Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here
I’ve been writing a series of posts about our son, Ben.
In the last year, we’ve been taking steps to get him diagnosed with ADD with hyperactivity, or ADHD, as well as with some sensory issues. I’ve wanted to get this narrative down on paper, for my own memory’s sake, and so that in the future, someone else can see what it takes. I was lucky, I have lots of resources on my side - above and beyond what the typical family might have. My mother-in-law is a trained pediatric occupational therapist, who had her clinical eye on both kids from the beginning. I’ve also been blessed with friends who have kids who have already gone thorugh the testing and evaluation process in our city.
One in particular, E, stands out for basically holding my hand and kicking me in the ass to get this started for Ben. She told me at one point last year “It’s scary now, because you are standing looking at the deep end. But once you jump, there are so many people to help you and catch you when you fall.”
It’s my hope that by writing this all down, I can help some other nervous parent who doesn’t want to “label” their kid with something negative.
Anyhow - back to where we left off.
Ben was slated to start kindergarten in the same, fantastic-if-overcrowded public school that our daughter attends. It is HUGE. 1,500 kids, with five kindergarten classes of 25 kids. And while it appears daunting from the outside, I’ve never once felt overwhelmed by it.
Kindergarted started, and I was thrilled to find out that he was placed in the same classroom that my daughter had been assigned, two years earlier. Mrs. B was a lovely woman, and a great teacher. Claire had thrived there. I hoped that Ben would do the same.
Everything started out fine - he’s an active kid, and I knew that he would have some problems. What I wasn’t anticipating was the trouble he’d have once the novelty wore off. I still remember sitting at his first parent-teacher conference. It was November, and I’d already spoken to the teacher at pickup a few times. “Ben is nothing like Claire,” she said.
Of course not, Claire is pretty neurotypical. She’s a classic type-A kid. She wants to excell at everything she does. She fits seamlessly into the average American test-driven classroom.
So from that moment onward, Mrs. B and I started working on some plans to help Ben adjust to kindergarten life. We got special pencils, and grippers for him to help him write. At home, he could take a short break in between homwork assignments. We set up a chart for good behavior, both at school and at home.
It was a lot to take in - especially since my daughter never needed any of those. And, like with so many other things, it started to get better.
It wasn’t easy every day. In fact, there were more days that were harder than before. Some things worked, and some things didn’t. And some things we kept at, with dogged devotion, until we could find something better.
But we quickly realized that a few factors came in to play like clockwork:
- Food is HUGE. If we want the best possible behavior from the kids (or me, for that matter) a high-protein, low carb food is of the essence.
- Lots of high-impact exercise is required. My mother-in-law, the OT, calls this “heavy work.” Swinging on the swings, climbing anything and everything you can, jumping from a play structure? Bring. It. On. I’m pretty convinced by now that most of the moms at the park must think I am a neglectful mom for letting them climb and jump like crazy monkeys. Trust me, Judgy Mom, this is better than the alternative of having him attempt to jump from the top of the bunk beds later on.
- Positive responses work a million times better than punishments. Time out only serves to rev up his engines and send him into a tantrum.
Things were falling into place a little at a time, but there was more to come.