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Saturday, April 17, 2010

A few weeks ago I mentioned things had become a little difficult here in the Emerald City...but at the time I wasn't quite ready to share. It really isn't that catastrophic...at least not for those immediately involved. It was just difficult for me. And, you KNOW, its all about me. ;)
Anyway...I think I've finally worked through all of the emotions involved to the point where I'm ready to share. I would suggest grabbing a cup of java for this one. It is one, long, involved story.

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We've been having some trouble with Nick lately. Actually, the truth is he's been struggling for some time...mostly in school.
In preschool he was constantly in trouble. But then he had Mrs. Whack-job for a teacher. She sent him to the Principal's office - every. single. day. Many days it for nothing more serious than not sitting still during reading circle time.
He never got in trouble for hitting anyone.
He never bit anyone.
He never really talked back to her.
He just didn't want to do things her way...and she couldn't handle it and refused to discipline within the classroom. So every day Nick would end up in the Principal's office...most times unbeknownst to us because it really wasn't that big of a deal. We finally determined it really was just a case of a really bad teacher and decided to move him into a part-time Pre-K program. He settled right down and responded well to the program. We had not one iota of a problem after that.
The next year in Kindergarten, things went pretty well. Actually they went really well until the end of the year when he started to get bored. He became more restless and disruptive. We worked out a program of daily updates and rewards for good behavior with the teacher. It worked with limited success, but it got us through the rest of the school year.
Last year, in first grade, we had one issue on the playground, which we quickly remedied with six notes of apology to everyone involved - from the kids, to their parents, the teacher and the superintendent. There wasn't so much as a hint of a problem afterwards. (He really hated writing those notes.)
This year has been a different story. It feels as if Nick has returned to preschool where nothing he does is ever good enough. The teacher is constantly on his back and he just doesn't see the benefit of doing what she wants him to do.
We tried working with the teacher. We asked her to send us daily updates as we did in kindergarten and implemented a reward system that he seemed more interested in. And it worked, for awhile. But the teacher horribly inconsistent about sending home notes...and without the regular rewards for good behavior, Nick lost interest.
She finally convinced us to have a re-eval of his IEP...complete with psychological testing and a battery of other tests.
Quite frankly, I was ticked.
This was the same teacher that was convinced there was something wrong with Alek when she had him. She insisted that we have a battery of testing done, which eventually identified him as having Auditory Processing Disorder. Three years later that 'diagnosis' was lifted. Grab Your Lasso determined he didn't have any of the signatures of the disorder and felt he was fine. (This is not a disorder you 'get over', although you can acquire coping mechanisms.)
This year, Alek, who she had so many issues with, is getting straight A's. And really, not so much straight A's, as HIGH straight A's. The boy either never had an issue to begin with, or developed some seriously amazing, miraculous coping skills.
When Nick's tests came back, they proved what we've known all along. He's bright...there are no cognitive delays or learning disabilities...there was nothing identified except for a language delay which is being addressed in his IEP along with his speech.
Not satisfied, she asked that we have Nick evaluated for ADHD. She was SURE that was what was wrong.

We balked.
Honestly, we didn't see the issues she sees at school. At home, he obeys us. He listens to us. He really isn't that much to handle. Yes, he is active...but he's a boy. Yes, he squirms in his chair...but he's a BOY! Yes, he has a hard time following directions, hates doing homework and finds it almost impossible to finish a task without being reminded 3-trillion times, but HE. IS. A. BOY!
We agreed to fill out the questionnaires, but hesitated to take them to our doctor. Instead, we struggled for awhile, trying to get along with the teacher, trying to make sure Nick held up his end of the relationship and just trying to limp our way through the end of the school year so he could move on to third grade and to a new, much better teacher.
And then she dropped a bombshell.
At our bi-annual parent/teacher conference last month, she said, flat out, she didn't know if she could pass Nick. It wasn't his ability - it was his 'attitude.' His attitude was inhibiting his ability to learn what he needed to learn...and if she sent him on to third grade, she was afraid he would get even further behind.
I think Nick got wind of it because within a few days he was talking about how he hated school and started talking negatively about himself.
Screeeeeeeeech!!!!
That was it. I wasn't going to put up with it anymore. We decided to take him and forms in to his pediatrician. I was convinced there wouldn't be an issue...that it was all in the teacher's approach to Nick. Nick didn't respect her because of her attitude toward him...and her teaching style (very similar to his preschool teacher).
I was wrong.
Dr. B took one look at the forms from the teacher, some other teachers and ourselves, and said he was ADD...possibly ADHD. Did we want to put him on medication?
Seriously? Really?
It was if she had slapped me across the face.
I took the prescription and drove over to the pharmacy in a bit of a daze. After I plunked the $60 for a 30-day supply of Concerta, it hit me.

