Monday, July 18, 2016

(mis)adventures in ADHD

It's something I've um-ed and ah-ed about writing about, because although I have no problem with TMI myself (want to hear all about my prolapse? - more than happy to tell you - at length. Oddly, no one does...) but I tend to think my kids privacy is different. Thus the pseudonyms. On the other hand, I also suspect that out of all the massive overload of information out there no one is particularly interested in my precious darlings. I have serious doubts that in twenty years when they grow up anyone will be sufficiently interested to check out their mama's blog. If computers are still a thing then.

And Adventure Boy's diagnosis is such a massive part of our lives. The elephant in the room. We spend so much of our time travelling to appointments, researching, working around, talking with teachers and specialists and basically stressing out. So much has been destroyed - and I'm talking tens of thousands of dollars worth of casually ruined everything.  I expect so much more of the Extravaganza, forgetting so often that she's still little, and she puts up with so much because she is so much more responsible. So many things are out of the question, and have been for so long, because it's just not something you can do with a hyperactive kid and still keep sane.

Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder is a difficult thing to diagnose. Where's the line between normal high spirits and a clinical disorder? If a kid doesn't listen, is constantly on the move, can't sit still, has the memory of a gnat and the impulse control of a 'cocaine addicted lab rat' (to quote one author) is this just a hearing impaired, highly kinaesthetic kid, or is it something more?

Adventure Boy was a wonderfully mellow, happy, easy-going baby. Soon he was a roly-poly laughing little bundle of delight who loved all his story books I religiously read him every day.

And then... at about twenty months he stopped listening to his story books and started wanting to climb the walls instead. If I turned my back for a second he'd climb into the kitchen sink and upend the compost on the floor, or climb up on my desk and pull the computer down on himself. If he got into the bathroom he was guaranteed to flood it. He worked out child locks in seconds and was a master at pulling over chairs to climb up to reach what he wanted. Nothing was safe from him, and he'd test everything to see how it worked and to pull it apart. Bookcases were for climbing, curtains were for climbing, also door frames.

As time went on, it began to feel as if we were in a state of siege, with things constantly being destroyed. Outside, where things can't be destroyed so easily became my mantra, but it did mean that things like story reading and craft, things I'd spent the last fifteen years preparing for, fell by the wayside. The thought of taking him to a library story-time (even though I'm a kids services librarian) was laughable.

It isn't that he's malicious about it at all, it isn't that he wants to upset us - he just can't be still. If he's sitting he's kicking his legs and his hands are moving out to fiddle with, and generally pull apart, something.

Kindy started, but he lacked concentration and found it hard to do the activities set out, or to interact with other kids, and would wander aimlessly from activity to activity. School started, and despite having a great teacher, lovely teaching assistant and a small class of thirteen, he found it almost impossible to sit still on the mat, instead rolling around on the floor, or reaching out to touch his classmates.

And yet... he was young to start school, and we'd recently discovered he had long term, significant hearing loss. The thought of my little boy living in a world half-heard, half-understood was heartbreaking, and, at least for me, made so much sense of his behaviour. Not being able to hear he'd lost critical milestones of communication, peer interaction, language. While he now had grommets, it was no wonder he'd turned to a more active world, no wonder he often didn't pay attention to our instructions - he either didn't hear, half-heard, or only heard when we were on to our fifth reminder and were trying very hard not to yell.

Moving state, we had him repeat prep as socially and academically he just wasn't ready to move up. But while in his first year of prep he'd been eager to please his teacher and happy, a few months in a large class with unsupportive teachers and he was disruptive and playing up, and also just not learning. It got to the stage I was talking to the teacher almost every afternoon, and spent the whole day in dread.

We changed schools to a much smaller, more supportive school, but I still cried when the guidance officer at the new school said - as if it was a certainty - that he had ADHD and ODD was on the spectrum, and had dyslexia and a sensory disorder. These were things we'd never considered. Yes, he was having behaviour issues at school, yes, he wasn't progressing, but all those labels? As well as his long term hearing loss it all just seems too much for one little boy. Not that I disagreed with them - just all of them together seems too much.

We took him to a paediatrician, who took a long and detailed history and then referred us to a child psychologist. I blinked a bit when I saw that the psychologist specialised in Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as ADHD. We had considered ADHD, but autism hadn't really occurred to us - he's so affectionate and communicates so easily with us.

Another detailed history, teachers and us filling in great wads of forms, two long testing sessions later and the reports came back - he's (probably) not on the spectrum, but while he might not technically have ADHD - it's an imprecise thing and his hearing loss and language delay make it difficult to be definitive -  he has 99% of the symptoms.

