Wrong label

This is in response to a recent comment made, found here: Educational programs and the adopted child's future

"Your child is cognitively delayed. It use to be called mental retardation." That is what doctor/psychologist told me from his battery of tests done on my 10 year old child. He was blunt and matter of fact, just a routine set of words I am sure he has told to many parents in his office. But this time, he was telling it to me. Nothing prepared me to hear those words. Nothing prepared me for what was to come.

I am an Amother, like so many others that was mentioned in the about post that Kerry made. My child was adopted at the age of 6, it was an ICA process. My child is sweet, gentle, graceful, elegant, athletic and artistic. Our child is a very beautiful child (not because we are her Aparents, but truly a very good looking child). School has been a struggle for all of us, more so for my child. Our child is well behaved at school, friendly and easy. Yet school was difficult for her. Teacher upon teacher would share how our child could not learn, nor able be on the same level as other children in the same grade. One teacher once told us "not to buy the child anything opulent, because the child would never be able to attain those on their own." (it was probably the worse thing I have ever heard a teacher say to a parent). Comments ranged from "your child is brain damaged" to "your child is a socio-path". Some teachers just ignored her and did not teach her, because she was ...unteachable.

In five years we hopped from school to school, from private to public to progressive to academic and all was the same. We caved when one teacher assured us that the child had severe damage and could not learn. This crushed me and my husband. How can this be? I cannot tell you how many hours of endless nights worrying about this, endless nights crying myself to sleep about what would our child's future by like. We finally went to a highly recommended psychologist who tested the child and gave us the above dire remarks:

"Your child is cognitively delayed. It use to be called mental retardation." That is what doctor/psychologist told me from his battery of tests done on my 10 year old child. He was blunt and matter of fact, just a routine set of words I am sure he has told to many parents in his office. But this time, he was telling it to me. Nothing prepared me to hear those words. Nothing prepared me for what was to come.

The highly recommended doctor told us that the child would have to be sterilized and placed in a home one day by the time they reach late teens. Our child would have no life.

I remember the drive home being a daze. How? Why? What? A few days later, I was at the horse stables and watched our child jump four poles with a horse. How can a child with such athletic grace be MR? The five years of medal winning Swim Team, Gymnastic Team and track team raced through my head. A few days later, a dance teacher telephoned and wanted our child to be her assistant. As our child has taken Ballet professionally for 3 years and able to do pointe and worked well with younger children. An art gallery exhibited our child's work a few years prior and emailed us for new works. Something was not right?

I have spent the large part of the last 6 years fighting with teachers over her. I have been accused of being in denial. I just cannot accept the reality of what she is I was told.

We shared the news with family and friends. Family was supportive, some doubted it. Some friends were supportive, others drifted away. What was painful was to see our child's close friends drift away and less and less playdates and invitations requested. This did not go unnoticed to our child.

Our child is popular with her friends, enjoys the companies of others, is mature and able to handle all situations independently and I and others trust this child with younger children, due to the maturity exhibited by the child and their quick thinking. Yet, there in my hands was the diagnosis.

I remember my child folding the laundry and tenderly placing them in the linen closet. Something was not right.

A few days later she was enrolled in a Public School and we sat in a meeting with the Principal, the Director of Special Education and a Special Education teacher. They read the diagnosis but stated that they would have to do their own testing, but according that the child was tested by such a reputable psychologist and lab, that they would accept the diagnosis and place her immediately to meet her needs. They offered all services under the sun. So finally our child was going to get what she needed, they were very kind and reassuring. The stated that the child will be placed in a Special Needs room with Moderate to Severely delayed children, due to her low IQ score. All her curriculum would be modified. They would just give her some time to get adjusted before testing her. A few days before school started, I remember emailing the Special Ed director and stated that I just didn't think that that was the right placement for our child. She was very reassuring and "understood" how frightened parents our but reassured us that based on the Psychological Testing and IQ results along with years of teachers comments, it was the correct and right placement for our child. Reluctantly, I closed my computer down.

<Please understand all the while I have had the kind correspondence with this site's very own Kerry, whose years of insights have proven priceless.>

School started. I walked my very stylish 10 year to the corner to wait for the bus. She was so happy to go to school albeit a wee bit timid and apprehensive. I waved good bye as the bus rolled down the street. Wondering if this year would be different than other years. Would I have to hear a barrage of complaints from teachers about a well behaved child who was not on grade level, who drifted, who did not participate nor have anything to offer? I took a deep breath of resignation, but something still deep in me refused to believe what all the experts stated.

Two hours into the school day, the phone rang. It was the school. I about fainted, as any call from school sends chills down a parents spine. What now? I thought to myself. How can this all collapse so soon? It was the Special Education director on the other end of the phone line. Her voice near trembling, my imagination then swirling...she said"

"Mrs. Xyz, we need to talk to you. You see, your child arrived in the classroom and her teacher called me immediately to come over and meet her. It is apparent that there has been a dreadful mistake." I then about melted, fainted, went half deaf and clueless. I fumbled some words something to the like of..."what happened??" The Director stated, again, Mrs. Xyz...there is a dreadful mistake. We do not feel that your child is MR, it seems that it is a misdiagnosis." The rest of the day is a blur but I do recall calling my husband at work and telling him that they wanted to meet with us. We arranged a meeting in a few days.

