Thursday, February 16, 2012

And then I became ... an advocate

Since people keep telling me that I'll be a good advocate for my son. It's flattering, but it's also beginning to feel like a T-shirt slogan. Or like a thing I add to my resume, under "extracurricular activities."

Anyway. We almost didn't need to have kiddo physically in the office for the appointment, since the doctor was mainly going over the results of the questionnaires we and his teachers had filled out, referring back to the tests she'd run at his first visit in 2010 and asking us to describe his behavior. Like his way of running around in the parking lot during school pick-up. Or the tantrums he throws when we deviate from his routine by, say, asking him to brush his teeth first instead of his sister. Or the other tantrums he throws when she won't play with him to his liking. Or the big meltdown he had at school last week or so, when he asked other kids to help him clean up the Legos (that he'd been playing with by himself) and no one did.

He hung out in her office while we talked, seemingly oblivious, playing with a bin full of toys they'd brought in.

She was briefly alarmed when we described his issues with eye contact -- as in, he avoids it -- but he doesn't show any other signs of Asperger's so she let it go. Basically, she concluded, yes to ADHD, with possible signs of OCD too (which would explain why he needs his fuzzy green blankie folded in thirds across his pillow in order to go to bed, and has been known to flip out when the blankie isn't folded correctly). "It's a complex case," she said a couple of times. Well, just what I wanted to hear.

She also was a little antsy -- mentioning several times how she was late for her next appointment -- but since we'd been forced to switch the appointment to a different day to accommodate her fabulously busy schedule, I was not exactly dripping with sympathy. You're overbooked, your problem. Not my kid's.

We're supposed to start behavioral therapy and occupational therapy, just as soon as we can find people who do such things, and she promptly handed us off to a social worker who would give us a list of numbers to call. (I guess they throw you a diagnosis and then you're on your own.) As we were walking down the hall to the social worker's office, she said to us, "Parenting him is going to be a challenge!" Well. Me from four years ago thanks you very much for that timely warning. Perhaps next you'd like to warn me about what the weather will have been like last month?

The director of our preschool, whose son also has ADHD, suggested we contact the school district's Child Study Team now to see if there's some way they can start working with us before he enters kindergarten; apparently they have occupational therapists on staff. Her point was, don't wait till July or August to call because then they'll never get back to us. She also said to make sure they know he's been "classified" as ADHD, and also make sure the doctor specifically uses that term in the paperwork. (She's really been most helpful through all this.)

The doctor did suggest really emphasizing positive reinforcement -- which we do already, with his daily star chart -- and getting him to quit running off by making a game out of it: Say "Freeze!" and reward him if he does. DH quickly worked out rules for our new game; if we say "Freeze!" and he freezes, he gets a point. If he doesn't, we get a point. Best of 7 wins, and the winner gets a cookie. DH is keeping score.
 Since he'd already missed his class Valentine's Day party for this appointment, we took him to lunch (oh thank Heaven he eats grilled cheese sandwiches now and we don't have to make waiters' heads explode by ordering them cold), and then I took him to the mall to use some of his accumulated Toys R Us gift cards. Now I knew this was dicey, since a mall can be a fairly overstimulating place even if you don't have ADHD. But it was the middle of the day, so, worth a shot. We did have to play a few rounds of "Freeze!" but it worked more often than it didn't. He was sweet enough to insist we also pick out a toy for his sister. Then -- and I knew this was even dicier -- I took him to H&M so I could clear out a gift card of my own. (Really, I would not have done this if I hadn't already known what I wanted. I am the world's slowest shopper.) He was ... mostly good. Aside from playing hide and seek with me in the clothing. To get him to stay in one place while I paid, I made him put his hands on the counter and count to 50.

"I got to 50!" he announced.

"Well, I'm not done paying yet. Keep counting."

The teen cashier, who'd previously looked a little annoyed at his run-and-hide shenanigans, now looked like she was trying not to laugh.

The mall has a kiddie play area at one end, with little slides and ride-on animals and things, and kiddo had spied it from the upper level so we walked over there. He was fine at first, and then another family walked in, with a girl a little younger than kiddo and a toddler. Kiddo immediately latched on to the girl, introducing himself, but was perplexed when she didn't do the same. He chased her around, calling out, "What's your name?" then turned to the other parents in bafflement: "Why won't she tell me her name?" They thought it was funny at first, but he kept at it, clearly freaking her a little bit, and I had to yank him away. (The other family quickly left.)

"You can't make people be friends with you," I told him.

"But I want her to be friends with me," he said plaintively.

I can tell that this is going to be the worst part of the whole thing. He wants to play with other kids so badly, but he doesn't get when he's coming on too strong, or being too demanding, and he's going to scare kids off. "It's going to keep breaking my heart, watching him get his heart broken," I told DH later.

Maybe that's something a behavioral therapist can help with. You know, once we find one.


  1. That's because you'll be great at it. Pitbull Mama!

  2. Have you looked into changing his diet? red 40 tends to cause behavior issues. It sounds like you are going to get to the bottom of this< and that you are very patient Good luck to you !

    1. He actually eats pretty well overall -- lots of fruit, good amount of veggies, whole wheat everything, low-fat yogurt, cheese sticks, chicken (sometimes). Even when we get pizza we get a side of sauteed spinach for everyone to share. So I think his issues aren't necessarily diet-related. Thanks for the feedback, though!