This morning, Yiannis, 8 years old, came for an assessment in clinic. My friend, the psychologist who saw him last week, told me, 'Yiannis is super good, he doesn't look traumatised. His adoptive mother takes care of him very well and has found the right strategies to regulate his behaviour'.
Prior the assessment, I read his file to know some basics about him. Not an attachment case again!!, I’m whispering to myself. I am wondering what I am going to read in the paperwork. Usually, I am reading about this ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs called neglect, physical or psychological abuse and other “nice” attachment disorder terms like that... Ok, done. I’ve read everything I had to. Anyways. I'm used to it now, I’m thinking. This is going to be the 3rd attachment assessment within a month. What can go wrong?
Yiannis was accompanied to the therapy room by his mum, who adopted him when he was about 1.5 years old and since then she has been raising him on her own. Mum, a lifelong Year1 teacher and current primary headteacher (in a different school from the one that Yiannis attends), was somewhat anxious because she didn't know if her child would be able to perform to his maximum potential. And here we have Yiannis. A handsome young man, in his shiny brand-new outfit, with his nice hairstyle, all just fine.
At some point in the middle of the assessment, I say to Yiannis,
- Now, it’s the time you show me whether you can pour water from a jug in a cup and whether you are able to open a pack of cookies, with no help, ok?'
- Ok, he responds.
I bring him the water jug. All absolutely perfect, he did not spill any on the table, but he did not drink from it either; his eyes were staring at the cookies. I nodded at him to open the packaging. He took the pack in his hands, opened it without any struggle and began eating them one after the other without asking for permission. Nonstop! His mum, next to our table, was looking at us. I ask him,
- Did I tell you to eat them?'. No response. Yiannis carries on as normal.
The obedient and compulsively compliant child now is completely ignoring me as if he were deaf. I touch him on the shoulder, he startles as if electricity hit him and he tells me,
- I’m sorry, I couldn't help it but getting one.
- One? Yiannis mate, you have already eaten four cookies!!
- Yes, he answers. I can see that.
- No worries Yiannis, it doesn't matter; just leave a cookie or two for the end of the session.
For the rest of the assessment, I was thinking about the lines I read in his file as soon as I got into the office in the morning. "Yiannis has 6 siblings. At the house, almost always there was not enough food for everyone. The older siblings fought for what was there and the younger ones stayed for days starving. Food was the most valuable thing in this family."
Yiannis mate; You’ve got a bit of a trauma here too...