Thursday, November 11, 2010

This morning after my iPhone alarm went off, I previewed my mail, skimmed new tweets and reluctantly looked at my news feed on Facebook to see what was going on in the world.  7 minutes later, I canceled the snooze and made myself a promise - I would leave the iPhone and computer alone until I got the boys to school.  It always seems like watching YouTube over breakfast or playing a quick game of Angry Birds before putting on shoes makes us late.  And I hate running late.  And we've been running late a lot lately.

I came downstairs to find Owen watching YouTube already.  It was early,  though, and I poured him a bowl of cereal.  Told him he could keep watching as long as he was EATING his breakfast.  The boy often gets so focused on the video, he forgets there are cereal bits getting soggy right in front of him.  Who can blame him?  That's one compelling round of Lego guys blowing each other up into stop-motion nonsense bits. 

My phone squeaks with a new mail.  Irresistable.  Let's just peek.  Oooo, one of my items sold on Amazon!  But why is the credited amount for a $15 Wii game $30?  Expedited shipping!  The buyer wants the game right away.  Hmmmm... I wonder which shipping company I should use.  USPS?  FedEx?  Does Jason have a nice puffy envelope, or can I find one here?  I wonder where the buyer is?  If they're nearby, maybe I could get away with sending Priority Mail.  Need to login on the computer to see where the buyer is.  But the YouTube video drones on and, well, the boys seems to be eating his cereal.

At 8:28am, I announce that after THIS video, we'll turn off the You Tube and put on shoes to leave for school.  I like to be in the car at 8:42.   At 8:32 I get my chance to peek at where the buyer of the Wii game is.  Michigan, hmmmm.  "Get your shoes on, boys!"  I sign off on one last agenda and make sure library books are stowed in the correct backpacks.  I go fetch the sold Wii game off the shelf and tell Owen that he sold it.  He eagerly begins mentally spending the money.  The gmail video chat ring starts.  I think to myself, "So much for ignoring my communications devices during the morning rush."  But it's only 8:34, we've got just a couple minutes to hear the happy birthday wish and giggle at Sabin's sweet voice.  "Finnegan, get your shoes on!"

The boys arrived at school with 5 minutes to get in there, put things away and be seated.  This is typical.  We don't get tardies.  But wouldn't a few more minutes make everything better?  I bid them farewell with my usual words of wisdom.  "Make it a great day!"  "Make good choices."  "I'll see you after school."  "I love you!"  When they don't respond, I put on my little voice and say, "Have a great day Mom, we love you, too!"  They grin and roll their eyes at me and tumble out of the car.  Owen has some sort of grudge against Finn as they run to the door.  He starts swinging his backpack in circles that hit Finn in the back.  I roll down the window and say, "Owen, I can see you right now!  Santa Claus is watching you, too"  Sheesh.  I drive away, my heart swelling over two crazy, rowdy boys I had no idea I could love so much.

Owen is in 3rd grade.  He could be in 4th grade at 9 1/2 years old, but I held him back.  I sent him to Alternative Kindergarten when he was old enough for Kindergarten.  My thinking?  He's emotionally immature.  Still sucking his thumb.  Stuttering.  Still taking afternoon naps.  He can't handle all-day school.  Academically?  He was ready.  He's always been in the top tier of students in his class.  Reading at a higher level than others.  Performing complex math functions that leave his dad and I scratching our heads.

This year, he's not performing in the top tier.  He's in the middle reading group.  And it's taking him forever to complete reading comprehension tests.  And he sat for 30 minutes twirling a pencil one day while he was supposed to be doing a speed math sheet.  His teacher told us these stories and others at our conference two nights ago.  She was describing the boy I know.  She said quietly and calmly that he's the most unfocused child she's ever had in the 3rd grade. She's been teaching for 17 years.  She said she's not a doctor and can't diagnose A.D.D.  But she then gave us a folder full of teacher assessments of Owen.  All aimed at illustrating for a doctor, a child who should have some medication to help him focus.

