So many kids, I don't know what to do.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Long Way - Part 2

(Thanks for the support on Part I of my story.  I started to feel pressure writing Part II that I should be giving some hints as to how to "cure" difficult children.  Then I remembered the purpose of this is just to provide hope.  I tried to throw in a few things I learned along the way though.)

He was already a kid who struggled sitting still at all. But then adding the time it took for him to finish his homework with his gimpy handwriting at home was unbearable. He was miserable. I was afraid I was going to have a third grade dropout.

The Coach and I started campaigning for the school to help and I was not subtle about it. Some teachers were great and understanding and others refused to make any concessions for Tanner, telling me that he could write better and faster if he wanted to.
Halfway through the third grade a very nice school psychologist brought up the matter of medicating Tanner and I told him my feelings on the subject.
1. I don't want to.
2. I want him to learn to cope with the problems he has. ( I had read books and articles and tried the suggestions.)

The psychologist gently agreed with me and asked for permission to observe him in class and test his IQ.

He called me weeks later and informed me that Tanner, although no longer disruptive, was off task 90% percent of the time.
 I called BS on him. I told them there was no way he was off task that much. He calmly assured me he was. He had observed him on three different days.
Like the smart ass I am I asked him, "Then how did he even learn to read?"
His reply - "He has a 1** IQ."
The answer shocked me into speechlessness.
So the school psychologist who I trusted gently explained me to that in his career he had only suggested one other family seek medical help for their child's ADHD.  He also presented the possibility that the medication may make it easier to improve his handwriting which was a huge goal for us. ( I was still strongly campaigning for the district to allow Tanner to see the fine motor skills therapist. It wasn't going well.)

So I went through getting Tanner medicated toward the end of the third grade.  That also qualified him for special ed and I could finally legally get the teachers to shorten some assignments and allow him to use a keyboard in class causing a new set of problems, because Tanner didn't want to be "different" and he was embarrassed. 
But things were beginning to look up.

By the end of fourth grade Tanner was not "cured", but he was improving. His handwriting was still a major issue. I had put him on the lowest dose of medication (only on school days) and it seemed to help his ability to focus.
It isn't as if I woke up one day and he was "normal".  It was baby steps and small triumphs.

Here are some other things I think helped.
1. Tanner started wrestling in a club setting. So at least two hours, twice a week he didn't have to hear, "Tanner keep your hands to yourself!" It was a much better outlet for him than baseball.  He was exhausted when it was over which in turn helped him sleep.  (Did you know that the symptoms of sleep deprivation in small children are the exact same symptoms as ADHD?  Many children might benefit from an extra hour or two of sleep, even if they argue.)

2. I learned the kid could never be allowed to get hungry. Actually my mother pointed it out to me.  He must have had low blood sugar. I started meeting him off the bus with a snack to ward off the hunger rage that by that time he was on the verge of.  I don't feel like that was indulgent parenting. I feel like it was damage control.

3. A two week summertime battle of wills to teach Tanner when I said, "No." He would say, "Yes ma'am". It was UGLY, but he had to learn before he got much bigger in size. 

4. Tanner's fifth grade team of teachers was awesome. School became a place where Tanner felt secure and successful. That had not always been the case. You can never underestimate the impact a teacher can have on a child.
Here is Tanner at West Point in New York on vacation around the time of his eleventh birthday.

5. Within the last year Tanner himself has finally learned the value of structure in his life. This was part of what I was trying to accomplish by managing Tanner's condition without medication.  SELF CONTROL.  Ultimately I do think the medication helped him to be able to learn what we were teaching him.  But I still do not believe children with ADHD can just be put on medication and expected to learn to cope without training.

Now in the seventh grade Tanner is doing awesomely. He is in pre ap classes and makes A's and B's most of the time. We rarely get calls from teachers saying he is disruptive. I think the higher amount of male teachers in junior high also helps.  He has always been a "man's man".   He has stopped taking his medication just this month. 

