Monday, June 16, 2008

Chet's journey part 2

Chet grew healthier the longer he was with us, and it was clear that he loved us. He didn't like to cuddle but he would run and give hugs, and the pictures of him as a young child show a big wide grin in almost every shot. It became clear that he was very bright. He had questions about everything as his language skills developed and an amazing memory. He went from family day care (3 hrs a day) to a preschool environment. Our thought was that with more children to play with and more choices to challenge him intellectually that there would be fewer behavior issues.

He enjoyed preschool but the behavior issues remained and in fact, increased. When he got over excited he would bite children and we felt that we were always being called into the directors office to discuss his "issues." Additionally the school had an enforced nap time. Children didn't have to sleep but they had to be quiet. They couldn't read a book. They couldn't watch a movie. They had to lie there and be still. Chet couldn't do this and the school couldn't offer us an alternative. So we started picking him up before nap time despite having to pay for the half day session and not getting a 1/2 day experience. We continued to believe that many issues were adoption related, and in particular orphanage related, but by age 3 the school pressed us to have him "evaluated."

I was angry. VERY angry. This was my baby and sure he was different but I didn't think the issues or differences were insurmountable. But the message was clear. Evaluate or leave. Despite my issues with the school, they were really the best school in town and we did the evaluation. Which was stupid. The psychologist who did the eval told us afterwards that Chet couldn't sit still for the testing and exhibited a high level of ADHD. Then in the next breath told me that the test is not geared for a 3 y/o child and that at 3 he completed more of the questions than a 5 y/o typically did. I hit the roof. How could you fairly evaluate him if the tool for measurement was so flawed. In my opinion there was still no proof that his differences were severe. The psychologist suggested I might need medication to help me re-evaluate my somewhat impassioned response and we left. Went to the school and explained the results and they agreed to continue working with Chet.

By age 5 though I had lost the med battle. Still biting, increasingly physical and impulsive even I could see that something wasn't developing as it should. I could not teach him to hold my hand when we were crossing streets. He would run ahead and never recognized coming to a street, would just continue charging across. He was still a biter. He couldn't stop any activity once initiated, even when given a verbal cue " in 5 minutes we are going to put the game away". He started a regime of Ritalin, primarily because he would have been thrown out of the pre-K program he was in without it. The results were not all that spectacular. Ritalin is a weird drug. The Dr. told us that 1/3 of the people who take it have no benefits, 1/3 have some benefits, and 1/3 have wonderful results. We were in the moderate benefits range but had to be careful with dosing as the "rebound" when it wore off at night was intense and made our home life more challenging than it all ready was. Additionally it depressed his all ready poor appetite and eating was even more of a struggle. I agonized over whether this was the right choice.

Our Dr. recommended a play therapist saying maybe this would help. We entered into the wonderful world of therapy. I tried to be open minded about this, despite initially feeling that this was somehow a slap at our parenting. Except that when we met with the therapist, she said we should run workshops on how to parent difficult children. That she had no new suggestions for us, but to keep on with our present course of action. Meanwhile she would work with Chet to try and help him establish better boundaries and to help him learn to stop when told to. She could see how very hard we had to work to keep him safe and validated much of what we did. That felt good, but a part of me felt a bit let down that there was no "magic bullet" out there that was going to enact a more profound change. So we continued on with the play therapy. The therapist was changed to a man thinking that perhaps he needed a male image in his life. Months went by and finally the therapist himself admitted that he felt he was getting no where. Maybe we should try again when Chet was older he suggested? By now the cost of the therapy was an issue for us as well. My insurance only covered a very small # of visits and the weekly visits to play games had long ago used that up. I had purchased additional insurance to help cover the added visits but it was a bit of a struggle. And the fact that he played games there when he played games at home with us every day and nothing seemed to change. . . it all seemed totally useless. So we ended our therapy connections and soldiered on.

We read book after book. I read everything I could on ADHD. We tried dietary modification, homeopathy, dye free living, token economies and more. Pretty much you name it we tried it. I felt like I was searching for the Holy Grail, a magical solution that would help my son to participate more fully in the wider world. I read about how to raise your spirited child, how to enhance your child's self esteem. I read, and read and read. But we also parented and lived. It wasn't all horrible. It was hard. And it was right about then that I grew to passionately hate labels. We ran the childrens program and our church and our minister in a moment of crassness introduced us to a new family not as the heads of the religious ed program but as the "Parents of that little ADD boy." I was shattered. Above all I wanted Chet to be seen for who he was, not as a label of letters that limited him or allowed others to pre-judge him. There was so much about him that was good and i wanted the world to know those parts of him as I did. He loved to hike, he loved to play at the beach, and would dig in the sand for hours. He loved to read and be read to. How could such a questing little mind be labelled?

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