International Adoption Info

Newsletter #94 for Internationally Adopting Parents
September 11, 2008
PAL Center Inc.


A New Specialist Joins
the BGCenter Bilingual Extension

Larissa Elgudin, MD
Board-Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Harriet McCarthy
Harriet McCarthy has long been one of the most trusted names within the Eastern European post-adoptive community. Based on her own experiences with the internationally adopted children, in 1994 she began to offer support and education on the Internet and started a local support group in North Carolina. In 1998, she established a discussion group on the Eastern European Adoption Coalition website called the PEP-List (Parent Education and Preparedness), which focuses on post-adoption issues. This list is very active today with over 1,400 families subscribed. In 2003, Harriet received the Congressional Angels in Adoption award for her outstanding work with and for adoptive parents. She is currently a member of the EEAC Board of Directors, on the education committee for Carolina Adoption Services, and a regular contributor to several adoption newsletters and magazines. I am honored to have Harriet as my personal friend and correspondent - an intelligent and thoughtful person who is always original, candid, and ready to reach out.

B. Gindis, Ph.D.

Internet Digest

    Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day

    Each September 9 since 1999 has been set aside as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day…

    Children's Response to Alcohol Odors

    How children respond to the smell of alcoholic beverages is related to their mothers' reasons for drinking,
    according to a new study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA

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or a former student
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or as a user of the International Adoption Articles Directory.


Latest Articles
from the

International Adoption Articles Directory
New Articles 

Nicole Beurkens
Treating Feeding Difficulties in the School Environment
What symptoms does a child show when he/she has eating issues in the school environment and what can be done to ease his/her stress? Here are some tips that can help.

Your Questions 

Outcome for FAS children in Long Perspective

Harriet McCarthy

Over the past 15 or so years that Eastern European kids have been coming to join their adoptive families both inside and outside the US, we've all learned certain truths - a glaring one of which is that a lot more of these children have alcohol-related neurological disabilities than previously thought (or hoped). I'm one of hundreds of moms on this list who was reluctant to cross that ARND bridge knowing that the damage, if acknowledged, might prove to be irreversible. What happened with our family was that my son's "team" of doctors, therapists, and I finally came to the ARND conclusion after many years of trying conventional therapies that didn't get the job done. After years of therapies he still had language issues, his growth was still near the bottom of the charts, he still had significant learning disabilities and reasoning lapses, he still has tremendous memory and processing issues. But when the diagnosis (by default) finally came, it was a relief because we had a meaningful explanation for all the struggles. And it wasn't just a relief to was a relief to him as well.

I am ever in awe of the complexity of the human brain. While there are certainly many times during the development of a fetus when tremendous harm can be done to its brain by the poison of alcohol, there are also many moments when normal development can and does occur. I know for a fact that a LOT of normal development can happen to a child who is the product of an alcoholic mother because I watched it first-hand with my biological brother. My mom was a 3:00 - 10:00 PM drinker every single day of her pregnancy, but somehow, during those other hours when she was asleep or not drinking, enough "normal" development took place that my brother is a thoroughly functional and successful individual. Does that mean he doesn't have any problems? No, sir! But no one would pick him out of a crowd as being different. He lives independently and owns his own successful business. Quirky, yes. Irreparably damaged, no.

The best part of the human brain is its plasticity. It's pretty clear from all the latest research that the brain can and does heal itself. It finds alternative pathways for areas that have been permanently damaged. It's in a constant state of change and growth. That's why acknowledging ARND as an underlying cause of a child's struggles need not be cause for alarm. It seems that with these children the important thing to do is ferret out the strengths (because they all have 'em) and accentuate the positive even though you may never be able to completely eliminate the negative. It may be sports prowess, it may be artistic achievement, it may be interpersonal relationships, it may be an ability to work with animals.....whatever it is, find it, continually reinforce it, and nurture it. Just because these children struggle at school (and most of them do), doesn't mean they are any less talented and precious than the rest of their peers - they're just wired differently! The best thing is that all those therapies, IEP meetings, doctor appointments, etc. do pay off. There is no "cure" for ARND, but with proper care and continuing therapies, the ARND child can become a complete and totally unique, contributing individual.

It gets better and better, trust me.

Sergei was adopted at age 5 with no self-generated language, diagnosed as failure to thrive, malnourished, sleep disordered, intensely sensory-seeking, severely emotionally traumatized, and unable to make attachments. Fast-forward 12 years.....he is affected by ARNDs and because he's still in high school, his severe dyslexia is his biggest problem. He still has memory and language processing issues, but it's clear that the damage to his brain centers around his language/auditory processing areas. The rest of his brain works pretty well. His athletic and interpersonal abilities are awesome - and those are the two areas we encourage and reinforce. He can and has held down a job during the school year and the place he was working is going to re-hire him now that all the college kids are leaving for back-to-school. He will be able to live independently (with a little monitoring of his finances). For as damaged as he came to us, he's doing just great!



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