Online support groups

Which can lead to irl (in real life) support!

Again, these were brought up during the ATTACh parent debriefing sessions.

ATTACh Parent support listserv, more

ATN (Attachment and Trauma Network) Parent support listserv, Parent support buddies, more

Daily Parenting Reflections – based on parenting via the Heather Forbes / Beyond Consequences approach

NeuroNetwork – many adoptive parents, but essentially a special needs parent support group – very determined and very educated group about finding solutions for their kids. You’ll learn a lot.

NeuroConnections – Similar to NeuroNetwork and in fact an offshoot of that group

Beyond Trauma and Attachment Online support groups for moms (very active!), dads, siblings of kids with trauma histories. BeTA also runs the “famous” Orlando retreat for moms every March, and various individuals put together regional get-togethers as well.

Trauma Headquarters Look for the Forum link – I’ve been a member there for over a decade, a moderator for several years, and have made and met some great friends there.

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School help

School resources mentioned at ATTACh during the parent debriefing sessions:

Newsletter I published last year on school & trauma kids. Lots of great resources!

Children of Trauma: What Educators Need to Know, my article recently published by National Council for Adoption.

I have a webinar up on on the same topic as the article – in fact, the webinar came first, right after I gave the presentation to my son’s school the first time.

Customize these for use with your own children:
The following files are similar to ones we’ve used for our own kids. The first file is a historical comparison table showing for each year (grade / age) how things were going at school (taken directly from teacher comments on report cards, assignments, and in IEP meetings), at home (parent comments), and a listing of traumatic events. When viewed as a whole, this document tends to portray a picture of a damaged child – rather than a disobedient child or a hostile and over-controlling parent.

Hopefully as you create this document, you will yourself see patterns that you may not even have realized before. I suggest having an educational advocate look over this document for wording before using it in a meeting or turning it over to educators or school staff.

Historical Comparison – example

The next file is a blank Word version of the above document you can modify for your own use.
Historical Comparison – blank

The next file is based on the letter our therapist wrote for our son:
Psychological Impacts of RAD and PTSD at School

Finally, we discovered a simple little thing. If you submit a document called “Parental Concerns” and ask that it be included in the IEP (because the little box they give for parental concerns isn’t big enough), they are legally required to include it. It doesn’t guarantee that those who need it most will read it, but it’s part of your continuing trail of documentation.

The following is an example similar to the one we provided at my son’s IEP.

Parental Concerns letter – example

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Links on parenting adult adopted kids

Links supporting ATTACh presentation:

Recovery from Hazardous Parenting by Brenda McCreight, aka The Adoption Counselor

Claudia Fletcher’s blog posts on parenting teens and adults:
That’s what rents are for
It’s not about me
Appropriate transitions and a chance to grieve
What to do when you can’t make them do anything
Stages of Grief for Adoptive Parents

Passenger seat

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Simple Rules for Adult Children Living at Home

Reference material for my presentation at ATTACh:

  1. Anyone living at home as an adult needs to have a spirit of cooperation and submission, NOT a contrary, self-serving spirit. Loophole seekers should find another place to live… example: “mis-understanding” directions/rules is not a valid excuse.
  2. You’re an adult. You’re responsible for managing your own life and responsibilities. We’re here to help and give advice, but mistakes or poor judgment on your part should not be turned into a crisis or emergency on our part.
  3. Be honest and trustworthy.
  4. Participate in family life and activities.
  5. No illegal behavior.
  6. No behavior that potentially endangers other family members or causes any family member to feel threatened or frightened.
  7. Be considerate of other family members and their possessions; be a good steward of the resources made available to you.
  8.  Make forward progress on your life. (School, job, and/or significant emotional / maturity growth) Spend more time developing yourself than wasting brain cells… example: If you are spending more than two hours per day (combined) on TV, video games, texts, or facebook; then you are probably not making progress.
  9. Be a Net Positive – contribute more than you “cost” us, whether $ or stress or work or whatever
  10. If you are paying reduced or no rent, you must be a good steward of your own finances and you must be accountable to Mom & Dad for your income and spending.
  11. It’s not your house. Get permission before altering anything (hanging things on walls, painting, etc.), or changing the status quo in any way (getting a pet, having friends over, etc.).
  12. Life isn’t fair. Do what’s right, regardless. We don’t keep score. Do more than what you think is your share. If everybody does that, everything gets done and done right. If you only try to do what you think is fair: then it is usually not enough, nothing gets completed, and the task is left for Mom and Dad to finish… which earns you almost no credit for what you did do.
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Bibliography – ATTACh 2013

