Handwriting- Cameron’s Nemesis

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!


Potty- My Nemesis, Part 1

Let’s talk about the potty! People without kids wince when “potty” is mentioned, but once you have kids, potty is an everyday discussion, or in our case, issue.  After YEARS of frustration, we now understand that Cameron’s potty accidents (both pee and poop) have been, and continue to be, the result of him physically not feeling that he needs to use the bathroom until it’s too late.  In some cases, he doesn’t even know he’s had an accident until we see the wet spot and ask him.  Even then, he doesn’t realize it until he looks down and sees it for himself.

This was one of my main complaints to medical professionals, and in my opinion, that alone should have been a red flag for at least one of the professionals we turned to.  Speaking of professionals, let’s go through the list, shall we?  For Cameron’s issues (potty or otherwise), we’ve seen our family physician, a pediatric gastroenterologist, a chiropractor, an occupational therapist (to test for fine motor issues), a neuro-psychologist, a phone call to a clinical psychologist, and finally another occupational therapist for the Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID).

My potty stories are many, so let’s start with one for now.  I want to be clear that my motives for telling these stories are not for shock value or to embarrass my son.  I tell these stories because this is, and has been our reality, and it feels good to know there was a medical reason for these behaviors all this time.  Also, I want people to know that if you know a child with issues similar to these, then SID is a possibility!  And finally, I tell these stories because in retrospect, we think they’re funny.  They were not so funny when they happened, but are definitely good for a laugh now.  (Unfortunately, you can’t see my husband, Jon’s, faces as he tells these stories, because that makes them that much better).  Laughing has helped us get through this—all of us, including Cameron.

When Cameron was around five, Jon went to kiss him good night.  When he bent down to give him a hug, Jon noticed that Cameron’s super-cool fiber-optic nightlight looked to be singed in the middle.  As he investigated closer, Cameron’s eyes widened and he shifted uneasily from side-to-side, seeming to try to get a better look at the damage.  Upon closer inspection, however, Jon realized that there was, in fact, poop in the nightlight.  POOP. IN. THE. NIGHTLIGHT.  This may be a good name for a crappy (no pun intended) garage band (or maybe not), but it’s not a good thing to find in your son’s bedroom.  We believe, upon analysis of the situation, that he had pooped in his pull-up, reached inside, pulled out the poo, and—having nowhere else to put it—he placed it gently into the fiber-optic nest in his nightlight, hoping that his unsuspecting parents would never find it.  Well, we did.  Jon said to him, “This is your last chance to tell me if there is any other poop hidden in your room!  I won’t get mad if you tell me now, but this is your last chance!”  As a parent, there are a lot of words that come out of your mouth that you couldn’t imagine stringing together into a complete thought.  I can assure you that “Is that poop in your nightlight?” is one of them.  Another would probably be, “is there any other poop hidden in your room?”  Cameron, with eyes as wide as a sugar glider’s, frantically shook his head, stating that was the only hidden treasure we’d find.  For now, anyway…

Yes, these are stories we laugh about now, but I was not laughing when they happened.  During those times, I found myself numb. I was shocked.  I wondered what kind of child hides poop like a squirrel hides nuts.  I was disgusted.  Was my son a poop hoarder?  Was he going to be on a future episode of “Hoarders,” where the “clinical psychologist specializing in severe hoarding” would discover his secret room full of feces?  I was scared that Jon was going to freak out (which he didn’t—he’s very good to Cameron, but it’s just something I am paranoid about—childhood issues), so I felt like I had to protect Cameron from the freak out that never was… but I didn’t know how I should react either; should I yell, do nothing, give him a time-out, take away something—I mean, the Love and Logic books don’t have a chapter on poop-hiding.  So, I was numb.  I stared blankly and shook my head, not knowing how to deal with this.  In the end, we threw away his nightlight, made him buy a new one with his own money, and gave him a lengthy lecture.

You should know that since his Occupational Therapy started, accidents have been much less frequent,and we are beyond grateful!

I think that’s enough potty talk for one post…