A friend on Facebook with a newly adopted daughter asked me what I did with Abi when she was first home. Did she want to explore or did she want to sit and do nothing? It took me back to that first, difficult year and the many, many times when Abi did NOT want to be part of our family. As much as it hurts to remember those days, it's also neat to see how far she has come.
I decided to copy part of the conversation here in case it helps others too:
With A--, it sounds like disengaging and thumb sucking is her bid for power in her little world. Abi was that way. We called it "turtle mode." She would curl up face-down somewhere and ignore us. It was the only thing she thought she had any control over. After a while, I'd scold her for ignoring us. Now, we have a "rule" in our house that if anyone says the name of someone else, they have to at least answer. That helps the blind kid too. Like this ongoing game of Marco Polo LOL. But it started with teaching Abi not to ignore us.
At first, it was the least hint of responding got rewarded. If I talked to her and she moved at all, I praised her. And I'd try to coax her to be engaged with favorite toys. "Little bear wants to talk to you!" Later, when she knew more English, I'd say "Abi, you need to answer when I say your name." If she didn't, something that worked was, "Oh (very sad tone), kids who don't answer Mommy don't get to come with me to the park! So sad!" That would often snap her out, because she LOVED the park. She also loves presents. So "kids who answer Mommy are going to get a new toy at the grocery store!"
I did a lot of rewarding Cody for doing what Abi was supposed to do LOL. He didn't mind. *smile*
We did silly "training" games toward engaging her and getting her to stop being a turtle. During a time when she was engaged, giggling and saying "Abi!" "Mommy!" "Abi!" "Mommy!" really fast over and over got her into a sort of habit of answering, so when a turtle, I'd say "Abi!" In the same quick, playful tone, and sometimes, she'd forget and answer! Once I got her to do that, the power struggle was broken and she'd snap out. She might try to go back but I'd laugh at her and tickle her and she'd give up and laugh.