"By Our Every Action"
[Monday, October 5, 2015]
Getting Cas and Hali settled
in their new apartment had
taken a couple of days and
several more shopping trips.
Fixing the downstairs kitchen
had become more of a priority, too.
Faster Blaster still had his notes from
buying appliances for the upstairs kitchen,
but all the sales would be different now,
so he'd have to watch for new ones.
He had a budget, a generous one even,
but he felt a need for frugality until
the gang started making money.
Meanwhile, he could focus on
building relationships, which meant
that he had a phone call to make.
Faster Blaster went into his office,
closed the door, and dialed the number.
"Soup to Nuts, Dr. Graham Finn
speaking. How can I help you
today?" came the cheerful reply.
"I need your help," said Faster Blaster.
"We have -- I need information, but I
can't tell you much about the situation."
"Okay," Dr. G said easily. "I may ask
for clarifications if it would help, but
you don't have to answer any of them.
Just say 'pass' and we'll move along.
Can you give me a starting point?"
"Yeah," said Faster Blaster. "How
would you handle a superkid with wings
and all kinds of issues about them?"
"Well, that depends a lot on age
and the type of issues," said Dr. G.
"How old is the child or children?"
"Little," said Faster Blaster.
"Physical or emotional issues?"
Dr. G asked, following the thread.
"Both," said Faster Blaster. He
wondered how much he could share.
"Do you know what might have
caused the problems you're
observing?" Dr. G said.
"Pass," Faster Blaster said,
his mouth suddenly dry.
He knew exactly what:
other toddlers in foster care
had jumped on Hali's wings,
breaking one of them.
The bone had healed,
if imperfectly; her spirit
hadn't recovered as much.
"Okay, you're doing fine,"
Dr. G said. "Your boundaries
are right there when you need them."
"Not my boundaries," Faster Blaster said,
licking his lips. "I'm trying to work with
limits set by somebody else."
"You're doing a good job,"
Dr. G said. "What kind of
problems have you noticed,
or what goals would people
like to work toward at present?"
Faster Blaster thought about that.
"Kid's skittish," he said. "Not all of
the time or with everyone, but enough.
They do this come-here-go-away thing."
Dr. G made a worried noise. "That
sounds like ego-dystonic anxiety."
"... what?" said Faster Blaster.
"Ego means self, and dystonic means
mismatched," Dr. G explained. "So
ego-dystonic means something that
doesn't match personality or self-image.
It sounds like the little one has already
survived some trauma. That can make
a naturally outgoing person afraid of
other people, which is uncomfortable."
"Yyyeah," Faster Blaster said slowly.
"That sounds a little too familiar.
Some personal care is a problem."
"Preening issues?" Dr. G guessed.
"Yeah, they don't like their wings
touched at all," Faster Blaster said.
"They're too little to do it themselves."
"So, you're hoping for ways to help
a traumatized child feel calmer and
more comfortable with their wings,"
said Dr. G. "I can help with that."
"Oh, good," said Faster Blaster.
Dr. G had taken a big, messy problem
and reduced it to compact goals.
"The first thing a child needs is
what we call a circle of security,"
said Dr. G. "That means parents or
other loving adults who help them
feel safe enough to explore, then
welcome them running back."
"Check," said Faster Blaster.
He'd seen Hali running back and
forth between Cas and whatever
had caught her interest. Nice
to know that was a good thing.
"You can help by supporting that,"
said Dr. G. "Don't chase the child,
grab them, or try to drag them into
things that they might not be ready for
yet. Let them decide when to explore
and when to seek comfort, unless
it's an absolute emergency."
"Okay ... what will that do?"
Faster Blaster wondered.
"It shows care and safety,"
Dr. G explained. "Love is as love
does, and it is our responsibility to give
children love. When we love children we
acknowledge by our every action that they
are not property, that they have rights –
that we respect and uphold their rights.
Without justice there can be no love.”
