Monday, February 21, 2011

Justice Update

I am going to do some updates on the kids this week! First up is Justice…this is going to be a long one since I haven’t updated in awhile! Some of this is really detailed, but I want to be a resource for others who are adopting older children. There are unique struggles that we are dealing with as Justice adapts here, and I want to share them in case we can encourage others along the way!

Last week we had parent teacher conferences, and I was so excited to get Justice’s teacher’s perspective on how he is doing. For kindergarten they assess the children mid-year using a scoring system called DIEBLS. According to this scoring system, Justice has academically surpassed each benchmark for the kindergarten level!!! This was great to hear, and was a reminder to me of how quickly he catches on to things. For one this is likely a testament to the great memory that he has. Justice’s reading level is right where it should be for kindergarten, so that was also encouraging. In Justice’s class they are working a lot on phonetics in writing, knowing the difference between capital and small letters, and writing in a straight line. I have loved seeing some of his school work. There is great progression from the beginning of the year to now…here is a sample:

The one area that Justice continues to play ‘catch-up’ in is his social/emotional development and behavior. His teacher mentioned that socially he does fine in the area of making friends and developing friendships. However, he is definitely struggling with showing appropriate maturity and behavior for a 6 year old. Jake and I are working on this with him extensively at home as well. Much of this is hard to teach so to say because the social rules we have here in the United States are for the most part learned in a natural progression as you grow-up. Justice’s behavior struggles right now are with manners, knowing appropriate behavior for situations, sharing, and most of all showing respect to those who are older than him or who are in a place of authority over him. There are days when I literally feel like I could correct Justice in these areas ALL DAY LONG. But I am trying hard to keep my own patience and self-control and just work on a few things at a time. Otherwise, we both get discouraged and I feel like we are not getting anywhere! The other trick as I am sure every parent knows is to catch him doing good and reinforce/praise him in those instances as much as possible. This is something I have really been trying to be conscious of doing. As much as all of this is a learning experience for Justice, it really is a learning experience for us as well.

Another area related to his social/emotional development is that over the past two months Justice has started to show a defiant/rebellious/stubborn attitude when we ask him to do something that he doesn’t feel like doing. This has also shown up in school as his teacher noted that over the past 3 weeks she has seen a change in him as far as starting to ‘test’ her and the school rules. We know that he has gotten comfortable here, and now it seems that he is going to see how far he can push the limits. This again is something to be expected as a phase of post-adoption, and as his teacher says, ‘we are working on it’. As we’ve been working on this at home, one resource that has really helped me is using the Proverbs as a tool to help along discussions. I draw out two paths on a piece of paper and we contrast the wise man and the foolish man. I’ll pick out a few verses that pertain to his offense or misbehavior and use the scriptures to point out how his actions are foolish according to the Bible because of his heart attitude. I don’t literally have to say that what he did was foolish, rather as we break down the verses, he sees it for himself. As with anyone, he really doesn’t like seeing himself as a fool. He wants to be wise, it’s just that he doesn’t always behave how he wants because his heart isn't in check (aren’t we all this way?)! I feel this is an area that will get better over time as long as we continue to be proactive at teaching him ‘why’ he needs to do this or that, and showcasing that it is all a matter of his heart attitude. If he doesn’t understand the reason behind why we are asking him to do something then he doesn’t think it is necessary and will just act how he wants. All this being said, Justice can also be very sweet and very helpful if he wants to be. I just need to figure out how to cultivate this more and encourage him each time I notice it.

It’s been an interesting reaction that we’ve been getting from Justice when the subject of Ghana comes up. If we bring it up, he shuts down and will not talk about it, and oftentimes we will see tears and we know his mind is turning, we just don’t know details. For awhile I wasn’t sure if the tears were because he missed Ghana or if the memories were too painful. One day as we drove to school I decided to gradually ask him. I started by telling him why Daddy and I were going to Ghana in March and what we were going to do there. He got very quiet. I said, “Do you wish you could go with us?” He shook his head and said, “No.” I said “Do you want to go back there someday?” Again, he said no. I then asked him if there was anything he missed about Ghana and he again said no. Whenever we bring up Ghana this is always how the conversations go. He gets very quiet and shuts down which is not like him at all. One night we were at TJMaxx and ended up running into some friends that live in Ankeny that are from Ghana. This was the first time they had met Justice and after we introduced them the wife said a greeting to Justice in twi (Justice’s language from Ghana). Immediately his eyes got big and then he turned away. The wife asked us if he was fluent in twi and we said yes. So she tried speaking it with him again and he refused to speak it. It was very interesting. However, oftentimes Justice will bring up Ghana on his own terms when he does feel like talking about it. When something spurs his memory of Ghana he will give us a few sentences of details about his former life. One day we were in the car with Sam after eating at King Buffet. Sam was talking about how yummy the crab legs were and Justice started talking about the claw breakers they had used at the restaurant to break them open. Justice said, “In Ghana we didn’t have the time to take the meat out like that, we just ate the bone too.” :) This got us into a conversation about food in Ghana and Justice began talking about some bird that they would eat there. He said, “You have to kill the bird with a stone. There was this one guy who was a really good stone thrower and he could get the bird every time. But you can only eat the blue birds, not the brown ones.”

Let’s see, a big thing that Justice is still catching onto in America is what is real and what is not. For instance he initially wasn’t able to discern whether mascots at the games were real or not. As he began watching movies we started to realize that he actually thought the movie was going on somewhere in the world at that moment. When he would observe acting/skits at church he would always ask if they were real. And it’s hard for him to discern the realness of things that he sees in magazines or in the mall – like he saw a giant cardboard IPOD hanging from a store one day and he asked me if you could actually buy one that big! :) Justice has lots of questions about how things work too…like he doesn’t understand how the traffic lights know when to tell people to go and stop. :) And the windmills out in the fields have really thrown him for a loop! It’s fun to explain things to him and watch him learn. Right now we’ve been talking a lot about the seasons and how everything changes.

And here is a little video interview I did with him so you can see how well his English is progressing. I didn’t tell him what questions I was going to ask beforehand so he had to think of his answers on the spot.

I really consider him only having English training since he was put with Esi & family last June….that makes it only 8 months that he has been hearing English and learning to speak it! Amazing!!!!!!


kendra said...

Math, blehhhhh. Maybe he can tutor me, because math is NOT my favorite, and I am NOT good at it :)

Caitlin said...

He is so cute! Thanks for sharing your struggles and joys with adopting. It's great to be able to better understand it. And the Proverbs idea is SO smart! I think we may have to do that over here.

Tamara B said...

he is too cute!