It’s been so hard to know, these past couple weeks, where to begin to share an update. We have had some really rough days (and nights!) with Delia, and I haven’t wanted to share only the hard parts. We’ve also had some truly encouraging progress in some areas, but I haven’t wanted to gloss over the hard and share only the good either. It’s taken me a little while, but I’m now feeling confident that the good is indeed winning. Things will undoubtedly get worse in some ways before they get better, but they are getting better, and we are praising God.
- Diagnosis. First thing’s first. It is time to finally type out the word that has stricken fear into my heart since we first began considering adopting Delia. Autism. I confessed one of my more ludicrous objections to adopting Delia in this post, but I didn’t tell you that one of my very real concerns was her tentative diagnosis. I was so very at ease with adopting a child with obvious physical special needs (especially one who has, in practice, ended up hardly seeming “special needs” at all), but a child who looks completely typical but is in fact extremely delayed and possibly autistic? Scary. Perhaps you’ve heard the reluctant missionary’s song “Please don’t send me to Africa”? Well, I was singing “Please don’t send me to autism.” And here I am.
Delia has had her first appointment with a psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital now, and he is fairly confident to let that diagnosis stand. We are, too, now that we have lived with her for over a month. Now that things are feeling more official on that front, we are beginning to learn the ropes and discover a wonderful community of parents ready to support us and offer their collective wisdom. But it’s a pretty steep learning curve!
Delia is fully weaned off her medication now, and although she is still generally happy, she is very full-on, and her behavior has been intense. I think I had been mentally preparing for the developmental delays and focusing my research on helping her learn to communicate, which will certainly be useful and has been already. I was a bit less mentally braced for the behavioral side of things, which has definitely taken the front seat for the time being.
This verse has come to my mind often, and I’m clinging to it!
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 (ESV)
- Sleep. At her first meeting with her psychiatrist, we brought up sleep as one of our primary issues (for now). He recommended melatonin, which we had been thinking of trying anyway, and it has definitely helped. Although Delia is still an extremely light sleeper, causing us to live in fear of a middle of the night potty trip or coughing spell (it is very tricky to sleep quietly at seven months pregnant!), she is now able to get back to sleep most of the time if woken up. This has been huge both for our sanity and for her ability to function during the day. We are still not at the point where she is sleeping well enough to share a room with our littlest three girls, but we are praying for continued improvement in this area in time for baby’s arrival in March.
- Niko. The number one question on everyone’s lips these past few weeks has been, “Do she and Niko remember each other?” I love the idea of this as much as the next hopeless romantic, but we’re pretty sure…. not really. She does seem to really remember Trevor, though, and she lights up for her daddy like no one else.
As an aside, we have been so struck since Delia’s homecoming by how very far our little man has come in just under two years. You know how when you have a newborn, your toddler suddenly seems like an enormous genius? Well, same effect when you adopt another child. Suddenly his lingering difficult behaviors seem like completely typical 7-year-old boy stuff (and if he’s even still doing them, we’re hardly noticing!), and he’s speaking perfect Queen’s English. Or near enough, anyway. He has done so well with Delia’s transition into our family so far, and it seems to be doing him wonders to be one of the old, established members of the family. Love that boy so very much.
- Progress. So much! Delia signs “more” enthusiastically now both for food and for her beloved Miss Mary Mack-type clapping games with her sisters. She also says her own name. Loudly and often, and sometimes accompanied by a clap on her chest for extra emphasis! And we always respond either by saying it back to her or by saying our own names. She also attempts the word “hot” when being reminded about the stove in the kitchen, though she still prefers to get as close as she can before being shooed away.
She understands a huge amount of what we say to her, whether by true receptive language or just by learning our routines, it’s hard to know. She responds to commands like, “Hands down (off the table, which she sometimes shakes in her enthusiasm for mealtimes),” “Use your spoon,” and “Let’s go brush your teeth” like she’s been speaking English her whole life. She also now patiently waits until everyone has their food at mealtimes and happily holds hands while we pray. A few short weeks ago she just looked at us like, “You guys just do your thing; I’m going to go ahead and eat!” She definitely thrives on routines and structure, which may just force us to build more of those things into our lives.
We have also learned that her behavior is greatly improved by a structured time out of the house each day, which has given us a handy excuse to do some visiting this week. It does us all good, and is definitely helping things to begin to feel “normal” again.
We have truly felt the prayers of friends and family since we’ve been home. God is teaching me a whole new level of patience and dependence on Him, but He has given us peace and laughter in the midst of the crazy. His grace is sufficient.