Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A diagnosis....

Last year, while Kenny was in second grade, we became concerned when he was falling behind in reading. We could tell he was really trying but it just wasn't clicking. He is actually very good at math- it really clicks for him, except when it involves reading (like story problems). I began to pay attention to the actual areas he was having trouble in and began to suspect dyslexia. I read up about it and it seemed to hit exactly where he was having trouble in reading. So, we took him to our pediatrician for a referral to have him tested for dyslexia.

We were sent to a developmental behavioral pediatrician. He did a full evaluation to detect for fine and large motor abilities and learning disabilities. He didn't detect anything specific at that appointment, but gave us a referral to a private special needs tutor who, he says, is really good at detecting and treating dyslexia. Another thing he mentioned was the possibility of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Huh? Really? I knew he was an active kid, but hadn't really considered it. He said that would be another explanation for falling behind in school. Especially since the doctor was noticing how fidgety and busy Kenny was in his office. He gave us evaluations for Aaron and I and his teacher to fill out. They came back as not significant for attention troubles, which did actually surprise me, since that is what his teacher was always punishing him for: not paying attention, tapping his desk, talking out of turn, etc. The doctor wasn't convinced based on what we and the teacher was saying and that it was different than the evaluations came out, so he wanted to wait till the new school year and see how things were then.

We took him to the tutor he recommended and she did not detect dyslexia, but that he does need extra help with reading, so we signed on with her and he was been seeing her once a week. It has been hard financially, but I feel we are making an investment in our child and that, in the future when he is successful, we will not regret a dime of it. So, we scrape it together a month at a time as we can.

At the beginning of this school year, we had him re-evaluated. Surprisingly, he is reading at a normal reading level now, which we are so proud of him!! The hard work with homework, summer reading and the tutor has paid off! However, I was still concerned because it takes constant attention to keep him caught up. Homework is really tough for him to get through- if I don't stay right with him, it would often be done wrong and needs redone. He gets way to easily distracted and doesn't stay focused. Third graders are supposed to be pretty independent with school work, but he is not yet. His handwriting is awful, despite efforts to get him to write neat and he doesn't focus well at school during work, causing him to not complete his work, or not follow directions and then scores low and making impulsive noises or humming during quiet time. So, his new teachers and us again had to do another evaluation. This one also came back as non-significant, but again, with the symptoms he is showing, the doctor wasn't convinced. He told us about a computer test that is about 80-90% accurate in detecting ADHD.

On one hand, I really did not want to diagnose him with ADHD. But, I also wanted to be able to help him and understand why school work seemed to be so much harder for him than other kids. So, we did the test. He was given a task to do on the computer while a head gear he wore tracked his movement and how well he stayed focused. The test came back strongly ADHD! His head was all over the place the entire time and after about 5 minutes (of 15 total for the test) , he checked out completely and didn't follow directions the rest of the time. So, the doctor diagnosed him based on the test and the many other observations over the course of 6 months. As much as I feared this diagnosis, I have to admit I am a little relieved to have an answer. Again, here were the symptoms we saw:

1) falling behind in schoolwork
2) not focusing on work well-constantly needing reminded to pay attention
3) very fidgety
4) needing constant attention to get through homework- homework takes a large amount of time
5) at home, moves quickly from one activity to the next- rarely focuses on one activity for a long time
6) impulsive with words and noises- doesn't always think before acting. Hums and sings during quiet time, despite constant reminders to stop.
7) Fast and sloppy- often illegible- handwriting
8) Trouble making friends

I was hesitant to do medication. I was hoping for maybe just behavior therapy. I think I fear the stigma of a kid on ADHD meds- as if I am choosing to medicate rather than good parenting. Also, I fear side affects, such as turning my happy go lucky kid into a slug. However the doctor explained that ADHD is often from a chemical reaction in the brain (much like depression) and that behavior therapy alone may work, but usually it takes medication to get a significant response. So, based on what he said, we are giving the medication a try- starting with the lowest dose and working up as needed. Plus, he said it wouldn't turn him into a slug unless the dose was way too high. I am still nervous about the medication, but I feel the doctor is right about giving it a try (so, negative comments wouldn't be helpful....). I feel if we do whatever we can to make school a little easier now, it will pay off with less frustration as school gets even harder. I have actually noticed a little difference already!