This didn't happen all at once.  It happened subtly and gradually.  I read books and learned tricks for dealing with him.  Tanner matured. I would realize he had been having less meltdowns.  Then later I would realize he was getting more patient about homework.  I wish I could give some formula for people who are going through the same thing, but all I can really say is if you have family and friends for support it helps.  Also I know that consistency is the key with any kid, but even more so with "challenging kids."

He still has his peculiarities.  I wouldn't want him any other way
*He is a one man walking force of destruction. It is hard not to blame any broken item in the house on Tanner.
*He has the weakest stomach of any one I know. If green beans are on the baby's face he gags, but if there is ranch dressing all over HIS face, he doesn't even realize it. And he always has something on his face.  His fine motor skill deficiency is not conducive to neat eating. 
*He can mimic any comedian, or movie character's voice or accent. His comedic timing is impeccable. He is hilarious!
*He has an uncanny knowledge of history and geography facts. I NEVER bet against him any more in that area and I have a history degree.
*Animals LOVE Tanner.  I don't know what it is, but he attracts them.  (On the flip side of this has also been bitten by three different dogs.Weird.)
*Once in a routine Tanner will NOT vary from it.  I swear if he woke up to the house afire, Tanner would still get dressed, brush his teeth, let the dog out and eat breakfast before he fled.

He has worked hard and he has come a long way. I know it is hard when you are in the trenches with a demanding, difficult youngster, but this too will pass.

By the way.  His handwriting never improved one iota.  He wrote his Christmas list for me the other day.  I will have to post it sometime. 

Again thanks for following along.
Here are some other Tan-Man Stories  you may enjoy.
Ham Licker
The Christmas Play
Grocery Store Embarrassment


  1. I have always preached that consistency is what any child needs. I try my best to keep a consistent schedule, though I may sway off from time to time.

  2. One of my brothers has terrible hand writing in school (in the 80's) one teacher told my parents he would never amount to anything. Can you imagine? He's mid 30's and has his masters in Engineering, is going for his PhD and is one of the smartest guys I know. I still can't read his writing. Or my doctor's for that matter, and he too is a smart guy.

  3. he is sooo handsome and you my dear are a wonderful mother.... I like this part...;)

  4. I think all of this is just a testament of what a great parent you are. You are so in tune with your child, that you have found little ways to make his life happy. Not easy, happy. And that is the sign of amazing parenting.

  5. Love this story. There is so much in it I can relate to.
    Handwriting is vastly overrated. Our great grandkids won't probably know how to write by hand. After all what matters is what is in our heads.
    Glad all is working out for your very gifted kid.

  6. We are in the trenches that you speak of. Zac's teacher is preparing for an observation for him. It makes me nervous...but after reading about Tanner and his and your experience I am comforted...I am thankful that you put your heart and his into this post!

  7. I'm really glad you pushed for help for him and even more glad that he's made strides and that you've learned so much about him and how he ticks in the process!

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  9. What a wonderful story.

    He reminds me of my son in some aspects. He also has pretty bad handwriting and his spelling is appalling at the moment.

  10. I'm here from Tuesday Train.

    I also have a seventh grader. She also has ADHD and mild Asperger's. Has the doctor ever mentioned Asperger's Syndrome to you? The things you describe about your son sound a little like an Aspie kid.

    I used to teach and saw the difference medication made for those with ADHD in the classroom. They struggled, sometimes (most times) had behavior issues and were never on task, but once they started medication there was definitely a difference.

    My belief is that kids do not want to stand out or be in trouble in front of their peers and as parents it is up to us to help them "fit in" any way we can.

    We've done therapies and medication over the years. I'm happy to say that with maturing she now is medicine free. She fits in great and is aware of the quirky things she does.

    You sound like a great mom who is willing to do what it takes to help your son. Kudos!! I wish we had more parents out there who weren't in denial about their children and possible "issues".


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