My kid has ADD.
Honestly? I've been struggling the last few weeks. I'm feeling a bit of the same old funk I felt when we first brought Maddie home. When we went to Ukraine to bring home a child, we were fully expecting to adopt a healthy child with no physical issues. Sure, there would be developmental problems, but those would all magically go away with just some love, time and extra help.
Then, after the initial joy of bringing Maddie home wore off, and the reality of her disability sunk in, I entered a bit of a funk. It actually may have been a bit of PAD (Post-Adoption Depression). I was overwhelmed with her needs...and really had no idea how to help her, where to turn for that help. This take-charge girl who has never struggled to make a decision a day in her life, was suddenly paralyzed with indecision. I couldn't even decide to pick up the phone and call Children's Hospital to get her an appointment, people. That's how serious it was.
And here I was again, feeling paralyzed. Uncertain of what to do...and where to turn. My son has a life-altering disability...and I was barely able to decide to pick up his prescription. I found myself longing for the days when Nick was a little guy and I could make his pain go away just by kissing his boo-boos, putting on a band-aid and sending him back outside to play.
ADD is a life-time thing. He may be struggling with this for the rest of his life. And all I can do is buy him a prescription. No amount of hugging, kissing or reassuring will make it go away.
Sigh.
The blessing is, the medicine seems to be working. He's on the lowest dose available and the first day he took the meds, the teacher called absolutely thrilled. He was behaving like a model second-grader. A week later she reported if he keeps this up she won't have any problem passing him.
This week she reported absolutely no problem.
Of course she says that (I think snidely), she's finally gotten what she's wanted. The perfect little boy who sits still, hangs on her every word and whom she doesn't have to discipline in any way shape or form or really even pay any attention to.
I, on the other hand, am left with a shadow of my former son. I keep worrying Nick's personality is changing...that the meds are robbing me of the little boy I came to know and love. I don't necessarily think he's over medicated - he's not in a daze. But he's quiet...unnaturally so. He's not nearly as active - I'm having a hard time to get him to go outside and play ball. And he certainly isn't the life-loving, joke-telling, vivacious little boy I had three weeks ago.
I don't want Nick to change. Sure I would like to have him be easier to parent...but I would much rather have him be the little boy God created him to be.
And then I start worrying about Maddie.
She's even more active, inattentive and distractable than Nick.
Is she next? Will they urge us to have her tested? Will we find that the only way to get our kids through the Emerald City school system is to medicate them to the point that we don't recognize them anymore?
Sigh.

19 salty messages:

MoonDog April 17, 2010 at 12:25 PM  

I have a kid with Adhd. seriously obvious ADHD. and I medicated him. and it was awful. it got worse. we tried another. still awful. and now? I took him off the medication. I will not can not deal with rageful angry sullen moody angry irritable antisocial 7 year old. I would much rather deal with happy and hyper. he is doing fine at school. I didnt tell them I medicated him. I didnt tell them he has adhd and I didnt tell them I took him off. he is doing fine in school. its at home he has problems. he is at the top of his class for K. Please please be careful with medications. they can be ....worse than dealing with the add or adhd. get through the year and reeavaluate. I know its a blow. I know its hard to understand. I know you feel like a failure and you somehow went wrong in serving your son. Every day is a new day. every day brings new hope. I am sorry you are having to deal with this.

