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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pink Flags

We have had an especially tough couple weeks. Rages have exploded unexpectedly like popcorn in a microwave that you forgot to watch. These ferocious explosions of popcorn kernels leave a nasty stink in their wake. Kids don’t seem to be feeling well, but nothing major ever really comes of their icky symptoms. Irritability and weird issues abound. Holidays always make the kids a little out of whack, and so does the change in season. I always forget that until our OT reminds me. Every season. You think I’d learn, after 11 years of dealing with SPD.

Ella’s therapists and I have noticed some pink flags. Not red flags, but almost. So we’ll call them pink. She is making progress in a lot of areas like not shutting down if other kids enter her personal space. Or being appropriately goofy with other kids. Things like that. But after therapy last week, our speech and occupational therapists came out with Ella, and sweetly and gently said they were seeing some things that we need to work on. Just some pink flags, as I call them. Nothing major to worry about yet, but things to work on so that they don’t become major worries. Ella’s body and brain seem to have a lot of similarities to Aidan’s at that age. There are things with Aidan I wish I had recognized earlier as red flags and worked on them more aggressively. So I’m extremely grateful when therapists give me a heads up as to any pink flags they see.

Ella doesn’t open her palms when she plants her hands on a flat surface—she is protecting her nervous system from sensory input. She mis-hears or misunderstands things. She hears things incorrectly. She has some speech thingies that we need to work on. All of this made my heart sink a little.

So again, no red flags, but little pink things to work on before we have to raise a big red flag. We’re attacking the pink-ness aggressively. We’re brushing Ella again, which always almost instantly helps with sleep, mood, and appetite. She’s still not eating great, and is still a little more irritable, tired, and clingy than normal, but she is sleeping so much better! One thing at a time. Watch out, pink flags. We’re on a Pink Banishing Rampage. No red flags allowed.

Aidan got in big trouble at school, two days in a row, for being inappropriately noisy in the bathroom. He pretends to be superheroes all the time, everywhere he goes. So two days last week, he was pretending to be Wolverine during the class bathroom break. Not good. He was yelling, in character, and being loud. Big trouble. Not necessarily because of the behavior just those two days, but because this has been an ongoing issue for Aidan all year. He is completely oblivious to what you can and cannot say or do at school. He has impulse control issues. He doesn’t think through his actions before he does something and understand what the consequences will be. He's never trying to misbehave, he just gets caught up in the moment of excitement in his Imaginary Superhero World. Aidan’s teacher has been quite patient and understanding with him all year about this issue, and so finally he got in trouble. Two days in a row. Not good. Aidan usually has no behavior problems at school, so this was a blow. Both to him and me. This made my heart sink a little more.

Ben. Dear sweet Ben. In tears after school one day, he sat on my lap and wept out his anxiety about school. He poured out everything that is happening there that he is worried about. He says he cries at school most days. He tries to hide it so he cries at recess or in the bathroom. He said that sometimes he needs a break so badly that he climbs into his locker and shuts the door and takes deep breaths.

Now my heart was as low as it can go, picturing my poor little boy scrunched in his locker, taking deep breaths because the world is too overwhelming and he needs a small break, and this is the only place at school where he can find peace and strength to continue with his day. As my boy sat and wept, I prayed for strength to not dissolve in a puddle of tears myself. My heart is so entwined with my children’s hearts that when they feel such deep sadness I feel tangible pain too.

I emailed Ben’s school team that night and explained what Ben had told me, and let them know he did not want me to tell them because he is embarrassed to be struggling so much. But I said this is totally unacceptable. We’ve taken away his ability to call me from school when he is anxious. We’ve taken away his comfort of going to the nurse’s office when he is anxious and needs a break. So he has to have something to replace those things in order to continue being able to handle the stress of school.

So far I haven’t heard back from the school team, but I understand that before the holiday break everything at school is nuts. So if I haven’t heard anything by the time school starts in January, I might be knocking on some doors.

I think that for some kids, they do school on autopilot. They do what needs to be done. They get ready for school like they’re supposed to, do their homework when they’re supposed to. They just ‘get’ how to do school. It’s not that easy for my boys, which is a frustration for our whole family. Homework is a logistical nightmare. Yes, the school has a website where homework is posted. Yes, the boys have assignment notebooks where they are supposed to write down all their homework each day. Yes, both boys have a resource period where a teacher is supposed to keep on top of what is due when for the boys, help them with study skills, etc. Yes, I’m supposed to check the website every day with the boys and sign their assignment notebooks every day also. That’s the Great Plan for School Success. And you would think it would work and the boys would be successful.

But no.

Somehow even with all those things in place, homework isn’t done. Homework is missed. Misplaced. Forgotten. Thrown away. The boys don’t get the right worksheets. They don’t know what is due when. They leave their assignments at school that should come home, and vice versa. They don’t always write down all the homework assignments. Some days I spend so much time driving kids to therapies and psychiatrist appointments that I forget to check the school website. Sometimes Mr. Literal (Ben) refuses to do a homework assignment because it would be late and so the time has come and gone for him to be able to turn things in so he CANNOT do the assignment. Jonah doesn’t understand that even if you turn in an assignment half done, you’ll get more points on it than if you don’t turn in anything. So you might get a C grade instead of an F. We’ll be happy with  C! We’ll be satisfied with a C! Turn in a half-done assignment so you can at least get a C!!!

My poor old heart can’t take much more of this, I tell ya. As a parent, you live for your kids. You love them like crazy and want them to be healthy and happy. So when all all all of them have a week where they are struggling and weird things are happening that don’t usually happen, it really hurts your heart. Most weeks at least one kid at our house is struggling with something, but usually not all four. Quite an adventure these past few weeks. I hope that just being there for our kiddos, over and over, every single day, as best I can, will help them gather strength to face all their struggles. We'll stay vigilant and strong, and work to eradicate our pink flags that sag our weary hearts.

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