Monday, August 15, 2011

I Am Not A Zen Mama

In the days/weeks that followed CJ’s doctor recommending us to see an Occupational Therapist for an evaluation the included sensory issues, I began reading everything that I could find on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). And one thing that really bothered me was the subject of discipline- how to appropriately discipline a child who may not even be able to help it. I knew he spent the majority of days at the old preschool in time-out. It was their go-to method. They were done and weren’t even willing to put in an effort anymore. I was concerned and not really sure where to go. In the early days, I was particularly sensitive since it didn’t seem to be fair to punish him if he couldn’t help how he was behaving- if there was an underlying neurological cause for his behavior. You certainly can’t punish that out of a child. And so there we were. I’m going to calm, patient and understanding. I’m Zen Mama.
One evening WC was begging me for Taco Bell. Normally, we go through the drive through whenever I pick up his beloved tacos. I don’t want to punish him for his brother, either. So this is the compromise. We take it home since CJ cannot tolerate a restaurant after a day of preschool. After a day at his former preschool, he’d come home like a raw exposed nerve. I’d turn the car radio off and neither I nor WC would speak. He once melted down over a torn piece of paper.
On this particular day, WC was begging to let them eat at the restaurant. CJ was all for it. And he didn’t seem to be on the edge. And I relented. It was early and the restaurant not crowded, it might be okay.  Before we’d sat down they’d found individual wrapped peppermints at the condiment station and had taken one. I said they could eat after dinner. Since we had our pick of seats I chose the booth on the end- that way he could sit without risk of anyone sitting behind him. So his fidgeting and constant movement wouldn’t disrupt anyone else. He and WC sat on the same side & he got to sit on the outside- which was both unusual & made me nervous. I sat down with their tacos and things went from annoying to worse. Think spastic cat on stimulants.  He was lying down in the seat, I asked him to sit up and eat. The entire meal was spent with me telling him to either, sit up, sit down, turn around, and get back into the seat. If someone barraged me with commentary like that I’d cooperate just to shut them up. He’d “drop” the toy he’d brought in and need to go get it. I took away his toy- he angrily huffed. I threatened to make him sit next to me. His taco sat untouched. I ate it. He discovered it missing and got mad cause I ate it.  I gave him another since I’d stocked up. He barely touched it and it ended up in the middle of the floor.
WC sat quietly stuffing his face with tacos and appeared not oblivious to the ruckus right next to him. He finished and opened his peppermint. CJ wanted his too. At that point I gave him the peppermint because I wanted the experience to be over. He put the peppermint in his mouth and three seconds later somehow it too ended up on the floor. I tossed it in the trash & the high speed come apart hit. WC quickly retrieved another peppermint from the condiment station and unwrapped it. Before we got out of the door, I heard the unmistakable sound of hard candy hitting the tile floor.  You have got to be kidding me! I finished tossing the trash away and took CJ by the hand to leave. At this point he’s screaming again and WC has discovered no more peppermints in the container. They don’t have any more I tell him. And pull his screaming butt off the floor and out the door. I’ve parked just outside the door and before we get to the car, CJ wiggles free and screams, “But I’m hungry.”
A giant flash of light streaked across my vision. I’m not sure what happened next but, when I come to, I’m screaming at CJ in the middle of the parking lot something about having ample opportunity to eat as much taco as he wanted. He’s covering his ears. And instantly it snaps it back to me the SPD. I’m screaming at my SPD kid. I don’t want to be the screaming mama and I’ve just lost it. And I’m not sure Mother Theresa would have been able to hold it together in the same situation. WC is hiding on the other side of my car because when those words came out of CJ’s mouth, he knew to get the hell out of the way.
So we are back to our original arrangement of picking up food the few times we do eat out. I am not a Zen Mama.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Being Run Over

There we were having my 4 year olds preschool owner/director telling me that my child was different from every other child in his class. That his social/emotional maturity had actually regressed and the progress that they’d hoped to see hadn’t happened. She told me there was something wrong with him- she just didn’t know what. Yet, she gave me a computer print-out about Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Teacher #2 with whom he’d had the confrontation with, stared at me like I was raising Satan himself whenever I entered the room.

The day it all went down, I wondered if she would be able to get past it. Would she hold it against him? Should I go ahead and move him? But the school itself was supposed to be good. It had a waiting list and everything. Surely, if anyone could work with a special needs child it would be a staff of teachers with masters degrees in early childhood education, right…right?

