Memory of a Meltdown

Parenting-Quotes

One thing that may sometimes be forgotten is how having a child with any sort of special needs affects a relationship. Having a child, in general, affects a relationship, but it seems that having a child with unique needs exponentially affects how you deal with a co-parent. Because I handle things differently than my husband, I sometimes feel totally alone. I feel like his approach to discipline is different than mine, and while neither are right or wrong, our general philosophies and/or personalities make it difficult to meet halfway. My husband and I were crazy in love when we first met, and we continue to be crazy in love. But oddly, that crazy-love makes it even harder on the days when I feel alone because he’s the person for me, and we are not sharing experiences in the same way that we usually do.

Last fall we had a pretty big situation. With the new school year starting– a recent move, a new school (middle school on top of that), and the fact that he chose to join cross country and football at the same time, Cameron was beyond overwhelmed. I knew something wasn’t right when he was acting so calm all week during his very first week week of middle school. He seemed so… happy. I mean, he’s a happy kid, but transitions typically lead to supersonic booms; it was eerily quiet and calm. So when he had an emotional meltdown mid-week, I wasn’t at all surprised. However, as I’ve stated before, this was not something found in any sort of parenting handbook (and I’ve read a library shelf full of parenting books); this was fly by the seat of your pants parenting. I’m not sure I did the best thing, but I felt so stuck that I didn’t know what else to do…

When Cameron signed up for football, we explained how hard it was going to be. Cameron becomes mysteriously “injured” or “sick” or “exhausted” whenever anything other than what he wants to do is asked of him. Knowing of his “ailments,” we told him from the start that he would go to football even when he was tired or didn’t want to you. We warned him and warned him, but, per the norm, our warnings went unnoticed. I knew right when he arrived off the bus that day, saying the coaches were mean and swore at him, that we were about to enter a “Sam I Am” situation. You know, will you try them on a boat? Try them with a fox? Try them in the rain? Sam I Am is persistent! Cameron is usually not persistent in completing tasks, but that kid can argue himself out of something or us into something like nobody’s business. He’s relentless. And it is exhausting! I was already preparing my counter-argument to stand strong against “Cameron I Am.” Just as predicted, next he said his ankle hurt, which he had sprained a couple of weeks before. By the way, as of posting this, 10 months after his initial ankle injury, our precious hypochondriac is still milking that ankle injury for moments when he needs an extra boost of attention or rest. After the ankle excuse failed, Cameron said that he was so tired and had a headache and stomach ache. He was full of excuses, which is classic Cameron. I’m always trying to think about future careers for him, and I’ve yet to find one where “excuse-making” is a prerequisite; maybe he has a future in politics? All of his excuses bounced off of my excuse-rejecting armour, as I told him to get his stuff and get in the car.  Cameron’s next line of defense was the ever-popular tears. They started about 10 minutes before we had to leave. Tears turned into sobs, but I stayed strong and made him get in the car. I was proud of how I spoke in my best Mr. Roger’s voice about how stress often comes out in tears, how difficult I knew the week had been for him, how it’s okay to cry about things like this, that even adults get to this point, but we all have to suck it up do what we have to do and then come back and cry it out some more. I even explained how exercising at football practice would probably help his stress. He seemed to be listening, until his sobs became even bigger and more dramatic.

Cameron has been dramatic literally since birth, prompting us to call him “Cameron Dramatacus” early on in his life. Obviously, we now know why he seemed dramatic as an infant , given all of his sensory, attention, and processing struggles, but even putting that aside, Cameron was, and continues to be, a drama-king. This makes it difficult for me to know when he’s just over-dramatizing or truly, truly feeling something. Also, I don’t know at which point to let him not do something he committed to because he truly is overwhelmed; sometimes, in fact most times, he acts overwhelmed only to be “forced” into something that he thoroughly and genuinely enjoys. Just weeks or less before this, I had forced him to go to the dog park when he was crying because he didn’t want to go. He ended up loving it and asking if we could go every week. Due to the fact that I do not possess a sixth sense for reading the brain of my pre-adolescent son, I never know what’s real. This makes appropriate parenting an extremely difficult task no matter how many parenting books I continue to read! In this situation, I went with the odds, which were that he was overdoing his drama. Again. I made him go.

I told him that he needed to go and talk to his coach is about his stress and how he feels. At that point, if he and the coaches decided it would be okay for him to miss, that would be fine. But he needed to be his own advocate; it was not my responsibility. We pulled into the parking lot, and he refused to get out of the car. I went to the field where the kids were practicing and left him in the car, thinking that the car is hot, and he would be joining me shortly. He didn’t come. I waited for about 20 minutes at the side of the field, until I walked back to the car and got a phone call from my husband, Jon. Jon talked to him and told him he needed to go. Cameron didn’t move. So here’s where all I’d learned from the myriad of parenting books just exited my brain and freely floated into the universe. Because at this point, I literally drug him out of the car by his football pads–even though he is significantly stronger than me–and explained to him again that if he didn’t go to practice, he still needed to talk to his coaches about what’s going on. I reminded Cameron that I’d already talked to his coaches about his processing issues and that they were very nice about it. I’ve always tried to teach Cameron that he needs to tell people himself, though, because in the end it is him that will need to advocate for his needs, not anyone else. At this point, Cameron was out of the car and following me like a sad sloth (if there is such a thing– I feel like sloths are perpetually happy animals) while I walked up ahead of him. I gestured to a coach and asked if I could talk to him. “Me?” he asked. “Anyone,” I replied. Then I rambled while holding back my own tears, “Cameron wouldn’t get out of the car he’s upset he’s overwhelmed maybe you heard he has some sensory and processing issues I just don’t know what to do so would you talk to him?!?!?!” It should be noted that at this point in the catastrophic event, I was so overwhelmed myself, that I, the captain of the Manners Police, didn’t even say “please” or any other nicety. I was borderline rude.

The mild-mannered coach sat next to Cameron and asked him what was going on. He spoke to him for quite awhile, sharing that his own son has issues, and that his family has not moved even though they’ve wanted to, because he knew his son couldn’t handle it. He shared that his other son has ADHD and that he learned after 15 years that yelling does not work [insert sad trumpet sound]. He said he knows that parents push their kids, and they should–when it comes grades–but not when it comes to football. At this point, I felt pretty much awful. I yelled AND I was pushing him to go to football! However, I truly didn’t even want him in football, so I was definitely not pushing him to participate in football; I was just trying to get him to follow-through with the commitment he made. I still don’t know when that line of pushing or letting him decide what happens should start and when it should stop. In the end, that coach was amazing. He told Cameron that Cameron’s number one concern should be his happiness, followed by grades, then followed by football, if that’s what Cameron thinks should come next. He told Cameron to take a break– that it’s not that big of a deal, and that it’s okay, and that the coaches won’t be mad at him if he misses a couple of practices because he is feeling so overwhelmed.

