Sunday, January 26, 2014

No vest for the weary

Kiddo wears a weighted vest at school. Not all day, but at timed intervals; X minutes on, X minutes off, that sort of thing. It's supposed to help with his sensory issues, since he doesn't feel grounded, doesn't "know where his body is in space," as the therapists say; to ground himself, he might otherwise "seek input" by crashing into things and/or people. (Or my hip. That's been going on for years. A hug from kiddo is more like a full-body assault. I'm used to it, and will brace myself when I hear him coming so I don't topple over.) Also, carrying the extra weight around -- aka "heavy work" -- helps burn off some of the extra energy. At least in theory.

In practice, he's been complaining at school about it, wanting to take the thing off as soon as he gets there. He's never said anything to us about it, but maybe he thinks we won't listen. Or maybe getting out of the house is such a monumentally herculean task every single weekday, requiring the extensive use of timers and repeated instructions and occasional threats ("OK, you can skip breakfast today if you don't want to get dressed. I'm going downstairs, bye." Obviously a threat we've never carried out. But still), that he's just doing what he's asked so he can be done more quickly. Because doing any routine sort of anything hurts his brain.

This came up during our meeting with the school last week, set up because he's also been shutting down approximately after lunch, lying on the floor, refusing to do his work, basically hiding in the sensory corner. We were trying to figure out how to settle him so he could focus on the work, which his teacher (and I) are positive he can do, because he's smart.

By the way? I love that his teacher set up a sensory corner in the classroom, even if kiddo would rather spend all day in it than do his work.

I'm not sure what to think about the vest. He's never had an issue wearing it before. But possibly, he's finally noticed that the other kids don't wear one.

"Hypersensitivity" is another part of the whole ADHD puzzle. It means ADHDers are very, very aware of what the people around them are doing or saying, like having antennae permanently at work, and are liable to think they're being criticized or laughed at when they're not.

One time a year-plus ago, kiddo and I were walking through a parking lot, and maybe 20 feet away were a couple of teenage girls, laughing to each other. Kiddo was utterly convinced that the girls were laughing at him, because he'd just lost his toy car. I explained to him that 1. they were total strangers, 2. they were twice as old as he was, 3. they were too far away to hear or be heard and 4. why would they care about his car anyway? And yet I couldn't shake him on it. That's the sort of thing we occasionally deal with.

So, is he being hypersensitive about his vest? Has it outlived its usefulness? His teacher is going to switch him over to a weighted lap blanket for parts of the day to see if that makes a difference.

The other possibility is, well, he's just tired. It is, as every other adult on the planet is fond of pointing out to me, a long day. (Gosh, and I do appreciate the daycare guilt. Thanks.) He'll still take a nap if you let him. How do I know? It's 5 p.m. on Sunday and he's napping right now. And has been since about 2. (I suspect he's going to be annoyed when he wakes up to discover it's too dark to play in the snow. Sorry, kid.)

So if he's just too tired, what do I do, start sending him to school with mocha lattes? Slip a Red Bull in his backpack? Because while he can lie down at the nurse's office for a few minutes as needed, they don't do naptime in first grade.

At the school meeting, we agreed that they would adjust his behavioral chart, add in more little breaks throughout the day and give him extra chances to move around, in addition to using the blanket. Maybe it'll help, maybe not. If he really is too tired to function, does he need a 6 p.m. bedtime? And in what universe would that be logistically possible?

Tell you the truth, I don't blame him. One of the more disappointing things about adulthood is the lack of naps. Or maybe it's no summers off. Yeah, it's that.

This isn't 40

Well, it is, but I hated that movie. Sadly. Normally I like anything from Judd Apatow, and I think Paul Rudd is both funny and adorable, but that particular flick was so full of  whining and juvenile behavior and leering at Megan Fox (see: juvenile behavior) that I sort of wanted to smack all the characters upside the head. Especially when they blamed all their problems on their parents. Especially when they decided they would solve all their financial issues by selling their bloated house, because apparently no one in this movie had been following the real estate market. I think the movie should've been called "This Is 40 in Overentitled Los Angeles But Not Where Real People Live."

Anyhow. 40. I don't feel 40, however that's supposed to feel. (Unfulfilled? Angsty? I'm Gen X -- isn't that how we always feel?) I see no midlife crisis over the horizon; I won't be trading my perfectly practical family car in for a convertible, because I hate when the wind messes my hair up, and also I can blast Daft Punk just as well in my practical car. Besides, I'm pretty sure the boomers redefined "midlife" on us and I shouldn't be planning a crisis until at least 55.

To celebrate, DH and I went away for the weekend and Grandma and Grandpa stayed with the kids. I felt a cold-type thing coming on and stayed in bed the day before, and more or less fought it to a draw. DH was less lucky, and spent the weekend in a bit of a stupor, guzzling tea and soup at every restaurant we visited. DH is a trouper. Especially since my idea of a grand time is wandering the streets of a cute little town and checking out every single shop in sight. In other words, a guy's worst nightmare.