I did not burst into tears.  Because none of this is a surprise to me.  This is the Owen I know.  Teacher described other kids who went on medication and magically turned things around.  She pointed out that 4th grade will be harder.  And 5th grade, harder yet.  And she also said that Owen is even smarter than other kids she's seen with this problem.  Was she pouring syrupy sweetness on a bitter situation by saying that?  Who knows?

I let the whole thing sink in for a day.  I sat at the park yesterday and Googled A.D.D. on my iPhone.  A skimmed again.  Seems they put A.D.H.D labels on kids with just the attention deficit thing.  I will say, though, that Owen's problem doesn't seem to be hyperactivity.  In fact, I'd consider him to be slow-moving and a bit lazy.  But they did say that A.D.D. kids often seemed "in a fog."

I often ask Owen to join me on my planet.  He understands what I mean.  When he's sitting there with YouTube on over his breakfast, he's very far away.  I can ask, "Do you want more cereal?" in audible tones and he won't even hear me.  This is a kid who can't focus?  No.  This is a kind who doesn't wanna focus on the things we ask him to focus on.  He doesn't wanna focus on 3rd grade.  But he does want to please us. 

And speaking of living in a fog.  His mother is making a smashing success of that.  I didn't want to focus on 3rd grade, either.  I don't wanna focus on making them do their spelling words or math flashcards.  The A.D.D. article I skimmed on my phone (I didn't wanna read or focus on too many of the details, just ones that I found interesting) told me that folks with A.D.D. often are disorganized and cluttered.  Um, hello!  We just cleared the table last night for a card game with the boys.  And on the table now?  The playing cards, the worksheets I found in the boys' bags, my grocery list, a nail clipper, that Wii game I need to ship and an address label.  My breakfast tray & milk glass and a pencil.  My laptop that I'm typing on right now.  And Owen's toy machine gun.  Clutter Queen.

So do I need to medicate the boy?  My own experience with medications tells me that I should avoid that at all costs.  It's my own fault that the boy can't focus.  I never ask him to focus at home.  I allow YouTube over cereal.  I forget to practice his spelling words because I'm too busy searching for something on eBay.  Or texting Maria.  Or reading useless crap on Facebook.  I'm showing him exactly how to barely function with Attention Deficit Disorder.

I have candid discussions about things with my boys, who are 8 and 9, about things that make other parents squeamish.  We talk about sex and drugs.  I ask them to not do drugs.  And I make them watch the news with me every night at 5:30.  During the news, there are ads and more ads for drugs.  Drugs make little annoying symptoms go away.  Owen thinks he needs a heart medication for the chest pain he gets as part of growing so fast.  He thinks Advair might help his wheezing.  I think he might be right, actually. 

But the teacher tells me there is a drug out there that will help Owen focus on the things at school.  And I'm wondering if I can take some of this drug to help me focus on the things I should be focused on. 

Or maybe there's someone out there who will just start kicking my ass and Owen's ass so that we'll do the things that we need to do.

Or maybe I could take responsibility of my own self.  Make that promise to myself to ignore the phone.  And then KEEP the promise.  Aspire to be a better parent.  And then BE a better parent.  Give the child responsibilities.  And then hold him to them.  Give him instructions.  And expect action.

8 comments:

julochka said...

you did self take responsibility.

Lisa at Lil Fish Studios said...

I came over from Julie's blog. I relate to what you're going through. My oldest, who is 12, has ADHD. I recognize some of his behaviors in myself as well, but for him the inattentiveness and distractibility is amplified. We have treated him with medication and tried without and both scenarios have their challenges. The decision to put him on medication was heart-wrenching for me, and keeping him on the medication had me constantly questioning my decision.

My boy definitely performs tasks, schoolwork, chores, etc. better on medication. He's a bright boy but he absolutely cannot pay attention on anything long enough to finish it correctly or in a reasonable timeframe, without the medication. My fear was that he would be left behind in school, he would probably skim by, not working up to his potential but not doing poorly enough to warrant additional help from the teaching staff. His lack of impulse control is a challenge too and he can't often explain why he's done something that seems completely off the wall to us.