More references re: ATTACh presentation:

Adams, J. (2003). When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us: Letting Go of Their Problems, Loving Them Anyway, and Getting on with our Lives. New York: Free Press.
Berger, K. S. (2010). Invitation to the life span. New York, NY: Worth.
Blechner, M. (2004). Inducement: Adoption Language We Must Understand. Adoptalk, Fall.
Coleman, J. (2008). When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along
Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery. [New York, N.Y.]: Basic Books.
McCreight, B. (2012). Recovery from Hazardous Parenting: A Guidebook for Parents who have Raised Children with Severe Behavioral Challenges
Perry, B. D. (2002). Traumatic Memory and Neurodevelopment. Paper presented at the EMDRIA Conference.
Rothschild, B. (2011). Trauma essentials : the go-to guide (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton.
Saakvitne, P. D., Karen W., Sarah Gamble, P. D., Luarie Anne Pearlman, P. D., & Beth Tabor Lev, P. D. (2000). Risking Connection: A Training Curriculum for Working with Survivors of Childhood Abuse. Baltimore, MD: The Sidran Press.
Siegel, D. J., & Hartzell, M. (2004). Parenting from the inside out : How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive (1st trade pbk. ed.). New York: J.P. Tarcher/Penguin.

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Lifespan Integration

Lifespan Integration, developed in 2002 by Peggy Pace, is a therapy used for healing trauma and disordered attachment. The tagline used to describe the therapy is, “Connecting ego states through time.” The therapy is based on the premise that one or more of an individual’s ego states have become “stuck” in an earlier time and event. The stuck ego state may not “know” that it is connected to complete individual and does not know that time has passed since the traumatic event.

Lifespan Integration helps the ego state that is stuck in an earlier become un-stuck and connect to all the states from then to now, creating a cohesive and integrated self. The formerly stuck ego-state learns that it now has more resources to deal with the curve balls of life, and that the entire being has survived the event or events and gone on to another developmental stage of life.

In LI, the client creates a timeline of his own life events – two to three memories for every year of life. The therapist uses one of several protocols, depending on the presenting problem. In the Standard Protocol, the client describes a troubling memory to the therapist and registers the body location where he feels a disturbing or uncomfortable sensation. The client closes his eyes and addresses his younger self, in that situation, to help the child, clearly communicating that he is the older self, the same person. The client mentally takes the younger self to a safe place, and the therapist reads the memory cues, pausing briefly between each one, and periodically checking in with the client, and the client with his younger self, until they are brought to present day in the client’s home.

Because the client’s eyes are closed and he is not reading the cues, he is operating more from his right brain than his left, and the memory cues are able to bring up other images and sensations. Typically, additional memories also surface.

The process is repeated several times. On successive repetitions, the client and the younger self are given opportunities to express themselves in the remembered traumatic situation. The younger self may want to say something, or have the client or the therapist say something. The younger self may want to bring in a police officer, or kick someone in the shins. These actions do not change the memories, but rather grant a sense of satisfaction and empowerment.

After several repetitions of the memory cues, the younger self is likely to recognize that he is an integral part of the client, that he lives with the client in his current home, and that he is no longer stuck in that earlier state. Integration continues to take place over succeeding days.

Another protocol, the LI Birth to Present protocol, is used “for affect regulation, to clear birth trauma, to strengthen the core self, to increase self-love, and to repair ruptures in attachment.” (Pace, 2012) The memory timeline is used similarly in this protocol, but this application starts with the therapist telling the story of the client’s birth. Known details are included; information that is not known is surmised based on the birth practices of the location and time frame.

The above descriptions are not sufficient to teach the use of LI, and I am not a therapist, although I did complete Level 1 training earlier this year. There are currently two levels of training, each requiring a single weekend of in-person instruction. The Standard Protocol and Birth to Present Protocol are both taught in Level I, and both are quite powerful in working with children with a trauma history. Additional approaches, such as a protocol for PTSD, are taught in Level 2 . With these methods, implicit and somatic memories that can’t be reached with talk therapy may be resolved.(Thorpe, 2012) The LI method is minimally traumatizing to the client and the therapist. Typically, this therapy is also effective with only a small number of sessions.

If you are parenting a child with a trauma history, I suggest you consider Lifespan Integration when you are trying to determine which approach to take next.


Pace, P. (2012). Lifespan Integration: Connecting Ego States Through Time (5 ed.).
Thorpe, C. (2012). The Success and Strategies of Lifespan Integration: An Overview and Client Stories. Bellevue, WA: TimeLine Press, LLC.