I began reading up and quickly discovered the vast difference between paediatrician's views of ADHD and psychologists views on ADHD. On the one hand, paediatricians tend to view it as a biological disorder, psychologists tend to view it as a result of environmental factors. (It's the mum's parent's fault, basically.) Both sides seemed to have very strong views on the matter. It appears that schools tend to push heavily for medication (having a hyperactive kid -or two, or three - in your class must be a complete nightmare)  and mum's tend to rate their kids hyperactivity and attention deficit problems more highly than dads. Both things were certainly true for us.

Reading parenting books the one thing that is stressed is that more important than intelligence and just about anything else in a child's future is his or her self-regulation. Starting from that good old marshmallow test (damn it) when the kids who managed to wait fifteen minutes to eat the marshmallow and so get two, when followed up in adulthood were seen to do substantially better in life than kids who ate the marshmallow straight away. Every subsequent study reinforced that.

My little boy would not just eat the marshmallow in the first second, he'd then ransack the room, climbing all shelves, for the marshmallow bag. This is a thought that keeps me awake at night. Is he doomed at seven? Many studies appear to say yes.

We've started him seeing an occupational therapist to help with his self regulation, he sees a speech pathologist to help with his language delay. We've looked into fish oil tablets and dietary changes (the evidence is poor) I've gone to parenting classes and read dozens of books and articles, all of which give conflicting evidence and advice.

Now, I think we're finally on track. I'm still not sure about the different diagnoses (neither was the psychologist, or the paediatrician) but I am sure that the things we're doing are helping, and no matter what the diagnoses, it would be the same things we'd be doing so end of the day - exactly what it is isn't much of an issue.

I'm still not entirely sure about posting this - is it too much an invasion of privacy? will it have negative effects later on - but it has such a massive impact on our lives - possibly the biggest impact, that it seems odd to leave it out. And I doubt it comes as any surprise to anyone who's ever met Adventure Boy or read this blog long term.

And maybe someone will read this who's going through the same kind of things and not feel quite so alone.

Friday, July 8, 2016


Giggle Bear adores hide and seek. It's her very favourite game. She's not very good at it, as she hides behind spindly little trees and has a habit of jumping out yelling 'Yay!' or 'Boo!' if she's not found in o, a second or two, but she definitely loves it. 

It still amazes me how much joy little ones find in the simplest things - a go on the swing, hide and seek, the same book again and again and again, a stick or a flower. 

A moment in time - hide and seek - Giggle Bear - just past two. (Next on my to-do list (somewhere after the dishes and the laundry) - working out how to put photos side by side. I googled it and all this complicated stuff about Html came up. I think not. But I will work it out. Soon.) 

Monday, July 4, 2016

little girl by sea (memories caught)

I was going through photos from one of our trips recently, finally collating for a long overdue photo album and heaving nostalgic sighs, and it struck me how much we enjoy our photos and having them to look back on.

The kids are old enough to be interested now, and they take out the photo albums * and look them over, pointing out people and places and commenting on how big and small they all were and all the changes. They take them to school to show their classmates and it's clear they're important to them.

Beloved and I are the same - we love looking over our photos, remembering and exclaiming - there are so many things we'd completely forget if it weren't for the photos. I wish I'd written down more about what the kids said and did - but I'm so glad and grateful we have the photos - and glad I've got them in blog form, shaped into something rather than sitting in files. With Giggle Bear turning two recently I realised how much I'd forgotten of Adventure Boy and Extravaganza at two - and it was so interesting to look at the blog - and be amazed and awed all over again at the little people they were and the difference in our lives back then.

Which leads me to... the great dearth of photos from the last few months. I just haven't picked up the camera, and nor has Beloved and though it sounds silly considering the tens of thousands of photos we do have, I still feel it as a loss. I didn't exactly want the chaos of my morning sickness documented, but Giggle Bear has grown so much, Extravaganza has started school, Beloved has pretty much decided on his specialty, I've popped out so I look like I'm full term with quintuplets (thanks to it being baby no. four and having zero tummy muscles.) You know... big stuff has happened and little stuff that I find hard to recall now but I know did happen. And it's the little stuff I miss most. It just sort of disappears into the ether and I miss it.  I know I write a lot about the madness and mess, but I also know these are the years I'll look back on and miss most. They're precious and fleeting and I don't want them lost.