Diana April 17, 2010 at 12:33 PM  

Oh, I'm so sorry, Tami! We've been the rounds with this ourselves. It is very frustrating. Both my kids are now on meds, which have been a GOD-SEND but they don't come without side effects, that is for sure. Unforuntately, my Jospeh can't string two thoughts together to save himself without them and I can't keep my youngest within the confines of the universe, let alone earth's atmosphere without them. Both kids have made tremendous progress in school since we started them on the meds, but school isn't the reason we ultimately did it. Attachment was...and that is where we've seen the most progress, too! My kids were so distracted and so off the walls or in the clouds that they couldn't even begin to attach.

There are other non-drug intervention type things that can be done to help ADD kids. Many of them are taught through OT type interventions. And, they can outgrow it. Unfortuantley, with the area of the world our kids were adopted from, there's a high prevelance of fetal alcohol exposure, which can and often does drive ADD/ADHD.

Aside from that, the teacher was WAY, WAY, WAY out of line here. She has NO RIGHT whatsoever to determine your son's medical needs. Nor can she pass or fail him based on "attitude." Her job is to teach, not to save the world. If at some point you decide the meds aren't for you or the side effects are not worth the benefits, take him off or change the meds.

It's also pretty rare that docs get it right the first time with the meds anyway. Concerta is a pretty good one, especially for ADD, but it isn't the only one. There's also adderal, Stratera, and others in the Ritalin family. Also give it at least a month before you decide to make changes. The side effects will often disapate as the kids get used to them.

Christine April 17, 2010 at 1:57 PM  

Wow, What a thoughtful post. I can totally relate. We put our daughter on Straterra and after three months took her off. Her appetite changed, her mood changed, and her sleeping pattern changed. Not worth it so we took her off of it. Maybe he will adjust after you give it sometime. If he doesn't you will have to weight the benefits too. Kind of sounds like my son--- the right teacher makes all the difference in the world.

Bethany April 17, 2010 at 2:12 PM  

I haven't been there on this one, so I'm just going to say I'm sorry you have to deal with this. And offer a big hug. And some chocolate, too.

Tina in CT April 17, 2010 at 4:02 PM  

Tami,

Email my daughter is my advice.

The Holmes Crew April 17, 2010 at 6:47 PM  

My oldest son (now 27) has ADD which wasn't diagnosed until he was an adult. He found a dose of the RX that works for him and it made all the difference in the world. I am beginning to feel my little guys, adopted from Russia, may also have ADD. They can't sit still,are both VERY easily distracted, always in motion, and very active. Yet since they are both bright kids, and learning at or above grade level (I homeschool) I've kept telling myself - as you said - it's because they are boys. I also know that soon I will have to have them tested because if there IS a problem and I don't treat it, I will always doubt myself and wonder "what if">

I do hope you find some peace in all this and that you'll be happy with the changes he goes through.

Katie April 17, 2010 at 7:49 PM  

Don't take their word for it! Honestly, I have no question that I could get Noah diagnosed as ADHD. So, being me, I have done some reading on the diagnosis and treatment. A questionnaire to the pediatrician is not adequate to make the diagnosis. There are all kinds of things (nutritional deficiencies, chemical imbalances, sleep disorders, etc.) that can cause the same symptoms. Those kinds of things should be explored and ruled out before medicating for ADD.

Also, from what I have read, medicating on just a guess (which is essentially what they are doing with just a questionnaire) often leads to additional "diagnoses." He's having mood swings now? He must be bipolar...here's something for that! Oh, your kid is is down now? He must be depressed...Here's an antidepressant!

Maybe he is ADD. But maybe he isn't. If this doesn't feel right to you, don't let some teacher who doesn't want to bother with him bully you into it. Especially if you feel that he was able to function on his own without medication. Those medications can have long-term effects, too. Go with your gut, which ever way that may be.

jessy April 17, 2010 at 10:34 PM  

I am crying. I hate that you and Nic are going through this. It sounds as if you are re-thinking putting him on meds. I think that is good. Summer is almost here and if you are coping and parenting your child (which I know you are) you may find that he is "cured" next year with a different teacher.
As a teacher in public school and now as a daycare owner it BREAKS MY HEART to watch a child's personality change when they are medicated. Even the ones that rage, claw, and try to bite me. I've only known two children who absolutely NEEDED them compared to DOZENS who were on them. I use the term 'need' because these children literally were not able to learn without them, and so were falling drastically behind in their school work/development. That certainly doesn't sound like Nic.
We read that boosting Amino Acids can help FAS children with their ability to form connections and process, so we started giving Marina a tablespoon at night. Later, I read that many parents of ADD/ADHD (non-medicated)kids SWEAR by it, so we also began giving it to Ian (who sounds an awful lot like your Nic: squirmy, forgetful, all-boy). We believe it is helping, and it's all natural with no side effects, so if nothing else, it isn't HURTING them.

