The Adoption Fairy
"Blessed by the adoption fairy" Ella's Social Worker naively told us, when we brought her home at 9 months old. More naively we believed her. Ella settled in very quickly, it was too good to be true. A child who had disrupted attachments from her Birth Mother and Foster Carer should not settle in this way, but Ella did. She was VERY happy and she was flying ahead in development terms - which rarely happens in the Adoption world. Just six months later, the adoption fairy decided to break our bubble as it took off and left us in a smoke of developmental trauma and developmental concerns.
On reflection, I'm not sure why we were so naive to believe the Adoption Fairy comment. We'd done the training, read the books, spoken to many other adopters. Our backgrounds meant that we shouldn't have believed the Social Worker. We knew that pretty much all children who have a disrupted primary attachment and had experienced trauma at some level would have difficulty in one way or another. We had fully prepared for a child who had complex needs as a result of their early life experiences. So, I guess we were just falling in love, blindly. Sure enough, just six months down the line there we were being thrown into a whole new world as parents of a child with complex needs.
It was during a family visit to the farm when my Mum highlighted how Ella's feet and her walking seemed a bit peculiar, as though something was wrong. "I can't see it", I lied. But before I knew it, I was sat at the first of many Physiotherapy appointments and within 10 minutes Ella had been diagnosed with Hypermobility at just 15 months old. "All young children are hypermobile, it's just that Ella has very loose and floppy joints which are impacting on her mobility". The Physio waffled on something about how children with severe Hypermobility, like Ella, need a lot of extra help and will face difficulties throughout their lives. I was floored. It was the first of a number of diagnostic appointments, each one preparing me for the next one. Toughening up each time.
Okay, that's not strictly true, it never gets easier.
Soon enough, just after Ella's second birthday she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and she was starting to show early signs of Autism. We started to see a Community Paediatrician to address our concerns. At our first appointment the Paediatrician broke the news that Ella had some significant development delays and was indeed showing signs of Autism. I was floored. I think the shock of it came because despite everything extra that we did to care for Ella compared to other children her age, younger even, she was showing some early signs of being a gifted child. All of her Professionals had expressed how she was 'extremely bright' for her age. By 11 months old she was copying 3 to 4 word sentences and by 15 months old using her own sentences. Also by 15 months old she was recognising letters and numbers without any encouragement. And here, age 2.5 I'm listening to a Paediatrician telling me they also suspect she is Autistic with significant development delays. "But she's already reading easy readers, recalls the whole Solar System, likes to spell out loud, knows the name of everything we come across in nature and can complete 48 piece puzzles in two minutes". Her Paediatrician explained that this type of presentation was typical in Autistic girls.
Since that appointment, Ella had a period of seizure type episodes and her development regressed significantly. She stopped communicating for weeks and it took months of hard work to get her back to base level of using language but she never fully recovered. Epilepsy was ruled out in favour of 'Autistic type blank episodes' and we were informed that the regression was very typical in Autistic children. Ella was then diagnosed with Global Development Delay, Social Communication Difficulties and Hyperlexia. More to add to the list of labels I felt were slapped on children so easily. In hindsight, the reality is, none of this was easy; the Doctors are very thorough and very careful with diagnoses. Those thoughts were simply protecting my heart. My heart which was hurting for Ella.
At the time of writing this, we're in the middle of a global pandemic and all appointments have been cancelled so Ella's Autism diagnosis has been delayed. We're fine with this, we don't need a label to understand Ella. We're attuned, very finely to her needs. But Ella will need the label. Research shows that early intervention is critical and also how Autistic people find that their diagnosis helps them to understand the reason for their challenges. So, we carry on. We continue to research, to reach out for help to support Ella in the best way we possibly can. Blessed in many, many ways for our beautiful, perfect Daughter but certainly not blessed by the Adoption Fairy.