Thursday, November 20, 2014

The problem with the teachers

When I was five, my dad went into a parent-teacher conference.  The teacher expressed concerns that instead of playing with the toys during free play, I would park my butt in the book nook and read.  My dad was flabbergasted.  A teacher concerned about a child's interest in books?  He looked around the room and noticed that on the chore chart boys were assigned to take out trash and girls to pick up.  He essentially said she was sexist based on the chart.  She never bothered him again.

I'm not autistic.  I get social cues.  I'm just odd.  And as a result ran into difficulty with many elementary school teachers.  It was bad since I'm an auditory/kinesthetic learner.  So I read everything outloud to myself.  And teachers expect you to be quiet all the time.  I also sat on my feet and ate mayo sandwiches.

Guess who else eats mayo sandwiches?  And according to his teachers has no friends.

Yep.  HB's teachers have repeatedly said that he has no friends.  But I know this isn't true.  One of his friends is C, a girl in his class.  She's actually only a couple of weeks older than HB.

I know she's his friend because she lives further down the street and we're usually running into her on the walks to and from school.  And if we get behind her, HB asks to catch up with her.

I know she's his friend because at the first snow HB specially called out to her and to tell her that even the table outside had snow on it.  Then he proceeded to make a snow angel next to hers.  They also race up and down the playground.

So you can imagine why I'm very leery of the autism diagnosis.  Especially since I know his teachers' claims aren't true.  I would be more open to it if I thought they were being honest.  I would be more receptive too if my husband also didn't find it all so head scratching.  HB doesn't have imaginative play?  That's news to us.  My husband remarked that he stuck a box on his head and walked around pretending to be a robot.  HB conversations are normal.  He can read facial expressions.

Yes, there is other peculiar traits that he has.  But is it autism or something else?  The tantrums he has are like autistic ones but also like psychological ones, ones you find in different disruptive behavior disorders where he is defiant of authority (and he does take things) or mood disorders, which are hereditary (and since that runs on both sides of his family tree does not surprise me at all).  Unlike a person with autism, HB doesn't like to be separated during the tantrum.  He can actually express specifically what's bothering him "I can't find my cardboard."  And once it's resolved; it's resolved.  He also gets moody, for lack of a better explanation.  And he likes to be hugged and touched.  Although less so than some children.  I find sometimes he just needs a few minutes of slowing down and snuggling before he can move onto the next thing.  I don't think the pedi has taken that off the table yet either, but he's basing his theory largely on what the teacher's say and I'm thinking it's taking us off course.  If you ask me, I think we should be looking into more of a mood disorder not autism, but then again everyone else thinks they have the answer.

Friday, November 14, 2014

HB and Aspy?

So last evening we had a meeting with the pediatrician.  Basically he said that he believes (based on discussions with the teachers and his own brief observation) that HB is on the autism spectrum.  The dr's not entirely sure because HB's behaviors "are all over the map."  So it's also likely but less so that he has ADHD.  There's a lot of over-lap between the two in terms of behavior. 

It's important to understand that the pedi's a trained surgeon and biologist.  And he hasn't referred us to an autism specialist for further evaluation either. 

He is wanting to use resources through the school district so that some behavioral help can be made available to HB.  As the dr's pointed out if he's wrong about the autism then the behavioral stuff won't actually do HB any harm.  The teachers are chiefly concerned that if he has another fit he'll attempt to dash out the school again.  So the pedi is trying to get something in place for their benefit.

In other words the dr's using a label in order to have something happen sooner.  A label he's not entirely sure about.

HB does seem to have similar symptoms to Asperger's but it's really difficult for even me to say that's true because then again he doesn't.

Usually one of the key symptoms is speech related.  Unlike others on the spectrum, Asperger's children don't have language delays or regressions.  It's how the speak socially that you notice something is up.  They tend to interrupt and can't seem to stop talking.  Sometimes they talk mono-tone or in a sing-song way.  They also tend to prefer certain topics of discussion.  But this is indicative of other children too.  So sometimes Asperger's isn't obvious until the child is a bit older.  HB has no noticeable speech issues.

