Adopting an older child presents unique challenges to any parent, and adopting a child who is deaf and who never had a formal language, adds to these challenges. There are so many experiences Sophie never had, so many bits and pieces of language and subtleties of words and gestures that were never learned. While she learned so much in China, she had to make her needs known through yelling, and through behaviors that were clear and concise so that people knew what she wanted. In other words, her behavior was her communication.
The challenges faced by Sophie would probably make most of us crawl into bed and not bother. Yet she, like countless children who are adopted, chose to take on the challenge. The day we met Sophie she took our hands, quite willingly, I might add, and ventured bravely into a new life. She had no assurance that we would give her love, that we offered her a chance at a new life. Yet she trusted, somewhere deep down in her soul, that it would be so. I don't know if I could be that brave.
In the past year, we have had, and continue to have, challenges with Sophie as she struggles to understand what is appropriate and what is not. We have started a new technique that I call "Try Again".
Sophie often will act inappropriately, either by shouting, or pulling something away from someone, etc. I tell her what was not right about what she did, then sign "try again' and let her re-enact the scene and do it appropriately. Being Sophie, she caught on immediately. Now, if I do something wrong, perhaps nudge her to hard inadvertently to get her attention, or pull on her hair too tight when doing her braids (yes, her hair is long enough for French braids!!!) she tells me 'try again', and then gives me a second chance!
Yesterday in school Sophie had bit of an issue with paying attention. Before she went to bed, we talked about it: why she needed to pay attention to her teacher, how to answer her teacher when she told her to pay attention. At first, Sophie tried to change the subject by talking about the other kids and THEIR bad behavior (truly these scenes are a riot, and I have to work hard at keeping a straight face as she signs her little heart away, trying to make me forget she is in trouble). This time I meant business and Sophie knew it. When I told her again how important it was for her to pay attention and behave, she looked at me long and hard, and signed:
"Tomorrow, try again."
Great advice, Sophie.