In the midst of all of this I realized that I was going to be over an hour late for dinner with a friend. I only realized this because she called me after I was 20 minutes late, making me feel even worse about all that was going on. Then I realized that I had forgotten about dinner for a very good reason, and that was that Cameron needed me there in those moments even if I wasn’t doing the best parenting job in the world. I was still present for him and not preoccupied with the fact that I was late for dinner.

When we got home, Jon was clearly unhappy that Cameron did not stay at practice. The whole night was basically destroyed for the family, as Jon was infuriated while I escaped to dinner with my friend–which I think was probably the best option for us all at that point. It didn’t occur to me until I got home that Jon had been dealing with the aftermath of this on his own. However, while I was unhappy about the meltdown, Jon was unhappy that Cameron didn’t go to football practice. I was also worried about the choice that we had made to move our kids– at that point I was very much doubting whether or not the move was the right choice, even though Cameron hadn’t had a lot going on for him at the old school, where he was frequently bullied and came home crying. I was also just feeling really sorry for Cameron and for my reaction to him when he really needed me to be more understanding. However at that point, Jon was focused on how Cameron spent the rest of that evening walking around “smugly” because he got what he wanted and his coach agreed with him. I didn’t see that because I wasn’t there. Our differences in opinions and perspectives left me feeling like I couldn’t talk to my partner about the most significant situation that had happened in our family– the move and its effects on our children. My frustrations were exacerbating Jon’s frustrations, leaving him to think that I was angry with him when I wasn’t.  The fact of the matter was that this was a big move for all of us, and my emotions about the move–whether or not I thought it was a good move or not– were directly related to my children’s emotions. Because they were having a bad week, I had guilt about it. I can now say this was a good move for our family, but it’s been nearly a year now.

It’s almost football season again. Upon reflection of this awful day, Cameron has decided not to join football this year. He wants to be in cross country too, and he was too overwhelmed when he did both. He liked the football games, where he rarely played, but didn’t really like the practices. It’s a lot of work and he recognizes that he doesn’t want to do it. Whew! We think he’s more of an individual sport kid anyway, although there are other team sports he’d like to try. While this could have been handled better, and while it put strain on the relationships in our family, the positive outcome is that Cameron is able to recognize his needs and make a decision based on them, even when I couldn’t. Cameron I Am persists!

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Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!

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The Date That Never Was

this too shall pass

There are times that I think I am hypersensitive to any differences that Cameron has, and therefore I, in essence, “gave” him Nonverbal Learning Disorder. It doesn’t matter that a psychologist spent hours testing him and then explaining results to us, while waiving some of the fees due to the fact that he spent much more time assessing Cameron than originally planned. It doesn’t matter that the said psychologist had to do so many extra tests (11 tests in all) because he kept finding “holes” in various pieces that make up Cameron—processing skills, executive functioning skills, visual memory, pragmatic language, etc. Even though I have pages of reports that prove that he truly does have this disorder, I still think I’m somehow projecting it onto him. There are times that I think I made something that wasn’t really there, especially when so many friends and relatives look at him like he’s so “smart” and “polite.” Then there are days like Saturday and I am reminded that I did not make this up. This is real and it is difficult–for Cameron and for the rest of us.

I am not going to lie. My husband and I spend much more time away from our children than other parents I know. We love spending time with each other, and sometimes the only way we can cope is to get away every now and then. This month, in particular, feels a bit more full than usual, with two overnights planned with grandparents while we have dates—once with just the two of us and once with friends. It’s not rare for the kids to spend the night with grandparents, but it usually doesn’t occur quite so frequently.

The first overnight was Saturday night. Jon and I were going to have a solo date at a restaurant where we’ve never before eaten, followed by a night without kids or the dog. Before the date, we split the kids up for the day, with Cameron going to a Sports Show with Jon while his sister and I delivered Girl Scout cookies all around the city. We met up at home with only a couple of hours before we were expected to drop off the kids at my in-laws. After an amazing day with Cameron, my husband expected that he’d be able to ease him into spending a night away—usually he does okay with this, but sometimes he complains. What we didn’t take into account is Cameron’s hatred of change. Since he had such an amazing day, he was most likely sad that it was over. When Amelia and I entered, it was really over because his alone-time with his dad was done. He started in on Amelia the second we walked in the door from the exhausting eight-hour day of cookie deliveries. Everything she said, he contradicted with a disgusted face. He instantly tried to parent her by telling her what she could and could not pack for their grandparent’s house. I admit it. I am not good in these situations. I have read (and continue to read) so many books trying to teach me the “correct” way to address this—let’s call it what it is—bullying, but I always seem to find myself going right back to my original reaction, which is frustration. I try to talk to him calmly, I try not to take sides, she starts saying mean things back, I try to explain why that’s mean, he interrupts me to explain why he is in the right…

Let’s pause here for a moment. Cameron’s arguing is exasperating. When I was in trouble as a child, I SHUT.UP. Cameron does not know how to shut up. He will not do it. While we try to explain why what he did is not acceptable—even if it’s for five seconds—he interrupts to explain why it is. His volume goes up, ours goes up, I try to walk away, he keeps arguing. UGH! It is actually even worse than I can write. The arguing and the lack of accountability! Oh, but we’ll get to that accountability piece…

So anyway, I was lying in bed. My stomach was a bit upset from the giant burger I ate for lunch and I was panicking a bit since everyone I know has the stomach flu. I could hear the drama that was occurring. I could feel the aura of arguing and frustration and I could hear Cameron saying, “I don’t want to go,” a million times. I could hear him say he wished there were more things for them to do at his grandparents’ followed by him yelling at his sister to not pack an extra bag of things to do because she’ll forget it all the next day. He told me he didn’t have pants to pack. Then he didn’t have underwear to pack. And every time I’d give a suggestion, he’d tell me why my suggestion wouldn’t work. He just did not want to go and he was going to make the entire house miserable until we all knew it.

So I called the kids into the bedroom with my extremely tense and frustrated husband, who was at his breaking point. I calmly explained that they were to stop arguing and were to finish their packing, which was met with more arguing. Finally, Jon said, “Fine! You’re not going! Instead of going, you will clean your rooms tonight!” Cue the tears.

