Thursday, October 3, 2013

Don't Cry Over Spilled Crayons

This blog tends to go silent for several weeks at a time...this is when all my stories are also somebody else's stories, and it doesn't seem right for me share things that they may not want out there. This has been the case for quite some time. These stories all involve my oldest son, who has been struggling with many things, for many years. I've mentioned them in passing on here, but always spared the details. But after yesterday...I have to say something. I'm working towards a degree in Early Childhood Education, and one of the classes I am currently taking is Special Education. Since it is an online class, all of the student-to-student interaction takes place in the virtual classroom; the discussion area. And as everyone knows, people say a lot of stupid things when they are allowed to make unfiltered comments on any given subject. Yesterday's comment thread was about a teacher whom did not want a certain child in her class because he was ADHD and had a learning disability. Her reasoning? He was too "goofy." He knocked the desks out of line when he sat down, spilled a box of crayons and put his feet against the basket of the desk in front of him. None of this was done maliciously, however, it was enough to label him as disruptive. I was outraged, and replied very candidly and possibly, too emotionally. One of the responses? Perhaps this child should be gradually introduced into the classroom so the teacher wouldn't feel "bombarded."

It shouldn't be about the teacher; if she is that overwhelmed by a child who spilled his crayons, then she needs to find a new f#@^ing job.

I think many people fail to see the child behind the disability. They are not ADHD, or dyslexic, or bipolar. They have it, which is a completely different thing. It does not define who they are as a person.

After nearly three years of art therapists, psychologists, assessments, tests, a research program and most recently, a comprehensive round of testing and interviews at the Attention, Behavior, Learning Clinic at CU, we finally have an official diagnosis of what our son has been going through. Childhood depression, Severe Anxiety Disorder, ADHD (of the inattentive variety) and a learning disability which is presenting as dyslexia. His working memory, the part that stores things like the multiplication table, does not work like most of ours. Every time he deals with something that involves rote memory, like the multiplication table, it is almost like it is the first time he has seen it. He has to relearn it over, and over. Yet, he is of average intelligence, average IQ and he is extremely compassionate, kind and thoughtful. He's funny. He's amazing. His brain just seems to be wired a bit differently. And if the above mentioned teacher thinks it is too difficult to handle a child with various different abilities, she should try being that child.

Yesterday, just like the majority of his days, my son comes home from school and lays on the sofa, with his back to me. He's crying. I sit by him and try to hold him. He doesn't want to be held. So I sit there, and try to talk to him. He won't talk. He eventually gets up and gets his sketchbook and writes in it. "I can't think, I can't think, my brain isn't working. I can't do anything. I can't focus. I don't know. I don't know. I have to go to the hospital. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me." He fills three pages of similar statements, but some are so garbled that they are impossible to read; a mishmash of letters and words that deteriorate into nonsense. And the frustrating part, and I'm sure it's more so for him, is that many are words that he does know how to spell. I bought the sketchbook, hoping that maybe drawing would help him relax sometimes, but it's nearly filled from front to back with crying faces and his messy handwriting, repeating over and over how stupid he is, and how he can't do anything. Help me. Help me. And. I. Can't. Help. I can't help. He begs for me to take him to the hospital, because his head doesn't feel right. I imagine that crushing power of depression, and anxiety and then try to combine it with ADHD and dyslexia...

And I can't.

Because it's not fair. Any one of those things would be hard to deal with. Why all of them? He's nine. And he thinks he's stupid, and slow and that no one likes him. He's been suicidal. He's hurt himself. And he cries. And cries. And I can't help him. I can't make it go away. I can just sit next to him and share a bowl of popcorn while watching a painful episode of the A.N.T Farm, and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

I wish a spilled box of crayons and a crooked desk were the only things he had to worry about.


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