Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The people in our village

Kiddo is still doing fabulously (his teacher called him his "shining star," which believe me, no other teacher has ever called him ever), and we're delighted and still a little baffled by it. The thing is, a lot of people are helping kiddo, and that's making all the difference.

As generally great as he's been in school, he still has the occasional mini-meltdown when he has to get on the bus in the morning, especially if he feels like he didn't get enough playtime with the other kids. One of the boys threw an arm around his shoulders this morning and walked him down the sidewalk, helping him get to the bus. And frankly the bus driver deserves some sort of award for sitting there so patiently while we convince kiddo that he really does need to go to school now.

I can't say enough nice things about his teacher, who is amazingly upbeat and positive, and tells us every day about how smart kiddo is, not about what a bad kid he is. Kiddo brought a toy truck to school the other day and the back wheels came off, which is normally a Code Red disaster, but his teacher helped him write a nice email to Daddy asking that he fix the truck later. Then his teacher told us separately what a good job kiddo did calming down. Finally, someone who gets that the calming down is the hard part.

We've basically given up on athletics for him, because clearly he inherited my (lack of) athletic ability, and have signed him up for acting class. I was extremely up front with the staff about him, because if he was going to be a problem, or a disruption to the class, I wasn't even going to try. But they've worked with ADHD kids before, they said, and if he needed a break they'd give him one, and he loves the class so I worried for a whole lot of nothing. I'm not saying he's going to be an actor, but putting him in a place with other kids his age where he's enjoying himself can only be a good thing.

We also found a special needs Lego building class and he is smoking it. The teacher has one assignment ready for the kids each session that's supposed to take the whole class time to build, and he's done in five minutes. Future engineer? Future Nathan Sawaya? Who knows? But at least we finally got him into extracurricular activities he's good at.

Not to mention all our friends and family, who've always been supportive, and have always been quick to cheer on any of kiddo's accomplishments.

It's a good place for kiddo to be in, and us, and I hope we stay here a while.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The merry-go-round of nothing getting done

So first, watch this bit from John Oliver, because he says it better than I ever could.


OK, all done? Heartbreaking, right? Now then.

It is exasperating beyond belief to me that the only time anyone says anything about mental health issues is right after another shooting. And then nothing gets done about improving our mental health system OR about gun control. And then there is another shooting. And everyone makes the same concerned noises and goes back to ignoring both issues.

And Jessica Williams put that better than I ever could.


You know what the real shame of all of this is? Not the stigma attached to mental illness or mental disorders, or the lack of treatment options. Not the ease with which people who shouldn't have guns can get guns.

The real shame is that the only people who have anything sensible or well-researched to say on any of these topics are professional comedians

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Knocking on wood, crossing fingers

Because still, so far so good. I met kiddo's teacher at Back to School Night and he seems smart, thoughtful, well informed and committed to working with his kids and helping them succeed. (Also SO young. I am again considering changing the name of this blog to Angry Old Mom. Or Angry Sort-of Middle-Aged But Not Really Because What's Middle-Aged These Days Mom.) As soon as the kids understand the lesson, he moves on. No busy work or extra homework. Kids need a break? They all run around outside for a few minutes. Kids upset? He helps them calm down and doesn't judge them. I feel like he should be cloned so he can teach everyone's classes.

Kiddette, of course, is still in the original school, so she gets approximately three million sheets of paper a night. Not a commentary on her teacher, who also seems awesome; it's more on the school in general.

It's a little odd, having kids in different schools in the same town. Technically we needed to join a PTA and a PTO. And we see different parents we know at different school events. And now I have two different schools to get totally lost in because I'm like that.

The comparisons are inevitable. So far kiddo's school is winning. Admittedly this may be because he, and we, had such an awful experience at the original school last year. But having gone to two different Back to School Nights at two different places, School #2 has a friendlier, more casual vibe. I'm glad kiddo ended up there.

I'm almost waiting for the metaphorical other shoe to drop. There's been so much negativity for so long, it's hard to believe that we're completely past it. But right now, things are pleasant. Knock wood.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So far, so good

Both kids had a positive first week of school. And let me assure you, I have never written that sentence before. But kiddo's new teacher seems to focus on his good points, moreso than his bad points, and is focusing on heading off any potential meltdowns so that kiddo can get classwork done. At least that's the vibe I get from the daily emails. It's definitely a change from "here are all the things your child did wrong today."

Still, it's too early to see whether we're finally going to deviate from the script. You know. This script.

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Oh, don't worry about your son, he'll be fine.

ME: Um, OK, but just so you know, he has ADHD and he has difficulty managing his emotions because he's a few years behind behaviorally and he has trouble with personal space and ....

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Oh, no sweat! We know all about all that stuff. We can totally handle him.

****** ONE MONTH LATER ********

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Well, your son did this today and that and this and that.