The previous teacher (who teacher #2 replaced) was wonderful with him. She did tons of 1 on 1 with him and worked with him while teacher #1 ran the group lessons. I assumed he had assimilated and was doing well. After all at home he was singing songs, reading three letter words, adding and subtracting- where in that would I have a clue that anything was so horribly wrong? Then she took the summer off to stay home with her kids. A week and a half after teacher #2 came in is when the incident happened. Then in my meeting with them, I was informed that my child screamed every day- several times a day, refused circle time or to cooperate in general. When I pick him up, I get a slip of paper that tells me the day’s activities and I speak with the teacher- not once had it been written down or told to me that my child screamed every day or that there was anything concerning about him. Why would you not mention that to a parent? One day everything’s fine the next I’m sitting in a chair in the owner’s posh office being run over by a Mac truck.

I’d approached the previous teacher concerning his behavior a couple months after he started at the school. He still threw temper tantrums and I told her that I was concerned because there was a big disparity between his cognitive abilities and his social/emotional abilities. She had explained to me the two parts of development couldn’t develop at the same time. They would eventually even out and she didn’t see any cause for concern.

Four months later and a month and half with teacher #2 and we were cordially invited to find another care facility for him- because he was just “too out of control” and they were “unable to handle a child with his needs and their large class sizes.” This was told to me almost two weeks to the day before his evaluation for SPD- four weeks after our meeting over the incident.

I’m still trying to digest it all. Did they really just get rid of him while they could still classify him as a “behavioral problem” and not a child with special needs?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Come with me on a new journey

It all started in early June when I’d received a call from CJ’s preschool. There’d been an incident with the new teacher. He’d ripped a necklace off of a child’s neck and then slapped the teacher when she tried to put him in time-out. I was horrified, devastated and just plain didn’t understand. Yes, CJ is challenging, but that didn’t seem right. Of course, I immediately agree to conference with the owner and his two teachers the upcoming Monday.

At home, I gently asked CJ what had gone on that day. I had to prod at him a couple times before he said that he was getting the necklace off a fence for the kid and it broke. Well, CJ’s about as gentle as a bull in a china shop, no surprise there. I asked him again to clarify, off the fence? “Did you take it off the kid’s neck?” He insisted it was on the fence. Then I asked him, “Did you slap the teacher?” “Yes,” he replied. When asked why he said that she wouldn’t put him down. I clarified again that she had picked him up off the ground. They’d told me that she’d bent down to speak to him after he’d run from her when she’d asked him to go to time-out. He said again that she’d picked him up and wouldn’t let him go. When asked why he didn’t go to time-out when told to, he said that he’d just wanted to play. In his mind, he didn’t do a thing wrong and couldn’t figure why he was being punished. It didn’t seem like she’d explained to him the reason.

At the meeting on Monday, I’d asked teacher #1 if she’d witnessed the exchange between CJ & teacher #2. She told me that she’d gone inside before then to either take a child to the restroom or go herself- she couldn’t recall which. And teacher #2 was left on the playground with the class by herself. So I asked teacher #2 if she’d seen CJ ‘rip the necklace from the child’s neck.’ No, she hadn’t but she was quick to clarify that she’d only looked away for one minute and when she looked back CJ was holding the broken necklace and the other child was crying. And she immediately proceeds to tell CJ to go time-out and he ran. So now you have a grown woman chasing a 4 year old around the playground and getting angrier by the second. Why did she chase him? It’s a fenced in playground- where’s he going to go? And when it came out that she’d picked him up, the school’s owner dropped it, quickly.

During our meeting they inform me that my child is “different from anything they’ve ever seen.” They are quick to tell me everything they find wrong with him and then basically ask me to “fix it.” At the time, I thought they were going to be willing to work with me. They put together a list of “concerns” and I faxed that off to his pediatrician for her to review. When I let them know the doctor was referring us to Occupational Therapist to evaluate him for Sensory Processing Disorder, I basically gave them the end date for his enrollment there. I just didn’t know it, yet.

The past few weeks, I’ve mulled over whether or not to chronicle our new journey here on the blog. Do I put this out there? Do I even continue to blog at all? Even the name of my blog has caused me some concern. Does the reference to Cuckoo’s Nest and discussing raising a child with a neurological disorder go together? The name came long before CJ existed. But does it show a lack of empathy? Even do my previous posts where I discuss CJ’s behavior and sometimes with a comical spin- is that cruel in hindsight? I haven’t come up with answers on most of my questions. However, I am not ashamed that my child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He’s a brilliant child and I want to post the story out there.

Because one thing I found when I started researching SPD is that most people who are directly affected, have no idea what it is. And those who have children or are closely linked to children with any of these types of disorders are extremely supportive. On Twitter, I’ve found a huge network of support. Previously parents facing these types of diagnosis were isolated- your kid didn’t act right and there was very little information out there. This is changing.

This is a new road for us. I’m not sure what it holds but there will be some bumps, potholes and hills, mountains and valleys along the way. I’m going to try to be honest about the experience and every now and then someone might need to remind me to enjoy the scenery.