There is a training manual for everything in this life. You will find an Idiot’s guide on any subject except the children which just think a little bit differently and doesn’t fit into the mainstream.
What is unique is that this world has tons of free advice for everyone of us. It forgets that every child’s journey is unique and so is every parent’s. Very few realize that a lot of it is uncharted territory and parents are trying to figure it out as they go along. Sometimes, the realization happens on time, sometimes much later and sometimes never.
My journey is no different. The only difference is the sense of anxiety, probably that triggered me to watch my child’s every move.
At the age of 2, my dear little son was all over the place and just couldn’t sit in one place. He was fun and could charm everyone’s pants off very easily with his charming smile. The problem wasn’t him. We were old-timers by then in our late 30’s and practically exhausted keeping up with him. My sixth sense, somehow clicked in all that running around and noticed that he wasn’t speaking very much. That was the first trigger.
The first trigger set this journey to find out more and research it out more. The reason for me to write this article is that I am surrounded by parents who are facing different challenges with respect to children and while I am no expert in this area, I feel that a timely help and awareness could have helped these children and parents much more. Sometimes, we miss the boat and with children, we really have a small window to work with in terms of timeline.
I start this off with an article of my personal journey of things I noticed that made me wonder. If someone finds this journey useful, great..If someone finds solace in reading it, just know that I am there for you and I am one of you..
1. Connect with other parents/kids:
As any new parent, I was a part of a number of play dates and enjoyed it for half the time. The rest was spent chasing behind my kid, while the other kids were sitting and doing activities that every parenting book dictates. Some comments, rolling eyes and “oh my, he is full of energy” comments kicked it off with a “hmm.Is this normal?”.
2. Educate yourself on the milestones/Pay attention:
Looking at the other kids, as any new parent, I was concerned and went crazy reading up online/comparing similar kids, and wondering more. My brain was going for a sing song and the high energy of my son didn’t exactly make me behave like a good parent. This is one I wish I could have done better. Giving him timeouts, naughty corner, yelling ..all those should have been avoided and even to this day, the “flight or freeze” self defense kicks in first as a mode of attack. I should have been more patient and understood it better.
3. Early Intervention:
My first go-to person of concern and which should be with every mom, is to talk to the pediatrician. The state of IL has a fantastic early intervention program and one call to them opened a world that was totally alien to me. Their recommendations validated my concern and we started our speech therapy with a borderline recommendation of evaluating the world censorial issues. The therapist went one step further and mentioned that the school might be able to provide early accommodations so that he can transition easily into mainstream.
4. Call your local Elementary school and their special needs Department:
Next step of course is to start the process much earlier, call the local school district and the special needs department to understand what the process was and what we need to do as parents. More paperwork, assessments followed. Key thing is to remember to call early 6 to 8 months before start of school y ear and talk to other parents to find various options.
5. The elementary school experience:
The school district went with the next step of evaluating him and validating my observation. If I doubt it, then it is a may be. If your friends or loving grandparents mention it, may be becomes a concern. The slew of tests from the school finally gave me a wake up call to accept that my son does need some help. If the early intervention recommended accommodations, that puts you in the right track. If the school comes to the same conclusion, time to wake up, accept and get all the help my son needs. We start a 2 year pre-school program to jumpstart his program and boy it made a difference. His speaking skills shot up like crazy and we came into kindergarten with a big badge that said “Promoted to Kindergarten with limited supervision”..Hooh..hooh
6. School Accommodations:
The child could still not still, pay attention and would drive the teachers crazy. Complaints followed everyday, bad behavior reports ..name it..we got everything..He was pulled out for remedial classes and was the uncooperative child because he was singled out. Resented the teacher calling his name several times in the class. It was not a breeze for either one of us. Only thing that I was steadfast on was that he will show improvement and I just have to insist on the accomodations.
He was offered hearing aid in the classroom ( because he had 20% hearing loss in his right ear ) so that his teacher could communicate directly to him and could hear better, was asked to sit in front of the class, remedial classes for English, sensorial room for break time, behavior charts, rewards…
The only part that I wish we could have done differently is the enforcement of these accommodations. Don’t give remedial and give a choice to the kids as to whether they want to cooperate or not. Kids this age don’t understand what ownership is and enforcement is on the teachers. Second, when a child is not cooperating on the accommodations, escalate immediately to the parents. Don’t wait for me to come for a conference and let me know that my son didn’t really co-operate.
7. Home environment:
One thing that always amazes me is the fun that some of these right brained thinking kids have. No matter the situation they are in, they create this world of happiness around them and become so resilient. I wouldn’t say that I was peachy in my responses. I could have done a lot differently in terms of my responses and am not proud of it. It took me a few years to figure out that my emotional equation each day is directly proportional to the behavior I am going to see. I didn’t get it and may be, I was expecting instant results. It was a roller coaster ride with both of us being working parents and wish, I could roll that back.
8. Why I chose not to medicate:
Over the years, I have had enough recommendations from teachers, concerned parents that may be, he has ADHD , Have you seen a doctor ?
My son had around 6 classmates who were on medication and they did great. We went that route too when things got bad. But after a week, my child changed and he was like a stunted deer for 8 hours and went absolutely violent after that. That still scares me when I think about it.Then came a new eye opener. We happened to go for a regular eye checkup and the good doctor ( who also happened to be a Behavioral optometrist ) expanded his assessment further to indicate that he had convergence issues and may be not ADHD. That led to more research because that emulated the symptoms of ADHD and was even more confused than ever. Two years of vision therapy helped to a certain extent but didn’t notice the improvement right away.
Decision #1: I read the side effects of the meds and consciously decided that I will not medicate him no matter what.
Ponder: I read and have lived through the stats, where nowhere in the world except the US, do we medicate the kids this much. That made me think. What are the other countries doing and why is this not a problem there?
Introspection: After one emotional episode, I just sat and cried as to why are we medicating him. Are we doing because he cannot sit in the class and study? Why ?
With hearing loss, vision issues , side effects of meds and an emotional tug of war raging, I chose not to medicate.