Row, Row, Row your boat…

gently down the stream (of consciousness).  

Warning:  this post is going to ramble.  A lot.  I have an issue I need to work through and you guys get to take the bullet.  Thanks. 🙂

Thing 1 has always been a different kid.  Not so much a square peg, as a bigger peg, if that makes any sense.  He’s very smart, creative, and sweet beyond anything.  He also won’t take shit off of anyone, and he was like that even as a little dude.  Everything about him is so freakin’ intense.  And he was like that from day one.  I’m really glad I had him first, because if it had been the other way around, I don’t think I could have handled it.  I didn’t know any better, so it was ok, I guess.

But now, things are getting harder.  He’s been diagnosed with dysgraphia, which we’ve dealt with and he’s doing fine with now.  Well, mostly.  But he’s always tested as NOT being in the ADD family.  In fact, I’ve kind of enjoyed throwing that back in the teacher’s faces a bit.  Recently though, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is more to the story.

Without going into too much detail, he’s having a very hard time with focus, and when he has a hard time with the focus, he loses his temper.  And his temper? Well, let’s put it this way:  his ancestors on one side did the blitzkreig and the other side used to rip the beating hearts out of sacrificial victims.  With some Irish thrown in for good measure.  It’s an impressive, and frankly scary temper.  It scares him, too.  But we only see it when he can’t focus and he gets frustrated.  He knows that it is a problem, but he’s powerless to do anything about it.  After the last outburst about two weeks ago, we had a nice chat about it all.  In which he told me that it actually hurt him to focus.

So we’ve decided to have him re-evaluated.  But here’s the thing.  We are totally opposed to any drug therapy for this.  But I have to admit, at the last outburst, I would have kicked a kitten for a pill to make his pain stop.  But really, the best thing, I think, would be some CBT to help him learn to cope with it all.  I don’t see meds as a solution.  At all.  I don’t want to take the chance of the meds changing all of the other wonderful qualities he has.  Qualities that when he is older will serve him so well.  It’s just that they don’t do well in a classroom setting.

Homeschooling?  Not on your life.  Someone in this house would be dead in a week.  Thing 1 has a personality that is waaaay too close to mine to make this effective.  There are some half-and-half options that are intriguing, but there are no secular options for that in this town.  I am religious, but I’m Lutheran, which means I don’t want any of THAT stuff involved in my kid’s education, thankyouverymuch.

I’m trying to come up with the best way to help him be the adult I know he can be.  My side of the family has a LOT of really smart, talented people who just…..well, just.  I mean, I grew up thinking that every family had lots of valedictorians and concert quality musicians and PhD. candidates and stuff like that.  But we (and I include myself here, too) just never did much with all of the talent.  And Spouse’s uncle has to be one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.  But he’s so, how do I say this, WEIRD, that he just never got his shit together.  If he were a kid today, he’d totally be Aspergers.  I am so afraid of that being his life.  Oh, and as an added bonus:  Spouse’s family has a disproportionately high number of suicides.  So am I starting to have kittens over all of this?  You betcha.

So we’re going to do the eval….and then what?  At least he’s on board with the whole thing.  He realizes he has a problem and he wants to do better.  That’s encouraging.  And how much of this is my expectations?  Am I so wrapped up in him that I’ve got some preconceived notion of what he should be?  Have I lost perspective on all of this?

Thing 2 doesn’t worry me like this AT ALL.  Even though he also has dysgraphia, for him it’s more of a motor skills issue.  He’s totally happy to use his AlphaSmart in class and is a model student in every way.  I know Thing 2 is going to be just fine.  But I’m really starting to worry about Thing 1.  

I guess part of the ambivilence is that I wonder how much of this comes from the fact it is so freakin’ competitive around here.  I mean, no one takes anything at half measures.  Yeah, I live in one of THOSE neighborhoods.  Is he really just a normal 11 yr old but since he’s not “at the top”, there is something “wrong” with him?  Are we caving into some sort of societal pressure to make him what is expected?  And what is expected anyway? I’m just so torn about it all.

So that’s part of what’s been keeping me up nights.  We’ll do the eval as soon as we get the insurance all squared away.  I just hope it doesn’t give us more questions than we already have.

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10 responses to “Row, Row, Row your boat…

  1. That is tough! To me, a big factor is also the perception of Thing 1 from his peers. Is this going to affect his self-esteem? Being rejected by other kids because of his emotional outbursts will have long-term effects. CBT is a good place to start. You might also research some other holistic interventions and examine his diet. It’s torture to see a kid beating himself up over stuff like this; I see it in my poor little nephew, who has severe ADD and is very spacy. He’s young now (2nd grade), but I can see him already hating himself for his attention deficits. I know meds can help, but I appreciate you concerns, too. I’m told that there are a couple of new, non-stimulant based meds for ADD. I know of one student it has helped, and one it has no effect on. Good luck!

  2. I have encountered all sorts of brilliant people who have gone both ways – gone on to great success, become complete bums. If your son is as brilliant as you believe he is (and I have no reason to doubt it), then finding the right outlets and methods to help him develop his talents matters a lot more than grades, in my opinion. I was never diagnosed as ADD, but I am sure I am. I learned young to milk that ability to juggle lots of responsibilities at once and hunker down at deadlines to knock out assignments. For dysgraphia, there are mechanisms to help just the same, and once they are mastered it becomes an asset instead of a problem. Your own former US Senator (ignore politics, just look at his accomplishments) Phil Graham (I think I spelled that right) got a Ph.D. after only discovering his dyslexia late in life. I know that about him because he’s from Georgia originally.

