Friday, March 13, 2009

Adopting older? What works and what doesn't work!

When we were in the process to adopt an older child our biggest fear was the language barrier. I had heard wonderful stories about how quickly the children catch on to the language but I had a hard time believing it would be that easy. Over and over I read that they speak english by 4 months and by 6 months they have lost their accent and people cannot even tell they only came home 6 months ago. I thought if that is going to actually happen I better do my research to facilitate it. So I did- I asked Yahoo groups, I searched amazon and the internet, called our school district- anything and everything I could think of...  Here is my evaluation of the advise I received, the products I bought, the products I checked out and the services I checked into.

 I often didn't listen to the advise from others because I wanted so much to BUY something that guarrenteed everything would work out fine. So I bought... and boy did I buy unnecessarily. Our evaluation is for an adoptive girl 8.5 yrs old, who has always lived in the orphanage. She went to 2 years of school outside of the orphanage. She did an okay job speaking mandarin but was below average in writing and reading mandarin.

Sesame Street ESL videos- Way overpriced. You can get them at you library. There are 13 videos in the set. At first hey overwhelmed her when we used them in the mandarin/ english form. After being home 7-8 weeks we used them in the English immersion form. She really liked them for a little while.  There are 2 segments on each video, but the are only 20 minutes each- seems too short. I would use them again BUT get them from the library.

Rosetta Stone English/ Homeschool version- Others have used it and it has worked out great for them but it wasn't a fit for our daughter. She had trouble coordinating - when to speak and when to use the mouse. It was hard for her to sit through the lessons. She was not a good reader in China so I think it is too advanced for her. We will continue to try it periodically in the future and she if she catches on. I think it could be good as she gets older- we would use it to perfect her english language skills. 

Learn English with Ace and Christi  -  I ordered this without previewing it.  was so excited to get my hands on an actual ELL program. Not a good choice. I wanted activities we could do together, worksheets with cutting and glueing, hands on- just the 2 of us. It is 2 -3 ring notebooks of  copied sheets that tell you how to talk to an ELL child and what to teach them. We were way beyond it by the time I ordered it. It was blah, colorless and just a a lot of words for me to read.

ELL classes offered through our local school district - They have been fabulous for us. We are homeschooling but this gives our daughter the opportunity of another teacher (experienced in ELL/ESL). She is with another little girl her age. Our teacher was kind enough to place Sarah in a situation where she would be successful and flourish (sp?)! If this school didn't work we had the option of trying another school. She works with me and has even given us an ELL curriculum- which I am looking over now.

Homeschooling - I was concerned that our daughter would not learn english at the same pace because she would be with me and not with other children. That has not been the case. We are together a lot and this has expedited the attachment process. She is having many other experiences that are enhancing her english skills- ELL, gymnastics, swimming lessons and soccer.   I would seriously recommend it for any older child adoption! If it fits into your life. You can still adopt an older child and not homeschool them. The school districts have many resources to help you and your child.

Speech Services- we were able to obtain speech services through our medical insurance. Sarah definitely qualifies. She was just tested this last week and would qualify in her letter sounds alone. The speech pathologist is also working with her on concepts such as under, over, inside, outside, sentence construction, use of pronouns, etc. It is a huge help. If your insurance covers it- go for it, if not I would still try the school district! It is one more person on your team, helping your child!!

I am sure there are more products that I mistakenly purchased and/or checked in too, but I will have to add them later- for now I can't think of anymore. 

In a nutshell-
1. Don't buy a lot of things- spending the money doesn't guarantee success!
2. As soon as your child is ready read, read, read to them and visit the library.
3. Talk to them, converse with them. I was worried I would not do this enough, don't worry!
4. Utilize all the services that are offered through your school district and through your community!
5. Don't rush them, take it slow- I still have to remind myself of this!
6. Start out with simple things- PBS, Sprout TV, board books, simple toys, finger plays and catchy nursery rhymes.
7. Let them try things that are way younger than their stated age. They may have never gotten an opportunity to do this. Most likely they will quickly move on to something else.
8. Do set behavior limits and stick to them. You want to live a long happy life with this child so their behavior has to fit into your life, too.
9. Utilize the driving time! Play Wee Sing, Raffi, etc CD's. If you have a TV in your car use that time for educational DVD's. In the beginning that was the only time Sarah sat still so we would play Barney, Elmo's World DVD's at first and them moved up to Wee Sing and Leap Frog. She actually learned quite a bit from them!!
10. This is probably silly but it is my opinion- teach them how to write their name, their phone number, their address and have a list of phone numbers for them so they can call you or another family member whenever they feel they need too.
11. Pray with them, pray for them and ask them what they are thankful for- that is a day brightener! I am guessing they may say you and their family!!

Remember this is an evaluation from my point of view regarding our child. Your child may be different but I hope this helps you!
Another "Thank you Jesus" post!
(sorry about the typos!)


Mom to my China Posse said...

Hi Jean, not sure if you were asking for advice but wanted to share that we have adopted 5 times and have went older each time. Our last daughter adopted at age 6. From my experince everything works in His time sometimes it takes alot of patience and understanding and time. Every age has its own pros and cons but if its your desire and His plan for a older child mountains will move. My personal experience is bonding has been the most challenging but we have made lots of progress in that area as she is learning to trust us more.

Jennifer O'Cain said...

Thanks for taking the time to share this info. I have been wondering and doing a lot of research too. I recently talked with the ESL teacher for our child's school and she said many of the things you said. I am encouraged, thanks.

Sally- That Girl! said...

Great job on your post and information for people considering adopting older children. I second the Leap Frog stuff. It has been great for letter recognition and sounds and fun for Bryson. Hooked on Phonics has some videos as well. The library is a huge source for educational videos.