ME: Yes, we see these behaviors at home. These are the things he has trouble with.

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: He needs to learn better behavior.

ME: ..... Right. We'll talk to him.


EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Yeah, we can't handle him.

ME: *Mentally bangs head against wall*

So, here's hoping we're operating with a different script this time. I hate reruns.

Meanwhile kiddette loves her teacher and loves going to school and loves her pink sneakers and is just generally loving life. She also appears to be playing with dolls. We may have reached Girl Territory.

In further scary neighborhood dog news, the Animal Control folks had no idea that the dog that bit kiddo has a history of biting kids, because for some reason no other reports on that address came up when the Animal Control guy looked. Which is odd, because of all the reports I've gotten from neighbors for nearly six years. Animal Control says sometimes, people don't call when a dog bites someone, because they don't want to cause trouble with the neighbors, and if the medical bills are paid for, hey, it's all taken care of, right?

Yeah, no. 1. There's a leash law in this state and the dog was routinely off-leash in the front yard. 2. The dog BITES KIDS. I'm told at least one victim went to the hospital. Even if the parents didn't call the police, the doctors treating the kids would have been legally required to do so. In fact, the people at the medical center who treated kiddo were relieved that we'd already called the police, because it saved them some paperwork.

So I don't buy for a second that there aren't other reports, and I'm not OK with playing nice neighbor and letting it drop, specifically because I know the dog has bitten before and despite that, the dog was still off-leash in the front yard. The neighbor's been careful about keeping the dog locked up or leashed ever since the incident, but what if the neighbor decides, two months from now, that everything's cool again and lets the dog run free?

Well, I call the cops again, obviously.

Kiddo's ankle is just about healed, but he's easily spooked around dogs now, which is an aggravation and a heartbreak. I grew up with dogs and cats and all sorts of other creatures. I don't know if he'll ever be OK with dogs.

Still, school is going well. That's a positive I'll take over many other negatives. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Catching up, looking ahead

I never got why some parents so eagerly counted down to the first day of school, but obviously that was because I was still working full time. Now, I get it. School is starting, hooray.

It is amazing how they manage to make every surface of the house into a toy container. Including the floor of our bedroom. As though their own bedrooms were somehow not sufficient space for their toys. And the playroom? There is no floor left in the playroom. I'm just going to wait until they've outgrown all the toys in it and then donate the entire room somewhere.

I'd say they both basically had good summers. Kiddette had a fine time at camp. She went to the pool, she went on field trips, she made crafts, she fell in love with her camp counselor (who was a nice kid and pretty patient about the whole thing). Kiddo did well in extended school year, and had a fine time at Lego camp; he had one not-listening incident on the last day, but all things considered, that's a better-than-usual success rate for him.

The only time we've had issues is when we didn't have grand plans for the kids, or special trips, or meals out. Unstructured time = whining + complaining + screeching + stolen toys/teasing/slammed doors. I thought they'd be better able to fend for themselves. I was wrong. Here we are now, Mommy. Entertain us.

Also, I'd love to say kiddo has gotten better at managing his emotions, but not really. He had a meltdown this morning because I asked the kids to move some toys to the playroom before breakfast. I thought being able to see the coffee table would be nice. He stole his sister's toy and ran off. Because when he's upset, we all need to be upset too.

He's generally calmer, at least. When we go to his psychiatrist's office, he can sit more or less in one spot for most of the appointment, instead of repeatedly leaping from the couch to the carpet. I'll take whatever improvements I can get.

We did have a bit of a setback, on account of the neighbor's giant dog biting him last week for the severe crime of running across the street in front of the dog. The UNLEASHED dog. Who was sitting in the front yard despite having a reputation for biting kids. I waited a week to write anything about this because I was so steamed, and ha ha, turns out I'm still steamed. Years of neighbors telling us they're terrified of the dog, terrified to walk in front of that house. I actually thought we got along with the dog. But well, gosh, the dog just doesn't like it when pesky kids run in front of him. Silly us! To think we could let our kids walk across the street when clearly we should be driving them. You know, so no one upsets the dog.

Kiddo is healing nicely, and is almost done with the antibiotics. We haven't seen the neighbor since the incident, when I screamed at her in the front yard in full view of other neighbors, though she did stick an apology letter of sorts on our door. We also haven't seen the dog since the incident, which is good, because I'll call the cops right back if I ever see it unleashed again.

Honestly, this kid is afraid to walk into a Halloween store and I'm supposed to make him OK with having a giant aggressive biting dog for a neighbor? Why is it on me to make him OK with this?

At any rate. Kiddo actually seems to be looking forward to school, which is a nice change from past years, and we've gotten a good vibe so far from the new teacher. So who knows, maybe it'll be a good year? Or at least better than last year.

