some for myself as well. And yet here we are.
We are better, stronger people for it; there is
Here are some of the practical things we’ve
put in place by the time school rolls around
I find a great therapist of my own. Finally.
We do “kid CrossFit” each morning in the
living room—basically Tariku and Scott doing a bunch of calisthenics that focus on core
work. T runs laps around the house and does
sit-ups and bear crawls while Scott shouts
encouragement and times him with a stopwatch. The physical exertion calms Tariku’s
nervous system and also helps to balance
some of the unevenly developed muscles,
with the added bonus of being adorable.
We have noise-canceling headphones
(Peltor Junior Earmuffs, to be specific) for
him, which we begin to bring to loud and
overstimulating environments. This changes
our whole life. Suddenly, when we’re in the
grocery store his eyes don’t glaze over. He
stops ignoring and running away from us, or
collapsing into a hair-trigger tantrum every
We give him jobs. This is probably the
greatest help of all. We give him a task to fo-
cus on. When we’re at the grocery store, Scott
says, “Okay, go get broccoli and an avocado
and three beautiful apples.”
We give him heavy things to carry: books,
backpacks, bags of groceries. It puts pressure
on his joints in a way that relaxes and regu-
We get a trampoline.
We keep him running, keep him active,
keep him breathing. We make a balance
beam out of a two-by-four.
We breathe. Breathe. We play games like
moving a cotton ball by blowing through a
We interview candidate after candidate
until we find a school aide who seems almost
too good to be true. Gia (that’s Miss Gia to
you) is a gentle, hip woman with a careful
way of speaking and an unmistakable confidence and solidity. She has both a master’s
degree and four children of her own. She
came to this work when her youngest daughter began to present multiple special needs
and she found she had a facility for addressing the challenges. Her daughter’s therapist,
after the treatment was done, took Gia under
her wing and trained her. When the school
year starts up again, Gia is at T’s side.
It is tricky in all the usual ways at first,
but I feel oddly unruffled. If it doesn’t work
this time, we’ll know we’ve tried everything.
We’ll know we need a more dedicated special needs environment of some sort and that
will be okay, too.
In a week, he starts to turn it around. In
two weeks, his teacher greets me not just
with eye contact but with an enthusiastic hug
and a wide smile. In three weeks, three weeks,
he is a different child entirely.
Miss Gia would correct me. He is the same
child, she’d say. The goal, she would say, is
never to make Tariku not be Tariku. Tariku
is amazing just how he is. She means it. She
We may not have asked to be a
part of this particular community—
but who does? Well, some very
exceptional adoptive parents I know
do; but most of the rest of us don’t
wake up and say, Wow, I’d really like
to go to lots and lots of therapy with
my five-year-old son until I’m so
harried that I need some for myself
as well. And yet here we are.