Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Truthful Tuesday - Can You Look Me In The Eyes?

I have alluded several times to the issues that Little Man has been having.  I haven't gone into great detail, mostly because, until recently, we did not really have an idea of what has been going on with him.  And no parent wants to admit that there is anything wrong with their child.

We first noticed some oddities back in daycare.  For the most part, Little Man was a normal, strong-willed, amazing child.  Every once in a while, however, the daycare owner would pull me aside and tell me about his day and what she noticed that concerned her.  However, the conversation always ended with "But he is too young to be concerned about anything, I just wanted to make you aware of what we are seeing."

Little Man never wanted to play in groups, he was always by himself or with the one and only boy he had bonded with.  Keep in mind that it was not a bonding of personalities.  The only thing they really had in common was that they were both pretty much obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine.  And I do mean obsessed.  Where as the other little kiddos commented on the color and might know the name of the engine, Little Man knew the engine's history, strengths, weaknesses, physical details, and similarities and differences from all the other engines.  We couldn't just have one or two of the toys for him to play with, we had to hunt down every single one that was currently being manufactured.

In class, Little Man seldom participated in group activities or lessons.  At first, the teachers were convinced that he was not absorbing any of the information being taught as he was always over in a corner doing his own thing and seemingly not paying attention to his surroundings.  However, later that day he would repeat, verbatim, everything that had been taught in the lesson earlier.

We had other issues... Intense tantrums, emotional breakdowns over really minor issues, severe emotional outbursts, really picky eating (He doesn't really like mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese.  What kid do you know that doesn't like those childhood staples??), strange quirks with his clothes fitting a certain way, sometimes not knowing how to react in social situations, not realizing how other children expect him to react, not realizing when family or friends were upset, slowly developing motor skills (he is 8 and just now learned to ride a bike, long after everyone else his age in the neighborhood), excess amounts of energy and the inability to sit still, not looking directly at us when we are trying to have a conversation with him, getting along better with adults than other children, extremely complex thought patterns, a superior vocabulary, being extremely rigid and not willing to give or be flexible, a frequent inability to concentrate on the task before him... Just to name a few.

We decided to wait until he started kindergarten to see how it went before we approached his pediatrician.  After all, many of these traits are common with children and how much of it was indicative of a problem and was not just growing pains or my lack of parenting experience?  Kindergarten started, and we had notes (well, books really) sent home almost every day for the first few weeks.  We requested to have him moved to another class just in case there was a conflict with the teacher.  Best decision ever.  His teacher was the most wonderful person we have met within the school to date.  She was patient and understanding, and most of all, kept in constant communication with me.

We finally broke down and talked to his pediatrician and he was tested for ADHD.  His test scores indicated that was what was wrong with him and he was put on medicine.  This did help.  It calmed him down and he was not in so much trouble and was actually able to complete projects at school.  There are side effects to the medication which I hate, but it seemed to help him have an overall improved quality of life.

Then came the fatal parent-teacher conference that I will never forget.  We met with his teacher who proceeded to tell us that academically, Little Man was light years ahead of where he needed to be.  However, she had some serious concerns.  He got stuck on little things and could not get past them.  For example, he had to have his own container of crayons because if he could not find the particular pink crayon that he was looking for, he would go through every bucket and freak out if someone else was using it or if he could not find it.  He ended up having to be moved to a table by himself because he just could not handle the social interaction or distractions caused by having other people around him.

Then came the words I will never forget.  "I am not a doctor, and I certainly do not have any authority to diagnose anything, but I think there is a possibility that he is showing signs of being on the autism spectrum."

Time stopped for a moment.  That is not even possible.  Not my son.  For the most part, he can function normally.  He can speak and communicate and dress himself.  He reads and writes (well, sort of) and no, he doesn't really like to color or play with other kids, but he's still really young.  You would never look at him and automatically think there was something wrong with him.  Almost everyone that he meets says he is one of the smartest kids that they have ever encountered.

But....