This could go on for several more paragraphs just expressing what happened when Hurricane Cameron entered stage left, but I will keep this short(er than that). Cameron was mainly angry because Jon “made the decision” for them. Dad chose that the kids weren’t going, and the kids didn’t get to choose. It was Jon’s fault because this is what he said was happening. When I mentioned that Cameron said a million times that he didn’t want to go, he said, “No I didn’t!” Ummmm…. Except he totally did. A MILLION TIMES! I said this, and he responded with, “Yeah! I didn’t want to go but I wanted to spend time with them! [umm, what?] I’m sure they’re crushed! Dad really [he air quotes here] ‘made’ their night!” When I said I’m sure he was feeling a bit guilty, he responded with, “NO! I’m angry! And Sad!” What I am leaving out here is his tone and volume. He has become a screamer. He was screaming at me, but I calmed him down. He was a step above screaming (what would that be? Exploding? Shrieking? Caterwauling?) at Jon. I could not believe the attitude, lack of accountability, ingratitude, and lack of respect that was coming out of my son, especially after he had just had one of his “best days” with his dad.

Fast forward 30 minutes or so, when I felt he was ready to talk this through. Three things I wanted him to learn from this were: 1. Never, under any circumstances should he ever, ever talk to anyone with that tone, volume, and disrespect again; 2. He needs to work on being kinder to his sister; 3. He needs to take accountability for his role in the events that occurred that night. I would not need a blog through which to vent if this conversation was met with open ears. Instead, I learned about how his sister is mean to him, too, how it’s not his fault, how Dad yells at him, and on and on and on. In the end, though, that 10-year-old’s head was on my lap and I was rocking him because it wasn’t that he would not calm down, it’s that he could not calm down. I was taken back to when he was seven years old and I looked into his eyes to see that his emotions were out of his control.

I suppose we all get that way sometimes. I suppose it’s better that he’s out of control at home than at school or at his grandparents’ house, which, truth be told, is one of the main reasons we could not send them there. It would not be fair to expect them to referee our savages while they argued their way to bedtime. I am well aware that other children are like this and that children without any diagnoses do similar things. But this is my child. This is the child that I have spent so much time trying to help him cope with these things and be more appropriate and accept responsibility, and when this happens, I feel like I’ve failed. That’s the truth. As I’m writing this, I see the million and one things I could have done differently from start to finish. I am on a constant journey to do better—parent better, listen better, discipline better, etc. But I’m still here. I’m still struggling. I don’t know if we’re any better off than we were when we didn’t have a diagnosis or we didn’t spend hours in occupational therapy or social skills group or seeing a therapist. Sometimes it feels like it’s been all for naught.

Cameron did calm down eventually that night, but Sunday was only slightly better. So what is my next step? I have a stack of eight parenting books on my nightstand that I’m planning on reading, but I don’t expect to find anything life-altering in them. I think my next step is to take each day minute by minute because if I think that this will last for the next eight years, I’ll go crazy; and considering the fact that I have eight parenting books on my nightstand, I think I’m crazy enough.

 

 

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Rough Night

believe quote

“I’m not good at anything,” says the boy who knows more about Greek mythology at 10 years old than I did after co-writing a Greek Myth Rap in 8th grade. “I don’t understand anything,” says my boy, who thinks more deeply about life, language, relationships, and religion than any 5th grader I know—actually more than most adults I know. “Like why is the word ‘there’ used to mean ‘there’ and ‘jacket’ used to mean ‘jacket’? Who thought up of that? And how did someone make a car?” That’s the conversation I entertain in a 25-minute drive tonight only after tending to tears related to a tough day at school. Needless to say, the 10-year-old’s mom is exhausted from the philosophical existentialism that exists in my everyday life right now, along with a side of school-based frustration. But I can handle it. What is a bit more difficult to handle is how one bad ending to his day at school set him off for hours. We’re currently on hour four of intermittent tears, procrastination, and hands-in-his-hair exasperated sobs.

“What happened?” you may be wondering. Was he bullied at school? Did someone wreck his “tadpole to frog” diorama? Did someone punch him in the throat today? Oh no, no… Nothing that major (to people with coping skills). Long division happened. FOUR PROBLEMS of long division. Four problems of long division assigned to a child whose mom spent a significant amount of time teaching LONG DIVISION to children with hearing and vision loss, as well as intellectual disabilities! I’m certain I could help him with those FOUR PROBLEMS! He could have finished quadruple the amount of problems in half the time if he’d just have done them instead of crying about doing them! However, I’ve learned from the years of working pro bono as a parent that talking to him, forcing him to focus, providing help, or just offering advice on how to calm down is met with a river of “No…” longer than the Mississippi. “No, that doesn’t work for me!” “No, I can’t do it!” “NO YOU ARE NOT THE FATHER!” And stupid me; when he said, “I wish you could help me but you’re too busy making lunches.”

I responded with, “I would be happy to help you. Maybe instead of being full of self-pity, you could just ask for help.” I admit that this was dumb. I cannot pull my passive aggressive teacher-crap with him when he’s like this. I KNOW THIS. But I can’t help myself from trying to teach him not to be passive aggressive by being passive aggressive.

Naturally, his response was first, “NO, that’s not self-pity,” followed by an attempt to suck me into an argument vacuum, then a dramatic exit to his bedroom to sit IN HIS CLOSET (in a room with a sweet little enclosed reading nook equipped with a cushion and light) where he tried to persuade me to come to his side of believing that he, indeed, actually cannot do long division or any other thing every taught in his lifetime.

My husband gave up awhile ago, which is honestly best for all of us. I am avoiding by writing this while the homework waits until tomorrow, an email to the teacher waits in her inbox, and a bottle of wine waits in our refrigerator.

Success!

 

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“Success” is obviously measured differently in every situation, especially for kids with SPD, NLD, ADHD, or whatever other label with our without a “D” you may have heard of. Some people are perfectionists and never really feel successful. Some people are constantly waiting for someone else to notice their successes because they don’t feel real unless someone else acknowledges them. I’m a little of both of these kinds of people. This makes it difficult to parent a child with the struggles that Cameron has. I take his ups and downs and my reactions to them very personally, wondering what I did to make that situation happen, what methods of behavior or diet I haven’t yet tried, what books I haven’t yet read that may help, how my tone escalated the situation, how I didn’t spend enough time with him today, how his routine changed and I should have done better at transitioning him… I make myself crazy with all the things I feel I should have, could have, or would have done differently if only (fill in the blank), making it very difficult to stop and enjoy successful moments.