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More to come…

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Still to come… notes on a presentation by Larry Smith (co-founder of on .

And here’s a plug for an upcoming advocacy seminar. Having issues with the school, or any other legal advocacy issues, check this out: . Michele Nigliazzo is an attorney and an adoptive mom, and she “gets” trauma and attachment.

See you soon!

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CALO – Part 2 – clarifications ;-)

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I shared the previous post on an online attachment disorder support forum. My final statement was, “The best predictor of treatment outcome for attachment challenged kids is NOT how disturbed the kid, but the capacity of the parent,” which was, I believe, a pretty accurate quote from Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman.

One of the parents in the forum commented that that sounded like a lot to put on the parents’ shoulders – what about all the other factors, like age at adoption, prenatal alcohol exposure, and so on? Some kids come through like Michale Oher in The Blind Side, while others with amazingly therapeutic parents don’t seem to heal.

I made a valiant attempt to clarify myself. J The following is based on the response I shared on the board. (MY words, not Arthur Becker-Weidman’s.) Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful as well.

The best predictor of TREATMENT OUTCOME (and A B-W was speaking of attachment treatment) etc., etc.

IOW, the first assumption is that you’re working with a professional who doesn’t have his head up his @$$ (gee, sure would’ve liked to have found even one of them early on!), one who is supporting the parent, who is helping the parent(s) work through the parent’s (parents’) own stuff. FAE is another whole ball game, but as far as attachment challenges go, when the parent is able to change their own ways of responding/relating, there’s a better chance of the child changing.

Capacity of the parent refers to the parent’s insightfulness, own attachment state & state of mind, sensitivity (and I would say this might be sensitivity to the child’s state, but not sensitivity to button pushing), reflective capacity, and commitment. I would add to that, flexibility, openness, willingness to try something different; and parent training / education re: attachment & the treatment method (which I guess goes along with treatment by a decent professional).

Best predictor does not mean only predictor. I think this just means strongest statistical correlation. So… some kids are more resilient. Some kids have fewer attachment challenges, in spite of their background. (Maybe your friend’s kids?) But if your starting population is attachment challenged kids, and the family is being seen for the kid’s attachment issues AND the family dynamics, the kids who are going to do better are the ones who have parents with greater “capacity.” Statisticallyspeaking.

So, perhaps FASD kids do worse on average than do cocaine-exposed kids, or than kids who have “just” attachment issues… but the correlation, mathematically, is stronger with parent capacity than with substance exposure, or other factors – which do still play a part.

Empowering, because it means that if we have good training and support, we have a chance at making a difference… but scary as well.

And BTW – A B-W did NOT come off as if he were laying it all on parents, although he did emphasize that the parents DO need to do their own work and processing a lot of the time. He was pretty clear that raising these kids is tough, that he only sees them a couple hours a week but parents live it 24/7, and all the other stuff we know so well.

For your reference: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Institute

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Notes from the CALO annual conference

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Some notes from the sessions at the CALO annual conference

CALO = Change Academy Lake of the Ozarks – an attachment based RTC for adolescents.

First, I LOVE the fact that there are dogs EVERYWHERE. CALO uses golden retrievers for canine therapy, and the dogs are in the milieu, in classes, in kids’ rooms. Just that fact alone makes the place seem less institutional. And what a great regulator / stabilizer it is to have a dog beside you.

Second, this was the first time I heard Arthur Becker-Weidman speak, and he is awesome and I love him. 😉 This is a guy that “gets” attachment and trauma.

From A B-W’s various sessions:

HVAC analogy: You don’t notice your HVAC system when it’s functioning as it should; you really only notice when your house is hot, or stuffy, or too cold. Attachment is like that, too. When you have a neurotypical birth child, and the attachment occurs as a natural (and beautiful) process, it’s almost invisible unless you’re looking for it. It’s when you have a child with damaged attachment that you really notice it.

In normal attachment, a toddler may hide behind your leg when a stranger is present. A young adult may call home at a time of stress to check in.

My thoughts… and with a child with damaged attachment… the attachment-seeking behaviors aren’t as obvious, and if we’re not careful, they don’t elicit attach-able behaviors in us.

One example… Hypochondria… how many of our kids do this? Little to no response, perhaps, to a major injury, but oh my goodness, a little scratch or a minor tummy ache, and you’d think the world was coming to an end. Well, as I regularly say, Hypochondria – a safer way to ask for nurturing. (Wouldn’t that make a great Successories-type poster?)

