Shannon Ramiro

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing a friend of mine, Karrie Cannell, about her international special needs adoptions. I hope you enjoy her story as well as the insight she has to share with other families who may be thinking of adopting a child with a disability from another country.


What led your family to do an international adoption?

One morning I was online and came across a little boy’s picture that was listed for adoption. I had never thought about adoption, we had 8 children, so it wasn’t even on my mind. I kept going back to his picture. He had the same skin condition, epidermolysis bullosa (EB for short) as my stepdaughter. I knew I could care for him. I talked to my husband and we talked to our kids, and we all prayed about it. The next thing we knew, we were knee-deep in adoption paperwork.

About halfway through the adoption process, we found out the boy we were looking to adopt had a biological brother with the same skin condition. They had been separated 3 years before. We immediately decided to adopt both boys. About 7 years later we adopted again, and it happened about the same way. Someone knew we had kids with EB and shared a little girl’s picture with me. At first, I was just advocating for her family to come forward. Little did I know I was going to be her momma.


Were there language barriers before, during and after the adoption? How did you navigate them?

We didn’t speak Ukrainian and the boys didn’t speak English. We used Google translate at first, but once they were immersed in the English language they picked it up very fast.

With our daughter, we didn’t use Google translate. She was adopted at a much younger age than the boys. Since she was only 3, we just pointed to things and slowly repeated ourselves, speaking to her in English. She picked up English even quicker than the boys did. Looking back, I can see some frustrations when they couldn’t understand or tell us what their needs were, but we didn’t quit. Honestly, it wasn’t terribly hard.


What has been the most enjoyable part of being a foster/adoptive family?

It’s different with each child. The boys have significant delays caused by the lack of care from their biological mother and the orphanage. Getting them home and giving them better care all around is my greatest joy. Seeing them enjoy life and experience things for the first time is also a great joy.

For our daughter, she also lived in an orphanage but doesn’t have the mental delays like the boys. She was very young when she came home, so the transition was easier and she was happier. Her joy is infectious and she loves being in our family.


I can see some frustrations when they couldn’t understand or tell us what their needs were, but we didn’t quit.”


What was the most challenging part of your international adoption?

The biggest challenge was probably getting the boys the mental help they need. Finding someone who specializes in Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and truly knowing how to help us was our biggest issue, and still is. It’s been a tough road with the boys, a journey I never knew I needed to be on, but I am so blessed to be where I am at with them.


What specific learning challenges have you encountered with your foster/adopted child(ren)? What resources have you found the most helpful in these situations? 

Mental health resources have been our biggest challenge. As the boys get older we have found what works for them and what doesn’t. 


What advice do you have for families who are thinking about looking into an international adoption?

I wish we were more informed, educated, and better equipped to help the boys with their mental health issues. There needs to be more resources to help families that are struggling. More respite. More knowledge. More information when you feel alone and lost and feel like you have nowhere to turn.




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by Shannon Ramiro

This time of year, many of us are  wondering how we could have done better this year, how we move forward the rest of this school year, and what to change for next year. The good news is you have plenty of time to figure out what to do next year as well as maximizing the benefits for this year. The bad news? There is none. Wondering if you’ve done enough for your homeschool is very normal, especially for parents of children with special needs.


How to know when you’ve done enough for your homeschool


Did you do any of the following:

  1. Start the school year choosing one curriculum, or multiple curricula based on what you had been told, or read, would be the best for your child’s identified disabilities?
  2. Create a study, or learning schedule, and believe you would be able to stick to it on a daily basis?
  3. Switch gears mid-year, or many times over the year because you answered yes to the first two questions listed here and your plans were not working?
  4. Want to throw the towel in days, weeks, months into the year because you felt overwhelmed or this year things had become too stressful?  

Wondering if you’ve done enough for your homeschool is very normal, especially for parents of children with special needs.

All of these things are OK. Keep in mind that learning is a marathon and should be a life-long journey. It is not a sprint with an anxiety ridden parent attempting to cram all the learning their child needs to become an independent, successful adult in before your child turns 18. It is so important to give yourself grace, especially during this time of year. Believe you are doing the best you can with the information you have at all times. Will you look back and wonder what would have happened if you had done “xyz” better? Probably, but again, this is common even for parents of children without disabilities.

Once you’ve accepted that these doubts and feelings of overwhelm are normal, you can actually move on with fresh energy. One of the best ways to combat the doubts of whether you’ve done enough for your homeschool is to allow yourself to reset.

So, how do we reset for the rest of the year?