My favorite parenting book, Raising Happiness by Christine Carter, Ph.D, is all about steps for happier parents and kids. The first chapter is about putting on your own oxygen mask first. That is essential for parents with kids who have any sort of challenges (and for those who don’t) because if you don’t take care of yourself, then you’re not able to cope well enough to take care of anyone else. This is why I plan one date each month for just my husband and me. This is why I get together with friends as often as I do, even though the over-scheduling I do to myself makes me overwhelmed. This is why I spend more time than I should on Pinterest. This is why I occasionally go to ridiculous dance clubs and dance satirically in the style of 1990’s boy bands.  It’s all to have some semblance of who I really am when I’m not attempting conversations without arguments, making homework modifications at home that really should have been done at school, or watching my son start another argument in the neighborhood without realizing he’s the cause. Without taking care of me, I am less successful taking care of my children.

Today, though, I want to put myself first in a different way– by putting aside my own feelings of inadequacy and congratulate myself (and my husband) on the parenting successes we’ve experienced. One success we had this week was that Cameron was invited to a birthday party for a friend at school. A really nice friend! Score one for Team Cameron! Another success from this week is that he has brought home good behavior notes on his modified check-in sheet he does at school every day so far. Also, there were one or two times this week he admitted he was wrong about something, which is a HUGE success since it almost NEVER happens. Cameron had a really great sleepover with a family friend last weekend, who went on and on about how polite he was and how he was all “PSA” on the kids about why violent video games are bad.

However the biggest success of all, which literally brought my husband and I to tears, happened this weekend. We picked up a new puppy this past Sunday, so spent Saturday preparing for a puppy. We cleaned, puppy-proofed, and visited the pet store, where my husband said it was time to choose a name. You see, the naming of the puppy was a big deal in our house. A slew of names were thrown into the ring, including Frank, Fletch, Mr. Bojangles, Cricket, and Cameron’s very favorite, Klaus. Cameron really wanted a German name (because we were getting a boxer), and was obsessed with the name Klaus. He would not let it go. He told us a million times that “Klaus” was his favorite name. I really didn’t like the name “Klaus” at all and wasn’t a huge fan of most of the other names that made it into the final choices, but surrendered my favorite names and explained that Cameron needed to do the same with “Klaus.” There were tears. Several times. But he did let it go, and eventually we whittled the list down to “Felix” and “Clyde.” Cameron’s obsession moved from “Klaus” to the only other German name on the list:” Felix.” Due to the fact that I’ve not been able to make a solid decision ever (seriously… my first grade teacher even said that’s something I needed to work on), I couldn’t pick between the two names and the vote stood at Felix: 1; Clyde: 2. Naturally, “Clyde” was my daughter’s first choice, so I felt as if I was choosing a favorite child if I picked one name over the other. Eventually, though, in the middle of the pet store, I admitted that I preferred “Clyde,” which left the vote three to one, with “Felix” losing. Tears again. I looked at my husband and said, “See! This is why I can’t decide! I’m going to break one of their hearts!”

To which he responded, “Well, you put yourself in this position! If you would have just decided at the beginning, then the vote wouldn’t be left up to you!”

“You’re right!” I replied. So, we decided to flip a coin. Heads would be “Felix,” tails, “Clyde.” One toss. The coin would land on the floor. Rules needed to be established. Cameron LOVES rules. In slow motion, my husband threw the penny into the air and it landed with a loud “tink! tink! tink!” in the middle of the dog food aisle. And the name was… Felix! It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how much I didn’t want our dog to be named “Felix.” Three out of four family members were not satisfied with the name. We realized the coin-tossing was not democratic and was not the best way to make this decision, but that was that. The coin had spoken. Three defeated family members walked like Charlie Brown towards the tag engraving machine.

And then… a miracle. Cameron said, “Fine. We can name him Clyde.”

I really didn’t believe he said that, so I didn’t react until my husband said, “Did you hear that?! I am seriously almost crying right now!” and it really sunk in. Cameron COMPROMISED! Holy s*#t balls. This news was equivalent to the Berlin Wall coming down! Hugs ensued, followed by Cameron’s choice of new toy for the dog, and ice cream to celebrate the biggest success we’ve seen come from the Cameron Camp in a long time.

Were these good moments sprinkled in with not-so-good ones? Absolutely. But I am really trying to change my perspective to celebrate good moments instead of zooming in on the difficult ones. Like everything else I try, I’m sure it will pass, but I wouldn’t feel at all successful if I didn’t keep trying to make positive change by celebrating Cameron’s successes with him and without him, when I “put on my own oxygen mask” which is actually wine.

Epilogue: Our dog’s name is actually Mr. Clyde Bojangles according to me and no one else in the family. But it’s on the Internet now, so it’s true.

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I’m Sad.

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I need to start by saying we’ve had a change in our family. Not an actual change, but a label change. Our son with SPD has become our son with NLD… If you haven’t heard of that, don’t feel bad; I hadn’t heard of it either until my son was diagnosed with it, and I’m in the field of special education. NLD is Nonverbal Learning Disorder (or Disability), and it’s very similar to Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). The way I’ve been trying to explain it to people is that NLD and AS are the same soups with different spices. Both soups have the ingredients of attention issues like ADHD and sensory issues like SPD, but where kids with AS typically have good visual skills, kids with NLD typically don’t. When we told Cameron about what his neuropsychologist said, which he was begging to know, we explained first what Asperger’s is, since he has a friend whose brother has AS. After that, he said, “Oh! I think I have Asperger’s! I have four out of the five things you just listed!” We explained NLD is similar, but not the same, although in my reading it seems to depend on who diagnoses the child as to which label he/she will receive. Other deficits that we’ve discovered with the help of our most amazing neuropsychologist is that Cameron’s information and visual processing are s-l-o-o-o-o-w… I mean slower than my free college dial-up Internet slow… Also, he lacks in motor planning, executive functioning, and working memory. I could go on and on here, but I think my story today needs to be less about what to call him and more about who he is, which honestly can be a struggle to accept sometimes.