Motivation. To be motivated, you must have a sense that your actions will somehow impact the world. If not, why bother, right? Our kids think they don’t matter. When they were little and cried, no one came. Or someone came, but the response wasn’t what they needed or wanted. At a core level, they don’t believe that their actions will result in an outcome that will benefit them – or even have an effect.

Music control room analogy: Our kids look at us like we’re the control board in a sound studio. Picture a preschooler, pushing buttons… which one gets the most exciting sounds and colors to show up? They keep pushing buttons – our buttons – until they elicit the reactions and degree of intimacy with which they’re comfortable.

We MUST disconnect our own buttons.

W e MUST create a loving emotional landscape, not one that mirrors what the kids are familiar with.

The rates of PTSD in foster kids are higher than the rates of PTSD in military veterans.

Source attribution error: Our kids do this all the time. (hey, there’s a name for it! LOL)

I’m feeling ______.
You’re here in the room.
You must be the reason I’m feeling _____.

Research shows that maternal stress affects the fetus in utero.
Smoking affects the fetus – researchers can see physiological reactions.
AND…. THINKING about smoking shows physiological responses in the fetus.

Something that was stressed in more than one presentation is something I hadn’t heard, or thought about, previously. I’m well aware that in kids with a trauma history, performance IQ often exceeds verbal IQ. What I didn’t know was that their EXPRESSIVE language skills may exceed their RECEPTIVE language skills. That’s counter-intuitive (normally receptive leads expressive), and can lead to challenges. When a child “talks a good game,” you assume he (1) understands what he’s saying and (2) understands when you reply in kind. Neither of those may be true. Hence, asking open-ended questions (tell me more about that) or asking a child to repeat to you what you have just said, but in his own words, can be useful.

Analogy: Boss asks you, “Why did you…”
What’s your reaction?
“Uh-oh, what’d I do wrong?”
Don’t ask your kids why. It’s stick-poking.

Analogy: Person at a party monologues you to death. Next time, you probably avoid that person. OR, you meet a new person who carries on a conversation, is interested in you and your interests. Next time, you’re open, even eager, to renew the acquaintance.
Ditto our kids. Who wants to be lectured or monologue? Want them to spend time with you, enjoy it, and come back for more? Ditch the lectures, and talk.

Consequences vs. restitution or repair
Restitution repairs the relationship. Restitution does as much good for the one making restitution as for the one receiving.
Punishment does not. Anger does not. Retribution does not.

Our kids’ experiences tell them that damage to a relationship, ends the relationship. They need to learn the process of rupture and REPAIR.

A child’s emotional truth may matter more (to your relationship, to their healing) than the factual truth. Especially true with respect to them being able to tell their life story – they may not know what happened to them, but it may feel like (x, y, z), and it’s OK if they make that their narrative.

Here are some good words for those of you dealing with therapists who want you to do sticker charts or behavior charts.

Stickers are a surrogate for approval. If there is no relationship, the child doesn’t care about approval. The currency is no good.

The best predictor of treatment outcome for attachment challenged kids is NOT how disturbed the kid, but the capacity of the parent.

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One drama-free month (my wish for 2012)

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I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. Some years ago, I, being the planner partner of the marriage, would categorize some topics, ponder on my own goals for self and family, then meet with the more spontaneous partner, and we would talk and come to agreement on goals for the year. Then I would track said goals and attempt to make our daily and weekly and monthly schedules and activities line up with the goals. Back when we were homeschooling, we also covered academic goals for each kid.

This year, I have a simple, but likely unattainable, wish.

It’s not a goal, because it’s out of my control.

It’s not even a hope – because I don’t really have any faith that it will happen.

However, my wish is for one month free of crises and drama. Just one month… OK, I know that if I experienced one month like that, I’d want more, but for now I’m just asking for a month.

My criteria:

Neither we nor any of our kids having any crisis / dramatic / involuntary /unexpected change in any of the following that require involvement on our part:
1 employment
2 romantic partner
3 housing (especially if it involves MY housing)
4 schooling (or emergency calls from school)

And no new involvement with any of these:
5 law enforcement or judicial system
7 emergency medical professionals

8 Nor any unexpected or avoidable requests for large sums of money from family members

From mid-December through mid January, we’re 8 for 8 on the above list, all related to adult children.

Normal people don’t live like this, do they?

Since I don’t think I’m likely to get my wish, I’m currently making plans for a month on a desert island or at least in a foreign country, with no cell phone service, and perhaps no internet access, somewhere about the time the youngest one graduates high school. If you expect to need me around May – June 2014, contact me by April, or forget it until July. Hmm, maybe that’ll give me enough time to get into swimsuit-shape…

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