About Girl and Attachment Disorder

We adopted our lovely Girl just before her second birthday. She was removed from her natural mother at birth and placed straight into foster care. The foster carers failed in their care for our daughter, were unable to offer the attention she needed because of their own difficult circumstances and personal issues and so for almost two years Girl languished in their care, although she was fed and very, very clean she did not have the opportunity to create the important bonds of attachment that every baby requires.

At two years old she was removed from everything she knew to be placed for adoption with us. Girl did not attach well to me, introductions were difficult to say the least with Girl screaming at me every time I wanted to help with feeding, bathing, nappy changing, however an instant bond was created with my husband. It's very hard not to take this personally but subsequently I have learnt about the female being the abandoner*, after all her natural mother abandoned her, her foster mother abandoned her and didn't provide the affection she needed so why should she trust this new female who wants to play at mother? Girl insists that it's rubbish being a girl, she wants to be a boy, wants a man's job when she grows up and boy's clothes, she will not even consider wearing anything girly, princessy or pink, we have theorised with our PASW that this is all part of the same issue. For months after we adopted Girl she would scream at most females that entered our house.

Girl has always insisted that she is lonely and has pestered for a brother or sister. She does have sisters that were adopted elsewhere and I think she has always been jealous of their close relationship. So after two years we decided that yes we would start the adoption process again and last year we adopted Boy, 14 months old.

This has had a massive impact on Girl and the behaviours that we wrongly thought were just part of her adjusting to her new life, genetic and going through terrible twos became much, much worse and it's only the last few months that we have come to the realisation that she does in fact have Attachment Disorder and it was only upon adopting Boy that we found out the real truth about Girl's foster carers which has since been confirmed by social services.

So here we are three years on and life is difficult, not that I would change anything, we love Girl to her very bones but I do crave the day when she feels totally secure. So how is life difficult? I can tell you about some of the ways her attachment disorder manifests itself:
  • Girl has Dyspraxic tendencies, she can be unco-ordinated, mealtimes are messy, every other day she comes home from school with a note about an accident and is constantly covered in bruises, she can struggle with buttons and zips.
  • She has low self esteem and confidence. Girl is actually very bright and clever but she does not believe this, some days even getting dressed is a problem. A task she completes one day is impossible the next day.
  • She cannot follow more than the simplest of instructions
  • She cannot regulate her temper and emotions, this is the worst we deal with
  • She cannot cope with noisy, exciting, strange places
  • She cannot sit still
  • She needs to be in control to feel safe this can sometimes manifest in behaviour which some might see as OCD but if she knows that she is having Shreddies every morning she is not going to be disappointed if she gets something she doesn't like
  • She is anxious most of the time
  • She can be hyper-vigilant this means that she can struggle in the classroom because she cannot concentrate
  • She has speech problems including a tic called Palilalia that appears when at her most anxious

The list is not totally exhaustive and can be different for every child with attachment disorder, it is such a wide-ranging disorder that can display in so many different and unique ways.

The difficult bit for us is that normal parenting methods do not work with a child with attachment disorder, reward charts, consequences, time-outs, being sent to their room so we constantly have to be thinking of ways to manage the behaviour, the easiest way to manage a meltdown is to totally avoid it happening in the first place but the triggers can be far ranging and totally unexpected for instance the other week Girl had a meltdown because the pyjamas she wanted were in the washing machine. There was no way we could have seen that one coming so then we had to work out how best to deal with the (violent) meltdown.
So as you see life is 'interesting', exhausting, emotional but you know what? We got on the roller coaster with our eyes wide open and we do enjoy the ride. Most of the time.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about anything because what I really would like is for people to understand about the condition.

*For more about female as the abandoner read The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier

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