But who is Cameron? When you first look at your newborn baby, you think of how much love you have for this person you just met (at least I did). When you hold him you may think about the teenage years when he may hate you and it’s going to be really hard, but you don’t think about all the struggles you may have beyond that, which is all I’ve been able to focus on lately.  It doesn’t really help that Cameron has started struggling with behavior at school, his handwriting has actually not improved at all since first grade (according to one of the many assessments), he argues with us about everything (Love & Logic is great, but doesn’t work for all kids all of the time), and he is, at times, painfully socially awkward. Watching him in a group of kids and seeing their reaction to him, knowing that he doesn’t pick up on their cues, is pretty much terrible. I was always the quirky “weird” kid, but I knew that other people thought I was weird so I tried to avoid those people. Cameron just goes in for more and more without ever realizing that A) They are annoyed; B) They are a bit weirded out; C) The arguments that may or may not ensue are partially, if not mostly, his fault.

So to answer my own rhetorical question, with a cliché answer, Cameron is Cameron. I don’t know anyone else like him. He is an avid reader (even though reading is typically difficult for kids with NLD) who loves History but gets so overwhelmed by too much on a math paper that he cries and is literally unable to do it. He is a very, very sensitive and affectionate person who loves tickles and snuggles and hates change to his routine. He is a smart kid with an extremely disorganized brain that reflects his desk and closet. He is a hoarder of things he cherishes, which is almost anything, and these things muddle up his room, which seems to muddle up his brain even more. He is a loving but extremely bossy brother and a sweet but extremely argumentative son. And because he’s a mix of so many juxtapositions, he’s hard to figure out and very hard to parent. There isn’t a baby book that tells a new mother that her new baby boy who talks so early and seems so smart may not be able to write so anyone can read it by 4th grade, even if he can give facts verbatim from a book he’s read. In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, there isn’t a chapter on how a seemingly typical child can still be atypical in his neurological development. I’m pretty sure I never read that you may expect to give your nine-year-old step-by-step directions on how to brush his teeth properly every single time he brushes his teeth.

And as Cameron’s mom, sometimes I struggle a lot. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with the fact that he will seem to be doing better, arguing less, listening more, having fewer meltdowns, needing less direction. Oh my gosh, maybe we’ve turned a corner! Maybe we’ve finally figured out what works! Then BAM! HaHa. Nice try. We’re back to square one. Which, clearly, is where we’re at right now. And you know what? I’m sad. I am constantly feeling guilty for feeling so frustrated about our family’s struggles, when I have so many families I work with who are parenting children with much more significant struggles. But today I’m giving myself permission to feel sad about it. Just for one day. It’s really, really hard to put so much time and effort into teaching strategies and going to therapists and changing diets and reading books, but still not feel I am doing any better at parenting and accepting Cameron exactly how he is than I was three years ago. So just for a few hours-just this once-I’m letting myself cry for the things I can’t change no matter how hard I try. I will cry for the strain these struggles put on my marriage, to the most loving and amazing husband in the world, who is equally as frustrated. I will cry at the ineptitude I feel on days when I hit a wall and let things crash down around me. I will not give up, but I will let myself feel. Just until I have to put on my big girl panties and get my amazing boy off his school bus, where he doesn’t really fit in, and I can bring him home, where he does. 

Apples and Oranges

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Don’t compare your children.  That’s what we are told, we read about it, we know we shouldn’t, but I think most of us–if not all of us–do it. I don’t compare my two kids in the way that I think one is better than the other or should be more like the other, though. On most days, I don’t have a favorite child, but due to the fact that I am a human being who naturally looks for similarities and differences between things, I’d have to be completely disengaged not to notice that my two kids are ridiculously different. In fact, it wasn’t until giving them baths one night that I realized how different they are and also how severe Cameron’s SPD is.

First up in the tub was Amelia, who was about three at the time. I was all set to wash her hair when she asked to do it herself. I squirted the shampoo in her hand, she rubbed her hands together, and she washed her hair independently, only needing some help to wash the longer hair at her shoulders. Then, I was about to wash her body, when she asked for the soap so she could do it herself. Again, I squirted soap into her hands and watched as she stood up in the slippery bathtub, with her mom holding her breath and telling her to be careful, threw her leg up onto the side of the tub, and scrubbed her legs and the rest of her body like she had been watching Zest commercials since birth and was waiting to finally emulate what she had been aspiring to do.

Next was Cameron’s turn. Cameron was about seven years old, and prior to watching Amelia, I don’t think I realized how much he could probably do on his own. I’d always encouraged him, but now I knew that if someone that much younger than him could scrub up like Mr. Bubble, then he should have at least been able to do most of it on his own, even if it wasn’t perfect. He got in and I asked him to hold out his hand so I could squirt the shampoo. He was lying flat with only his little head and monkey ears sticking out of the water. He slowly lifted his flimsy hand out of the water while keeping his body submerged. I squirted the shampoo. He turned his hand so it started to pour out. I told him to be careful not to spill it. He continued lying in the water, now with his ears covered too. “You’ll need to sit up,” I said. “What?” he asked, not considering the fact that he couldn’t hear me because his ears were covered with water. I repeated myself. “What?” I started to help him sit up, which was met with whining. “Nooo… I’m cold.” He slowly began to sit up anyway, only after trying to finagle his body in a way that he could stay in the water while washing his hair. Clearly he had troubles with that, since he had one shampoo-filled hand still held in the air—until he forgot that it had shampoo, and put his hand down into the bottom of the bathtub to help support himself, washing away what little shampoo was left on his limp hand. Taking a deep breath, I squirted shampoo into his hand again, and asked him to rub his hands together. With slow, flimsy hands, he rubbed his hands together like he was rolling a hummingbird’s egg- gently and carefully- with most of the friction happening between his fingers. “Wash your hair,” I encouraged. He took his somewhat shampoo-filled hands and he scrubbed his hair like you’d scrub a sunburn—not at all. But he totally tickled his hair lightly with his fingertips, all while wearing a grossed out look on his face comparable to someone who stuck his hand in a bucket of worms. There have been many moments in my parenting career when I’ve seen Mr. SPD staring at me in the face– this was one of them.

Not long after that little eye-opener, Amelia started to make me wait downstairs during her baths so she could surprise me by doing everything herself, down to cleaning up the bath toys and getting dressed and ready for bed. Cameron did take notice of this, and attempted more independence, as well, although to this day there is still a remarkable difference between the two.

What parent wouldn’t take notice of the huge difference between their children in this situation? As you may expect, the differences don’t stop at the ways in which they bathe; they are different in nearly every way, as well, to the point that when one of them says they like a new food, the other pretty much decides not to like it before it enters their mouth. Cameron likes Tom Petty, Bob Marley, and Dave Matthews. Amelia likes those too, with a generous dose of Katy Perry and Pink on the side (which naturally, Cameron detests). Cameron loves sports, Amelia likes them but prefers arts and crafts (which Cameron doesn’t). The more I think about it, it’s pretty obvious that Amelia wants to be like Cameron and Cameron just isn’t like Amelia, nor does he wish to be. Which is good because I don’t think it would be healthy for him to aspire to be like his kindergartener sister.