Our doctor had this situation with her own son and she said she chose to medicate him using the periods of attentiveness to teach him how to organize himself. When he was in high school he chose to go off the medication and she felt she had given him the tools he needed.

We don't medicate over the summers or on weekends, but we do during the school week. The biggest downside is that he's on medication, which makes me uneasy, his appetite also diminishes while he's on it, and he'll sometimes have headaches at the end of the day and feel sad when the medication wears off. We give him some caffeine which seems to help taper the effect of the stimulant. (and is also how they used to treat ADD in the "old days" since caffeine has an opposite effect on kids with ADD) We keep him on the lowest dose possible and work with him on keeping lists and schedules. It's a lot of work for all of us and frustrating and hard, but it is what it is.

You have a tough decision ahead of you. We've had good and bad experiences with doctors and medications. Good luck with it all, it can be a lot to deal with. If you need an ear from someone who's going through it too, feel free to contact me.

Lisa

poet said...

[My comment got too long, so here's pt 1 - pt 2 to follow]

Hi, I found this via your sister's blog and I actually have some thoughts to share. l hope they are helpful!

With several people who have ADD in my family and being treated for it with drugs, but without great success, and myself having a history of being under-challenged during school years, I view the situation from a slightly different angle.

To me, the amount of clutter you describe sounds well below a critical level. (Believe me, I've seen utter chaos, and what you describe seems to be the kind of clutter that is easily cleared away in about 5-10 minutes).

To me, the intellectual readiness vs. emotional immaturity of your son sounds very much like what I was as a kid. I spoke in complete sentences at age 1 1/2, I was bored to death during kindergarten, and I was actually sent to school at just 6 - finishing elementary school with right before I turned 10 - where I was over-eager to learn though I had trouble fitting in with the peer crowd. While I never had problems being organized and getting good grades, I know that it's quite common for kids who are intellectually ahead of their age group to get to a point where their school performance sags - because they are under-challenged, they've never had to test their limits, and they've become bored enough with this situation to just stop paying attention. Doesn't have to be ADD, could simply be boredom. Their grades slump - sometimes dramatically - until this boredom is "diagnosed" and they are then put in an educational situation where their intellect is properly challenged, either by skipping one grade or by changing to a school for intellectually gifted kids.

So this could also be the situation for your son. I guess letting him take an IQ test and talking to a psychology / psychiatry person specializing in developmental psychology (who would also be able to diagnose ADD) would be the way to find out.

If your son has ADD, though, I don't think drugs are necessarily the best treatment. With my cousins (who were both diagnosed with ADD) I've seen Ritalin have no effect except loss of appetite and at times lethargy (that certainly didn't lead to being more organized). On the other hand, they were living in a rather unstructured environment. And one ADD treatment option that I've heard about - especially for "light" cases of just being unfocussed, which would probably apply to your son - is simply creating a more structured environment.

poet said...

[This got way too long, so here goes pt 1]


Hi, I found this via your sister's blog and I actually have some thoughts to share. l hope they are helpful!

With several people who have ADD in my family and being treated for it with drugs, but without great success, and myself having a history of being under-challenged during school years, I view the situation from a slightly different angle.

To me, the amount of clutter you describe sounds well below a critical level. (Believe me, I've seen utter chaos, and what you describe seems to be the kind of clutter that is easily cleared away in about 5-10 minutes).

To me, the intellectual readiness vs. emotional immaturity of your son sounds very much like what I was as a kid. I spoke in complete sentences at age 1 1/2, I was bored to death during kindergarten, and I was actually sent to school at just 6 - finishing elementary school with right before I turned 10 - where I was over-eager to learn though I had trouble fitting in with the peer crowd. While I never had problems being organized and getting good grades, I know that it's quite common for kids who are intellectually ahead of their age group to get to a point where their school performance sags - because they are under-challenged, they've never had to test their limits, and they've become bored enough with this situation to just stop paying attention. Doesn't have to be ADD, could simply be boredom. Their grades slump - sometimes dramatically - until this boredom is "diagnosed" and they are then put in an educational situation where their intellect is properly challenged, either by skipping one grade or by changing to a school for intellectually gifted kids.

poet said...

