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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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My husband & I have adopted then 6 1/2 yr. old little girl.

Customer Question

My husband & I have adopted then 6 1/2 yr. old little girl. Beautiful white hair, blue eyes, & all her file disclosed was she was severly physically abused and neglected. It's been a year and 1/2, she is now 8 yrs.old. Through therapy, we found out she was severely sexually abused, a pawn for her birthmother to get drugs, etc... We also found out Summer has sexually abused rhe weaker children in the foster care system. Our world is turned upside down, she has to have 24 hr. supervision, door alarm, has been hospitalized 3 times in 4 months for either attacking me, her Mom (raging for 4 hrs at one time) or predator type behavior on other children. She has been diagnosed with RAD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Psychosis w/voices, and ADHD. We also have 2 biological sons who are constantly being harrassed by her and has safety guards around them when she is around. Safety guards are intack, she has her own Child Psychologist she see's weekly, and Psychiatrist (monthly). Her Psychologist's really does not know how to help her. Meds aren't helping & now she says she wants to kill a boy at school. Summer said this Thursday & Friday. Last week she was trying to molest her grandmother dogs. Her hypersexuality is now turning to her wanting to 'kill' another child because he won't be her boyfriend. Should we be really worried? No one can seem to help us with her. We are thinking about dissolving the adoption which is so sad, but we don't know what else to do. All we know to do is take her back to the hospital as she esculates. Any ideas?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

What a disaster of a mother this poor girl had! There are probably a million questions you need answer to so where to start? One of the difficulties is that your daughter truly NEEDS access to as many normal developmental situations as possible, e.g., gymnastics or dance. I can understand the keen reluctance of the coaches and teachers, but every day of her life, she needs to be exposed to situational challenges where she can learn appropriate social behavior, e.g., personal boundaries, etc. So for instance, in gymnastics, this girl could never be left alone with an instructor or coach but it might be possible (?) for her to receive group instruction, never individual instruction, without two instructors or a "chaperone" present. The most important learning experiences would be verbal corrections, instructions regarding appropriate behavior, and verbal reinforcement when she acts appropriately in a situation she had not, before.

Your psychologist has told you no doubt, that the self injurious behavior is primarily a maladaptive emotional regulation/coping strategy she uses, which is nearly 100% of the time associated with the experience of traumatic, inescapable aversive abuse situations. Intensive attempts will have to be made consistently to get this girl to talk about feelings, and especially about the bad feelings she has. (She should NEVER be told that she 'shouldn't feel that way', for example). Identifying, labeling and expressing negative feelings is a huge developmental issue for her.

I hope your psychologist is equipped with great training in applied behavior analysis and behavior therapy skills because your daughter is truly a behavior management 'nightmare'. If her current therapist is primarily forming a relationship her and doing play therapy, this is all well and good, but she needs much more than this. You need very regular consultation and ongoing coaching from someone really well-schooled in behavior analysis and behavior therapy. Your daughter's problems can't be tackled all at once, but they can be approached one-behavior-at-a-time, or else the intervention approach will become overwhelming for both you and her.

Your daughter also needs social skills training group therapy quite desperately. She cannot appropriately relate to girls and boys her age because her development has been highly sexualized and emotionally, she is likely very immature. She needs a very structured and systematic approach to learning social skills and social problem-solving----really, an overall "life skills" training approach for kids (as is found in many drug and alcohol prevention programs designed for children; but also found in clinics that treat kids).

I feel that I could go on for hours offering suggestions about what to do, but I will now pause and strongly recommend to you a child behavior analysis expert to work with. I'm sure you are aware that you daughter is at extremely high risk for many future problems e.g., substance abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, a tendency to gravitate to controlling, abusive males. So I feel I've scratched the surface here in providing a response. Let me know if there is something glaring I've overlooked that you hoped I would address.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I am sorry, but this is all we have heard before. I was hoping for more constructive ideas or how to redirect her to new coping skills. Yes she has done the group gymnastics; however, our daughter did not care others were watching when she tried to act out. Team sports are best for her like basketball, and softball. Thank you for your time, but I cannot accept an answer that is not helpful just confirming what we've been told by the best of the best in the State of Texas, but May God Bless You for trying.


Parent of a broken child

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
Please feel free to repost your question as I have opted out of it.

Incidentally, the point about the gymnastics was that : 1) coaches won't want to take her on because she is a far worse legal liability than other girls because of her sexual behaviors; 2) the legal liability issue could be worked around---it would simply be agreed that multiple people be present at all time; 3) it would actually be a good thing if you daughter acted out in a 'protected' gymnastics training situation because the coaches could then have a genuine opportunity to help--- provide corrective feedback and clear instructions and reinforcement for proper behavior.

The point is that this girl needs the learning experiences associated with #3 above; thus, family efforts should be directed toward taking the extra step needed to workin the complications and logistics out, that would maximize her learning.For example, the family would propose that they sign an agreement/waiver that given the girl's history, they want the staff to work with their daughter when she acts out---which they know she will, and they want the behavior to occur in a protected, training context such as this, and corrected.

Best wishes to you..............