Monday, June 26, 2017

I Hated My Child Because I Didn't Understand Him

Those four words are the worst thing a parent can say or think about their child. I hated myself for saying them to Perry, and I hated myself for even allowing them to be thought. I loved him endlessly, but there were times when he made it really hard. I thought he was being a defiant little jerk all the time, but I was just missing the biggest part of the picture. I didn't understand him.

I had spoken with his doctor numerous time about the possibility of him having ADHD. In my head it made sense. He was always on the go. Sitting still was oh-so hard. Perry has a hard time just sitting too. He always has to be doing something or twiddling with something. The two of them are peas in a pod in that sense. HD was impulsive too. He often times had no reasoning whatsoever as to why he'd do the things he did. He was always in trouble for something - he had a tendency for breaking things. Heck, he demolish a Lego brick. How does one even do that?! We often would joke that if you were to put him in an empty room, he'd still find a way to break something. He was like a tornado in every sense of the word.

HD was also so so so distractible. Our bedtime routine was always the same - go get your jammies on and brush your teeth. Those two tasks for him were impossible to complete. We were constantly battling him because, OH LOOK! A TOY! and now he forgot what he was going to do. Even sitting down to read a book had it's own challenges because there is always something more important to look at. ADHD made sense to me.

Bedtime itself was a battle too. We moved him to a toddler bed a lot sooner than we should have so his little brain wasn't fully comprehending the whole idea of "this is my bed and I lay on it to sleep." To him, suddenly his room was a playground he could access at any moment. You would think taking all the toys out of his room would help that problem, but it didn't. He could always find something to play with. We weren't naive to thinking that switching him from a crib to a bed would be easy. We just didn't think it would be so exhausting! No amount of stories would calm him down at bedtime long enough for him fall asleep. Laying with him was useless because if he did fall asleep, he'd wake up when I got out of bed. Eventually we'd just let him fall asleep wherever he chose. Often times he would fall asleep in front of his door as he was watching us through the door/floor gap.

HD is naturally a curious kid and that's why I was terrified to move him to the basement when he and JP got a little older. We lived in a split entrance home, and to get to the basement you had to walk past the front door. I had a fear that he would wake up and go outside, now that he was old enough to figure out door handles and locks. No wonder I'm a light sleeper! My fear never actually happened, but numerous times he would wake up during the wee hours of the morning and wander around the house. (You can read about one instance here.)

As his school years began, we were faced with more challenges. I've already wrote about how frustrating his first day of kindergarten was. (If you haven't read it, and want to, HERE is the link. There's more links to other school-related stories on the tabbed page.) We learned only a few days in that he needed to work on his impulse control after he jabbed a fellow classmate in the face with scissors. He was curious to see what would happen, and at no point did his little brain register, "THIS IS A BAD IDEA." Over his three years in school, he's spent many recesses indoors because of bad behavior or refusing to do his work. He was even suspended from school in 1st grade for choking a student. It breaks my heart that at this early of an age, he already dislikes school.

HD exhibited all these things that pointed directly to ADHD. He was fidgety. Even when he was sitting, he was still moving. (He is often found picking at himself. I'm pretty sure he's had at least one scab on his body since he was at least 18 months.) I imagine that's common for a lot of kids, but he seemed to take it to another level. In fact, everything I've mentioned thus far is probably pretty common for kids and their parents to experience, but I just had a feeling something about him was just not "right". Naturally I was so discouraged when I continually expressed my concerns to his doctor, and she continually reassured me he was just a boy. I had another boy, and I could tell in retrospect, HD's behaviors were not typical behaviors of a boy, even if the kids were, what she deemed "salt and pepper" kids. We had our own set of struggles with JP, but it was nothing near what we were facing with HD.

So if it wasn't ADHD what was it? I felt like I googled everything I could think of and everything pointed me right back to ADHD. That's when Robin stepped in and said, "I think he has executive functioning delays." But what did that mean?!

From what I've learned so far, executive function is a set of skills that helps you plan, control emotions, manage time, get tasks done, etc. Basically, it's the control board for your whole brain. The thing with having executive function delays, is that it often looks a lot like ADHD. No kidding, right? When HD would get mad and act out aggressively (which frankly happened a lot, poor JP) it was because he didn't know how to express his feelings and frustrations. When we sent him to get his jammies and teeth brush, his distractibility was due to his executive functions not being fully developed for his age.

One thing that had really become to concern me was his memory. He struggled desperately to re-tell stories of his life. Each night at the dinner table, we talk about our day and what we did. It was frustrating that he couldn't remember things out of the ordinary, like getting ice cream, or going to the park. Often times we would all be talking, and out of no where he would start talking about something completely off topic, and Perry and I would just look at each other with a "where did that come from?" look about us. Turns out, his brain was struggling to organize his thoughts, stuff that his executive functioning skills are in charge of.

I filled out what seemed like questionnaire after questionnaire when we first began OT and all answers pointed to executive functioning delays. Finally, after YEARS of knowing something was "wrong" with him, I finally had something to work with in October of 2016, on the brink of turning 8 years old. With HD's executive functioning skills not being as fully developed as his peers, it makes school a lot harder for him - socially and educationally. Knowing that this is part of the problem, is just the beginning of how we're learning to help him succeed.

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