There is always a "but" isn't there?  I started thinking about everything that we had experienced in daycare.  I started thinking about how I hated taking him new places because I was never sure how he was going to react or what he was going to say.  I started thinking about how I dreaded having to take him places like big church or the movies, where he always seemed completely unaware that he was supposed to whisper or sit still, no matter how many times I told him.  I started thinking about how I was scared to leave him with people, because I didn't know how he was going to react or if this would be one of the nights that he decided to start sobbing and have a meltdown because one of his toys wouldn't do what he thought it should.

And yet, we still did nothing.  We talked to his pediatrician at his next checkup, but she dismissed the concerns quickly because she feels like there are an overabundance of autism diagnoses being handed out today.  She did acknowledge that there was something else going on with him besides the ADHD, and recommended that we get him in to see a child psychologist.

It took us until second grade to request that he be tested for autism by the school district.  He was still struggling socially in school.  He has almost no friends because he only wants to play whatever he is into at the moment (this year he has been obsessed with Star Wars and Bakugan), and never plays whatever the group is playing (i.e. kickball).  He gets picked on constantly, because he has such an intense reaction to it.  He is a bully's dream-come-true as far as that goes.  He argues with the teachers, because he thinks he knows more than they do.

But the last straw for me was that he was failing schoolwork.  My bright little man, who has almost worked his way though the Harry Potter series in second grade and can explain to me how a tornado forms in the atmosphere was failing work.  There are multiple reasons for this.  He has a severe handwriting issue that needs to be worked on.  He cannot handle timed projects or projects that have multiple little steps because everything has to be just right and just a certain way.  He gets stuck on directions if they are not worded just the way he thinks they need to be.  He can tell time and knows time of day, but seems to have no concept of how much time has actually passed or when it is time to move on to something else.

The test results just came back last week, and he tested as having a high probability of being on the Autism Spectrum and having Asperger's Syndrome.  I have not completely wrapped my head around all of this yet, even though I was expecting those results.  Part of me feels like I should be relieved now that I know what is going on with him and that it could be much, much worse, but part of me still thinks that there could not possibly be anything wrong with him and he is just having a hard time with life.  It is a really, really difficult thing to sit in a room and listen to people talk about your child having a disability and discuss how to keep him in mainstream class as much as possible with his non-disabled peers.

We have a plan in place for the next school year that I really think is going to help him succeed and have a much easier year than the last two.  Everyone was kind and patient and seemed to really want him to be as successful as everyone knows that he can be.  They are going to help Deputy D and I learn how to deal with Little Man in a way that his unique brain can process and understand, and help us learn how to teach him to deal with the outside world.  He is still going to be seeing the psychologist just to make sure that there is nothing else going on and that the psychologist agrees with the test results.

Most of all, I have a great support network.  I have caring friends and family that love Little Man and me unconditionally and no matter what.  And the school will be providing resources for me to learn more about Little Man's condition and how to be the best parent to him that I can be.

I am trying really hard to move forward and start working on the things that I can implement now to help him cope better.  Part of me wants to argue and cry and stomp my feet and say "You are wrong, there is nothing wrong with my kid.  Everyone else is the problem, but he is fine!"  Part of me just wants to ignore the problem and eventually it has to go away.  Right?

But the grown-up part of me knows that this is nothing compared to what some other parents are having to deal with and we will get past it and do our best to love and support Little Man the best we can.  I just ask that you be patient with me until I do have my emotions completely under control and have a good handle on the situation.  I know that God will help me get through this, just like he has everything else in my life.  And once I have everything under control again, hopefully I will be able to get back to all my crafts for Make Something Mondays and all of my recipe testing to share with everyone.  For now, there might be a bit more rambling than anything else on the blog.


2 comments:

  1. IYou write so well! I love reading ur post because I like knowing what's going on. And you are right, you have people that love you and love little man.....he can come over anytime :) he keeps sop on her toes. Love ya thanks for posting

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  2. family from far awayJune 6, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    your will get thru this with your love as a mother and allthe love that surrounds both of you in family and friends. i watch and talk with james and i see a genius he doesn't fit in amold but he can make a difference in this world if we don't get in his way. Lets try not to make him into one of us just enough to be able to deal with us normal people who really know what normal is He is loved and will go a long way with understanding.

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