Forgive me, it has been a while since I wrote a Blog and this one may ramble a little. I have spent the last year and half in the trenches with my 3rd child. His first year and second year of pre-k have been a nightmare. We have finally gotten a diagnosis of ADHD. He also seems to have some audio and visual processing concerns as well. The mommy in me senses that there may be some sensory thrown in just to make things interesting. If you are familiar with all of these you know there is a lot of yelling, screaming and all-around insanity going on in my house. This is in addition to the other two ADHD kids making middle school “So much fun.” Needless to say, I have not had the focus to write a Blog. I have thought about writing a Blog about all the steps I am taking to help my son, but I have done that before. Although, a real time play by play may be more accurate. I came up with many topics that ultimately seemed depressing at best. I was at a loss until last week.
Last week I met with my 3’s play therapist for the first time. We talked about expectations. She asked me all the nice filtering questions to make sure I am not a crazy unrealistic parent. Around the second or third rephrasing of what do you expect I stopped her. It may have sounded cocky but I started with this is not my first time at the rodeo. I described my older son, she was familiar with him, and then I said something that seemed to visibly surprise her. I said “I do not expect to see results in 6 weeks or even 3 months. I realize this is a long process. As long as he continues to want to work with you and I can see some progress I am fine.” I indicated to her that we did not see progress from #2 until he was in 5th grade. (What I didn’t say was we are also on his fourth therapist.) She appeared to be a little stunned. I waited for her to find her words, it took a few seconds, and then she reiterated what I said. We then called my youngest in and she proceeded to have a short “getting to know you” session, and we went about our merry way.
To give some context, my kids are all seen by therapists within the same practice. Child #2 sees the owner of the practice, which is why Child #3’s therapist was familiar with his brother. I met with 2’s therapist later in the week. I mentioned I liked the new therapist and recounted some of our conversation. At which point she says to me you were very patient with 2’s progress in therapy. This shocked me just a little. I DO NOT consider myself a patient person. As a matter of fact, the older I get, I am more likely to walk away then to wait patiently anywhere. This prompted me to think, why was I so patient with him or better yet with her? What was different? The answer is what prompted this Blog.
I do not consider continuing to take my child to therapy year after to year to be an act of patience. I considered it my job as his mother. When he was diagnosed with ADHD I took it upon myself to learn about it. I took the time to learn what is the best treatment and how different treatments can be effective. What I found is play therapy is integral in helping children develop appropriate social skills and manage emotional challenges. Over the years I watched as my son little by little began to incorporate the different techniques he learned in therapy to help him maneuver through the world. Therapy made him accountable for himself in a way nothing else can. It challenged him to take responsibility for his behavior. It also gave him an outlet for his negative emotions. I have watched my child walk into therapy a sulking mess and come out smiling with a new stress bottle or something he made while talking to her. Also, keeping all my kids in therapy keeps me sane. These therapists know my kids and they support me in raising them to be accountable, self-sufficient human beings. I see play therapy like I see treating my son’s asthma or my daughter’s allergies. This is part of keeping them healthy. Mental health is more important than anything else. If your mental health is out of whack you cannot tend to your physical heath. As a matter of fact, you may not even care about your physical health. All of my kids have brains that work differently from the norm. They are not neurotypical and that is OK. With that being said their non-neurotypical brains must function in a world structured for the neurotypical brain. Medication alone will not allow that to happen. They must have the skill set to handle life with or without a pill to assist. Play therapy helps them to develop that skill set.
Contrary to what the title of this Blog may imply, I am not asking you to be patient. Patience is not always appropriate. I am asking you to shift how you see ADHD and other neurological differences. Behaviors that develop naturally for the neurotypical child are not natural or intuitive to non-neurotypical children. As parents we can help some, but the day to day and stress related to just getting out the door sometimes hinders our effectiveness, and unless you are trained psychologist your knowledge base is going to be limited. Consistently taking your child to a therapist is a way to support your child’s development and to obtain effective tools to help your child at home. It also has the additional bonus of confirming you are not crazy and this child is a difficult human being at times.
Being consistent with therapy can be time consuming and expensive. You will be frustrated and tired. It will seem like little progress is being made if any at all. There will be days you and your kids will want to quit, but don’t. Make sure the therapist you are using is a good fit, and if they are not, find one that is a good fit. Be consistent and persistent with regard to your child’s progress. Listen and learn and stay in frequent communication with the therapist. I find emailing to be a good way to let them know what is going on without taking up my child’s therapy time. Look at therapy as the same type of process as your child learning to read, write or even swim. A child does not typically start reading 500 page novels with small print 3 weeks after starting to learn to read and you would not expect that to happen. The same concept works for therapy, your child is learning skills in therapy that are not natural for them. They are hard concepts that take time, maturity and physical development to master. This is why your severely ADHD kid who is bouncing off the wall and has no verbal filter will not be cool as a cucumber 3 weeks into therapy, and I hate to tell you they may never be cool as a cucumber. 2 is not cool calm and collected without medication and we are 8 years into therapy. That being said, he had a few times in school this year where he did not take his medicine and no one notice. While he got absolutely no work accomplished, he had no real behavior issues either. He said he was “acting” like he did not have ADHD. He can only pull that off because of the years and years of therapy giving him the skills to “act normal”.
I leave you with this, the after-school director stopped me to offer support over the summer with my youngest. Her background is in special education and she noticed he had a hard time this year. I shared with her he is just like his brother and sister. As I said that 1 and 2 come calmly walking down the sidewalk looking like completely neurotypical kids. She could barely form a word she was like why, how….? The shock made me chuckle. I shared with her that we did all the right therapies and we are building the same structure around the youngest. It made me feel good to see how far both of them have come, and it motivates me to make sure I do the same thing for my youngest. This journey is long, hard, and stressful, but in the end, it is worth it.