[pt 2]

So this could also be the situation for your son. I guess letting him take an IQ test and talking to a psychology / psychiatry person specializing in developmental psychology (who would also be able to diagnose ADD) would be the way to find out.

If your son has ADD, though, I don't think drugs are necessarily the best treatment. With my cousins (who were both diagnosed with ADD) I've seen Ritalin have no effect except loss of appetite and at times lethargy (that certainly didn't lead to being more organized). On the other hand, they were living in a rather unstructured environment. And one ADD treatment option that I've heard about - especially for "light" cases of just being unfocussed, which would probably apply to your son - is simply creating a more structured environment.

In any case, I would get an expert's opinion before fretting too much just based on a teacher's opinion. Most school systems are not well equipped to deal with intellectually gifted children (understandably, they focus more on helping those who have a hard time grasping the material), teaching is a very strenuous job, and sometimes overstrained teachers get funny ideas about why a kid is difficult for them to handle.

In fifth grade, I asked a teacher a question he didn't know the answer to. He became furious and snapped at me during class. Because I got good grades everywhere, but was sufficiently socially awkward for him to notice - though I had friends and never had problems communicating with them, they were few, and I was very shy despite having a really wide range of emotions - he hinted at my mother that I might have Asperger's syndrome, which time and independent assessment have proven is not the case whatsoever - simply because he knew of another child at my school who had Asperger's and was at the same time intellectually gifted, i.e. doubly difficult to handle.

So... always ask an expert, or maybe several experts. Don't let anyone pressure you into labeling your child before you've thoroughly considered all options. And look for treatments that are minimally invasive and maximally common-sense...

Sorry this got so chatty. Hope it was somewhat informative :)

Cheers,
poet

iasa said...

One of my sons, and I have ADHD and my younger son has ADD. Sean takes medication for his ADHD. He has the additional complication of having dyslexia as well, so the choice to try medication for him was not as difficult as I thought it might be. He only takes it on school days and it does help him focus on the task at hand. There are times on the weekend, you can't even get him to answer a yes or no question.

Owen, the younger son is not as affected and ,does not take any medication but as he gets closer to puberty he seems to have exxagerated symptoms. Trying to work out what is hormonal and what is ADD is trying. From your description, your Owen and mine seem to act in a similar fashion.

I never took prescribed medication, but by the time I was in 8th grade I was self medicating with speed I bought off the streets. I took that through high school. To some degree I still self medicate, although with caffeine.

We all practice yoga and for us it does increase focus for a very short time after each practice. A half hour practice for 15 minutes of focus. I hope that over time that will increase.

If you have any specific questions you want to ask about our experience, please feel free to email me.

Elizabeth said...

Just read Julie's blog. I don't have a kid with ADD or ADHD. Still it interest me since I train children in taekwondo which requires concentration and movement of the body.

Now I found this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=player_embedded

Which gives another view on the subject.

The voice you hear is from Ken Robinson. This is his sites:
http://www.sirkenrobinson.com/

Have a lovely sunday.

Elizabeth

Sammi said...

hi there, i hopped across from julie's blog..

my brother was diagnosed with add when he was 11/12..

my parents made the decision to use a drug called conserta, which is a form of ritalin. they say it did not change his personality but it did help him to concentrate, and that the dosage is very important, if it is too high it will make your child act almost robot like.

my brother also struggled to sleep, i don't know if this is something your son also struggles with. his doctor prescribed him melatonin for that, which of course is natural, and he took a low dosage of.

when he was 16, and left secondary education, he made the decision to come off the tablets and took his BTEC at the college without any drugs, apart from during exam time when he'd take them again, as he felt that concentrating for 3hrs at a time was too much.

my parents stress that every case is different, they feel my brother probably wouldn't have finished school, never mind gone on to do an additional BTEC and be in the job he is in now (he is a full time web designer and computer technician). when i asked him what he thought he shrugged his shoulders said "i dunno" and continued to stare at the new black ops game that is just out..

i hope this is a little helpful, rather than just tired ramblings. good luck whatever you decide to do