I have been curious as to why the teachers evaluations came back as his troubles being non-significant, while at the same time I do have to admit many of his symptoms are obvious and those are the things they complain about (not focused, doesn't follow directions, trouble finishing tasks, poor handwriting). I think maybe it is two things. First, as teachers, I think they build up a tolerance after seeing kid after kid day after day. I also think that because Kenny (though busy) is not overly hyperactive, maybe it made it a little more confusing. One thing I have learned is ADHD isn't just a hyperactive kid bouncing off the walls- Kenny is not like that. He is able to stay in his chair when needed and he doesn't just run crazy all the time. But, he does have trouble as listed above.

He is such a good kid and never gets in real trouble. His behavior is great! He is kind and loving and one of the most compassionate kids I know. I have so much faith in him and have no doubt that he will be an amazing adult. He has the spunk, the friendliness, the love and compassion it takes to be a truly good person. He is always so willing to help me and others. That is part of the reason I chose to get over the fear and stigma I felt. I don't want his school frustrations to take him over, as it does many kids, to where he becomes overly frustrated and wants to give up. The one thing we have noticed is that he really is very smart and when things do connect, his knowledge soars. I am hoping that by treating him, we can get him over the hump and help him achieve what we know he can. He is such a fun part of our family!

I know this has been long and for my readers who actually hung in there, I am way impressed. I wrote this mostly for myself anyway, just to make sure I documented the journey we have been on the last 6 months.


Katie said...

I am SO HAPPY you have an answer. I hope this help. You've done all the right things. This doctor sounds great.

Kenny is a great kid. Compassionate is definitely a word I would use to describe him.

Good luck as you continue to head down this road.

Autumn said...

Way to go Kenny on his improved reading!! Wonderful! It is nice to have answers. I think the testing sounds interesting-and probably very helpful. Imagine how it would be to struggle to focus-and be trying! I wonder if its frustrating to him too or if he doesn't realize. I'm surprised he has trouble making friends-I would never have guessed that-he is so friendly. I hope the diagnosis helps.

Kelly said...

WOW- I had no idea you were going through so much! I am glad you were able to come to a diagnosis- it is not a life sentence!! My goodness- it will be fine- I am glad you have been so patient with him and understanding- what a long time to go through so much testing and frustration! I have a great friend (who does my hair, by the way) whose son was diagnosed ADHD about a year ago- she was very hesitant with meds- but he has changed and his school life is so much better- she has him on a low dose, but can tell if he misses- so be careful! Kenny is a wonderful kid- and this is a great mom thing to get a handle on it now- he will thank you in the future!! You are wonderful!!

Lauri said...

From a school teacher's stand point, you did all the right things and are balancing good parenting skills with getting a proper diagnosis and the best help available. It will make a huge difference and like Kelly said, it's not a life sentence. This will get him through life as he is maturing and developing. Eventually, he'll be able to use behavior modification skills to work through things.

Sara Emily said...

That's it! YOU get the Mom-of-the-year award! For being so patient and loving, yet persistent enough to get to the root of an uncomfortable problem to help your son in the best way you can! You do rock, Amanda. Love you! And Kenny!!

Amandean said...

I agree with Sara. You do get mom-of-the-year award. Between this and the Santa thing, you have me in complete awe. I'm sure the meds will work to fix that chemical imbalance and make things easier.

Breezi said...

Sounds like you guys have had quite an adventure! I am sure that Kenny will be forever grateful that you are helping him NOW while he's young to find a way for him to learn in the best way possible.
Thanks for sharing the symptoms that you guys were experiencing. It will be something to look for in my children as well.

You guys are just awesome parents :)