Hopeless. That’s how it felt. Nothing we did made a big enough difference. My dream of becoming a mother was fading fast. We spent so many years preparing to be parents. Then it took two years to finalize our adoption. Our son was nearly 10 years old when we adopted him from Kazakhstan. The “honeymoon” didn’t last very long. The rages lasted for hours. The violence was unbelievable. I still have scars on my legs from when he would attack me like a wild animal. Ceiling fixtures torn out. Computer monitors thrown. Walls kicked in. Chairs smashed. The destruction was, well…expensive. He would torture our animals. Every little thing set him off. I would get spit on regularly. He would even urinate on me. He knew that especially upset me, so it happened on several occasions. There’s nothing like having a 13 year-old boy pull down his pants to pee on you as you approach him. He would sneak things and hide them in his room. He lied so often, I started counting how many times he lied to me during the course of a day and it averaged 24 times. He had learning difficulties. For three years he was stuck at a first grade reading level. He seemed to have trouble with his short-term memory. I’d teach him something and he’d seem to get it. Then ten minutes later it was like it never happened. He had difficulty recalling words. Most conversations with him were maddening. He’d say things like, “Um uh, the stuff um by the um thing back there uh so okay?” And when I didn’t understand him the screaming and violence would start. Then there was the self-mutilation. Every day- so much blood. He tore up his left arm from his fingers to his elbow using nothing but his own fingernails. He’d claw his face. He’d tear out chunks of hair from his head. The wounds would never heal because he wouldn’t stop picking and clawing them. We tried everything. We’d have to take him to the doctor for infections while the doctor eyed us suspiciously, wondering if we were the ones that did that to him. His mutilating got so bad sometimes we didn’t dare leave our house. I remember one point he looked so horrifying, to look at him you would’ve thought he had been thrown from a moving car. I dreaded getting him up in morning because of what I’d find- the new wounds made during the night. We studied. We researched. We did bonding after bonding exercise. Tried trauma therapy. He went into speech therapy. Nothing was helping. More diagnosis started coming: Fetal alcohol effects (FAE), sensory processing disorder (SPD), auditory processing disorder (APD), ADHD, Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and the ever present RAD (reactive attachment disorder.) RAD= adoption’s dirty word. Institutionalization was recommended again and again. People outside of our home always told us what a charming boy he was. They told us that we were too strict- why didn’t we let him join scouts, clubs, sports, etc? People from our church criticized us for not attending our church meetings often enough. When we tried to explain we were dismissed as “first time parents.” Or my favorite “Oh, I have boys, I know what they are like, we get that too.” Three years passed and while some things improved, most did not. Some things continued to get worse. His self-mutilation for example reached new levels of horror. We were so desperate I feared nothing could be done. In reading attachment forums and doing research I kept hearing about Neurological Reorganization Therapy. I looked into but it sounded like a lot of hocus pocus to me. It kept coming up in my research. Finally we decided to make a few phone calls. I was amazed. I spoke to a NR practitioner named Nina Jonio. She described trauma’s effects on the brain. I began doing more research on that topic. It all made sense. We drove across several states to meet her at her clinic in Oregon. She evaluated our son and came up with a daily NR program for him. I remember describing our issues with our son and she told me that it would get better. I smiled and said okay but I must’ve looked as disbelieving as I felt because she looked me square in the eyes, patted my arm and repeated, “It will get better.” I tried not to cry. I don’t think that I had much hope left. We began his NR program immediately. Nina warned us that some people experience temporary regressions when starting a new program. Oh was she right! If you could believe it, my son’s behavior got even worse. But something else happened, something that made us press forward with real hope for the first time since adopting him. Not long after starting his NR program, in spite of his worse behavior, he had stopped mutilating! For the first time in three years his wounds were closing. Scratches were fading. Hair was growing back. Something very real was happening to my son. A few weeks after that my son joined us at the breakfast table with a thoughtful look on his face. He said, “I bet it would be interesting to be a zoologist because you’d get to study the habits of different animals.” For a boy that could barely make a clear sentence, who struggled with learning difficulties his entire life, we could only stare with our jaws dropped open. Who was this kid?! Over the next few weeks he continued to amaze us with his knowledge. Where was it all coming from? Nina said it was like losing a file on your computer- it was always there, it just couldn’t always be found. The rages stopped. The violence stopped. That first year doing NR he jumped from a first grade reading level to a fifth grade level. Something else happened that first year, something that changed our lives forever. I remember explaining to him, after he had hurt someone’s feelings, why that was wrong. It was a conversation that we must’ve had a thousand times. But this time I saw something on his face that I had never seen before. Guilt. Remorse. EMPATHY! Everything changed then. Everything. Cause and Effect- we take it for granted but I now know that it is a function of the Corpus Callosum, something that his NR therapy had been working on, but for us, it was nothing short of a miracle. His APD- gone. SPD-gone. And let’s not forget RAD- GONE. Our son is nearly 16 years old now. He attends regular high school. He has friends. He has a funny personality. He loves to read science fiction and fantasy books. He is torn between studying to be a history teacher in college or going to culinary school. People have often asked us if we would do it all over again. Actually, we have:-) We now have four children. All of them were older child adoptions. And you guessed it; all have done, or are doing, NR therapy. My only regret was that we waited so long before trying it. While it has changed the lives of my children it has done something for me as well, it has allowed me to be what I’ve always wanted- a mother.