  1. If you are homeschooling in a state with little to no regulations, embed creativity into your days. What does your child like to do, or is interested in? Take full advantage of that.
  2. Loosen up on the schedule. Focus on learning and celebrate small milestones. Any difficulties encountered may, at this stage of the year, be mainly due to fatigue or burnout. Make learning fun again.
  3. Take the learning outside. With warmer temperatures and sunny days, making the most of learning opportunities out in nature can help negate any attitudes that school is stressful, boring, or too demanding. This is the best time of year to see waterfalls and observe pollination, just to name a couple of learning opportunities rather unique to spring.
  4. If you must do some sort of testing to fulfill state requirements, practice test-taking strategies (i.e. skipping problems you don’t know, how to make an educated guess, etc.) and learning about the format of the test. Most of all, remind your child that the score given on the test doesn’t really matter. It is only a measure of what they know at a specific point in time.
  5. Reflect and think about what hasn’t worked and what has worked. Can the things that worked help you identify other curricula or approaches that may fit your child’s needs and learning styles better in the future?

Recognize, or remember, that our children tend to learn things at different times and in different ways. This is why so many all-in-one, or comprehensive curricula do not work for our children. Most of those types of curricula are designed to be accomplished in one year, which is normally considered to be around 180 days, with a full lesson being done every day. However, our children may learn some things rather quickly and need a lot of time learning other things, so the pacing of the curricula doesn’t align well to our planned school calendar.

A huge benefit of homeschooling is that we can customize the learning to what fits our schedule. We can also change things as needed, even if that means we find ourselves tweaking things every other week. Most of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. I believe children naturally want to learn, so letting them lead once in awhile can be extremely beneficial. You might find a new spark along the way that reinvigorates your desire to homeschool and to help increase your confidence that you really can do this!



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By Shannon Ramiro

Veteran homeschoolers have all been there: Our child is refusing to do work or is struggling to do something we believe they should be able to do. We don’t know what else to try. Children refuse to do tasks, or “get stuck” for a number of reasons. It can be challenging to figure out how to proceed; especially if you are beyond frustrated with the situation. When this happens there are a number of steps you can take to move forward. Here are the steps I have found helpful in such situations:

1. Step Back and Breathe
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things take time. Even if the struggle has been going on for several days, or weeks, it doesn’t mean it will take that much longer to move past it. Sometimes one day away from the situation is enough time for you to recharge your emotional battery and get the break you need to figure out a new approach which leads to a breakthrough.

2. Reflect and Get Curious
Have your child watch a documentary or play with toys while you think about the situation. Here are some things to consider:

  • Can you think of a similar situation in the past? Was an approach taken then that worked, which you may not be doing now?
  • Are you attempting to force a specific way of doing something when another way might work just as well?
  • Have you tried showing multiple ways of how to do something?
  • Has the topic been demonstrated verbally, visually, and in a hands-on or multi-sensory way? 
  • Is there a way to tie the topic into real-world scenarios so the child can make connections that are more meaningful to them?
  • Would a change of scenery or environment help?

Basically, you want to take a minimum of 30 minutes to simply think about the problem and see what other ideas come to your mind.

3. Change Your Approach
I don’t know who originally said it but the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting a different result” applies here. This is something I think about when things just aren’t working the way I have been doing them. So, I get creative. I also consider ways to incorporate movement and play into learning. Learning should be fun! When things are fun, you naturally remember them more readily too. 

Spelling can be demonstrated by jumping onto letters written on the ground in chalk or moving magnetic tiles around on a cookie sheet. All sorts of objects can be used to demonstrate math concepts; especially when counting, grouping or patterns are involved. Role-play and virtual field-trips can be helpful with history. There are all sorts of demonstration videos for science when you don’t have the materials to conduct experiments. Songs to remember rules for math or language arts can help with remembering things too.

4. Recognize Timing and Pacing Issues
This is especially important with children who have special needs. I would say the majority of curricula out there requires modification for children with special needs in this regard. Everyone learns at a different pace. Just because a curriculum says lessons 1, 2, and 3 should be done over 3 days, with a test done on day 4 does not mean that works for your child. Your child may need 2 weeks, or more, to learn the same material. 

Don’t worry too much about how long something takes your child to learn. The important part is that they learn, and let’s face it, some topics are more important than others. You may find you need, to spend a lot more time on some topics and a lot less time on others. You may also want to skip some activities altogether. That is OK! (Teachers make such adjustments in schools all the time.)

You Got This!

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we tend to have more latitude (with timing and order of topics taught), as well as creative freedom, than teachers in regular schools. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that. Don’t forget it either. No matter what path led us to homeschool, we all make the decision on the basis that we believe it is best for our child(ren). So, when our children are struggling, it is best for our children and our own sanity, to reassess the situation. Then, change things up as needed to lighten the mood and make learning fun again. 

This is also a good opportunity to model problem-solving and creative thinking skills, which are both so important to our children’s success in the future. Now, take a break, tell yourself, “You’ve got this!” and take steps to determine a new approach going forward. Also, recognize you may need to repeat the steps more than once to find what does work. Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself or your children. We are always a work in progress.



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