They also tend not to look at people or read social cues very well.  But it isn't always the case that they won't look at people.  They prefer to play by themselves, which is one of the things that are bothering the teachers.  By this age they expect to see HB interacting more with his peers, but he doesn't want to.  They also get stuck on certain activities or things.  They tend to look at parts of things instead of the whole (or vise versa).  So rather than building with legos (for example) they like to manipulate a single lego.  This describes HB.

And at times of stress for them, they tend to withdraw or self-harm.  HB doesn't really do either.  He lashes out.

Another important factor is the lack of empathy.  Very young children struggle to empathize, but as HB gets closer to 5 he should have no trouble being empathetic.  Yesterday HB pointed out when another child was crying.  I asked him to go inquire if she was okay.  Offer empathy.  He told me no and said Knee should do it.  Naturally Knee went over, talked to her, and hugged her.  HB rarely does that.

So basically it's the lack of empathy, lack of desire to interact with peers (according to his teachers), his parts-interest, his intense interests, and his fits that make me thing Asperger's. 

But then again I'm not happy about his teacher's exaggerations (they said he has odd speech which I disagree with and physical issues which he's not clumsy).  And the lack of an evaluation other than this pedi.  These all send up red flags for me as a parent.  If it's true that he's on the spectrum.  He's on the higher end (something the pedi didn't like using even though high functioning autism is a technical term).  And he also needs to evaluated for things he needs and things he does not need like physical therapy since Asperger's doesn't have the same gross/fine motor issues that some autistic kids have to deal with.

At any rate, my husband has a colleague who is HFA.  He received early intervention and as a result unless he disclosed you'd never know he was autistic.  I told Hubby to corner him and ask him his thoughts.  He plans on buying him lunch.  The simplest way for a parent to learn what they face up the road ahead is to ask someone else who been there-done that.  And I know of other children who are HFA because they blend so well once therapy has started.  It's as I said far easier to diagnose autism in children who have more severe issues.

Which then leads to the next set of issues.  Labeling and disclosure.  How much do you tell people?  A lot of people thing autistic people are stupid.  And trust me HB is not.  But that's a future post.

Friday, November 7, 2014

SPD and HB?

Last night Hubby had a parent/teacher meeting with HB's teachers.  They spoke to the pediatrician over the phone and filled out his questionnaire.  They also remarked that they thought he was a great doctor, very thorough and listened/asked questions of them.

We got similar questions to fill out from him as well.  The first set sounded like autism-related questions and the other sounded more like behavioral-disorder related questions.  And the more I look into I'm confusing myself.

It's obvious that HB is not autistic.  Or at least not severely so.  He generally speaking looks people in the eye when talking to them.  He interacts with his friends.  He interacts with his brother and answers his "why" questions.  He doesn't line things up.

But could he have a form of SPD- sensory processing disorder?

A quick check list-

1) Is he a picky eater-yes
2) Was he difficult to toilet train- yes, but he doesn't wet himself at night and rarely has accidents.
3) Is he in constant motion- seems like it
4) Sometimes he likes to chew on things
5) When he was an infant, we could only get him to calm down by keeping him swaddled.  I noticed this unusual thing when Knee didn't care if he was swaddled or not.
6) He doesn't do well with transitions and likes schedules.
7) He would flip out when one of the play groups would put all the toys away.  We had to stop going to that one.
8) He likes to hold tiny objects in his hand.  If you take the away he flips out.
9) He often gets moody and it seems sometimes over minor things or for no reason.

But this also sounds like a behavioral disorder more than anything else.  He shows no sensitivity to light or sound or touch.  He isn't clumsy or lethargic.  And he can settle himself down to play with his toys although not in the way intended.  He's often throwing them or knocking them down although not always across a room.

I'm still thinking it's behavioral of some type.  Some sort of anxiety.

My husband found out that at school HB can't stand sitting on the rug for story time so his teachers have accommodated him by allowing to sit in a chair.  That sounds like sensory.

Hopefully it can all be sorted out soon.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Advent

I took a mental break after Halloween/All Saints/All Souls Day.  I had made the kids costumes.  My soon-to-be-3 year old decided to stay behind and hand out candy while my soon-to-be-5 year old and I trekked through the cold and moist evening.

HB was the Archangel St. Michael and Knee was a crusader.  I got a compliment for HB's costume when we came back and handed out treats.