The playhouse in town was screening "Gone With the Wind" for free on Friday night, and I hadn't seen it since high school, when I promptly dismissed Scarlett as a bitch. It seemed fair to give the movie another shot. Quite a few people showed up -- pretty good turnout for a four-hour movie -- and everyone applauded when Scarlett said "I will never go hungry again!" and then when Rhett said "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Also, I now think Scarlett is a tragic case of a charming young girl irredeemably hardened by war, and Ashley is a spineless jerk. And Rhett is also a jerk. But wow, impressive cinematography.

So I shopped, and we ate entirely too much great food, and then we came back and DH slept for most of the day. And then we had a big family dinner to celebrate at which I again ate too much great food. It's back to salads and homemade smoothies for me.

I'm just not feeling this 40 thing. The only differences between me now and me 20 years ago are 1. better hair, 2. better clothes, 3. children. (I was probably with DH 20 years ago too. Or we were "just friends." Always one or the other.) And since the children are the greatest part of my life, I'm hardly going to see that as a minus.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The trouble with blankies

Both kids have blankies. Adorable. I know. Kiddo's is green and fuzzy. Kiddette has two blankies -- a fuzzy pink-and-white one, and a smaller, crocheted pink one that she acquired in the hospital, along with her little infant bonnet. It's like a blankie tag team.

I wouldn't mind so much the blankie love if said blankies would just stay in place. Like, on their beds, all day. But kiddette absolutely insists on bringing her fuzzy pink-and-white blankie -- aka Main Blankie -- to school, even though she hasn't taken a nap roughly since she was still wearing diapers. (Every day her teacher sends home the daily report and writes "NO NAP" on it as though we should somehow still be surprised at that fact.) This means that Main Blankie must travel from her bed to the general area of the front door so that she can bring it to the car. For some reason this is such a herculean task that it isn't done until five seconds before she needs to leave, and the entire parade of coat and backpack and car is held up while she wanders around looking for the blankie that she'd left in a heap atop her bed.

On the other hand, kiddette never insists on bringing the crocheted blankie -- aka Auxiliary Blankie -- anywhere, and frequently forgets about it at bedtime, so it doesn't cause any trouble. It can be found at random spots throughout the house, sort of like an Elf on the Shelf, except softer.

Kiddo doesn't bring his blankie to school, so there's that. He just brings it everywhere else. Grandma and Grandpa's house. The supermarket. Karate class. Any sort of car trip requires the blankie, even if the trip is only five minutes. The worry is, he's been known to bring toys places and lose them. How hard could it be to misplace a green fuzzy blankie?

We nearly found out last week. I brought him to karate class, then we dashed home to get food before heading out to a doctor's appointment. Naturally, he'd brought his blankie and a toy. The toy came into the doctor's office with him. The blankie, as far as I knew, did not.

We managed to leave the office without forgetting the toy, came home and began our weekend project of cleaning out the playroom, because we are drowning in toys and many of them are baby-scaled. And next time I will pay someone to do that for me. I swear the toys multiply when we're not looking, like clothes hangers. Sometime around bedtime, kiddo began to flip when he couldn't find his blankie. And DH and I realized we hadn't seen the blankie all afternoon. Or the toy he'd brought to the doctor's office.


What if he had brought the blankie in? What if he'd hauled himself in my car afterward and forgotten to haul his stuff in with him?

What if his blankie and his toy were sitting in the parking lot of a doctor's office 20 minutes away? The increasingly icy, dark parking lot?

DH and I managed to get kiddo to bed, with the promise that we would keep looking, and then started to play "CSI." He had the blankie before lunch ... did he have it after lunch? He made me wrap the toy in the blankie so he could pretend it was a present. Was that before or after the doctor's appointment? It's not in any of the usual places he hides it in. Are we sure it's in the house? 

Proving that becoming a parent makes you take leave of your senses, we were convincing ourselves that DH needed to drive out to the iced-over parking lot and check. Fortunately, DH had a better idea. He dug through the massive pile of still-unsorted toys in the basement ... and pulled out the blankie, still wrapped around the toy from before. Where it had clearly been all afternoon.

I was delighted, and also wanted to smack my forehead a few dozen times.

Kiddo was ecstatically reunited with his blankie in the morning. I don't think we've had any incidents since then.

I know I should appreciate this whole blankie thing, and how adorable it is, and how in a few years they won't want to hug me or a blankie anymore. But that's a little hard to remember when we're all playing Blankie Hide and Go Seek at school time, or bedtime, or pretty much any other inconvenient time.

Still I hold out hope that they'll start being more mindful of their blankies. Because clearly, I'm not up to the task.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New year, old rants

But first, Happy New Year plus five days! The kids had a lovely time with Grandma and Grandpa and we had a lovely time without the kids. Although I don't know how much longer we'll be doing these yearly shindigs, since this time next year, all the couples involved will have kids. I guess we could just let the kids have the world's longest playdate while we make fun of Ryan Seacrest in the next room. (Seriously, would that guy's hair move in a hurricane?)

The schools were open precisely one day last week because the weatherfolks were predicting Snowpocalypse Part II and school officials statewide panicked. (Spoiler alert: It was not Snowpocalypse Part II.) So this week will be one massive transition back to regular school life, unless the freezing temps/ice storm prompt yet another closure, and let's hope not.