Annie April 18, 2010 at 5:24 AM  

I'll just throw my two-cents' worth in, because your previous posters seem to have given some good advice. THIS HAPPENED TOO FAST. From what I've read neither teachers nor pediatricians have the background to diagnose or adequately treat behavior/learning issues. The first big red flag was the teacher saying she wouldn't pass him due to his BEHAVIOR???? Come again? Since you are a wordsmith, I can't believe you got that wrong - but it sounds absolutely bizarre. From what I understand diagnosing this correctly and sorting it out from all other sorts of learning/emotional/physical disabilities is a very delicate task. All sorts of things mask themselves inattentiveness.

Second thought is that you might read writings of/talk to adults with ADHD; if indeed, this is his issue, it might be a comfort to read both how well adults do on the medication and how grateful they are when they got it - even years later. This was an eye-opener to me.

Finally, I do know a number of parents who have their child on medication for ADD or ADHD, and take them off of it whenever they can - weekends, evenings (if applicable), summers, etc.

mrsbroccoliguy April 18, 2010 at 9:09 AM  

I may be in the minority, but ADD medications scare the frap out of me. The way you're describing your son is exactly what I saw in my son's best friend and it made me really sad.
FWIW, after R's diagnosis of ADHD last year, we got her on fish oil and I cut high fructose corn syrup out of her diet as much as possible and she is doing awesome in school this year. I really don't know if it's what I did or if it's the fact that her teacher this year is amazingly awesome or if she just matured a little. But, it might be worth it for you guys to try other options if the meds are not working out well. (and IMHO, if you see big personality changes, it's NOT working, regardless of what KnowItAll teacher says.)

Annie April 19, 2010 at 9:24 AM  

Was just listening to a lecture by Dr. Karyn Purvis regarding results of some early attachment issues, and one is being labeled [incorrectly] ADHD. You might take a listen; it is SO insightful in any case:

http://empoweredtoconnect.org/wp-content/uploads/Texas-Care-for-Children-Attachment-Dance-2007.mp3

Mom2agr8kid April 19, 2010 at 6:47 PM  

I'd definitely reexamine his need for meds this summer. Get through the school year, and then see. Fish oils can help immensely.

My son is on Concerta as well. He is problem is inattention, not hyper-ness. He has processing issues, both repective and expressive language. I am not convinced that his 'inattentiveness' isn't just lack of processing. But whatever it is, Concerta certainly helps.

It did not change his personality however. The first day (on the lowest dosage), he started talking non-stop. And he actually made sense, a first for him! I was worried... but after a few days he settled down. I took him off after a year (for summer break). He seemed fine. After about 6 weeks of school the next year, I realized I was constantly reminding to finish EVERYTHING; that he'd go into his room to get something and totally forget what he needed. So I put him back on Concerta and the difference was amazing. So, for us, meds are a godsend. I get some perks at school (able to get him a 504 plan) and choose his teachers/schedule. Other than that, it is really no different than taking a daily vitamin. We're lucky he doesn't seem to have any side effects. No effect on his appetite. But if you're seeing a totally different Nick, then you may not have the right drug.

Katie April 20, 2010 at 1:09 PM  

I am where you were three weeks ago. Just filled out the forms. The teacher is SURE that my son has ADD. But I don't want to lose the joke-telling vivacious little boy I still have. I'd love to discuss this with you in detail. I'd love to know how you answered the questions on the form. I'd love to know what the teacher said. I need a hug and I'd love to hug you.

