Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Letter to Smalls' Teachers

Here's a letter that we wrote to all of Smalls' teachers back in August. I forgot to share it back then...

Dear Teachers,

Thank you so much for investing in the lives of our children. Having a great teacher, like you, is a treasure to parents like myself. We really appreciate all the wonderful things you teach our little ones. You know not all children are the same. Each child has a unique history, some great and some unfortunately not so great. My daughter’s history is on the unfortunately not so great side. She has been with us for 2 years now. She has grown tremendously, both physically and emotionally. We still have lots of challenges that we face with her. I do want to let you be aware of some of the difficulties she may have in your class. 

Trauma- She was in an abusive foster house for almost 8 years of her life. She might be defensive when someone touches her when she doesn’t want them to. She is learning to use words instead of behavior. You may need to remind her to use words and not her behavior. 

Fear of Abandonment- This is a scary thing for her that most kids, fortunately, don’t need to worry about. She is constantly thinking that mom and dad might not come and pick her up after Sunday school is over. Please reassure her that her mommy and daddy love her very much and will not leave her. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder- She doesn’t know appropriate boundaries for proper hugging and kissing. You might think it’s cute that she wants to sit in your lap or hug all over you, but she is trying to “win” your love. She doesn’t know that is not the way to get attention. We are constantly teaching her physical boundaries and each person has a space bubble and you have to ask permission to get inside their invisible space bubble. 

Anxiety- Her brain can’t relax like others. She has trouble letting loose and having fun. She may need lots of encouragement or a buddy to help her. 

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)- Because of the neglect earlier in her life, her brain cannot process language the way it’s supposed to. She may be disruptive in class because she can not follow along like other children. You may have to give her individual instruction in a big classroom setting while making eye contact and asking her to repeat back what you just asked her to do. Also speaking slowly with fewer words will help her to process what you need from her faster. 

Speech delay- Because of APD, she cannot pronounce words correctly because she can’t hear them correctly. Ask her to speak slowly with confidence and no mumbling. When she gets frustrated because she can't articulate what she wants to say, you can tell her that "you want to hear what she has to say and to take a deep breath and relax". 

Sensory Processing Disorder- Again, from the earlier neglect in her life, her body cannot process touch the way you and I can. When she was a baby, no one gave her healthy touch. She may squeeze you extra hard when she gives you a hug. Let her know that is too hard and to be gentle. Your touch, as light as a feather it may be, will feel like a punch to her. If you touch her on her back and she flinches, it’s because she can’t handle touch at the moment. Another issue she may have is noise. The sound of the flickering of the lights may drive her bonkers. Her brain will focus on that one sound and will tune out all the rest, more important information (like when the teacher is giving instructions). 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)- Now this is the big one. Her birth mom chose to drink alcohol while being pregnant with her. This is something my daughter is learning to live and cope with.  It is a form of brain damage that Smalls will have for the rest of her life. Please see the attachment on the ABC’s of FASD.

At home, we are also doing everything that we can to teach Smalls about what is acceptable and what is not. Some of her behaviors may seem like she is not being disciplined at home or that her parents are not involved in her behaviors. I want to assure you we are constantly teaching and redirecting our daughter's behaviors.

If you have any questions about any of this information, please contact me. I will be happy to go over it with you. If you have any issues with my daughter in your class, or if she can’t handle being with other kids, please come get me. During Bible teaching, I have my phone out where I can see if someone needs to contact me about Smalls.

I want to thank you for helping to teach Smalls. You are a big part of helping to take care of “the orphan”, although Smalls is no longer an orphan because she has a mom and dad that loves and takes care of her now. You are helping us in reaching her with the Gospel, which is a task that we do not take lightly.

In addition to helping to take care of an orphan, you are taking part in international missions. My daughter came from Poland, one of the most unreached nations in the world. Although Poland is predominantly Catholic, less than .3% is evangelical. There are more missionaries in Saudi Arabia than in Poland. That’s crazy! You are bringing the Gospel to an unreached nation by teaching my daughter. I pray that my daughter will one day become a missionary to her home country.

I realize that this is a lot of information, but I want you to know that you play a special role in sharing the Gospel to my daughter. Thank you so much for your service to our little ones.

Wes and Sarai Barnett
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