|Jane and Lorraine,|
I was like, What? What gave you that idea? And of course it was daughter Jane's epilepsy, and her other mother had wondered then if--since they knew so little about me, nothing other than I was Polish--if maybe...since Jane had seizures...maybe there was a history of mental illness. She said that for a while they thought that I might have been in a mental hospital when I had...our daughter. You just sit there and listen, stunned, but betray nothing. I suppose it's not an unreasonable assumption.
Jane was in special ed classes at the time, or LD for Learning Disabled, when I first met her in 1981, and I came to know how she hated school because of the numerous seizures when she was young, and she had to wear a hockey helmet to school for years. That alone certainly is going to make anyone feel weird, and prone to social maladjustments, which she was. I know her adoptive family certainly had their hands full--there was an adopted older brother, and then two biological children, but the LD classes...always bothered Jane. She bore them like a crown of thorns. She knew she wasn't stupid, or even slow, even though let's grant that the strong meds (Depakane, and later, Depakote) she took to control her seizures did slow down the brain firings and drop some I.Q. points. I think she hated that as much as anything about her epilepsy. It was something she couldn't do anything about. She had to take the meds to control the seizures. The meds dropped I.Q. points. There are studies, she knew that.
FROM LEARNING DISABLED TO COLLEGE MATERIAL
Later, many years later, after she was married, after she had children, still on the meds, she got an associate's degree with honors from a local community college, and she joined Toastmaster's to learn how to get up in front of a group of people and give a talk. She won a trophy for one of her humorous speeches. It was an amazing turn around for a girl who had once been painfully shy. She was so proud of herself, so pleased to show others what she and I knew--that she was smarter than they thought. That she could do it. College. It meant so much to her, to prove herself. She then took an on-line literature course from another school, had to write a lot of papers, I helped with her grammar, nothing else. She got an A, and the teacher told her that she ought to find a way to get a four-year degree. Jane was elated, thrilled to tell me the news. She was smart.
The point is, Jane never should have been classified as "slow." She never should have been in LD classes to begin with. And that brings me back to: Would she ever have been there if I had raised her? Since seizures are unquestionably neurological, yes, she would have still had seizures, but if there had never been a whiff of my mental incompetence--the proof of which was that I had produced a child with epilepsy--would her parents have done all they could have to keep her out of the LD classes, which further branded her as different? Even with the epilepsy, would I have been able to keep her mainstreamed in school? I sure would have tried. I knew there was no mental incompetence in the family line. I knew her father was an extremely good political reporter, and a graceful writer to boot.
We'll never know. But we do know that adoptees are more likely to be diagnosed with all sorts of psychological problems. The eternal argument is whether they are more likely to be diagnosed because their parents are more likely to seek counseling and testing, et cetera, or do they really have the problems because of bad genes like I was suspected of passing along? Or do they not have the problems at all, it's just that they are so unlike the people they are living with, who can't understand why...someone is so forgetful about stuff (like me, like my niece, who visited this weekend) or somewhat dyslexic, also like me, like my brother? What is normal in one family can easily been seen as abnormal in another. When my brother mentioned how one niece always forgets stuff she should have with her as she walks out the door, my husband chimed in immediately about how that was like me; and I said, Yeah, right, that's a Dusky thing. And my typing--what a mess! my fingers don't obey my brain and I transpose letters like nobody's business; my brother has a stronger type of dyslexia. But he's a hell of an art director.
IS THE 'DIAGNOSIS' BASED ON A FLAWED ASSUMPTION?
Inherited traits aside, a singular question remains: Is the diagnosis, and maybe an underlying real problem, the psychological toll of simply being relinquished and adopted into a family of genetic strangers? My daughter had real problems, I know that, but she wasn't stupid, she was a good writer, she had a strong sense of irony, which takes intelligence. And there she was in LD classes.
I'm not writing this to bash Ginger, the adoptive mother whose comment at an earlier post got me thinking along these lines, but to ask adoptive parents to consider the individual talents and foibles of their adopted children when thinking about therapy for this or that. I heard a teenager, the son of a close friend, talk about an adoptee he and his mother knew; the adoptive parents were sending the adoptee to therapy. The teenage observer said: There's nothing wrong with Johnny--he's just not like them. Shared traits may occur in adoptive relationships, but when they occur, they are, for both family and child, a happy accident. But when there is a marked difference, let the individual have some room. Let her be different. And don't assume the worst about her background.
The problem child may not need anything, but for the adoptive parents to see her or him as an individual, different, yes, but just as valid and not outside the norm. Maybe she--and her adoptive mother--just needs to see how she fits into her family of origin, how much she is like someone to whom she is related by blood. She may simply be quite different from the family in which she is growing up. Yes, there may be real issues that need dealing with, but maybe not. Maybe there's just a--difference.