lookingforgeorge April 20, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

Tami, unless the teachers in your state go through some super special training that other teachers don't go through, she is NOT qualified to diagnose ADD or ADHD, but I'm sure she's been around long enough to know how to fill out her teacher forms to make ti look like your son has ADD. I would get a second opinion, and I would get it from a developmental/behavioral pediatrician, not just a run of the mill pediatrician. If you aren't seeing overly problematic issues at home, then I would suspect something about his environment at school, not something about him. I'm sorry if I'm overstepping my bloggy friend bounds in any way, but this is something I just feel very strongly about. I'm not saying ADD and ADHD don't exist, but I do think it is WAY overdiagnosed because it makes the teachers' jobs sooooo much easier to have kids drugged into oblivion. Stepford Children, that's what hey want. And, for the love of all hat's holy, since when can they hold a kid back for his attitude? I mean, if he isn't making the grades, sure, but his attitude????? That is a teacher blackmailing you into drugging your kid. Hmm . . . I mentioned that I feel very strongly about this and am sorry if I'm overstepping my bounds, right? Anyway, I'm with what most of your other commentors have said: look into dietary changes, sleep issues, TEACHER issues, bullying issues, anything else that could possibly be going on. Don't let one underqualified teacher change your son or your perception of your son, don't let one teacher and a most likely ill informed pediatrician make decisions that will tell him he has a problem for life and change who he is through medication. You are the mom, you know him better than anyone else. Only let yourself come to terms with this diagnosis if you feel with every fiber of your being that it is correct. I'll shut up now. Please don't hate me. :)

Drew and Rita April 23, 2010 at 4:40 PM  

I surely am not trying to diagnose your kid. We were going down this same path. I had my kid tested by a psychologist who didnt work for the school (we paid out of pocket), who told me he was NOT ADD or ADHD or whatever labels they have now for kids. He is also extremely gifted. Did he have a bad attitude in school? He sure did! They wanted him to conform and do what he was told. The psychologist said to homeschool him, which we are doing. He is blowing through his academics without much effort, and he is thrilled that he doesn't have to deal with the teachers.

kate April 28, 2010 at 5:30 PM  

Tami, this is a unsettling at best.

Students are passed or failed based on whether or not they meet the standards of the grade they are in. A conversation about concerns is warranted if a teacher has them regarding the next year, but it cannot be a reason for retention. All this is, nach, my experience.

It sounds like a VERY quick Dx from your ped. I don't think I'd let a pediatrician make this call--especially when it's only based on questionnaires. (I've filled them out many times.) In my experience, a psychologist makes the DX after meeting with the child, the parents, AND reading them.

Fish oil is a big help. And, seriously, try caffeine. I know it sounds crazy, but it really does work for ADHD kiddos. One student I had got a Dixie cup of Coke after lunch every day.

I hate the zombie that comes with meds and try to keep my students (but they were mostly first graders) OFF them.

carla May 1, 2010 at 10:19 AM  

We are struggling with the same issue (sort of). We don't have a teacher recommending meds. Ry is seeing a counselor and I am reading a book called Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford. Its about how physical activities contribute to learning. Some of the Brain Gym stuff is really interesting and it is encouraging because it talks aobut how certain exercises help kids focus. I am still readin it, but it is an alternative to meds. That and we are changing Ry's diet a bit. Just another option. We will keep you in our prayers. I personally don't like meds. Some kids need it, but some don't.

Wishcrafter May 2, 2010 at 8:39 PM  

Seek a second opinion, please. Please. If you are uncomfortable with the way the medicine is affecting him, if your gut is telling you there is something wrong, get another professional opinion. Nick is Nick. You're right - Nick is a boy. He's bright and active and funny and energetic. He always has been. It sounds like the medication is making him NOT be Nick. Please, seek another opinion.

Zack, Jenn and William May 4, 2010 at 12:25 PM  

Wow, what a difficult time for you guys. It does seem that everyone made their decisions quite quickly. Why can't boys just be boys anymore? Why must they sit quietly in their seats with hands folded, for fear that they might be labeled as disruptive, or ADD or ADHD? In the past 2 1/2 years since our son arrived, we have become increasingly convinced that the education system is geared towards girls and a female learning style. Boys and girls are different. It's natural, but it's not encouraged by the majority of educators. Instead, they all seem too quick to recommend medication. What did our parents and grandparents do prior to all these drugs?
Okay, off my soap box. (Obviously I'm not the only one a bit passionate about all of this, from seeing the other comments). Praying for you & hubby as you seek what's best for your kids.

Jenn

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