    Hope these insights help. I’m basically saying, love him, help him, but love him most of all and let him know he is loved. Focus on his talents instead of letting this become the center of him.

  3. You’re like me…I think. We start imagining all of the scenarios and all of the things we don’t want BEFORE we get the news we need to proceed. As hard as it is, wait for the diagnosis first and THEN see what non-medicinal options there are available. Or therapies. Look into food allergies or environmental senstivities such as light. I have a nephew with a Asperghers and a sensitivity to flourescent lighting. His parents got him some tinted (light brown) glasses to wear inside and the difference in his temperament was amazing. Good luck to you!

  4. Whew. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. This can’t be easy for you. I’m so sorry…

    One of my friends has a similar situation. Her son has Asperghers. He is a wiz at Math, but totally non-social, bad temper, can’t concentrate, can’t read. Her daughter, on the other hand, has ADD. She takes meds and is back on the honor roll. She needed something to help her stop moving and help her to focus.

    My friend’s husband was in a state of denial about both their kids. He gave my friend a hard time about moving their son into a different school that offers fewer students, because it was a different faith (still Christian, but different than what they are). Well, it was either – their son fails or they move him. They moved him to the other school and …. he’s doing so much better (and yes, he is on medicine).

    It’s never an easy call.

  5. I used to work in adolescent behavioral care and lemme tell you that meds alone won’t fix anything, but the combination of some therapy – to learn coping skills – aided by a bit of medication can be life-altering.

    If he’s tested neg for ADD/ADHD/Asperghers, etc. he could just have a coping (anger management) issue that’s being aggravated by the pre-teen hormones. He can probably learn to rechannel that energy until he grows out of the hormones.

    Seriously, he can totally be helped. You might just have to think outside the ADD box.

  6. In order to make a good decision, you need information. You’re getting some of it with the re-eval. You get some from Thing 1. And as much as it may pain you, I think you need to get more from the teacher. She might think ADD/ADHD but maybe she’ll highlight some triggers that you don’t know about that you can take back to clinician that is doing the eval.

    You cannot make a decision without information.

    You are free to course correct however often you and Thing 1 deem necessary.

    I’m not seeing secular education helping.

    Consider the choices in the near, mid and long term future. In the immediate, he needs to get a handle on his anger. Remember when he was a toddler? And those tantrums (I’m merely assuming because mine had them). You could let him tantrum to a point but then you would have to scoop him up and hold him because his lack of control was scaring him, causing him to spiral – sounds much like today. So, no matter the re-eval, he needs coping mechanisms. And since he’s not 2 biting isn’t an option 🙂

    In the mid-term, he needs to turn his passion into something meaningful. Anger is just passion. Maybe there’s a pent-up artist in there?

    And in the long term? You want him to avoid the suicide tendency of his lineage. And you want him to take full advantage of whatever gifts he has. How to do that?

    Heh. I didn’t answer this, only asked more questions. Well, there you go – if I knew that answer I’d have to charge you a nickel.

    Hug him tight. He’ll make it through to the other side.

  7. My husband was ADD before there was such a thing, and they literally beat it out of him. It worked, he has an MBA from The state university, but I lived in PANIC that one of my kids would be like him. I’m like you…no meds. But hearing the stories? You never know until you’re there. Keep plugging…you don’t have to get it right the first try.

  8. I worry about sam; he is wonderful and BRILLLIANT (as in, in kindergarten and first grade both we were strongly encouraged to move him up into the second grade class-not happening. In third grade he topped out on the ISATS, and just for fun his teacher gave him a sample test for 8th grade and he answered every single question right), but he, too, has major issues with anger and impulse control. Since he does so well in school, it has never come up to have him tested for anything, but then when he melts down at home (which even at ten he frequently does), I would sell my body a million times over to have a Valium handy. I don’t know what the answer is; I know that with kids like that, the eventual outcome can go one of two ways: a life is major success or a life in and out of prison. It scares me to death, so I relate to you, but have no answers.

    And aren’t I the helpful one today? Sheesh….

  9. I’m all for testing. And then re-testing. And then second opinions. One good thing is that “special needs” has become so mainstreamed that I imagine any child could say, I’m on the Autism Spectrum and his peers would just nod and move on. Getting a diagnosis is the best thing you can do – that way you have access to so much more therapy and help that you would otherwise (I mean as far as insurance coverage and school responsibility goes).

    I empathize with your worry. Mine son is still so young that we have completely different concerns and issues (I mean – we just want him to learn how to talk at this point), but rage is a terrifying thing.

    He is so lucky to have parents who are willing to face their fears and not just brush things off and assume everything will resolve itself. And your knowledge of family history is also a big help.

    You are a wonderful mom. And you should absolutely stick to your instincts about drugs. I have no strong opinions – but I do think that parents often have the best sense of what is right for their own child. You are absolutely on the right track.

    Let me know if you ever need to talk (you know where to find me!)

  10. Funny. I don’t *remember* writing this post. But I could have, easily. May I offer a small bit of assvice? Do the CBT together with a low dose of something. It helps focus so the CBT can take better effect, if that makes sense. I fought meds for a solid year, trying everything including a tonsillectomy for A, before giving in. And it’s worked wonders for him. They’re not perfect by any means, but they have helped immensely. If you have a good therapist and psychiatrist, it’ll help so much.
    That said, tell me to eff off if you like. 😉

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