Everything looks hopeful in September.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ADHD is not a moral choice

But apparently a lot of grownups still think it is. I have no idea how else to explain why a school resource officer in Kentucky allegedly decided to handcuff an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, both of whom have ADHD, on separate occasions because they wouldn't listen and they were getting physically aggressive. A school administrator took a video of the boy sitting there in handcuffs, crying -- for 15 MINUTES -- and now the kids' parents and the ACLU are suing over it.

Again, an 8-year-old boy with special needs was allegedly left sitting in handcuffs for 15 minutes. Because he wasn't following directions, he tried to escape the principal's office, and then he hit the resource officer with his elbow.

His ELBOW. Oh you poor grown man. However will you survive a vicious elbow attack?

The girl was allegedly handcuffed twice. Once, because she was disruptive in class, sent to an "isolation room," tried to leave the room, and the principal and vice principal had to restrain her. Somehow that equaled attacking them. She left the school in an ambulance; the handcuffing caused "a severe mental health crisis."

I hate to break the news to the school resource officer -- and apparently the entire staff of this school -- but being disruptive in class, trying to run out of the classroom, and throwing the occasional elbow at grownups is part of ADHD. Believe me, I wish it weren't. But my son has done any or all of those things in any given day. Because ADHD isn't just about being hyperactive and being impulsive. It's about behaviorally, emotionally, being about four years behind their peers. Everything kiddo does and says makes sense if you think of him as 4, not 8. Unfortunately, he's 8, and tall, so he looks older. So he looks like a really badly behaved 9-year-old.

But no one at his school ever handcuffed him. Possibly because that's illegal.

If you think of a kid as doing bad things deliberately, then your instinct is to yell and punish. If you think of a kid as being unable to control himself -- or herself -- in that moment, your instinct should be to remove the kid from the situation, get them calmed down, help them make the right choice. I said should be, because I think a lot of people instantly revert to the bad kid-punishment method, whether or not it works. We've done it. Trust me: It doesn't. Getting kiddo calmed down? That works, at school and at home. And he always, always apologizes for whatever he did or said, and generally feels awful about it afterward. Why should I yell at him when I can already see him beating himself up over his behavior? Is anything I say half as bad as what he's saying to himself?

My son is a good kid who isn't in full control of himself. I bet those other kids are the same. And they did not deserve to have their arms yanked back into handcuffs when, I have no doubt, every single school day is torture to them as it is.

School officials -- anyone who deals with children, ever -- need to change their way of thinking if they actually want to help special needs kids. Otherwise, what they really want is to do what's convenient. In which case, do us all a favor and don't work with kids.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Kiddo is fine, except when he isn't. That is, he's fine until something upsets him, and then he says mean things and is generally unpleasant to be around. That's the pattern these days.

DH and I have figured out that if he's having a meltdown, he's either tired or hungry or both. So we don't react when he yells "I hate you! I hate everyone in this house!" or when he runs away instead of helping to clean up. Getting upset adds fuel to the fire, so to speak, and yelling solves nothing. I've tried it. Doesn't work.

Instead, we wait for him to calm down, or encourage him to breathe, or give him some space, or suggest a snack and/or nap. These are the workarounds. They take a lot more thought and careful planning, but they do seem to help.

Sometimes I resort to sneakiness. He was heading toward meltdown status because I was feeling off and didn't want to take him to the park. I lay down on the couch and pretended to doze. A few minutes later, he crawled onto the couch to join me, and promptly fell asleep. For about two hours.

You can't just tell him to take a nap. You have to make the nap look inviting.

Sometimes I set the rules in advance. I gave the kids a strict edict on Monday that we would not visit the ice cream truck more than once a week. They nodded "sure, sure" as they ate their ice cream sandwiches. Today, they asked for ice cream. I reminded them of the rule, and after only a tiny bit of grumbling, they stopped.

I warned kiddo in advance that he would not be playing with the computers in the children's section of the library, and he listened, although I did have to nudge him away from the screen. But I always have to nudge him away from screens. Because ADHD.

I used to just get upset whenever he had a meltdown, or whenever he whined and complained and seemed overly negative about things. But I know the real kiddo is not that kid. The real kiddo is the little sweetie who likes to play peek-a-boo with babies and who always opens doors for me, declaring, "Ladies first!" That kid deserves the extra care and consideration if he's having trouble managing his emotions. Fortunately, now we have the time to give him that extra care, and I think that'll make a difference in the long term.

An interesting side note: Kiddette has decided she needs fidget toys for camp. This may be her way of sneaking toys to camp. Or her way of getting some of kiddo's attention for herself. Or maybe she just thinks, as she says, that if you get too happy, you need a fidget toy to calm down. But she's designated a tiny Elmo doll as her main fidget toy, and has been bringing him along to camp.

I figure it can't hurt. Kiddette just has a workaround of her own.