Now may be a good time for me to admit that my husband and I were not too sure that we wanted another baby after we had Cameron. Cameron was hard and we’d put in lots of work. The idea of putting in all of that work again while parenting an older child at the same time as a newborn, then toddler, was not appealing. However, as Cameron grew, we decided he needed to be brought down a notch. He (and his grandparents) thought the world revolved around him, and we knew he needed some healthy competition. Also, as he got a bit older he got a bit easier to parent and we decided to see what would happen if we threw our hats in the ring for one more go of this parenting thing. Nine months later, Amelia entered Stage Left as if literally, the world was and is her stage.

Sometimes on Cameron’s really tough nights, Amelia watches his tantrums quietly, or goes to her room on her own, or plays independently, or simply says, “I feel sorry for Cameron.” On those nights, we all work to help him be happier or less emotional or more independent. When the tough nights are over, we are thankful to Amelia because she is so good for him in so many ways. She forces him to not be as rigid—well kind of, because most of the time he’s trying to control her actions, her mannerisms, her chewing, her singing, her breathing (seriously) to be what he wants and expects it to be- but she rarely changes who she is to appease him. She adores him, she plays with him, she makes him feel important and smart, and she loves him unconditionally. The one thing that they don’t differ in opinions about is their love of each other and of our family.

So while I admittedly have times of guilt that I sometimes prefer to be around one child more than the other, I definitely do not love them any differently, and I definitely wouldn’t change who they are. I would not even change the fact that Cameron has SPD because it’s made him who he is- compassionate, tolerant, kind, and caring- and I think it’s done the exact same thing for his sister, as well. So while they may be different in so many ways, they actually do have the same amazing characteristics that make them the incredible people they are.

My Frenemy, Guilt

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Guilt is a powerful thing. Being raised Catholic, Guilt runs deep through my veins. Guilt has caused me to some weird things like turn myself in for egging someone’s house in high school, while refusing to turn in any of my accomplices. It causes me to be beyond honest, at times, feeling like I owe the world the truth about every little thing (hence this blog). Guilt is such a normal emotion for me, that I don’t even know I’m feeling it anymore; it’s part of who I am. While everyone may have his or her own opinion about guilt, I feel as if Guilt and I have a bittersweet relationship. It’s Guilt that helps me get things done. I feel guilty if I sit for too long, if I don’t play with my kids enough, if my kids or I watch too much TV, if my kids don’t eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal, if I don’t give them undivided attention, etc.

We had an incident at our house recently that has put Guilt in my pocket like my Burt’s Bees lip balm. It’s there always, and if I forget about it for a minute, I feel it with me again, reminding me to take appropriate action. You see, I was so frustrated, I told Cameron to shut up. Did you see that? Guilt made me cross it out because I can’t believe I said that, but Guilt also made me write it because if I didn’t tell the whole truth, Guilt would grow. Before you judge me, know that Guilt has had me judging myself from the second I watched those words cascade uncontrollably out of my mouth.

Cameron has a tendency to interrupt when we’re trying to redirect him. He sometimes yells at us, he cries uncontrollably, and he does not listen, even when we’re trying to help him, which is most of the time when he starts to get out of control like he was the other day. It was during this escalated period of me trying to help him and him refusing to stop talking/crying that I said it.

That Guilt doesn’t work alone, you know… With it, it brings a flurry of other Guilt that you may have forgotten about. So with the Saying-a-Terrible-Thing-to-Your-Child-Guilt, the Guilt that I don’t lose my patience like that with Cameron’s sister came in to the mix. That Guilt brought the one that reminded me that I spend too much time looking at the negatives and leave out the positive things that Cameron does. Even when I do look at the positives, the negatives are sitting back there in my mind, waiting to surface.

As previously noted, Guilt and I have a love-hate relationship. I mean, I’m very used to it hanging around in my life, and I’ve come to accept it, even though I think it shows up unnecessarily much of the time. Some people may think that Guilt does nothing and is a waste of time. I disagree. For me, Guilt allows me to reflect on my actions and how they affect Cameron. When I think about the other day when I said those terrible words to my little boy, Guilt makes me think about what I could have done differently, and how we could have avoided the “incident” in the first place. The last incident was started with obscene amounts of stuff in Cameron’s bedroom, all of which was misplaced by Hurricane Cameron, a category 5 mess-maker. His little SPD brain could not begin to organize that mess and keep it clean. Also, I’ve been inconsistent with brushing him, with vitamins, and he was exhausted, since he’d just been to his first (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) concert two nights before, and had stayed up until midnight. So Guilt makes me stop and think about what Cameron needs and what we’re doing wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely accountability on Cameron’s part too, but that’s still an area that is shady for me; at what point is his behavior just due to bad choices or due to over-/under-stimulation?

So, well played, Guilt. You’ve made me think about how to make some positive changes in our home for Cameron. In my Guilt-induced reading of my go-to guide, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske, a passage spoke to me:

“…if you do not observe [your child’s] behavior for subtle clues as to what’s up, listen to your child to learn what really makes him “go off,” and let him know he is loved and supported no matter what, all your sensory recipes and techniques will not have their full effect. Compassion, patience, and unconditional love are the real magic ingredients for working with any child, especially one with sensory issues.” (102)

So true! Thanks again, Guilt!

The Sleeping SPD Beast Awakens

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I like this picture because he’s sleeping in a hat, he’s holding his book light, and just the fact that we took this picture with flash and he didn’t budge shows how hard he sleeps.

Just when things were looking up, we’re (almost) back to where we started. Sometimes it feels like just when Cameron is starting to “outgrow” his SPD symptoms (does that even happen or is it just wishful thinking???) he ends up right where we left off.

Let me start by saying that things in our house have been out-of-sorts lately. My husband, Jon, is in a part-time, yet intense, Masters program, Cameron is in swimming two or three nights weekly, Jon is working extra nights and weekends to make up for time missed for his Masters program, and I am going crazy trying to become an extreme couponer by taking advantage of double coupon days and clipping more than I ever have (no worries, though… I’m not hoarding cases of aluminum foil and toilet paper anywhere in my home), working full time more than 30 minutes from home, planning a trip abroad for my students, helping with an extracurricular club at school, exercising, flossing, reading to my children, trying to be a good friend, sleeping, cleaning, and the list goes on. I’m not complaining, I’m simply explaining what has been going on around here to cause the SPD behaviors to come back in full force.

