triggers revisited

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My sweet boy doesn’t go to therapy much anymore. He’s sort of been discharged with an “as needed” return policy. The action plan for the next while is just going to be a mental-health well-check of sorts with appointments every few months or so. Today was one of those days…

I know that 80% of our therapy visit benefit is derived from the fact that it’s just him and me. When you have five kids, any time alone is cherished beyond measure, and with the littlest getting weekly therapy appointments now, I know that Brenden is feeling left out and missing his connection time with me. So he was more than a little excited when I told him that’s where we were headed. Things went swimmingly; best session we’ve had maybe ever. His therapist and I spent most of the time talking through how things are going: recent successes (like this one), IEP plans, how to address some recent disclosures Brenden made to us about his past, SPD, attachment in babies, and everything and anything in between.

We are blessed to have been placed right out of the gate with a therapist who believes, as all good therapists should, that the primary agents of healing in a child’s life are his parents. She can teach us skills, she can give us advice, she can work with Brenden as often we go to therapy, but all of that means nothing if we’re not implementing those things in love and safety here at home. There is also nothing that she ever does in therapy that I am not present for or directly involved with. I’m not waiting in on hard waiting room chairs while my child is taken back to ‘talk’ with this virtually unknown adult. We are always right there, doing the therapeutic interventions ourselves. If you’re looking for a therapist for your child, this is the kind you want. If your kids’ therapist isn’t this kind of therapist, can I just suggest to you that you should maybe look for a new one?

That’s a long lead up to the real point of this post which happened after the therapy appointment. We headed out to the foster care nurse’s office to check in since Brenden hadn’t seen her in a really long time. (She is in charge of scheduling, managing, and a myriad of other –ings for the kids who enter foster care in our county. Every kid who goes into care gets to know and love Nurse Shelly.) We did our standard hugs, looted the candy drawer, spent 10 minutes choosing two stickers, and when it was over, we turned around to see his case worker kneeling on the floor behind us.

(Now’s the point where if you don’t typically read this blog, you should refer back to this post for some reference on the negativity that was triggered last time we saw the case worker.)

You learn a lot about triggers when you go through foster care training. These triggers cue the brain to gather and send memories to the part of the brain which will then be in control. Smells, sights, sounds, people, places – any number of things can trigger a traumatic response in our kids. Given this, I felt my heart skip a little when I saw Brenden’s case worker because I knew how big of a trigger was going to be, I knew what his response had been in the past, and I was, well, scared.

Brenden turned around, saw her, and…nothing.

He said hi, told her how he was doing, and asked me if he could offer her a piece of candy. She looked up at me, and said, “He’s not scared.” I said, “No. Clearly not. Did you notice what happened last time we saw you at the fair?” She replied, “oh, GOD, yes. He was terrified.” She got up, Brenden was heading towards the door, and she looks at me and says, “This is BIG.”

I smiled, and all I could respond with was, “yes.” I proceeded to smile through my tears all the way to the car and partway home. And again when I told Wendell on the phone. And again when I talked with Brenden about it at naptime. Now, while I’m typing this out: still tears. Happy, relived, relishing in the continued healing of my small child tears.

It. was. BIG.

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