I am very aware that the title of my post tonight will not be approved by some… nay, probably many, but in my case it’s true.
Having now ended the school holidays, and having finally done our week where we stayed at the school for intensive… stuff… I can say that the medication is working.
What we have found is that the only effect the medication has on our son is to allow him to keep control of his body and sit still (well as still as most 5 year old boys at least, which is all we really wanted!). It had no affect whatsoever on his moods, his ability to control his emotions or his aggressive behaviour. Having said that, the difference it makes to being able to isolate these problems has been profound in the last week.
We discovered during our intensive week that due to a number of factors; some being the way we parent, and some being the way our son has developed, he is emotionally immature. We did kind of know that fact, but nothing we were doing was working to try and bridge that gap. We have now learnt many different techniques and ways of emotionally ‘coaching’ our son, and during that week, on the ritalin, we have finally been able to see things actually starting to have an effect.
I guess the most basic way of explaining this is that is incredibly difficult to emotionally coach or support a child who is completely incapable of controlling their body.
Imagine trying to scoop up a child who has hurt themselves or who feels angry at something only to find that you end up being hit or kicked or otherwise damaged. A child who won’t hold your hand without a fight when you are out, and he won’t stay by your side in the shops, and he can’t sit still when you are trying to explain something to him. Well that, we have now realised was all to do with the ADHD part of our son. When you remove that extra layer of body movement that he simply cannot control, you are suddenly able to get in and do some of the stuff we have been taught this week!
At first I thought the medication wasn’t really making that much difference. Then I tried to give him a medication break this weekend. By 11:30am on Saturday morning, I simply couldn’t handle it anymore! After almost three weeks of him not having to continually run around the room, kicking things over by accident because he was going too fast, bumping and crashing himself at every turn (again…too fast), spilling things…everything(s), forgetting the house rules, leaving stuff everywhere etc, etc… I was now unable to handle those things anymore!
On Sunday I was able to give him the med break as we had a day of heavy work planned for him, and he is always really great under those conditions. He had a fence to demolish with Daddy and wood to lug around the garden for us. All good.
So what now? Well now that we can see through all the extraneous movement and lack of concentration, we can finally start working on the emotional stuff and getting him back up to the right emotional maturity for a five year old. Yay! This of course, will not be easy, and will take a long time, but already we are seeing many improvements in the speed with which he recovers from anger bursts or embarrassment.
We also discovered that rather than being a child who doesn’t pick up on social cues or non-verbal cues as we were previously told, he is actually hyper-vigilant to them! This means that he is always on the lookout and becoming anxious about what people might be thinking and feeling about him. His real sensitivity is whether people are laughing at him or not. This is a real shame since we all often laugh ‘at’ him because he just says and does the most amazingly funny, cute and clever things! We just need to be really careful to make sure we clearly tell him that we are laughing because he was funny and cute, not because we thought he got it wrong or did something ‘silly’.
One of the other important issues we discovered this week, although we did already sort of know this, was that he missed a huge chunk of this thing called ‘The circle of security’. He is very afraid of getting things wrong and doesn’t feel supported emotionally now that he’s older and things are not coming so easily. (eg. writing, reading, maths etc require being able to sit still and concentrate, and when you are a very intelligent child who knows you should be able to do this stuff and want to do this stuff, but you can’t sit still, it’s pretty frustrating!) This is something which can often happen to highly functioning and intelligent children. Because he was so good so fast at so many things, we (not just my husband and I, but almost everyone around him) started to have high expectations of what he can do. We probably didn’t realise that we were making him anxious of making mistakes, but that is what we did. We may have been too critical too young for him, and he therefore didn’t get that good grounding that he needed to develop his emotional needs appropriately. Bummer, we stuffed up there, but hey who doesn’t? At least we know better now and we are on to it!
We are imagining that he is actually a three year old not a five year old and treating him more with those expectations (socially, emotionally and behaviourally). This means that we are filling in that missing stuff and starting to let him know it’s OK to get things wrong as long as you tried. To be honest, we really thought we HAD done that, but we can both now see how we didn’t. Of course many of the parenting things we did would probably have worked just fine on a lot of kids, but at the same time, these new ways are a much better way to get it done.
We had of course tried some of these new ways in the past too, but with the ADHD, it was nearly impossible to keep it up as he was just getting himself into trouble unnecessarily because of the constant movement and lack of ability to focus.
All in all, last week was a very tiring one, but a hugely rewarding one. We both really feel that we got so much out of it and that we are now FINALLY!!! on the right track to helping out our little man so that he can be well adjusted and be schooled in a more ‘normal’ fashion. In short, there is light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
And yes… Ritalin rocks!