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.