Story # 48: Raising Alexandru, Part 4
“Independent Alexandru”: Childhood Strengths
Our goal has always been to help Alexandru be as independent as possible. Despite his multiple challenges, as a child, he showed many behaviors that showed promise of acting independently. For example, it seemed he had no trouble communicating basic needs non-verbally when he was sufficiently motivated, as in the following situations.
Hugs, smiles and finding a friend
Just over a year after bringing home Alexandru from the orphanage, we moved to northern Virginia to enroll him in special schooling that would, among other childhood learning, directly address his need for developing communication skills. I was happy to connect there with another adoptive mother whom I had met years before online. I had previously attended a National Conference for the Deaf, where one of the breakouts first made me aware of the depressing number of deaf children from other countries that were lingering in orphanages that had no resources for raising deaf babies. Many of these children had little or no hope of being adopted. I left that breakout determined to find more information on the subject, which led directly to our eventual adoption of Alexandru, and meeting in person my online friend.
This mother had herself adopted two deaf international children, the youngest of whom was a boy the same age as Alexandru. Finally, a potential playmate and friend who was also deaf, new to this country and learning ASL as a brand new language!
One day I wanted to take the two boys for a ride on the metro, so we rode our Apartment shuttle bus to the metro station. Boarding the bus I greeted the driver, but he just scowled and looked like he was angry at the world. When we arrived at the station, I got off first and looked to help the boys down the shuttle steps. Instead, the line of passengers to get off the bus was held up because Alexandru was giving the driver a big hug. The driver had a huge smile on his face. Then as Alexandru turned to get off the bus his friend copied Alexandru, also giving the driver a hug. The driver looked at me with his big smile and happily said “They just made my day!”.
Legos, wants and needs
Another time when Alexandru was around 4 years old, we were shopping in a store, and I was in the checkout line with my items to buy when Alexandru suddenly disappeared. I found him standing in a store aisle, holding some guy’s hand, and pointing at the huge boxed lego kit on the top shelf. The man kindly reached it down for him and Alexandru walked to me holding the box.
Now here is a classic multiple-challenged child conundrum. On the one hand, considering his language struggles, I was so tempted to buy it for him to reward his finding a way to effectively communicate with the hearing man. But there was the simultaneous “teachable moment” for any child (and far too many adults) that just because you want something doesn’t mean you automatically get it. Also, he had wandered away from me after I specifically told him to stay by my side. I decided in the moment that while the communication victory deserved a hug, the need to not reward the ignoring of my instructions was more important. (Also, I was trying to be practical. Anyone who has ever purchased Legos knows what those big kits can cost — and this one was HUGE!) So I told him we had to put it back, but he could put it on his wish list for his birthday or Christmas.
Pools, pals and pizza
When he was 5 years old, he had two friends visiting — the previously mentioned shuttle bus playmate, along with the playmate’s older brother. Remember these two boys (ages 5 and 8) were also Deaf and adopted. We were at a local public swimming pool and there was a little stand offering snacks and drinks. After splashing in the pool for a while, the boys all wanted pizza. As I could tell the two friends were too shy to go get it themselves, I was waiting for them to tell me to go. I had the money out and ready. Then I watched, amazed, as both of Alexandru’s friends told him what they wanted. Then Alexandru took the money out of my hand, and went to the snack stand. The front of it was out of my sight, so I don’t know exactly how Alexandru communicated he wanted 3 pieces of pizza; I assume he pointed since he couldn’t write yet. And back he came with the 3 pieces of pizza — communication success!
LESSON LEARNED: Everyone has strengths. Despite his many barriers to communication, it was amazing how Alexandru could bring smiles to people when he wanted to.
LESSON LEARNED: Never forget a multiple challenged child is still a child; disobedience comes with the territory.
LESSON LEARNED: Regardless of challenges, communication weaknesses or country of origin, kids LOVE pizza!
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t over judge people’s outer behavior. Even scowling shuttle drivers may just need a hug.
Interested in learning ASL? See my “ASL Word Of The Day” at:
Interested in learning Cued Speech? See my “Cued Speech Word Of The Day” at:
Have a good week!
— Donna Gateley