Even not-sick it's harder taking photos now. Giggle-Bear's favourite game of you-can't-catch-me and adjudicating between Adventure Boy and Extravaganza's constant squabbles means that getting out the hefty camera is that bit harder. And that's not counting my present waddle. But that doesn't mean I don't want it recorded.

Giggle Bear and I had a nap recently while my parents took the big kids (including the Wolf-en-Pup) to the dog beach and we woke to an empty house on sunset. So I grabbed the camera and we headed down to the beach. My parents had rented a gorgeous house on the shore at Bribie Island so we rounded the house and made our way down some steps and ... there was the sea.

I am hoping this is the beginning of my return to my photo crazy ways.

*all made online because I'm hopeless with the printing and sticking and pasting - I remember an art folio being due in high school and thinking 'o, it'll just be a couple of hours of gluing' - three sleepless nights later and my first coffee induced palpitations (I was young and foolish and drank vast quantitis of evil instant robusta coffee - down with robusta, down) and it was finally done. It was a lesson I learnt well.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Just Past Two

Giggle Bear, you are now a breath past two and the thought makes me blink. A lot. How can you be so big?

And at the same time how can so much personality cram into such a small space?

You are always, busy, always industriously doing what you think is right, and letting people know exactly what you think should happen.

Your favourite words are 'No!' 'Me!' 'Mine!' and yes, they all have the exclamation mark. You have sat in the supermarket trolley clutching a box of ice-creams and yelling 'Mine! Mine! Mine!' the entire time.

When you are happy your joy is luminous, incandescent almost. Little things make you happy - seeing your sister, a bird, a little treat, having a bath, going to the pool. Your 'Wow!' is wondering, amazed, adoring. Your 'yay' - especially your 'yay' dance for something really spectacular like going to the beach or doing a poo in the big people loo is sparkling and joyous and addictive.

If you are sad, or think you have been wrongly treated - say if you've missed out on a 'big kid' thing, no one is in any doubt of your feelings. Your shoulders sag, your head drops, your lower lip pouts out and you start drawing patterns on the ground with your toes. If it's a major wrong the screaming commences...

You love drawing - particularly on walls, and having stories read to you. Your favourite is Baby-Cakes and you know all the actions. Your favourite song was Miss Polly Had a Dolly (and again, you knew all the actions,) but it has recently changed to Twinkle Twinkle and Rockabye Your Bear.

I love seeing how much you adore your big sister. To see you running towards each other (after a separation of say, five minutes) your arms outstretched, your faces alight, is the most beautiful thing. My heart stays in my mouth as you play, try as I might I can't get your big sister to understand you're just little and you can't jump from the playhouse to the trampoline or from bed to bed.

You're taking an interest in clothes now - you'll point to the dress you want to wear and you have very specific tastes. (Silk. Velvet. Pink.) Shoes, hats, necklaces are all greeted with delight and preened in. If you're showing off a new dress you will turn in a little circle. You like other people to wear their allotted shoes and hats as well, and you're very keen on things being in their place. (I have no idea where you picked this up from, not from us!)

You still sleep beside me. I know you were to be my first that slept in your very own bed the whole entire time, but no. You sleep beside me, curled in my curve. As you fall into sleep your little toes knead at my thighs and I wake through the night to make sure you're on your back or side, and check your breathing, which is wheezy far more often than I'd like. We wake at the same time and you slowly grin, pat my face, then kiss me, give me hugs. If your sister has come to join us in the night you swap kisses between us and try to hug us both. Although you're not happy if anyone else is beside me. You'll throw yourself between us, wriggle down to make room, yelling 'Mine!' and pushing and kicking.

I'm not entirely sure how you'll take to the new baby...

You are, at long last, night weaned. It took longer than the other two because I left it so long. There were a few nights when your heartbroken wails broke my own heart and then you just accepted you have to wait till morning. Your feeds are getting less and less. I think that when it comes I might not even realise it for awhile.

Your favourite game is 'chasey.' Particularly at school drop-off or pick-up when you loves to hide in the school bushes while I slowly lumber after you and you laugh over your shoulder and then speed off. When I (finally) scoop you up you scream 'Down! Down' and wiggle frantically.

You are used to being admired, and take it as your due. Rarely a day goes by when someone doesn't comment on the size of your eyes or that you look like a little doll. You may look like a little doll, my darling delight, but you act very much like a cheeky monkey. This is a good thing. Being assertive, communicative and experimental is a brilliant thing, although I could forego your experiments with liquids which involves pouring your drinks from container to container before finally tipping them on the floor.

But, my joy, my constant delight, it's such an honour to see you revealing who you are and we are constantly grateful and awestruck to have you with us.