One of the first resurfaced SPD behaviors is his speech. When Cameron talks to us, but naturally not to anyone else in the world, he struggles to get his thoughts all the way out. Seriously, Jon and I think we are crazy because no one else experiences Cameron’s laborious task of speaking like we do. It’s been something we’ve noticed for quite awhile, but it is getting worse. Every sentence he tries to say to us stops four or five words into it, takes a 5-10 second pause (it doesn’t sound like a lot, but try counting that out while you’re talking to someone), starts from the beginning, pauses again… Repeats process. I am so frustrated for him, and I asked him if everything is okay because he is having such a hard time talking, but he didn’t have any reasons for it (duh, Mom, my life is upside-down).

While he’s always bossy with his sister, Cameron has become so incessantly bossy that I literally cannot stand the sound of his voice because all that ever comes out of it is negativity. If he isn’t bossing her around, he’s complaining about anything and everything. And when his complaining doesn’t get him what he is so clearly entitled to (which it never has and never will, but still this seems to be a giant shock to him each and every time), he cries. And then he keeps crying.

While all of our house changes are clearly causing Cameron distress, they are doing the same to me. My coping skills and patience are nearly non-existent. Which leads to the straw the broke this camel’s back.

Accidents. The kind found in underwear. They’re back. To be completely honest, I do not check every pair of underwear that I throw in the laundry because I am scared that I’ll see what I don’t want to see. I know there are some accidents thrown in here or there, but they are minor enough to ignore. I have dealt with so, so, so many accidents, that I simply cannot deal anymore without getting emotional about them. Case in point, when I found a surprise while doing laundry recently, I was quite angry—not because of the accident, but because I found it when I went to pick up clothes to throw into the washer. Ick. Then later the same day, when a strong smell hit me in the bathroom where a certain bather’s clothes were, and I asked if there had been an accident, receiving the good old, “I don’t know… Did I?” as a response, I was even angrier. However, I did not share this with the bather, I simply explained that I also didn’t know if he’d had this potential accident, because the underwear in question were boxers, and I couldn’t tell if there was an accident or a self-care issue at hand. I calmly walked out of the bathroom, shut the door, and swore like a Marine raised in a trailer park of truck drivers.

Then I cried. This seems to be a theme in these blog posts. This time I cried because I feel like I did back on his very first day of life. See, breastfeeding was so excruciatingly painful for me that every time I held my beautiful baby boy, I was forced to recoil in pain literally almost as bad as the labor I’d gone through to bring him into this world. But every time other people held him, they were given the gift of being able to goggle at him with adoration and love that every baby should have, without thinking about what he was about to do to them. I started to resent this innocent being because he was torturing me. That’s when we switched up the feeding plan a little so I could love him without fearing him. The way I felt then is the way I’ve been feeling lately. Grandmas and grandpas are prevalent in our lives, and they get to see him for the incredible kid he really is; they get to have his snuggles, his humor, his passionate nature, and his love. I get to nag him. I feel like all I ever do is nag that kid, and I feel horrible.

This week, when Cameron brought home eight pages of math with corrections to be made and one page to be completed (he had been distracted in school, so his teacher sent home what he wasn’t doing there), my husband asked the question that I was thinking. “Do you think we should get him on meds?” Neither of us want this. We will try anything before we do this, but his behavior is starting to affect his schooling, his relationships, etc, and frankly, we don’t know if it’s all SPD or if there is ADHD mixed in with it, after all.

Well, instead of calling up the doctor to get a prescription, I ordered a new book I had recently read about, Cure Your Child With Food by Kelly Dorfman. I started reading it immediately, and opened to the chapter about SPD, only to find a checklist of behaviors typical of children with SPD, in addition to nutritional suggestions. It said that if your child has three or more of the behaviors on the list, he/she may have SPD. I read the list to Cameron, and we both laughed pretty hard at the fact that he had 11 out of 12 of the behaviors that I read to him. It is always reassuring to read about more kids like Cameron with puzzle pieces that don’t necessarily fit together so perfectly.

So, what are we going to do now? Well, the book says that kids like Cameron need supplements: Omega-3 Acids, Vitamin E, and Phosphatidylcholine. We do give Cameron Omega-3, but we ran out a while ago, and I just keep forgetting to buy more. This could be another reason why we’ve seen the spike in SPD behaviors. Other than that, we plan to start Occupational Therapy again, but we need to wait for summer to add anything more to our plates. I also made a flow chart of weeknight expectations so he won’t be surprised; it seems to be helping.

Tomorrow will be a trip to the store to buy the supplements that may help him. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not they work. Until then, I’m working really hard to fix my own attitude by reading up (more) on SPD with the book Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske and by reminding myself of how to be a happier parent with one of my favorites, Raising Happiness by Christine Carter. How do I find time to read right now? The dishes don’t get done and the laundry doesn’t get folded. And I’m not sorry about it.

One more thing… It turns out that the bather mentioned earlier did, indeed, know he’d had an accident in his pants that time, and had lied about it. Lying seems to be the first response to any question asked these days. It also doesn’t seem to show up on any of the checklists for SPD. Hmmmmm. Suggestions on stopping this unwanted behavior are welcome!

To IEP or Not to IEP– Question Answered!

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written. For one, it is difficult to write during the school year. But second of all, I’m not sure how much I should write about my Cameron, who is no longer a little “noodle” of a child who doesn’t care what I write about him. Well, actually he truly doesn’t care what I write, but as he gets older, I feel like it’s more important for me to censor what I share as not to embarrass him. So, while I may have a bunch of stories in my head that he’s fine with me sharing, I’m not sure that I should. With that said, I do, indeed, have stuff to say… Shocking, I know. This one is a long one, but I think it will be helpful for anyone struggling with the decision of how to get your SPD kiddo help at school.