Apparently while in the US it's common for Catholic children to dress up as saints, it is something not heard of in my neck of the woods Canada.  At HB's school they had orange and black day and specifically said no costumes.  While in the US, Catholic schools allow for Saints costumes (figuring they may be less scary and gory?).  I was rather disappointed that the Catholic public school he goes to doesn't use their Halloween festivities as a way to promote the Saints and Souls.  Even one of the teachers dressed up as a witch.

But now my mental break is over and I'm mentally checking my Advent list.

1) Must fix Advent calendar- Last year we lost some of the saint's symbol ornaments so I'm thinking me and Knee will have to remedy that as we go through each day.  I also need to find our baby Jesus place marker since he got mixed up with the kid's toys.

2) Look up coloring pages for the Jesse tree- This is a Knee and me project too.  I imagine HB's school will have some sort of Advent-related activities.

3) Find where I put my Peanuts gang creche- a long time ago I found a fun Peanuts creche but the pieces were too small for tiny hands.  This year since Knee is turning 3 and has long since stopped putting things in his mouth I figure I can pull this out and hold off on the creche I made last year for Christmas season.

4) Make a felt Advent Wreath- Every year I do something crafty for the kids for Advent.  This year it's a felt Advent Wreath so stay tuned!

5) Contemplate introducing the Antiphons and starting a simple morning offering with HB- HB is my only prayer buddy in this family.  My husband being the non-Catholic-used-to-spontaneous-prayer-because-of-his-Baptist-background sort.  And Knee being the-I-don't-know-that-many-words-let-alone-memorize sort.  HB knows the Sign of the Cross, Prayer before Meals, Guardian Angel Prayer, Jesus Prayer, and Hail Mary.  He's not perfect at them but considering he's four I'd say he's up to snuff.  Since Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation and called the Little Fast in the Eastern Lung, I want to do something like the Antiphons and the morning offering.  I won't hold my breath that the children will handle singing, but we'll see.

7) Planning Knee's third birthday party- And to make my Advent even more busy, I plan on throwing a birthday party for Knee at my house.  I think for HB's we plan on reserving a room at the Rec Center behind us.  My house however is cozy enough to accommodate a small party.  The goal is to make my kitchen a buffet area and do activities (Knight related) down in the basement.  Plus it's a great evangelizing tool because in the middle of this fun-filled birthday party lo and behold my "Christmas" tree will look barren with Jesse ornaments on it and my giant tapestry-like Advent Calendar and my wreath on the door with the purple ribbon for Advent.  People are bound to comment.  O:>)

So hang on to your hats...I'm going to be busy.  At least though I won't be doing anything for American Thanksgiving.  That would require me to consume massive amounts of chocolate to get through.  Not good for Advent.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Smarties Dilemma

As an American living in Canada, this is what I run up against....

Courtesy of flickr
The top box is the Canadian version of Smarties.  It's like m&ms, a chocolate covered shell candy.

The rolls are what I grew up with, the American version of Smarties.  Smarties, a sugary tablet-style thing.

My husband tells me that the States does have the Canadian version of Smarties.  I've never seen them.

What do the Canadians call the American version?  It seems that I've discovered this on my 2nd Halloween here.

Again Flickr
Yep.  They call them rockets.  ?  Don't ask me.  I just live here.

I still call the Rockets Smarties and the Smarties....well I call them Smarties too but I'm more inclined to think of them as a M&Ms knock-off.  And yes, they have M&Ms in Canada.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

While the World Watches the Synod, I...

My husband left Tuesday afternoon for a series of different meetings/presentations.  He doesn't get back until Saturday (okay it's like around midnight Friday basically Saturday).  Naturally my house looks like two tornadoes hit it.  And I'm too tired to fight that affect, not with all the stuff that I've been dealing with lately.

Yesterday the school called and asked me to pick up HB because he was being defiant.  Same thing today.  It's getting quite ridiculous.  I get that they have other students in the classroom, but shouldn't they be taking steps to help him?  Shouldn't they be seeking out professional help??

Nope.

They told me today that their hands are tied.  They can't get any outside help (essentially) until I take him to the family doctor and get an evaluation to rule out any medical problems causing the misbehavior (or is it misbehaviour since they are Canadian). 

