Over the past couple months, we've struggled to help Sofia regulate her sensory system. Sensory Processing Disorder is very common in children who've spent any time in an orphanage setting, AND it's common in children with Down Syndrome....so our girls have the double whammy! She is a huge sensory seeker, which puts her in danger at times (climbing as high as she can get, putting everything in her mouth, crashing into things...to name a few). We were doing great with giving Sofia some appropriate sensory experiences to fill up her sensory cup and curb the dangerous behaviors, but we were finding that after these activities she couldn't come back down and integrate into daily activities. After some of these sensory experiences which she loved and needed, she would just scream and cry--partly because she wanted to continue the activity forever, and partly because she was becoming overstimulated and had no idea how to modulate. We saw the same type of behaviors after being around crowds or going to new places. She was totally fine in the new situations for the most part, but we'd see the fall out hours later at home. So to help her regulate, we've implemented some preventative strategies :) After any sensory activities we do with her (swinging, water play, sensory bins, pillow diving, spinning, etc.) or new experiences where she might be overwhelmed but not really showing any signs we give her proprioceptive input. I do joint compressions on her which works amazingly well, we give her (gentle) bear hugs, put her in a nice cozy space with lots of pillows and a weighted blanket, use a baby swing (with the slow rhythmic motion), and gentle massage, to name a few. We're also trying out a weighted compression vest to see how she reacts to that! The baby swing has been sent straight from Heaven (well really, from an awesome friend.....)....but really it's been helping her to calm down so well! There's only one on the market that goes up to her weight limit, so we're extra thankful we found one! The first couple times I put her in it I had to keep checking to see if she fell asleep because she was SO relaxed and so chill! (Sooooo unlike her!)
We've also implemented a quiet morning time, which I'm sad to say, I should have realized she needed sooner. When she came home she was taking two naps a day and shortly after she dropped her morning nap. I tried a "quiet time" in a pack n' play downstairs for her to relax in, but if she saw activity that she was not a part of....well FORGET IT! I think, as adoptive parents, sometimes we forget that in order to make progress we have to give our kids a little of what we viewed as negative during their time in the orphanage, JUST BECAUSE it's what they're used to. Sofia was used to spending a lot of time ALONE in her bed, so us being in her face all the time was overwhelming. As much as she craved the attention and love and constant activity, her sensory system had no idea how to handle all that input. So reluctantly, I started giving her a morning rest time in her bedroom with the lights off, a blankie and a binkie, and a soothing lamb that makes ocean and rain noise. Pretty much just like nap time, except she only rests. I can only think of 2 times she actually fell asleep during that time, and clearly those times she needed it! I can tell exactly when 9:00am rolls around without looking at the clock because Sofia starts getting overstimulated. I can now pick up on the very subtle signs and get her up to her bedroom for her 25 minute rest before she loses it! She is so happy and better able to handle the rest of the morning after her short rest time!
It's not ALL been difficult, though....we've had lots of good moments and days over the past six months. Sofia has made so much progress! She is feeding herself with her fork for 100% of her meal, and is able to feed herself with a spoon, although it's very messy :) She is picking up on signing beautifully and mimics everything! She is a little spy and always watching everyone and trying to imitate what she sees! She's taking 8-10 steps independently! As of last night, she's able to stand up from the middle of the floor and take off walking but doesn't get very far before falling down. It won't be long before she's a full blown "walker!" Gross motor skills are definitely an area of strength for her! She is able to crawl over to the table and pull herself up to her chair for meal times (although sometimes rolls her eyes at me-yes seriously-and refuses to do so when asked....she's feisty!). She and Zoya are like magnets to one another....they have such a typical sister love/hate relationship! They each know how to push the other ones buttons, yet they can NOT stay away from one another! It's awesome watching Sofia and Mila to because they are both learning so much from one another! Sofia was terrified of the potty, and I had no intentions of potty training her because she's not even 2 yet, but after watching Mila go potty for a couple of weeks, she is now going as well each time I put her on the potty! I KNOW she learned that from Mila just by watching her and I'd never have been able to teach her that without Mila's help! I'm thankful the three of them have each other to learn from and love! We've made a lot of progress with the food issues that I've talked a lot about! Sofia will now turn down foods she doesn't like and stop eating while there is still food available (sometimes). She is able to watch me prepare food more and more without crying.
I feel like it's taken me a little longer this time around to figure out how to best help Sofia, but with 6 months under our belts, we're getting to the point where we feel like we've almost got her figured out (and you all know just when that happens is when she'll change it up on us!) I think a big part of the difference in adjusting to being her mama (as compared to the other two girls) is that she came home SO independent and with hardly ANY medical needs. Zoya came home with a lot of emotional needs, had already had heart surgery in Ukraine which meant she spent a lot of time very sick and needy, and Mila was on her death bed when she came home and needed me to anticipate and provide for every single need. Having a child who is so independent was definitely new for me and it took me time to figure out where I fit in to her little world and how I could show her that it was our job to take care of her. She clearly should not have been as independent as she was, but her orphanage survivor skills played a role in that. As time goes by and the dust settles, we are starting to get a better feel for her real personality and sorting out what is "orphanage survivor skills" and what is her true personality. I have a feeling she's a lot needier than I realized because sadly, she did such a good job providing for her own needs for so long. It's a lot of give and take....it's a lot of loving her on her own terms when she's ready and that's not been easy for me to swallow along the way. We're finally at a point where she's not only allowing me to play the role of mama, but also preferring to receive her comfort from us instead of from herself. It's messy and beautiful all at the same time. I'm thankful God chose me to be her mama. He continues to teach me and mold me and has taught me so many lessons through each of my beautiful daughters, and Sofia is no exception to that! I'm so so thankful to be her Mama and be able to show her LOVE....and walk out that path with her every day....the easy days and the hard ones!
I love how she is looking at me for reassurance here! She LOVED the carousel ride the first couple times, then suddenly was scared.....this is good news, I think :)
I seem to have a lot of pictures of THIS:
Zoya had set up a barricade to keep Sofia out and here is Sofia climbing the barricade! Zoya wasn't too happy....
But she warmed up once Sofia was sitting next to her :)
The sweetest story....Sofia really has a tender side we're uncovering! Mila kept looking at Sofia's bananas (she has scarfed all hers down already) and Mila signed "more"....Sofia only had 2 left when she looked at Mila, picked one of her two bananas up, and put it on Mila's red mat. My mama heart melted!
Among things Sofia has learned from Mila....how to sleep in a funky position! (Sofia on the left, Mila on the right).
Sofia's scooter board that Daddy made :)
So thankful for this swing!
Scooter board cup crashing!!!!!
*Sofia's Welcome Home Party post coming soon :)