Thursday, May 20, 2010

Birthday Season

Summer is almost here....that means "birthday season" at our house since 3 of my 4 children have summer birthdays. My problem with the older boys' birthday parties has always been keeping the guest list to a manageable size - there's the neighborhood friends, the school friends, the sports team friends. And there's always the conundrum of "If we invite that kid, then we have to invite those two..." You get the idea. Let me put it this way: this past March Isaac had a sleepover with FIFTEEN boys for his 10th birthday and there were still a few kids we kind of overlooked. (Note to self: never have a sleepover with 15 ten-year-old boys again!)

However, this is a problem I would LOVE to have with Alex. Because with him, the problem is exactly the opposite. He is six and has NEVER had a "real" birthday party with friends from school. We have had parties with family members of course, even at Chuck E. Cheese. But he really doesn't have friends like my other kids do. Part of the problem is his August birthday. August is a bad month for birthday parties b/c so many people are out of town or just out of their routines. And you can't send invitations to school. We have had bad luck with Ben's summer parties in the past. And there just aren't any kids who I KNOW will come because he doesn't have a best friend or a reliable friend. The kids in our neighborhood are all older or younger than Alex by at least 3 years so he doesn't have the "instant playdates" my other kids have always had. Because of his social issues, he doesn't make friends easily and doesn't get invited to parties very often himself. I am stressing ALREADY about his birthday this year because he will be SEVEN and he really needs to have a REAL party. I feel so guilty and bad that he hasn't had one yet. I just am at a loss as to how you have a party for a kid who doesn't have friends. This is the saddest part (to me) of having a child with special needs. I can handle the meltdowns, the difficulties with staying still, the language problems, etc. It is watching my child miss out on childhood friendships that is the most heartbreaking part. (Note to self: I need to schedule more playdates for Alex. The few we have had have not gone well...the kid always ends up playing with Sara.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

End of an era

Since our appt with the DAN doctor has confirmed Alex's SPD diagnosis, I have really tried to keep him on a sensory diet. Meaning every day before school (he goes to PM kg) he either has gymnastics or OT and on the days he does not I make sure he swings, jumps on the trampoline, gets to play at a playground, or we walk to school. In addition, he does Therapeutic Listening every day. He is a sensory seeker so he needs this input EVERY. DAY. If he doesn't get the input he is generally a mess at school and at home and does his sensory seeking jumping which looks pretty similar to autistic stimming.

To be honest, I am kind of sick of making sure he gets his input every day. I am on constant alert - did we do enough input today? And I am wondering what will happen next year when he goes to 1st grade and doesn't have all morning to get in his sensory stimulation. My fear is he will get it one way or another - either by being disruptive in class or sensory seeking alone at recess or both. I don't know how his sensory needs are going to fit into a day in public school even with an IEP.

Also.....THE CAFETERIA (cue up horror movie music)is bound to cause problems for him. Although mostly a sensory seeker, Alex is an avoider when it comes to smells. He is a kid who can't tolerate the smell in IHOP (which I think smells pretty good...hello? pancakes, what's not to like?!) The elementary school cafeteria is noxious to even NT kids' noses. I am not sure how he will handle it. I can't imagine he will make a lot of friends by gagging and dry heaving at the table.

Alas, his days as a "little kid" are rapidly coming to a close. He has had 2.5 years of special ed preschool and 2 years of kindergarten. He has come a LONG way from that first day I put him on the special ed bus when he was completely non-verbal and did not appear to understand anything that was said to him. I remember that day vividly and how scared I was for him and for me (putting him on a special ed bus made it official - I was the mother of a special needs child!) I cried my heart out that day and I am in awe of my little boy and how much progress he has made. He has worked harder than any young child should have to.

Next year he will be on his own more than ever. I meet with his special ed teacher next month and I will share my concerns. Hopefully, we can come up with some things to try. However, this will be a whole new world for him. I am terrified for him and for me again. I am also hopeful that all his hard work has paid off and he will be able to attend first grade with NT kids and thrive.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Random Thoughts

It's Mother's Day and my husband has done a GREAT job of keeping the kids busy and outside to give me some peace and quiet. We live in a very kid-full neighborhood and I asked for just one day if the only kids in the house were mine (no friends over today or kids running through the house, etc) However, what I am finding is that I am bored!! I honestly don't know quite what to do with myself! I did do some reading and that was great! On to some random thoughts from the past few weeks...

Living in Virginia, the news is filled with the story of George Huguely, the UVA lacrosse player who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Yeardley Love, also a lacrosse player at UVA. This story is heartbreaking for so many reasons, most of them obvious. These were two bright, talented students and athletes. UVA is called "the Ivy League of public schools" because it is so hard to get into. Clearly, these two had a lot going for them. It is actually George Huguely who fascinates me. I can't help but wonder if this young man, who went to a DC-area prep school, is unarguably good-looking, and who is a gifted ahtlete, was simply used to always getting his way. And when he didn't, threw a massive adult temper tantrum. I don't know the facts of this case, but I wonder. And the reason I wonder is because we have been having some of that in this house lately too. My older two seem to be throwing some "shit fits" lately which I find alarming. At age 10 and 11, they are far too old. They are not classic temper tantrums but rather a lot of yelling and nastiness with some hitting of walls thrown in for good measure. What happens when it is a girl who pisses them off? Bound to happen...
So we had a long talk about it. We'll see what happens...

Another thought that has been circling in my mind is my 11 year old Ben and ADHD meds. There is a misconception out there that ADHD meds are given to kids to calm them down and keep them under control. This, supposedly, is done for the convenience of the teacher or parent. Why is it that parents who medicate with ADHD meds are painted as overwrought parents who can't control their kids?? This is simply not true in most cases. Ben struggled from kindergarten through 3rd grade with paying attention, getting his work done, making friends, etc. He was simply "out of it" a lot of the time. The teacher would say "line up for art" and he would get his lunch box. He didn't finish tests, kids would talk to him and he was oblivious. It was hard to watch because he is very loving, very smart, very creative and funny. Finally, the summer after 3rd grade we tried some meds with him. It took a while to find the right med at the right dose, but to say he blossomed in 4th grade would be an understatement. He got straight A's, made several new friends, did his homework without drama, and was even recommended for the gifted program. He still had some ADHD symptoms, but they were greatly reduced. He remained on the meds through 5th grade. He was on the meds for HIM, not for us or his teachers. Last summer we made the decision (with his doctor) to stop taking them. He said they made him feel tired and I didn't want him to be on them long-term. Plus, he was doing so well, the doctor wanted to start weaning. So we did and this year in 6th grade he has been off the ADHD meds. As a result, his grades, while still good, have dropped, he seems generally unaware of what is going on in his classes, he is very disorganized, he seems to blurt things out, doing homework is like WWIII, and it is very hard to get him to pay attention when I am talking to him. He is lucky to have a great group of friends and to have a great school but ADHD is a real problem for him and for many other kids. We are considering another go with the meds...

Finally, (and this is just a coincidence, nothing whatsoever to do with the UVA lacrosse murder), I LOVE the game of lacrosse! My 10 year old Isaac is playing this spring for the first time. His football coach suggested he try it because he is fast and aggressive and thought he might like it. Alex is also playing on a non-competetive team for little kids. It is a fast-paced exciting game! Isaac is doing great and is obsessed with his lacrosse stick - taping it, re-stringing it, etc. constantly. I don't know how I have lived in MD and/or VA for close to 20 years and not really been aware of this sport! I hope it will get some good press at some point and not be always associated with George Huguely and the Duke lacrosse team scandal.