Summer was a perfectly "normal" child when we adopted her. (Here's her introduction after adoption day). She struggled developmentally but only slightly, as if she was always one-small-step behind everyone else. When she was 2 she struggled with potty training and toddler behaviors (biting, etc.). When she was 3 and her peers started to develop further, learning critical social skills and starting to mature a bit like preschoolers do, Summer's delays became more pronounced. She did not continue maturing like the other children did. Her behavior seemed to be the most obvious issue as she was more and more aggressive (or, really, her toddler aggression never stopped), she never sat still, she ran out of the class, and still didn't master potty-training. She attended a great school that required strict adherence to rules, didn't reward expected behavior, and actually taught the preschoolers. This was great for our oldest and he excelled here but wasn't working out for Summer. We withdrew her before she was kicked-out and found a program willing to work with her and her needs. At the time, Summer was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, all areas, and was "the worst case of sensory defensiveness" the therapist had ever seen. She attended therapy 2x a week at a fantastic facility at our cost of $160 per week. It helped, but after a year they acknowledged they felt they'd reached the end of what they could offer her. By her 5th birthday it was clear Summer was anything but "normal" and parenting her would be (or is, for now) a major challenge.
Summer has been diagnosed with severe disabling ADHD and Cognitive Disorder. She has been evaluated for High Functioning Autism and her results come back "likely" but with the detailed evaluation she received the doctors believe her Executive Functioning Disorder (leading to ADHD) is causing symptoms of Autism, not the other way around. I'm not convinced yet we have a final diagnosis but at this time this seems to be most appropriate. Everyday with Summer is a challenge. Nearly every minute with her is a challenge, honestly. (See my open letter). She cannot be left out-of-sight for any period of time at all and I'm not exaggerating. On rare occasion we leave her within ear shot (maybe, in the kitchen as I open the front door or use the restroom with the door open so I can clearly hear her) but most of the time we have her within our sight. This includes bed time - we've moved her into our room. She does go to daycare and is about to complete the state's preschool program but the preschool program has been a wild failure (in terms of behavior and education) and daycare is only successful because they're very patient with her and understand her special needs. At this time she's seeing a psychiatrist (and takes 3 medications a day), a behavioral therapist in-home (this guy is no joke and I love his work so far), and will probably start seeing a play-therapist over the summer. She also needs physical and occupational therapy on a regular basis and will likely be put in a PPCD-type program in the fall (after a YEAR of advocating for her and finally hiring an attorney - apparently the school thinks we're bad parents and are making up her diagnoses to excuse her behavior).
Summer loves her siblings and wants to be a good helper, when she wants to be one. She really wants to do the dishes and liked helping with Aaron when he was younger. She wants to play with everyone as long as they want to play on her terms. This is her haircut after Lizzie got hers - she wanted one too. Shortly after she got less of a bob and more of a shaggy medium/short cut to help cover up all the times she tries to cut her own hair when she comes in contact with scissors.
Summer is a beautiful girl. She loves to dance, be active, and play make-believe. She also loves posing for pictures, which is fantastic because I get to capture "good" moments like these ones above where she has a genuine smile on her face and appears to be a happy, well-adjusted child. These moments do exist and I cherish them.
I think pictures like these are more common. I dunno, maybe they're not. Looking through my pictures I have a good mix of the types you see above. Some are great and some show a little bit more of what we're dealing with. You can see in these pictures a little more of what we see on a regular basis. Her face has food all over it in one - she literally doesn't care most of the time whether she has food or dirt or anything else on her where it doesn't belong. This is part of the problem with potty training; she doesn't care one iota if she's wet, at least on the surface. We all think she cares underneath, that she has no self-confidence or self-esteem. :(
Summer loves adventure. She loves to hunt for things (on her own terms) and be outdoors. If she could spend all day outside by herself hunting for bugs and critters she would. Thankfully, our yard permits that. Unfortunately, our schedule as a busy family of 8 does not provide the opportunity nearly as much and letting her explore outside of the totally fenced in yard is not an option because she'll wander away.
This is the type of thing Summer does when she doesn't have direct supervision. She "washed" her hair with toothpaste. Though this type of behavior is common among 2-3 year olds and maybe explorative older children, it typically fades out as they learn other more productive and "normally accepted" types of play. Summer has not learned the benefits of "normal" play yet and therefore gets into lots of mischief for her age.
Summer loves posing for pictures. Here are a few more that show day-to-day life with her. The second picture is totally normal...she's in a bat girl cape tied around her waste so we can go into Target to buy her new underwear and shorts because we were on the road and she'd wet through several pairs of dry things that morning. She's got her hat on, a sweatshirt, and no shoes, and she's totally fine with it. This girl loves adventure and has no interest in helping mom's self-respect taking her into stores like this. She broke her thumb, slamming it in the door, and though she cried never told us it was hurting until we noticed how unbelievably bad it looked a couple days later. They put a cast on her, knowing she wouldn't leave it alone for the required 4 weeks. I'm not sure how close to getting her cast off this last picture is but as you can see, it's disgustingly filthy and you may notice there's not much of the white gauze left around the top - she ate most of it.
Summer, I love you so much and I love those moments before you go to sleep where I can have a heart-to-heart with you to remind you how much I love you and how much I'm going to continue to fight for you. I pray God will heal you and help you recover from the last few years. You're going to soar Summer. Keep your adventurous spirit and may your love of life be rounded out with joy, all the time, whether you get what you want or not. You're beautiful sweetheart. I pray we're able to tell you always and forever how much you mean to us and that you're able to hear it through our parenting, even as we're correcting you and coaching you as you grow.