While I was helping Cameron with his homework tonight, I was reminded of the difficulty he has with handwriting. It was easy to be reminded of this, as the numbers he wrote on his homework floated like tiny number balloons somewhere above their lines, and his left hand limply sagged like a dead fish while his right hand wrote; he claims that his right hand does all the paper-holding while it writes, so he doesn’t need to use his left. At the very least, he gets points awarded for creativity! Writing, like many other things for Cameron, has been a struggle that leads to battles. It’s hard to believe that watching a child struggle with writing could make you feel so frustrated, but then you’ve never seen the super-stubborn Cameron write. It makes you want to yell, “Just put your fricking hand on the fricking paper so it doesn’t fricking move!” Really! How hard is it to just hold the paper on the table?! Well, it turns out that for Cameron, it actually is very hard. This, like so many other things we didn’t realize, is part of his Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID). So once again, I am the a-hole mom who didn’t realize that he really CAN’T do what I’ve been asking him to do, and it’s not that he WON’T do it. Once again, that “Mother of the Year” award has officially passed me by, probably for one of those moms who adopt 15 kids with special needs, while I can barely handle the one child with somewhat special needs that I have. Those moms are such show-offs!
My first clue that writing was going to be tough was a fine day during my pregnancy with my daughter, Amelia. Cameron was probably two, almost three, and I was doing the best job of parenting from the bed that I could; pregnancies weren’t kind to me, and morning sickness made me miserable—I considered writing a new parenting book called Parenting from the Couch While Trying Not to Vomit, but decided it might not sell. To try to make him let me stay in bed longer, I was drawing letters made of dotted lines on paper, and having him trace the lines—a very difficult task for him. Not only was it difficult, but he became John McEnroe angry. I was legitimately concerned about anger issues, but it turns out that wasn’t the problem after all.
At first, I thought that Cameron had fine motor issues. He was a very active “gross motor” kind of kid, which is normal for boys. He was NOT a puzzle, writing, drawing kind of kid, which can also be normal for boys. All of his teachers–from 3-year-old preschool to second grade–have taken me aside to express their concerns about his fine motor skills. His 3-year-old preschool teacher wanted him to be able to write his name on all of the Valentines for his classmates, which I thought was a ridiculous task. His 4-year-old preschool teacher was a friend and colleague, so it was more difficult to hear her concerns. After that conference we worked on various activities to help his fine motor skills develop, like collecting cotton balls with tweezers, playing Play-Doh, using a Lite Brite, etc. The next year, his Kindergarten teacher was visibly nervous to discuss his fine motor skills with me, sighing in relief when I told her I already knew. She actually said, “He’s light years behin…” Then she caught herself and said, “His skills are way behind the other kids in class.” I wasn’t offended, because she was right; he really was light years behind his peers, but I wasn’t freaking out. I am a special education teacher. More specifically, I teach children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, some of whom have other disabilities as well. The fact that my son had troubles writing seemed, in comparison, like no big deal. In the future, he’d probably end up using computers to write anyway, so if writing was going to be his struggle, that didn’t seem so bad. Then, in first grade, his teacher started an intervention meeting with the school’s occupational therapist, a school psychologist, his teacher and me, to try to find ways to help him better succeed. At this point, I realized that this was more serious than I thought, so I called an occupational therapist (O.T.) outside of school to have him tested. He was fine. He was a month or two behind in two of the tests, but three years ahead on the third. The O.T. who tested him said that maybe there’s a lot going on in his classroom, so maybe he wasn’t focused on the writing tasks. My question was: Why is he successful on tests, but not in real-life?
Once again, we thought that it was ADHD, and once again, we were wrong. Some kids who have SID have a difficult time with handwriting. Yet another piece of the complex Cameron puzzle that fell into place when we found out he has SID. I’m thankful I never forced him to practice writing on worksheets for fear that I would force him into hating writing. Tonight, Cameron cried because he said he’s “not good at math,” which is completely ludicrous; Cameron is a mathematic rock star. I do believe, however, that Cameron’s Mondays are always hard, and WRITING the math was especially difficult today, so he was looking for a reason to be upset. Wow, is it easier to deal with him now that I know why he acts the way he does sometimes! Seriously, you have no idea! I’m SO grateful for his O.T; without it, Cameron’s tears tonight would have been a full-on nuclear meltdown. Instead, we had tears, followed by homework completion, lots of hugs, and even him telling me he’d really like me to go downstairs so I can have a break after he was in bed. That’s exactly what this tired mom wanted to hear!