Institutional Autism: An Acquired Syndrome
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Early Developmental Evaluations and Therapeutic Services for Adopted Children
“What made you pick Hungary?” has been a frequent question that we’ve received from friends, family, and strangers alike. We wish it was an easy answer, but our adoption journey didn’t start here. Our hearts have been in adoption, and when we decided to take the plunge, we thought that Africa was where we were headed.
Once we had chosen our first country, like many, if not all, adoptive parents, we began to imagine what our child would look like, what their interests were, and what their birth story was. For months we dreamed of travelling to Uganda, and meeting our child. Then within a matter of 2 hours and 2 phone calls, it felt like our adoption dreams were crashing down around us, as legislation changes in Uganda made it impossible for us to fulfill the adoption requirements.
At the time we did not know why God had put this road block in our path, but with counseling from our agency and a leap of faith we changed countries to Hungary. Making the official change was one of the toughest moments of our journey because we felt like we had lost the child we had dreamed about.
Hungary appealed to us in those first days of change due to its stability as a program.
One of the greatest assets we have found to the Hungarian program is that we would have the opportunity to truly live our child’s culture as we started our family. The program would allow us to spend 45 days in country, and become totally submersed as a family. Looking back on the entire experience, we felt that this time was crucial to our family’s development.
Waiting for our potential match felt as if every day crawled by, with no progress. It was a good thing that we had just purchased a home earlier that year which needed a lot of updating, to keep our minds otherwise occupied. Finally, our call came through with some odd news.
Our agency coordinator delivered us a question instead of a statement regarding our potential match. “I know you were thinking one child, but what about a sibling set of two?” Cue jaw dropping to the floor and both of our minds racing a mile a minute. It was a discussion we nonchalantly had the day before when furniture shopping to get ideas for the gender we would match to. The casual “what if we got a call about two” had turned into a reality, and with some soul searching, we decided to go for it.
Taking the journey to go meet our children for the first time was life changing. We tried hard not to over think what our first encounter might be like, but the hour and forty five minute car ride allowed for a lot of overthinking, and we were both in mental tailspins by the time we pulled up in front of their home.
That all changed as soon as we walked through the door. We didn't even have time to process our emotions, as we were swept into parenthood almost immediately. The day that we had been building up to so long, came and went in what seemed like an amazing minute.
Our first seven days with the kiddos, was to transition them from their foster parents to our care. The week consisted of mainly day trips to surrounding play areas, Christmas markets, the zoo, and taking them out to lunch. Each day we spent longer together and learned as much as we could about their personalities, likes, and dislikes, to help us prepare for the beginning of our foster period. Learning basic Hungarian was daunting, but invaluable for both of us because we felt better connected, and our children were significantly more comfortable with us during those first seven days.
Saying goodbye to our children’s foster parents, was an emotional hurdle; they had cared for and devoted so much love to our children. The preparation for our arrival that was done by them, had truly made the transition period go smoothly. We celebrated our Family Day on December, 20th, just in time for Christmas! We could not feel more blessed to have made it to them in time for Christmas and get to spend our first Christmas as a family together in Hungary, celebrating their culture. Although we missed everyone back home, it felt like home in Miskolc with our two little ones.
The foster period proved to be a crash course in parenthood. Our small living room served as a jungle gym, a dance hall, an art studio, and so much more. It was the scene of some of the most precious moments of our lives; moments that we will play back over and over again in our heads. We got our first kisses goodnight, our first “szeretlek” (I love you) from our children, and truly learned how to be together as a family in that small living room.
Each day we planned a family outing despite the cold. Some days it was as simple as a trip to the park, the grocery store, or our favorite coffee shop. Other days we explored the sights and attractions of their native region from swimming in cave baths, exploring a castle, and riding an antique forest train. Our children met each new outing with wide eyes, smiles, and giggles of delight.
Our time in Hungary seemed to stand still and pass in a flash all at the same time. We will be forever grateful for those 6 weeks in our magical little Hungarian bubble. The lessons we learned about our kiddos, about ourselves as parents, and about being a team in parenting, were due to our ability to be able to truly devote our time and focus on bonding as a family. What we had once seen very strategically as a “strength of the program” having one longer trip, became the best almost 7 weeks of our lives. Admittedly it was not easy to leave our home and our lives for 47 days but it was a time that we would not trade for anything!
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