The battery of Principal, School Psychologist, Resource Room teachers, Homeroom Teacher and all her teachers were there from the school from Art to Gym. The words I heard

still ring in my ears to this day. "Mr and Mrs Xyz, your child is not MR. Your child is an ESL student. English is her THIRD language. She has been threw the trauma of relinquishment/orphanage care/adoption and assimilation. We want to test her again." We quickly signed for testing to be done. This was what they suspected, will the results be different? I told myself. A few weeks later the results were given to us. Amidst many tears we were informed, a terrible misjustice was done to your child. She is an ESL student. Her IQ scores have risen since she has been with us. She has grown in trust and is learning at a very fast speed." Another proposed, how did this well reknowned psychologist ever think that this child was MR? Did he ever see her in person? One Special Education director was brought to tears saying, we loved this child no matter what.

So true. The speech pathologist was also in tears, realizing that all that this child went through was due to her being an ESL learner.

Years of worry were like magically lifted. I had to rehear what they just said and asked them to repeat it. "Your child is not MR, but an ESL student."

So my child is not going to get sterilized? NOOOOO!!!! They said in unison and in shock that a statement like that was ever suggested. They noted how kind and caring she was with the other kids and makes friends easily and is an amazing athlete and learns very fast. I asked them if their diagnosis will change, they reassured me that no it won't.

To cut this long story short, you can imagine for yourselves how the next weeks went for us. Then it was time for the first quarter meeting with the teachers. They shared her grades with us, she received several A+ and one B+, she excels in sports and in many areas. She is progressing marvelously. They finished the testing and they are assured she is nowhere near MR and not even LD (learning disabled), she is an ESL student, who is finally being taught for the first time by teachers aware of ESL needs and the needs of older adopted children. I wish I could tell all that this story ends happily here but....we can't rejoice just yet. You see our child is still in a Mod to Severe Needs classroom for most of the day. Yes she is excelling but at what cost? There is NO ESL programs in our school district and...she is still classified under Special Education so she has to "exit out". The fact that she is in "that" classroom has taken a SEVERE toll on this child's social relationships not to mention their social life. More importantly on their own self esteem. This story is far from over, we have always fought for this child at many schools and defended this child. We will continue to do so until this story does have a happy ending for this child.

In the meanwhile, for those AParents that find themselves in similar situations, please visit the following sites. This is huge. All the young years of not getting what they needed, all the trauma and grieving cannot be ignored on how that affects learning. Also, there is a great adoption bias out there, Aparents have to be aware of this.

-Myths about English language Learners:



-Language Development in Internationally Adopted Children:


Thank you for reading this post in hopes that others are helped, please share.


Corrections and acknowledgements

First, I want to express how much I appreciate the courage and effort it took to make this piece possible.  I know going public with something so personal is not easy.  Truth is, I know all too often PPL gets the reputation of AP-bashing, and I want to make my official stance clear:   I do not believe all APs are the same.  Those AP I choose to bash and criticize are often well-deservering of my loud gnarling criticism.  With that, I am simple -- there's only one type of parent (adoptive or not) I myself cannot tolerate:  that is the parent who does nothing for their hurting child.

Sadly, I don't think your story featuring bias against a fostered/adopted child is all that unique.  This bias manifests itself in many different ways:  often the fostered/adopted child is seen as a liar, a manipulator; that child is seen as damaged and not-good.  These are stereotypes easily perpetuated in the less than ideal foster/adoptive homes we at PPL condemn and admonish, or by those who believe every adoptee is the by-product of an alcoholic/drug addict birth-mom.

In an article written back in 2009, some foster-kids had the chance to share their POV about what it is they receive through foster/adoption services:

Jamice Freeman, 17, told a crowd of social workers and foster parents she's been been removed from homes so many times it has become impossible to trust.

She hopes foster parents will stop and think before taking in a child.

"We need not to be treated differently because we already have the feeling like we are (different)," she said. "Do not do it if your heart is not in the right place. Do not waste your time. Do not waste our time, because we go through enough heartbreak. We don't need you to add on."  [From:  Foster kids pull no punches describing cracks in the system ]

So, to all those APs who take adoptive parenting very seriously, like the mom who dared to expose some of her broken heart, I strongly applaud and praise the work your are trying to do for the child your brought into your family/life.  It can't be easy... especially when so much about the adopted child has been lied about and manufactured.... and so much about the fostered/adopted child is not well-liked.

Throughout this story, I myself was always amazed how ignorant many of these therapists/educators seemed to be about first-spoken languages for the foreign adoptee.  I mean, it's rather arrogant to assume a foreign child understands English like an American-born child.  Even more disturbing to me was the almost absent acknowledgement that stress and trauma (multiple changes and moves) affects a child's ability to learn and relate to others.  Throughout this story, I felt as though both parents and child were being failed by one school system after the next school system, all because so few of those professionals understand hard-core adoption issues, especially those the foreign-born adoptee is forced to face whilst assimilating to American life.  [How often is ESL dismissed for the adoptee?]

Now that this has gone more public, I believe much can be learned from this sort of unfortunate unnerving experience.  My first question, for any AP out-there is this:  WHAT are adoption agencies teaching their PAPs about these specific adoption issues?   Are these issues acknowledged and addressed before the child is brought to his/her American home?  While much cannot be corrected right away, how can PAPs be better prepared for this side of adopted-reality?

Bias and agency response

Thank you Kerry. To answer your question:
The bias is so evident against adopted children, sadly mostly made by adults and NO, the agency did not prepare me for any of this, nor follow up either.

Pound Pup Legacy