they can learn to be the best that they can be, and know that they are loved. But we don’t promote that in the same way?

Why?

I don’t know the answer to that, but perhaps it is to do with the social expectations. Deep down, after all, our purpose on this planet is to pro-create. To do the sex and pop out the next generation. The stigma against people who struggle, for whatever reason, to conceive children naturally is RIDICULOUS, and I think that part of the reason there is such a lack of promotion around adoption. I mean, what if we all thought carefully before settling down to have babies? What if we thought seriously about how important it is to create a small human in the vague hope it resembles all you and your partner’s best qualities, and whether or not it’s actually more important to give a safe and caring home to a child who otherwise may not have one? How much of a difference does it make in the long run? The child will still be the product of your upbringing, care, love and time, no different to if you’d been incubating them for 9months.

Adoption is a gift, both to the adopters and the adoptee. Imagine being given a chance to shine, either as parents or as a child that may not have had an opportunity otherwise. How SPECIAL. And how selfless to give a child that life.


So them’s my feelings on the subject.

Like everything I write about, it’s something that’s really close to my heart. I’m not usually one to talk openly about a lot of things, I like to keep my private life relatively personal. Having said that, I’m starting to realize that there are things that have happened in my life, that if I tell you about them, if I put those words out there, then maybe they can help or reassure someone reading them. At the very least, I hope you find it interesting and enlightening.

I always welcome discussion too, and hope that if you have any questions about my story or my opinions in anything I write, that you’ll comment below 🙂


chris-rankinChris Rankin was 16 years old when 
he sent off a letter asking for an
audition to play Percy Weasley in 
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's
Stone". He went on to play the role
for 11 years.
These days, Chris can be found in
Cardiff, working for a TV Production
Company, making high end TV drama.
Chris is a regular at Comic Cons and Events around the
world, where he regularly meets with the fan community
and speaks about his experiences in one of the most
beloved and successful film franchises in cinema history.

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Life Work With Children Who Are Fostered or Adopted

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From the Cover of Life Work with Children Who Are Fostered or Adopted by Joy Rees:

“This new book from life work expert Joy Rees explains the value of effective and meaningful life work with children who are fostered and adopted, and how best to carry it out.

This book will help social work professionals, foster carers and adopters understand the many aspects of life work, and to consider the important contributions they can all  make to this task. Life work is about helping children know and understand their personal stories and the life experiences that have shaped them. Enabling children to reach their potential and achieve the best possible outcome is the common goal, and this is best achieved by using the collaborative approach to life work advocated in this book.”


Grade:

5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]


What Our Family Thought:

This book provides caregivers and professionals with information about life work (also known as life story books, life journey work, etc). The author breaks down the specifics of the definition of the term life work, as well as going into clearly understood purpose for the importance of a life story book. She states, “The fundamental purpose of life work with all children in care is to help them understand their history and to gain a sense of their identity.” Next, Rees explores theoretical framework, having “thorough knowledge of child development, including brain development, attachment theory, and developmental trauma.” Each stage of developmental age is explored in relation to how to tackle life work at the different developmental stages, what is developmentally appropriate. The next section in the book discusses the importance of the child’s team and their knowledge of their story/development/life details. These important people in the child’s life can help make sure every detail they know can be recorded and documented for the child’s life work. The information gathered can really help the child put the pieces together in the future, pieces of their story that they may not have any information about. This section of the book seems to have the most detailed examples of what can be used to create life work for a child: Preparation and processing, observation, listening, and play, memories, memory books, and boxes, photographs, life journey work, therapeutic stories, child appreciation days, life story books, later life letters, contact,  and finally, adoption and care records. The appendix in the book has sample questionaires for caregivers/case workers to fill out, sample later life letters, and suggested reading lists for adults and children.

This book has done a wonderful job of explaining the why’s as well as the how to’s to help professionals as well as caretakers help create life work for children in foster care or adoption. It stresses the importance of coming together as a coordinated team for the sake of the child’s story, helping the child have a more thorough documentation of their past, for them in the future.

A quick and easy read, this book is for sure worth sharing with others in the adoption and foster care community. It isn’t just perfect for the foster/adoptive family but also therapists, case workers, judges, teachers, etc.


Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:


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