How well are we transitioning so far? You mean aside from kiddo being an utter basket case by dinnertime and inconsolable by bedtime? Oh, fine. Just fine. He got the necessary number of checks on his behavior chart at school, so at least he kept it together long enough to come home and dump his lopsided emotional equilibrium on us. Because we only let him watch one TV show. And because we actually expected him to eat his dinner. And because having correctly judged his emotional state, we refused to let him work on his book report tonight, since it wasn't due yet. That's right. He flipped out because we told him *not* to do homework.

I mention all this because there's a wonderfully helpful neurologist coming out with a book called "ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.” Isn't that nice? I must've imagined the whole scene tonight. Or all the other moms I know whose kids have ADHD must also be imagining their kids' behavior, which -- funny thing -- strongly resembles my son's behavior. What a strange thing to be delusional about. I'd much rather be delusional about the idea that ice cream has no calories.

Anyway the NY Post, displaying the subtlety it's known for, writes:

Patients show up at the clinic with their own ADHD diagnoses these days, simply because ADHD is in the air all around us — and because they want to score some delightful drugs like Adderall or Ritalin, or because their parents want an easy way to get them to sit down and shut up.

*sigh* Yeah. Number one: It's not "in the air all around us." What you're thinking of might be cold germs. Number two: There are actually a number of medications available to treat/manage ADHD, many of which aren't stimulants. And none of these medications is meant to be "delightful" -- just "functional." Number three: If all my kid did was run around a lot and talk a lot, do you really think I'd be taking him to a pediatric psychiatrist?

I have a tendency on thishere blog to focus on the meltdowns and the personal-space issues and the sensory issues and the frustration over being asked to do any sort of rote, routine anything, but the thing is, kiddo is a total sweetheart. He's utterly charming, he's friendly to everyone, he plays peekaboo with babies in the checkout line at the supermarket. He tells me he loves me constantly, gives me hugs and plays with my "squiggly" hair. He's smart and funny and he loves books. I wouldn't trade this kid for anything. No, he's not easy to raise. If I wanted something easy to raise, I'd have gotten a goldfish.

Richard Saul, the neurologist in question, says:

“ADHD makes a great excuse,” Saul notes. “The diagnosis can be an easy-to-reach-for crutch. Moreover, there’s an attractive element to an ADHD diagnosis, especially in adults — it can be exciting to think of oneself as involved in many things at once, rather than stuck in a boring rut.”

 I don't think people find it exciting to think they might have a mental disorder. I think maybe they're relieved to finally discover what's wrong with them, why they can't hold down a job or keep a relationship or manage their money. I think the person I briefly emailed with via the ADDitude boards, the one who hoped my moms group might help him, wasn't excited about his "easy-to-reach-for crutch." More like, his life was in ruins and he didn't have anywhere else to turn. (I never did hear back from him. I hope he's all right.)

Frankly nearly every debunked case cited in the article is an adult patient -- not a kid. I fully believe that there are a lot of misinformed adults out there who might jump to a conclusion about a diagnosis without ruling out all physical possibilities (sleep deprivation, too much caffeine, as the article cites) first. Because this is a country of jumping to conclusions. Fiber is good for you? Put it in everything. Omega 3's are good for you? Put that in everything. Eggs will kill you instantly! Eggs will save your life! Etc.

But none of that explains the kids. The ones almost physically unable to join in the group. The ones who are so clearly trying to listen to everything around them at once that they don't hear anything. The ones who are so unable to comprehend personal space that they repeatedly get in other kids' faces until the other kids bite them, just to make them stop. (Kiddo, in preschool.) The ones who blatantly stand out from the other kids, no matter how hard they try to fit in. Explain that. Help that. Or would that not help book sales?

Moving on ... to, shockingly, a story in the Times. Aren't you shocked? The Times tried to prematurely ruin my New Year's with this article, saying that some authors of a NIMH study 20 years ago now think the study oversold the benefits of drugs and discouraged other treatments, such as behavioral therapy. And then the big bad pharmaceutical companies used the study to direct-sell their drugs to parents and doctors. Because apparently parents and doctors don't know how to do research. Or else they would have read about that NIMH study, as I did when I was first researching kiddo's diagnosis, in "ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know" from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

"[The study] found that stimulants used as the sole form of treatment led to significantly better results for the core symptoms of ADHD than behavior therapy used alone. A combination of the two approaches, however, has been shown to lead to the best overall improvement in several aspects of ADHD. ... Parents in the MTA study whose children used this combined approach were often significantly more satisfied with the treatment plan than those whose children received medication alone."  (2nd edition, p. 50, if you're interested.)

So, if I was able to read this book and find this passage, and know all along that medication was a last-resort possibility even as I hunted down a behavioral therapist and an occupational therapist for kiddo, then, really, no one else for 20 years has been capable of doing that? Or does the whole notion of doing your own research not fit with the theme of the Times' stories?

All I want for 2014 is to read one story about ADHD that acknowledges what it's like to live with the disorder, instead of taking potshots at the mere existence of medication. And my birthday is coming up. Hint hint.