In the beginning of 2005, we moved from Montgomery, Illinois, to our new home in Lowell, Indiana. Closer to work for me (I was teaching 1/2 day kindergarten at the time) and closer to our families. Boyo was born in December of that year, and it was a normal, easy pregnancy, birth, and early days. Our only adjustment with him was the jaundice, but I’ve come to find out that it’s a A+ bloodtype thing, and no matter how many children we have, they will all have A+ blood and start their lives with jaundice. So Boyo came home with a biliblanket and got to glow like ET for a few days, but other than that all was well. He was a very clingy baby, a big Mama’s boy, but extremely loving and cuddly.
Around this time the doctor wanted us to think about testing Squirt for ADHD, but with a new baby in the house and her only being 2, we thought we should wait a little longer. We went through all the “rule it out” testing; hearing, vision, even a sleep apnea test overnight! She was still participating in gymnastics, and we had a teacher there prepare a questionnaire for the doctor, who decided she DID have ADHD, but was too young for medication. We instituted behavior management plans at home, tried sticker charts, toy time outs, and so many other plans I can’t remember them all, but nothing really helped for more than a day or two.
In 2007, Our third bundle of joy, Booga, joined the family with a normal birth just like his brother (and a biliblanket, just like him, too!) Squirt was in preschool, I had 2 little boys at home, and life was crazy, but fun.
By the time she started preschool at 4, we knew we were looking at needing medication to smooth out the symptoms so the behavior plans could work. She had more energy than most preschoolers, an enormous temper, and had absolutely NO tolerance for transitions. For those who don’t realize, transitions are every single time you change from one activity to the next. It’s hard to understand this until you see it; she would actually throw a fit if we said “turn the tv off so we can go play at the park” or “finish eating so we can go to Chuck E. Cheese”. I had to tell her exactly what we were doing when we left to run errands, and if we had to add an extra store to the list, she would have a total meltdown. It was confusing and very hard to deal with.
The doctor sent us to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis for an official diagnosis and medication plan. It was a full day of evaluation, 1/2 with her alone, and 1/2 with us. It was interesting that they pointed out things we never connected to ADHD, like bumping into people and lack of eye contact. We started her on medication that week, and went through 4 or 5 different medications until we found one that worked well and didn’t make her a zombie. It definitely helped; she was able to control her temper better, she seemed more focused, and we could actually get through most days without the total meltdowns that had been ruling our lives. Better? Yes, 100 times better. What I was hoping for? Not really. She still didn’t seem to be able to stick to anything, had no sit, and didn’t seem to come out of preschool having learned any more than she had gone in with.
By the end of the year I had a preschooler who was easier to take out, but still needed a stroller or she would wander (or just run) off everywhere we went, a toddler who was slightly OCD (if you put the green lid on the blue cup, you can’t just switch lids. You have to pour the milk back in the gallon, put it back in the fridge, wash the cup, put it back in the cabinet, and start over…) and a baby who (if you can believe it) seemed to have even more energy than his sister. By 6 months he could tackle his brother to the floor as he ran past, was into everything, and never seemed to get hurt, no matter what he crashed into. He also never slept. Squirt was now taking Melatonin every night so she could fall asleep faster, Boyo was sleeping like a rock, but Booga was never, ever in bed before 11 or midnight. Not that we didn’t try, but he was a jack-in-the-box, and waking up the other 2 just made it worse, so we quit trying.
Kindergarten began, and Squirt was very happy to be in the class with her best friend. She was actually making some progress, but it was slow. She was still reading at pretty much the same level she could read at when she was 3, and didn’t like it at all. Her handwriting was atrocious, and didn’t seem to improve no matter how much we practiced. She could add, but only conceptually, anything requiring memorizing she fought like a bear. On the other hand, she had memorized most of the presidents, could name every state on the map, and knew more about animals than either of her parents. So obviously the kid could learn! It was a year full of frustration, as I got the weekly phone calls; “Squirt cut her hair in centers today” “Squirt was upside down ALL DAY today” “Squirt was eating pieces of the garbage can today”…
It became obvious to us that there was something else going on with her. It also was becoming obvious that first grade probably wasn’t going to work. I knew from others that the first grade reading program had very little phonics in it, which I could see she still needed, and the math program relied heavily on already memorized facts. Put together with the fact that she still hated any kind of writing, and I knew first grade at school would just be more trouble than it was worth. We decided to home school first grade and see what we could figure out.
About the same time we were noticing some crazy things going on with our little man. The day he learned to walk, he stood up on the couch, walked off face-first onto the floor, and got up and did it again. He had taken to running directly into the wall and bouncing off laughing, just to do it again. We were learning to guard ourselves when he came at us, because nothing was EVER done gently; hugs were bear hugs, head butts were common, and jumping into our arms was never done with warning. I also had a photo diary of all the places I had found him climbing; on top of the stair rail, the table, the counters, the higher the better. No fear, no dizziness, no stopping. And he only ever slept when he was completely exhausted, so we were really wearing thin!
Next week in Part 3, I’ll talk about discovering SPD, finding a diagnosis, and the therapy that became part of our lives.