Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sometimes We Have To Make Hard Parenting Choices

You know those days when you wake up and you just know exactly what you need to do about something that has been weighing on your mind and you really don't like the answer?  I had one of those days this week.  I kept hoping I'd wake up one morning and the answer would be different, but instead it has just become clearer and clearer.

Anyone who has read any posts about Liam and his antics in the past couple of years knows that he is one rascally kid...and that's putting it lightly.  This kid is in constant motion from the minute his eyes open in the morning until he finally collapses asleep at night.  He is truly a two foot tornado destroying everything in his path and often putting himself in danger in the process.

We have a great pediatrician, and as much as I trust her opinion, I've avoided her suggestion that we consider giving him some medicine to help control his impulses for a long time.  In my heart, I wanted to believe that giving him more language, more attention, more structure, more of...well, something that he would eventually mellow out.  The thought of medicating him so young just felt wrong.

Well, we've given him sound and language and he's still all over the place. We've given him structure and he's still all over the place. We've given him attention and he's still all over the place. Are you seeing a trend here?

It's not so much that we mind him being all over the place. The bigger issue is that of safety.  In the past few weeks alone,he has:

Learned to climb through and over the gate in the backyard to get onto the busy road behind us
Learned to balance on his window sill and rock back and forth running risk of falling through the window and down three stories onto concrete (all upstairs windows now have bars)
Mastered going out of the house through the garage
Escaped the house repeatedly and once gone into strangers' homes, one with a gun and a big scary dog (the owner is a cop)
Tried to "help" us with Mindy by picking her up and then putting her down quickly (luckily on the couch and no harm was done)
Constantly trying to eat his hearing aid batteries/processor/anything a goat would eat
Darted in front of a car in a parking lot when Byron let go of his hand for a split second to open the car door
Has managed to get to the sharp knives no matter how high we lock them
Constantly climbed on top of books or pots on top of counters to get things too high up for his reach
Unbuckles his carseat while driving. We've gotten a new more expensive "stronger" buckle seat and it still took only days to figure that one out, too.

The bottom line is that he's a danger to himself and sometimes to others as well. So, what do we do?  Well, the pediatrician has some ideas.  I got a chance to sit and really talk to her the other day while I was taking Mindy for a visit.  She had some valid points that I hadn't considered before.  She pointed out that others in the family don't always enjoy him, but instead dread him.  No child should be dreaded.  She pointed out how it must feel to be him and feel the constant need to always be moving, touching, , running, etc.  She mentioned CJ and how much better CJ seems to feel now that we've given him medicine.  I waited eight years to allow CJ to have it, and that was hard for me, but the truth is that he is a much happier kid with it than without it.  She asked me why I'd want to make Liam wait to feel better when we could just do it now.  She had a point.

I e-mailed Liam's teachers and team at school and laid it all out for them. They spend as much time with him as I do, if not more and their opinion matters to me.  Betsy, the director of his school, responded and shared how she feels about medications in general. Like me, she avoids medicines as much as possible. She conceded that two of her four children needed medicines and now that they're adults, they can express to her how much better they feel with them than without them.  At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that she agrees it's time to try something new.

So, here I sit as his mom wanting to do anything but medicate him but knowing exactly what I need to do. It's time to try the medicines and see if we can help him with his impulse control and make him more teachable and safe. He's such a smart, happy, beautiful kid and I want for him to feel loved and included and in control of himself.  For as much as I hate the idea, I have a feeling it just might work.

In the back of my mind, I worry that people will look at us and think we're those parents who opted to drug our kid rather than parent him. We know the truth.  We've worked and tried everything under the sun. The opinions of others shouldn't matter, but they somehow sort of do.  Weird, right?  Or maybe I worry that others will view this as me accepting failure on my part to teach him right. Maybe it is a failure, but maybe it's just something Liam has to overcome and we're giving him the tools to help do that. I don't really know the answers to that one.

What I do know is that I'll be talking to the doctor tomorrow and setting up a plan that includes picking up a new prescription for a medicine to help him help himself better.  I know it's the right thing to do and I know I don't like it.  Most of all, I know that I love him more than words can say.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Hard Stuff

CJ has beaten the odds.  On so many levels, he's a success story that will be told for years to come.  He's such an odds beater (is that even a word?) that his case has been used as a model for early intervention providers back in TX.  On all the measurable levels, CJ's story has had the ending that every provider could ever ask for.  Great speech, perfect really.  Amazing literacy skills.  Brilliant mind and ability to articulate what's in his goofy little head.  Smart. So very smart.  He's kept up with all of his mainstream peers and then some.  All of these are great things and we are so proud to know that he's done so well despite the challenges placed before him literally since birth.

I have to be honest, though. There are some things that can't really be measured by a standardized test that he has struggled with.  One thing in particular weighs heavily on our minds as his parents and we worry for him. Maybe it's not so much worry as it is that we just wish we could make it easier for him and take the frustration away from him.  Friendshipping.  It's so difficult for CJ to make and keep friends and it's like a knife to our hearts every time we see him hurting.

CJ is a GREAT kid and he would give anything for a good friend who wanted to spend time with him.  Pragmatics is hard for him, though, so he doesn't always "get it" when other kids want to do something different, when they laugh at jokes he doesn't fully understand, or when they have little interest in the things he is interested in.  He tries so hard to impress his friends with facts he's learned and memorized, usually about things like insects, items that only Ripley's Believe It or Not would appreciate, or bodily functions.  The trouble is that other kids his age don't really appreciate CJ's facts.  They also don't enjoy inventing wild creations out of left over "stuff".  Other kids his age, especially the boys, want to run and jump and ride their bikes and have sword fights and, well, CJ doesn't like to do those things partly because his vestibular damage makes it so he really can't.

