Here is a description of an adopted child, gradually regressing
into chaos while a lack of school support is speeding it up. "What's
new?" one would say. Indeed the point at hand is that internationally
adopting parents often try very hard, but still find themselves isolated
and without help, as they can't afford delegating control over their
child's health and education to others, even to schools. They must be
proactive in selecting the right specialists to work with their children.
Dr. Gindis and his staff answer the questions of a parent.
I have read a number of your articles and they ring so familiar to me.
I have a 12 year old daughter, adopted from Russia just before her 1st
birthday. She had a number of issues, and we went through Early Intervention,
Speech Therapy and other programs in our school district, and she seemed
to have overcome many of the earlier issues.
In the first grade my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD
and began wearing glasses. In the second grade she started having real
problems, so we put her on medication and our saga began with the School.
For 2 years I fought to get her classified so that she would get the
needed accommodations, and finally she was classified as Learning Disabled
in the 4th grade. While she did get some accommodations along the way,
the school and teachers did not really take her issues seriously. Her
grades each year were going down. She became passively defiant and not
doing homework or schoolwork, so her grades got worse and worse. I was
told by her teachers that she did not complete class work either, and
they just let her sit there and do nothing.
In the Middle School all her issues seemed to exacerbate,
and she shut down all together. She just couldn't function at that level
of responsibility. Trying to find her place socially in Middle School,
she took on new friends that were not exactly good role models for her.
My daughter is not an aggressive child, yet she had 2 "in-school"
suspension days since then. This year they actually let her walk out
the front door one morning and no one stopped her.
During this summer I have been determined to find out
what is really going on with my daughter as I suspected that ADHD was
only one part of the whole picture, and the school did not take that
diagnosis seriously. I suspected FAS after reading much information
and had her evaluated at a local children's hospital that had a FAS
program. They evaluated her and did the facial measurement analyses
that are run through a computer program designed at the University of
Washington. I read that this was supposed to be an "objective"
method of diagnosing FAS. She scored as "Mild FAS." But the
director of the program who evaluated her said that "he cannot
diagnose my daughter with FAS because I have no record of her mother's
drinking while she was pregnant."
I can't imagine yet another year with the school just
letting my daughter do nothing and fail. I believe that if she was in
the proper environment with the appropriate services and support, she
would be able to flourish. But this school is not giving her the chance.
It's very unfortunate, but your child's situation is just another example
of how your daughter was failed first in Russia and now in the US over
and over again - all with no fault of her own. We do not know the details
of her assessments, but just the very fact that the child was denied
a diagnosis (and help) based on the lack of paperwork looks like another
failure by your local clinic. The absolute majority of international
adoptees with the established FAS diagnosis do not have documents
confirming officially that the child was born to an alcoholic mother.
Formally, such documentation is one of the 4 necessary elements of a
"completely" confirmed FAS diagnosis, but there are 3 other
major factors (and many secondary conditions), which you do not talk
about; and they are to be considered first and foremost when the diagnosis
of FAS is established in international adoptees.
Your main unspoken question is basically as follows: "Is
it possible to get help for my child at school if the assessment results
were inconclusive and vague?" Very likely, it's not possible, as
schools require a written document, not just somebody's opinion about
your child's medical issues and educational needs. The way out of this
difficult situation is only one - you need to do a complete (developmental,
psychological, and educational) assessment of your daughter. You should
not go for just FAS determination or ADHD diagnosis, or whatever else
may look like a possibility, because only a complete assessment can
look at the entire "forest" vs. "one tree," figuratively
speaking, and give you and your school a clear direction on how to compensate
the delays and accumulated deficiencies in your daughter's development.
You need to go to a professional who a) understands specific issues
of internationally adopted children; b) who can evaluate your child's
developmental status from many perspectives. It may or may not necessarily
be FAS in your daughter, there may as well be another half a dozen issues
that manifest themselves similarly. And they have to be found out (the
child can't just "go down the hill" developmentally and academically
without any reason) and they have to be properly presented in a clinical
report with the adequate recommendations to your school district. Only
then the school may reconsider and act accordingly.
There is one more important aspect which can't be overemphasized:
your child's original medical/educational records in the native language.
At the BGCenter we have seen so many cases of denied services or special
Ed placement for adopted children by their schools, solely based on
the lack of developmental history of the child: it was too difficult
and too risky for a school psychologist to come up with an unambiguous
conclusion of the child's needs without it; it's so much simpler to
recommend "wait and see" until the next year. And the tragic
part of it is that the records are often available, would just scream
for intensive medical and educational intervention without delays, but
were never translated, or poorly translated, or nobody ever cared to
ask if they are available.