That first year he learned a lot - not to bite Skyla, not to urinate on rugs, to use the toilet during the day, not to masturbate in public, and not to scream in the house. It didn't seem like much, but it was certainly progress. He was still enraged when the other children had fun with things that made no sense to him. They would have let him play, but he refused to even try. He just knew he was missing out on something. It took three years before he gained enough self-control not to disrupt their games and activities.
I kept a journal of Chad's behavior the second year he was with us, so I could read the good parts when I got discouraged, and remind myself how much he'd achieved. He learned to put away his clothes - with pictures of the right items taped to drawers and shelves. Of course he had to learn first, not to pull off the pictures and chew on them! He also became less frenetic. I no longer had to hold him down to kiss him goodnight (because he'd leap with such excitement he'd crack my nose or teeth with his head!) And he stopped biting and banging himself, and even occasionally smiled at himself in the mirror.
Chad learned to walk at age seven, in a series of wild lunges followed by a crash landing. He had no balance, so could not stand in one place, or turn to go in another direction. He still couldn't play much, but he began enjoying watching the other children. They in turn joined him in things he could do.
By the end of that second year I knew we were going to make it and I made the decision to adopt him. I was getting glimpses of the very nice child inside, and how he'd be in later years. Five years after his arrival, he's come so far and our routines are so established, his behavior no longer dominates our lives.
Chad always shared a room with my younger son Kyle, until recently. The trouble was, Chad got into Kyle's toys, and chewed any of them that could be chewed. It is amazing how many toys can be ruined through chewing. Also, when he would scream in anger, I would put him into his room until he could get hold of himself. That meant Kyle was stuck out of it, for a while. At last I found a solution. Their room was big, and I built them a special bunkbed, with one bunk very low, and the other only waist high. I put this in the middle of the room, and built a wall dividing the room with the bed. The lower bunk is for Chad, in one room, and the higher bunk is for Kyle, in the other room. I put a door in the second part, and we had two rooms! They are tiny, but they are private. Each has one window. Neither son has to be frustrated any more!
Chad wasn't legally freed for adoption for another two and a half years after my personal committment not to give up on him. Now, at ten, he's at last a true and legal member of our family. And he fully understands the security that represents, and is proud and happy. Chad still comes in from the back yard about every 45 minutes to make sure I haven't evaporated. The hurt is still there, from being left so many times.
At nine, he had surgery to loosen the tendons in his groin, and then he learned to walk with a little balance! At last he could walk slowly, with purpose instead of wild lunges, and stop, and turn around, and head the other way! Though he continued to fall often, this was such a thrill! How excited he was! He endlessly hollered "yook at me, mom!" And at last, he really had something to show me!
Today, he can listen to simple stories, knows his colors, counts pretty well to 20, can trace circles and lines and his name, and reads a few basic words, working with me at home. He shares well now, both toys and my time, and gets a great deal of enjoyment from his siblings. He and Skyla, now six, clear the dinner table together. Neither can walk carrying things, so they crawl and push the dishes ahead of them on the floor. Both want to know they're needed and helpful like everyone else, and get their share of praise and appreciation.
Except for buttons, Chad can now completely dress himself, and is much less sloppy when feeding himself. He clearly feels more secure now that he is a BIG brother, and new siblings have arrived after him. He calls the little ones together and sings with them, which they love. He and I have entire simple conversations now - a far cry from those years my whole communication with him with him was in three words or less. His IQ is officially up to 51 - he has probably gone as high as he can, but has already made goals I thought were too high to work toward, even by adulthood. He is able to watch simple things like Sesame Street now, and understand them. He became noticeably more secure when I adopted a little brother for him. Being part of the welcoming crew, he knew he belonged at last. He loves his brothers and sisters now, and they love him too.
I want Chad to have the gift of knowing how to be a friend, because that, more than intelligence or skill brings happiness as an adult. It's happiness and security deep within that I want for my son. He'd never have this if I'd done what I felt like doing for so long - give up on him. And he has it now, which gives me great joy.
At the time of my reprinting this story, Chad is now thirty-two. His story is dear to me, the memories fond, and I want to share it with others.