We watch CJ as he tries to step out of his comfort zone and befriend other children.  He makes small talk, invites them to play with him, and makes funny little gifts to give them.  Most of the time he comes back to us and explains that the other kid didn't want to play with him because they were busy with someone else, doesn't like bugs, or whatever else.  Then he looks up at us and says almost without fail, "They don't really want to play with me, but I'm okay with that."  He puts on a brave front, but we can see him hurting.  He's lonely.

Then there are the kids who take it a step beyond politely declining his offer of friendship.  These are the kids who tease him, make fun of him because he doesn't run as fast or can't ride a bike, tell him they'll be his friend if he gives them this, that, or the other.  He's so eager to make friends that he will literally give the shirt off his back, the lunch from his tray, or the homework from his backpack only to have the kid tell him thank you and walk away with whatever treasure they've taken.  These are the kids who play with him for a little while until someone better comes along, so they turn on a dime and laugh at him before going off to play something better with someone more fun.  These are the kids that make my heart hurt.

This coming school year makes me nervous.  CJ has one really good friend at school, and she won't be in his class.  She looks out for him, puts him in his place when she needs to, helps include him in her circle of friends, and she sticks up for him when she sees other children picking on him.  I'm not thrilled about the choice of placement for him next year, and the school knows it. We've discussed it in depth with the principal and next year's teacher.  The teacher thinks she's got a great plan to help all the kids learn about acceptance and respect and blah, blah, blah, but I'm nervous.  Even though we have an amazing teacher for him, the truth is that she can't protect him all the time and that scares me a little bit.

We're adding more pragmatics and social skills to his IEP plan.  (Thank goodness for that! In TX, they'd have dismissed him from speech in kindergarten and he'd never have the chance to develop the language he needs to advocate for himself.)  We're going to look into letting him join the art club and the computer clubs at school even though he's only a third grader and you really have to be in fourth grade. The idea is that these clubs will help him find peers with common interests.  Mostly, we'll be praying. A lot.

The point of this post isn't to dishearten other parents with kids like CJ.  It's to acknowledge the fact that, even though he's beaten the odds and done remarkably well, sometimes there will be hard parts to life no matter what you do.  It's to beg parents to please PLEASE encourage your children to go out of their way to be patient with kids like CJ who really just need a friend.  Actually, you might just find that CJ has quite a bit to give back. He's loyal, funny, full of goofy facts, so loving, smart, kind, talented, and completely accepting of everyone no matter what their faults.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wild Man

Who needs clothes when you're going to run away? Sneakers and a pull-up will suffice.
That container behind him was completely full of spaghetti two minutes before this picture was taken.
I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've just been busy giving Liam a new little sister. (I'll post about her next, or you can just read all about her right here.  She is practically perfect in every way.)  Now that Mindy is safely here and we're getting settled into our new summer routine, I have a little time to update on stinky Liam and his crazy Wild Man antics.

Liam has been out of school for two weeks and I am grateful to say that summer school starts Monday.  Holy cow! This kid needs his routine and structure. I'm pretty sure that the combination of no school and a new baby in the house is enough to make him crazy.

We've had to put locks on everything we can think of because he's everywhere and into everything.  If a door gets left open, he runs out it but not before releasing his trusty side kick seen with him in the picture on the deck.  The dog runs in one direction, and then Liam runs in the other direction. Without fail, the big kids go chasing the dog and leave Liam to run free.  I yell to them to get him instead of the dog, and they yell back "She won't come back if we don't catch her!"  I tell them Liam won't come back, either. They're response? "We don't want him to come back!"  They do love their little brother, but I suppose they wouldn't mind a little break from his constant busy-ness.

This past weekend, Byron and Aiden were out in the backyard doing work and I was upstairs cleaning Liam's room. Apparently they left the garage door open, so Liam got out. We were looking everywhere and yelling for him when we heard a neighbor from way down at the other end of the street yelling, "Hey! Is this your kid?" as he walked up with Liam wearing only a pull-up. Yep. That was our kid.  It seems the guy left his front door unlocked, so Liam strolled on in and went to play in his son's bedroom. The guy let go of Liam's hand when he saw us, so the little booger darted into ANOTHER unlocked house.  This house was owned by a police officer who happens to have a very large dog. When the thing sits, it's as tall as Aiden!!! Liam ran in and stood behind this huge dog waving at us.  The door was opened, so we yelled and yelled for the owner to come downstairs.  It felt like it took a century to finally get his wife to hear us and come down. Well, she didn't hear us. She heard her bathtub turn on and realized there was a little guy standing in her bathroom staring at her as she slept in her bed. Thankfully, she found the humor in the situation.

Then on Tuesday, I found that Liam had climbed up onto his 3 inch window sill and was balancing on it. If he'd lost his balance, he'd have gone through the glass and fallen three stories onto concrete. Yeah. Not so good even for the invincible Liam.  This kid is going to be the death of me...if not himself.

So tomorrow we have a friend coming over to help turn the house into Alcatraz. Locks and alarms will be everywhere. We're screwing baby gates in front of every upstairs bedroom window so he can't fall out. He is practically Houdini, so I figure lots of these efforts are going to only be temporary fixes, but I'll take what I can get.

Like I said, Monday is the first day of summer school and boy am I grateful...and tired.