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Excruciating Ride, Part 2

Continued from Excruciating Ride

Photo Credit: Benjamin Wong

I often search Flickr for just the right photo, but I don’t always find what I want. In this case, the picture is worth about a million words.  

The roller coaster we’re riding with our son right now isn’t any fun.

As I walked into the hall, my son whipped the pencil away from his chest.

“What are you doing?” Reaching for the pencil, I leaned over to see whether he’d progressed through his school work. I used the pencil to point, summoning as much nonchalance as I could.

“You need to fill in these blanks in pencil, please.” I handed the pencil back, adding, “Pencils are for paper; pencils are not for poking people.”

He nodded and took it.

After he finished his school work, I gave him a journal assignment. He wrote about suicide by a pencil stab.

An hour later, he growled in frustration when I wouldn’t believe an obvious lie. He left the house and headed down the driveway. The timing worked well, because we needed to head to an appointment, so I pretended to think he was going to get in the car.

Unlocking the vehicle, I called, “Hey, thanks for getting out of the house so quickly so we can be on time! Do you want me to meet you at the end of the driveway?”

He froze, then turned slowly and shuffled back to the car, muttering, “wearing the wrong shoes, anyway.”

His sister gave him a sharp look. “Were you trying to run away?”

“Yeah, but I need my other shoes.”

She shook her head. “Running away is stupid. What are you going to eat?”

In a cool, flat tone that gave me chills, he said, “Dead squirrels, probably.”

By late August, I was spending an average of seven hours per day closely monitoring our son. Completing tasks became almost impossible; he didn’t want to move, so he began a sabotage campaign. When we put the house on the market, we asked the kids to try to keep things neat for the showings. He thought buyers would refuse to purchase the house if he worked against us. He trashed his room, wrote on the walls in permanent marker, decimated a large planter…every time he wasn’t by my side, I looked for the next bit of destruction.

He did the opposite of whatever we asked and began doing things he’d never done in the past, like climbing out of his window to leave the house. Hubby and I did our best, but…have you ever tried to keep an 11 year-old in sight at all times? It’s even harder than it sounds.

Cameras and a newly-installed alarm system helped, but we still couldn’t supervise 100% of his day. Showers became especially problematic, because he’s really too old for one of us to stand there. He plugged the drain with toys and toilet paper, defecated in the tub and filled the curtain with water, letting it go when it became too heavy (all over the bathroom floor).

Because he is diagnosed as “on the edge” of the Autism spectrum, the in-home counselor suggested we apply for ABA therapy for help with behavior modification. Good ABA therapists have successfully helped non-verbal, low-functioning children learn to communicate and to perform self-care tasks. If his apparent inability to follow directions stemmed from the autism, the therapists would be able to help. And maybe, once he had a habit of doing the right things, he would feel better about himself.

While I sat outside with the supervisor, outlining the challenges of the last several months, another staff member sat with our son to evaluate him. I explained to the supervisor that he’s great one-on-one with an adult, so I expected the other therapist to find nothing. Sure enough, when she joined us, I saw The Look.

The Look, n., facial expression indicating the parent must be out of her mind, as this child is brimming with intelligence and compliance. 

Thankful for backup from the in-home counselor, the supervisor and I explained there is more to this kid than becomes obvious in one meeting. We were approved for services, but staffing shortages meant ABA wouldn’t start for several weeks.

A week later, the threats of suicide came almost daily, sometimes several times a day. His moods swung between anger and depression. I couldn’t leave him alone with his sister for even a minute because he started lashing out at her.

ABA wasn’t going to be enough.

We began looking for residential treatment, this time for a program that lasted more than a few days.








Adoption = Brain Scan, No Cats

So, Friday we went for a CT scan for the girl. Hopefully this will give us more information about what’s going on in her head (literally).

She’s always had academic difficulty, and last year we held her back to repeat second grade. It was the best thing we could have done for her learning; through the first part of third grade, she excelled. She exhibited pride in her work and seemed infinitely happier than we’d ever seen her. Once the class moved past reviewing second grade information, though, she’s had a lot of trouble grasping new concepts.

We have some additional concerns (confusion and tremors, for example), so the doctor sent us for a CT. Actually, the pediatrician, CT tech and her manager all agreed that what we actually need is an MRI, but insurance will only pay for the MRI if we do the CT first. Evidently the MRI is more expensive and they want to know that we’ve exhausted all other options. Never mind exposing a 10-year old to more radiation than necessary.

Not knowing how much of her academic struggle is a result of RAD or defiance, and how much is a result of possible missed connections in the wiring of her brain has been very frustrating. If a child has a brain deficiency, you can’t fault her for not being able to do school work. If a child is pretending not to know how to do something simply to get attention or be oppositional, that’s a completely different issue.

Either way, she’ll need something, but the remedy will be different.

If there’s a problem with her brain thanks to any number possible of factors (bio-mom’s drug habit, pre-natal difficulty, problems during birth, etc.), we’ll likely be looking at additional therapy, more help in school, stricter adherence to routine and checklists, as well as a bigger dose of patience. We won’t allow her to use it as a crutch–in fact, if there’s something wrong with her brain, we don’t plan to tell her–but knowing there’s a weakness, we’ll give her some leeway.

If her brain is running fine with perfect wiring, we’ll rely more on behavior modification and work harder on practicing the concepts that she appears not to cotton. If it’s RAD, she responds very well to tighter boundaries and expectations, because they give her a level of security. She knows how far she can go. As odd as this may sound, she likes to know there are consequences for her behavior.

However, we don’t want to give her consequences for something she can’t control.

Really hoping the tests will give us the answers we need. She needs.

Just a note: if your child needs a CT (aka Cat scan), you may want to prep for the absence of cats. She was somewhat disappointed there were no felines involved.

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