"Got it," Faster Blaster said, thinking
about the incandescent love that Cas
had for his daughter. "What else?"
"Show the child lots of examples
of gentle touch," Dr. G. "Start with
each other, or even stuffed animals.
Use kindness and consideration."
Faster Blaster couldn't help it,
he started chuckling. "Not gonna
be a problem," he said. "We
already got a den mother."
"That's good to hear,"
said Dr. G. "About wings,
I suggest reading books or
watching television about birds.
See how they preen themselves
and each other, or splash in a bath."
"I think I've got a movie or two that
would work, and we can also look up
documentaries," said Faster Blaster.
"Oh, do you like birds?" said Dr. G.
"My grandmother kept parakeets,"
Faster Blaster said. "I learned a little
about taking care of them. Some of
them loved a bowl bath or a spritzer.
Others preferred dust bathing."
"The same things tend to work
for feathered soups," Dr. G said.
"Watch the child to see if they jump
in mud puddles or scuff their feet
through a sandbox at the playground."
"We, uh, don't have a sandbox yet,"
Faster Blaster admitted. "Maybe later."
"Room for improvement," Dr. G said.
"Don't try to do everything at once. Just
focus on creating a safe, loving environment.
Let the child get used to caring adults and
they should start seeking more contact."
"That's good to know," said Faster Blaster.
"So we should be patient with the wings too?"
"Especially the wings, unless there's
an emergency. Breaking a blood feather
can bleed like crazy, so there's sound reason
to be careful with wings," Dr. G said. "However,
most winged soups have some instincts for
preening and might only need a little nudge."
"Okay, doc," said Faster Blaster. "Thanks
for the help. You've given me a lot of ideas."
"You're welcome," said Dr. G. "Why don't you
try those for a week or two, then call me back
with an update? It might take a few weeks
to see clear results, but I can help you watch."
"I can do that," Faster Blaster said. Then
his fingers drummed restlessly on the desk.
"What if nothing gets better, though?"
"In a supportive environment, that's
unlikely," Dr. G assured him. "If we don't
see signs of improvement in a few months, or
things get worse, we can explore other options."
By that time, Cas and Hali would hopefully
trust Faster Blaster more, at least enough
to put up with a referral to Soup to Nuts.
"That's a plan," Faster Blaster said,
making a note in his calendar so
he wouldn't forget about it.
They wrapped up the call,
and then Faster Blaster
went downstairs to look
through the shelf of movies.
It didn't take long to find
One Hundred Little Houses
and put it into the player.
While that loaded, he went
into the kitchen and started up
a batch of cinnamon honey popcorn.
Soon Faster Blaster flopped onto
the couch to watch his movie.
He had just gotten to the part
where Mackey and Claire spotted
a bluebird at their local park
when Hali piped, "Birdie!"
"That's right, those are bluebirds,"
said Faster Blaster. "There aren't
as many of them as there used to be,
so the people in this story are helping
them by building birdhouses. Would
your and your daddy like to watch?"
Hali scrambled over the arm of
the couch, oofed into his lap, then
launched herself at the far end.
"I'll take that as a yes,"
Faster Blaster said dryly,
waving off Cas' apologies.
"Come and sit down. Have
some popcorn if you like."
He had noticed that Cas
had a thing for honey.
Sure enough, Cas folded
himself onto the couch, and
then Hali snuggled up beside him.
On the screen, the bluebirds began to sing.
* * *
"Love is as love does, and it is our responsibility to give children love. When we love children we acknowledge by our every action that they are not property, that they have rights – that we respect and uphold their rights. Without justice there can be no love."
~ bell hooks
(These links are upsetting.)
