Thursday, June 22, 2017

HD: A Struggle to Find Help

HD has always been a very active kid. He's been known as our wild child and watching him as a young kid, you could clearly see why. He kept us on our toes to say the least.  He was impulsive. Always doing things before thinking them through. Granted some of that is just kids being kids, but he never seemed to learn right from wrong.

There were so many things I wanted to do with my kids when they were younger, but I just couldn't. I've always had this fear of losing HD. Even now when he's excited about something, he tends to run off, but especially when they were younger, it was difficult task just to go to the grocery store. For example, I wanted to take them to the library, but I knew there was no way I could wrangle two busy boys to take on that task. When they were almost to the point where I might be able to take them, Ms. Gail was born and all bets were off again. I wanted to take them to the outdoor waterpark many times, but never felt comfortable enough going alone.

Facebook is notorious for making me feel like my life doesn't measure up to others. It was frustrating to see people taking their kids to the pool, going on vacations, or hiking trips. Things that seem so possible and ordinary, like grocery shopping or even going to the park, were really hard for me, not because I had three children in tow most of the time, but because I had one child who was always struggling with listening to directions and following rules.

I first started questioning his pediatrician as to whether or not he had ADHD when he was about 3 years old. Sitting still was a hard thing for him to do, and with pre-school on the horizon, I was nervous. (Don't even get me started on potty training!) He had a hard time following rules ever since he started crawling. He frequently bounced from activity to activity and keeping him focused was a huge task.

I remember when we moved him to a toddler bed in preparation of JP's arrival - those nights seemed to last forever. It took him years, literally, years, to learn to stay in his bed at night - even after we took away his nap. The kid was never tired and really struggled to be able to calm his body down enough to fall asleep. I remember countless nights crying because I was so frustrated with him. I think I spoke the words, "I hate my child" numerous times, for numerous reasons, and I hated myself for it.

Discipline has always been a struggle too. We seemed to have tried everything we could think of to try to teach him. Time-outs didn't work because he couldn't sit there long enough. It was such power struggle. It took so much time and energy to make the time-out chair work, that ultimately, I couldn't go on like that. Spanking him didn't work either. He might cry immediately when it would happen, but two minutes later he would forget that he had even gotten a spanking. Eventually, I felt like he was being spanked all the time, so I had to quit. We took toys aways (once I took all of them to the attic!) and we later opted for rewards for good behavior and nothing seemed to work. He'd get flicked on the head at the dinner table, or sent to time-out, or have a stern talking to, and it was so so so hard for him to not smile about it. He couldn't keep a straight face. Any time there was a question as to who did something, he would suck his cheeks in in an attempt not to smile. He really struggled to understand the difference between right and wrong, funny and not funny.

Being social with him is hard a well. Having visitors at the house always turned out bad. As soon as someone other than Perry or myself would walk through our door, he would immediately start bouncing off the walls in excitement. That would get his brother excited too and the two of them together is just plain chaos. They tend to rough house a lot when they're excited, and then inevitably JP would get hurt and things would continue downhill from there. Going places were equally as exciting. And then the pushing and shoving would begin because of the excitement... and downhill it would go. I'll get into his social life more later though...

Every year at the doctor, I continued present her with problems we were seeing with him at home, and the short answer was always, "He's a boy, he'll grow out of it." By the time he was 7, he had still not "grown out of it." Kindergarten was a struggle for us. But in 1st grade when he choked a kid at recess, I just had a gut feeling, he wasn't "just a boy" and that there was something else going on. At his 7-year check up, I presented his doctor a list of problems. It was a looong list. At this point, my sister Robin, was attending graduate school in the field of occupational therapy, and thought that HD could really benefit some OT. But you can't just go to OT, you have to have a referral. I was heartbroken and so discouraged after his appointment, when instead of getting a referral, we were recommended to get him into swimming or taekwondo because "these kind of kids" just need more structure. I don't know if discouraged is even the right word. I felt defeated. I had no idea what was causing my kid to behave the way he was.

I had just vented to my Bible study group about the struggles I was having him. I went into the appointment feeling pretty good, like I was going to start getting answers. They told me things to ask about and offered up their own advice. One suggested getting him in to see a neuropsychologist, and her husband could help with a referral, but I didn't believe what ever was wrong with him, was going to need a brain scan done to offer up solutions. I felt like that should be more of a last resort thing. I felt broken inside reporting back to them the next week that his doctor didn't think anything was wrong. So. Many. Tears.

I gave up on finding answers for him for a while. I felt stuck. I felt like a terrible parent because I had no idea how to parent him, whatsoever. Nothing was working. I'm not sure when exactly my breaking point was with HD, but at some point during the summer between 1st grade and 2nd second grade, I broke. I'm sure I called, or texted, Robin in tears about my frustrations with him, for the hundredth time. By this point, she was working in Missoula at the hospital, so she called his doctor to see if she would write a referral to OT for him. Turns out she was on vacation, the doctor on call signed off on one. Unfortunately, because Robin was working the hospital, his referral had to be sent out and then he was put on a waiting list in August. (Hearing that news was also hard to hear with the August I was having.)

Just as we got confirmation that yes, Perry did get the job in Portland, we got a call from the therapy office that they had a space open for him. Even though the therapist knew we'd only be around for another few months, we opted to get the ball rolling for OT anyways. HD was SO SO SO excited about it too!

I've been meaning to update as OT has progressed but it just hasn't happened yet. It's such a big story to explain, and I want to do it justice. Over the next, probably several weeks, (or maybe even the course of the summer) I'm planning on periodically updating my blog here and there with more insight about what exactly is going on with him, how we're handling it as parents, and the progress  he's been making. The change I've seen in him over the last several months is HUGE and it's exciting but the journey to get to this point has been anything but easy.

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