When Your Child Struggles

I'm relatively new to this whole blogging world. The 10 or so blogs that I have written have been about motherhood or parenting in general, without a microscope revealing every secret about my individual children. This post is difficult for me to write because, while I feel it is important to put out there in case anybody can learn from it and because it is cathartic to simply put my thoughts into words, I feel like I am betraying my son. I am airing his "dirty laundry" so to speak, something I feel like I am supposed to keep hidden. But, I'm done feeling like that. In the words of James Franco, "Haters gonna hate and ain'ters gonna ain't," so sit back while I show the world who my handsome, smart, athletic, and kind son is behind closed doors. And, if you're a hater or an ain'ter, this isn't for you. Buh-bye.

My son has ADHD and a sensory processing disorder. These aren't usually diagnosed until age five-- kindergarten tends to shine a light on and discover issues like this. However, coming from a family of teachers, therapists, counselors, and people with generally decent eye sight and brain function, we saw this coming years ago. My son just turned five this January. He starts kindergarten in September and I have made it my mission since quitting my job (also in January) to make sure he thrives and succeeds.

But, people despise labels. Once you're labeled as something, people don't see you for the person you are anymore. Think about it like the old, beat up dresser you find lying on the side of the road. You label it "dumpster trash" as you drive by it, just as the previous owner did. That's what it becomes. But that same dresser just needs some TLC, sanding, and a fresh coat of paint and it's better than anything you'll find at Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, or Crate and Barrel. The label is an exclusive misnomer, not an accurate assessment of the object being labeled. Just like my son is not solely a person with ADHD. Yes, he may be diagnosed and treated for it, but that is simply one descriptor of the person he is. If you stop at that one label and write him off then, you, my friend, are missing out on one hell of a kid.

As a teacher and a mother, I have tried my hardest to ensure my child does not end up on medicine. I have exhausted every avenue that I feel is available. I have spoken to his pediatrician when he was three, gone gluten-free, stopped his allergy medicine that has side effects of hyperactivity and aggression, consulted with various family members who are experienced in this field as to what the best steps are, and finally, quit my job and worked one on one to be able to identify and help ease what he was experiencing.

While being at home with him, I witnessed behavior that is not "normal" from your average five year old. (For the record-- the term "normal" pisses me off... find me a "normal" person. There is no such thing.) We were having tantrums every single day and most lasted for over an hour. The majority stemmed from him being impulsive (an ADHD symptom), getting in trouble, and subsequently not getting his way. This, by the way, is "normal" behavior. But he couldn't "come back down." We were both absolutely miserable. We were playing a game of tug of war while both pulling the rope exactly the same. It was going nowhere. And we were both getting exhausted.

What sealed the deal for me to step into action was when my mom came to visit. She was here for two days and a night and several tantrums ensued. These tantrums were violent. Were prolonged. Were simply incomprehensible to somebody who has never experienced something like this. To me? It was normal. Again, it was heartbreaking, but nothing out of the usual. And thank God my mom understood that. She helped me understand that my son was miserable. He is such a great kid and not being in control of his emotions was more than taxing for him. So. after that, I decided to make a poster. This poster began in the middle of a tantrum. It was finished with my son, already apologetic, and ready to help. My sister-in-law had told me about zones of regulation. I highly suggest you Google it if you feel like you are in the same zone as me (that horrible pun was definitely intended).

  
The process of working on it

The final product
This helped... briefly. He used the tools and tips to get back into green for a day or two. However, I consider this a huge success because he is now able to recognize what level he is on. Sure, he will notice he is on yellow but not give a flying you know what. But, when he ends up in red, he's not caught off guard, which equates to the tantrums not being so long or intense. Success number one.

I also started him in occupational therapy. Please note: I do not think this is a long-term endeavor. It is simply a means to teach me the best practices to help my son. Again, he has a sensory processing disorder-- which once more we all believe stems from his ADHD-- and I wanted to go that route before medication.

This has also been extremely beneficial. First, it helped us to identify what exact type of sensory disorder my son was suffering from. As it turns out, he is a "seeker," which means he seeks sensory input. Well, that solves why he touches everything, pushes everything, is extremely hyperactive, and has no regard for safety. He needs more than what his environment is giving him. No wonder he can't sit and focus-- he's not getting enough internal "feedback" for his system to function as expected. Second, it has helped us to figure out ways to combat this. Before he sits down for a calm, focused activity, we've learned he needs to first "burn his energy" and have an extreme physical activity beforehand. 

  
The progression of physical activity to focused activity

Meanwhile, we've gone to his pediatrician again. It has been recommended he get on ADHD medication with a referral to a psychologist. Which, after everything, I am fine with. Why shouldn't I be? If you're diabetic, you take insulin, correct? If you're suffering from high cholesterol, you take Lipitor or something of the like, yes? I recently suffered from a pulmonary embolism at 28 years old... I take a blood thinner. Do you feel shame? I sure don't. Nor should my son, or anybody else who has this or any other label.

What is important is that my son feels safe, secure, and functioning. Truthfully, in the past month, things have gotten immensely better. If you work with wood or are sitting at a desk, please knock on it. What matters is he is happier. We understand him better. He understands us better. Nobody has to win this game of tug of war, because we're all on the same side (unless you're a hater or an ain'ter-- if that's the case, we'll tear your ass apart. But together. As a wholesome family.) We still have a ways to go and I'm sure we will run into an obstacle or two once he begins kindergarten. He is a great little boy, though, and I have high expectations for everything he will achieve in the near and far future. I will do whatever I can, as his supporting mother, to make sure he knows who he is and what he is capable of.

Watch out, world. He may be a little "spirited" and distracted, but he is coming for you and will do great, great things. 

 
This kid is awesomely cool and so loved

Comments

  1. Wow! Thank you! I loved reading that. Thank you for sharing. It is incredible how much love and struggle there are in parenting. I worried for Aaron around that age and was told he was 'normal.' the tantrums were so crazy and lasted so long. Knowing that I am not alone is helpful. I appreciate your candor!

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