Cameron and I were keeping a dialogue journal with each other. A dialogue journal is a notebook where you take turns writing to each other.  He had written to me and asked me to read it right that moment, which is odd for him; usually he wants me to read it without him in the room. Seeing that it was grown-up TV time in our house because he was supposed to be in bed, I begrudgingly read about how he was taking the WKCE practice test (the statewide assessment) at school and was asked by his teacher to double-check his work, seeing that he’d finished so quickly. It was clear from what he wrote that his teacher wanted him to check, but Cameron wanted to read instead, so Mr. G politely asked Cameron into the hall to talk with him about it as not to embarrass him. To Cameron, this was a huge deal. He ended his journal entry with a giant “I HATE SCHOOL I HATE SCHOOL” scrawled across one page with pencil marks so dark I’m surprised his pencil didn’t break. I looked up at him and immediately he began to cry. Hard. This was the moment that became clear to me that Cameron needed some help at school. The fact that he’d been this upset about a practice test that he’s more than capable of taking in combination with his frustration with homework and his handwriting made me realize it was time. At 10:00 that night I left a message for the school psychologist at his school to start the evaluation process to determine whether or not Cameron qualified for special education, a decision I’d been struggling with for months before then, and one that his past teachers had alluded to.

Every day I teach students with IEP’s (Individualized Education Program—a legal document that speaks to what children with special needs need to be successful in school), but still I wasn’t sure whether or not he would qualify. His teacher thought the evaluation was a good idea, but I didn’t want Cameron to resent me someday for putting a label on him. All I knew was Cameron hated school, and he needed some help to meet his potential while he was there.

So one day, I just decided to ask Cameron what he thought. I asked him if he knew what special education was. He didn’t, so I explained it and told him that I was thinking about seeing if he was someone who could be included with special education to get some help at school. I told him I was afraid he’d resent me if we went through with it. “Why would I do that?” he asked. Then he said, “I think I want to try that special education thing.” With relief I went forward to write the referral, talk to his school psychologist, the speech pathologist, the teacher, and more. I mentioned all of the quirky things that we see at home, including his disorganization, his sensory-seeking tendencies, his frustration with homework, his handwriting that is “light years” behind his peers, the way he starts a sentences, gets about four or five words into it, and stops to recollect his thoughts, leaving everyone who’s listening to wait (im)patiently for 10 seconds or more, how he struggles to properly/effectively brush his teeth and wash his hair and body, how he cries whenever things change from what he expects, how he obsesses about Abraham Lincoln and repeats what he’s read verbatim, I even mentioned how I think he may be on the border of having Asperger’s Syndrome. It was like I was blogging to his IEP team; maybe I should’ve just given them this website. 

When it came time for the team to determine for which “disability” he would qualify, I knew they were thinking “Other Health Impairment” (OHI), which is what many students with ADHD or SPD have as their label. What I didn’t know until I received an email while working was they were also considering him for “Educational Autism.” Now it was my turn to cry. I mean, I’ve cried a lot when it comes to Cameron—I’ve cried out of frustration, pride, fear for his future, etc., but this time I cried because I thought I’d said too much, and I’d put an “autism” label on my son. Me. I did this. I gave him autism. (This may be a good time to point out that the team would be looking at whether or not he qualified for special education under that label, and did not, by any means, say he had autism—I may have been overreacting a bit- another shocker). I share a petri-dish-sized classroom with a coworker who has become a very close friend, and who also has a son with SPD tendencies. “Cry it out,” she said. So I did. And when I was back together a few minutes later, I called the psychologist, who explained that from what we talked about it sounded like this could be a possible label. (So, as I’d expected, it was my fault.) However, the benefit of teaching special education is that I know that there is criteria set by the state for whether or not a child qualifies, I had already looked up the criteria for Educational Autism, and I knew without being biased that it was a far stretch to say that Cameron qualified. The other benefit of teaching special education is that the psychologist believed me and took that label off the table. So just as quickly as I gave Cameron potential autism, I took it away. 

A few months later, it was IEP time. We gathered in a room of many, including the school psychologist, his teacher, a social worker, a social worker intern, a speech pathologist, an occupational therapist, a teacher of students with Learning Disabilities, the principal, my husband, and me. It was overwhelming to be on the opposite side of the table, and I didn’t know prior to that how long initial IEP meetings were. By the time the students come to me in middle school, it’s clear that they have hearing loss; I’ve never taken part in an initial meeting.

The meeting was LOOONNG. To sum it up in a long paragraph, everyone said wonderful things about Cameron and raved about how delightful, sweet, smart, funny, and observant he is. Some of my favorite highlights included when the social worker observed him taking a book out of his desk to lick it before putting it back (yes, he licked a book), not long after using pencils like drumsticks and saying, “Watch me Rock-N-Roll!” to his group. Another highlight was when the LD teacher helped him organize his desk one day, only to find 21 books that he’d hoarded away like a squirrel saving nuts for winter. I had known he lked to read while he was supposed to be focusing on the teacher, but 21 books?! Long story sort of short, he didn’t qualify for special education. What made the meeting even longer, though, was the discussion about how many accommodations his teacher was doing for him every day in the classroom. His teacher is wonderful, and we’re so grateful and blessed that he understands Cameron so well. He allows Cameron to use a computer when writing papers or spelling tests, he prints out the assignments that Cameron is supposed to write down each day so we can read them, he even went back into Cameron’s WKCE booklet to make sure he’d filled in the tiny circles completely so he would be accurately scored. He’s fantastic. Unfortunately, not all teachers differentiate as he does. I was worried that if he didn’t have something in writing, all of the hard work that he does would be lost in years to come by teachers who don’t feel they need to help him because there is nothing in writing.  So, for students like Cameron who have a diagnosis of ADHD, as well as SPD, there is the 504 Plan- which is a list of accommodations that are needed for a student to have equal access to learning in environments equal to their peers. After discussing the need and qualification for the 504 Plan (about 30 minutes worth), my dear husband spoke up to ask if we were “pushing it” and maybe almost enabling Cameron by providing him with accommodations different from others in the class. I appreciated where he was coming from, but at 90 minutes into the meeting, I (and seemingly the others on the team) agreed that while the accommodations are being implemented this year without a 504 Plan in place, it’s good to have it in writing for years to come.  My husband later informed me that he was having a hard time “reading the room,” and that he wasn’t sure if people were just agreeing to accommodate Cameron’s crazy parents who are demanding more from the school and less from their child or if they actually agreed that Cameron needed help.  What sold me on the 504 most of all was when his principal said he was the same way as Cameron and wished he would have had a team putting this together for him. 

So, Cameron has been fitted with an appropriate 504 Plan, which will be revisited annually to make sure it works for him.  He is much happier at school now, as I think it opened everyone’s eyes to who he is and how he learns. I like to think of him as a squirrely, book-hoarding, child who needs a bit of help to show what incredible potential he has.  He is great, and with help that hopefully lessens over time, he will someday be a happy, productive, responsible adult, which I think (hope) is what all parents want for their children.