Traumatic stress can cause a spectrum of effects ranging from acute stress reaction (a normal response that fades after a few days) through acute stress disorder (a "stuck" crisis state that lasts up to a month), PTSD (a "stuck" crisis state lasting more than one month), to PDSD (a "stuck" crisis state involving repeated traumatic experiences over time). When the abuse begins very early in life, Developmental Trauma Disorder may occur as it disrupts personal growth. This spectrum of conditions is fundamentally a failure of processing that happens inside the brain. When the mind cannot file traumatic memories properly, then they don't integrate into experience, which disrupts the ability to recognize context. The events get "stuck" in a processing loop within the mind, which turns those memories into triggers that cause flashbacks. Some new therapies focus on the body as a way to "unstick" those memories and thus heal the mind. It also helps to learn ways of coping with flashbacks or helping someone else through them.
(So are these.)
Hali shows some signs of traumatic stress, but she's so young that the pattern doesn't closely match the standard descriptions for adults. The impact on children can be more complicated because they are still developing. Here are some symptoms by age and ways that parents can help. As with adults, it is normal for children to show stress for some time after bad things happen, which is not worrisome unless the symptoms get a lot worse, don't get better over time, and/or interfere with everyday life. In Hali's case, her tactile defensiveness is a sign of early trauma, which complicates personal care. Her learned wariness of people is an erratic issue because it clashes with her innate personality, which is likely to cause more problems later if not resolved. Notably, gangs form to provide security that a child has not found elsewhere, which is what attracted Cas to the Broken Angels. Fortunately, this situation is not an emergency, so there's time to work on it.
A Circle of Security allows children to explore from a safe base. This encourages secure attachment.
(These links are intense.)
It is essential to establish rapport and trust before attempting to do serious headwork in therapy. Otherwise, people who have had awful experiences in therapy learn to avoid it. The counselor must listen to the client and abandon any techniques that don't fit this individual, even if they are considered best practice in general. While many schools of therapy advise the counselor to minimize self-disclosure and personal relationships, some clients are completely unreachable without it or even actively harmed by that lack. There are ways to build rapport in person or online. Therapists can take steps to build trust and clients can work on trusting the therapist. It is especially important for adults to build trust with traumatized children.
(These links are horrifying.)
Hali has experienced several categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences. She isn't even two years old, and she has already survived some of these things too. Most happened in foster care, some in institutions, and others in multiple places. That is before you count the multiple questions per number, multiple instances per question, or add in other categories such as racism, bullying, watching another child get abused, witnessing other types of domestic abuse, losing a nonparental caregiver, homelessness, surviving a severe accident, involvement with the foster care system, involvement with the juvenile justice system, house fire, storm or other natural disaster, traumatic manifestation of superpowers, and so on. Hali has has survived some of these also. You can see how it has made a naturally outgoing child more cautious. Sometimes her innate personality makes her open with people, other timers her experiences makeher wary, especially regarding her wings.
The Pediatric Symptom Checklist can illuminate physical, behavioral, educational, and/or emotional issues. See page 1 and page 2.
There are trauma symptom checklists for children and adults. Hali has some of these.
Ego-dystonic means something that clashes with the personality or self-identity. Hali is naturally outgoing, so her skittishness is unnatural and uncomfortable. It needs fixing in a way that natural reserve does not.
Dust bathing is popular among small animals and birds. Outdoors they use natural sources of dust or sand. For pets, people have used specially made bathing dust, fuller's earth, powdered oatmeal, cornmeal, and other things.
One Hundred Little Houses is a Terramagne-American movie about homeless families in a shelter building a bluebird trail for their neighborhood parks, which don't have a lot of facilities due to the poor locale. It starts as part of their shelter's educational program teaching skills like woodworking and conservation. Over time, the characters learn more about bluebirds and what they need -- and what people need too. By the end of the movie, one character has a job with a construction company, another with the park service, and bluebirds are nesting in the boxes.
These are some locally available bird movies. T-America has more, because they make entertainment about a wider variety of topics than here.
Social birds like parrots preen each other, and feathered soups may do the same. Some toys encourage preening behavior in pet birds. For winged children, consider toys with wings or shaggy hair that can be finger-combed.
Enjoy a recipe for Cinnamon Honey Popcorn.