Lovely.

My family doctor changed hours again (for like the fourth time I think).  Now its Sun 10-2, and Monday-Wedesday 3:30-8pm. 

So I called the Children's clinic in town who said they need a referral from...the family doctor.  *headdesk*

In the meantime I expect to send him back to school and to receive another call.

I'm starting to like homeschooling more.  Speaking as a fellow teacher, teachers and administrators can be so incompetent.  In this case it's the administration and the school board who don't seem to have the proper resources to send in an observer to his classroom for an evaluation.  This is downright nutty.  How many months are they going to torture this poor boy to finally get him the resources he needs to thrive?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

HB Update

Sorry.  I've been preoccupied.  First I got a call back from the behavioral specialist and then the principal.  And then HB vomited that night and promptly came down with a cold.  Because that's HB's m.o.  Then Knee got the cold and woke up every two hours for three nights straight moaning and thrashing about.  Yesterday I went to the family doctor because they keep the oddest hours.  Open Mondays from 3pm-8pm, Wednesdays 5pm-8pm, and Friday 9am-8pm.  And not open Tuesdays or Thursdays.  He has an ear infection.  I gave him his first dose of amoxicillian and mercifully he slept all last night.  He seems less whinny today too.  Although he periodically keeps touching his ear, but I think it's because it's popping.

So back to HB...

I saw the specialist on Monday.  She gave me some ideas for helping HB deal with his feelings.  As she put it, he has a low tolerance for frustration and he's highly emotional.  And at age 4, it's really hard for him to regulate his feelings even though he's sincerely trying to.  She gave me some techniques to get him to express himself and also calm down.  She also suggested a communication notebook with his teachers because I have no idea what's going on.  It's nice that they read books to him, but I have no idea how he's socializing and they're not exactly forthcoming.  They also aren't trained in behavior.  She said to keep on keeping on with them.  They may not be using my suggestions but it'll keep biting them in the butt if they don't.  Since it's only 3-4 weeks of school, they are still trying to figure him out.  She said that I need to emphasize that what he does to stay calm at home equally applies to school since children compartmentalize.  In other words, they have trouble understanding that what happens in one situation applies to all situations. 

So we're working on getting him to talk or scream rather than lash out physically and to also count to 10.  She said distractions will keep him from getting too emotional and will help him keep himself calm.  He also likes to hold onto little things as a security blanket (which is why she thinks he's trying to calm himself down) and so we should use this too.  So I told him to hold onto his stick and count to 10 when he's angry.  We discussed some other things that I'll start with him this weekend (it's long one as they have a professional development day).  More along the lines of bio feedback so he can recognize that he's getting upset earlier.

The principal said he'd get in touch with the school district's specialist for an evaluation.  Then he sent me a packet of parent classes and an e-mail asking if that's what I was looking for.  Head desk.  I really am not looking for a class.  I'm looking for something more personalized then that.  I think the specialist was most helpful and understanding.  She deals with kids who are like HB on a regular basis.

And yesterday, the teachers told us that HB was shoveling dirt in his mouth and asked us if that was normal.  Maybe they were concerned he has PICA, but he doesn't.  He doesn't tell people he's hungry.  He instead starts eating weird stuff like dirt and paper.  That's the tip that he's hungry, very hungry and needs to be fed.  So I told his teachers.  I had warned them that he does not say he's hungry.  So when I said the dirt thing was because he was hungry, a light bulb went off.  One of them suggested boost shakes, but I told her the dietician in the states doesn't really promote that because of the sugar content.  Boost is for children who are having much more severe health issues not children who are clearly hungry (but are being finicky). 

We'll see.  We'll see.  HB seems real accepting of the specific emotion regulators.  It will just take more practice for it to become a habit. 

In the meantime, Hubby had a job interview for a job in Alabama so we may be moving again.  Cue having to prep HB for yet another upheaval.  I'm hoping his brother, Knee, who is the zen of the duo can help him out.  Believe it or not Knee is the most empathetic kid and will hug and hold his brother should he need it.  Parents only do so much; having a peer makes a huge difference. 

Special thanks for everyone's support and help.  I feel more confident now that I know my instincts are good, but the teachers', who you'd think have encountered kids like HB, are clueless.