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It will be OK, even if it's not OK

March 09, 2006 | Category: In My Life

So, in between walllowing and my Charmed re-runs *cough*, and the regular stuff - like my little part-time writing gig and cooking 3 meals a day and being a Bear cab service and whatnot, there's been the ongoing matter of Happy Montessori.

After all, one of the reasons I walked off the job was to attend to my son. And Happy Montessori was glad to oblige with becoming more and more high-maintenance.

They insist that Bear has some kind of attention problem. And are now saying that there is nothing more they can do for him if I do not get him tested.

They will not be specific on the problem, I have since learned that it is considered unprofessional if they label him or attempt to diagnose.

Which means the whole thing is a communication farce.

They tell me, over and over, that they have "concerns".

I ask what they mean.

They tell me all about his "symptoms".

Monday, the headmistress told me all about how Bear yawned 16 times and picked his nose twice in the 30 minutes she'd spent observing him the week before.

I'm like... "well, was he tired, maybe?"

And she was like "I don't think so," in a tone of voice that clearly called me a dim bulb.

All righty then.

The specialist (who no longer speaks to me) sent home a note that informed me that Bear had become too distracted to complete his assignment after 15 minutes, and that he was to finish it at home.

I thought 15 minutes of focus from a 5 year old working independently was pretty good. I was informed that I thought wrong.

Finally, I gave in and called Dee. Unloaded that things since our meeting at the school last month have gone from bad to worse.

So she came over this morning and I repeated everything they have said - I estimate that between the school, his teacher, the headmistress, the specialists, the pediatrician, the OT intake person, etc. that I have spent roughly 20 or 25 hours on the phone talking about this in the last 3 weeks.

Not including internet research time - that is, when the dang link is holding steady.


Where was I?

Oh, right.

Over homemade cinnamon rolls and coffee (bribery is a good thing) she listened to the whole song and dance from the beginning (It's turned into the "Alice's Restaurant" of tales).

"Sounds like they've think he has "ADHD-Inattentive Type"," she told me.

I went from 0 to 60 in about a nanosecond. "Bear is NOT Hyperactive!!" I roared.

"No, he's not," she agreed. "ADD or ADHD Inattentive Type means that they suspect that he's got something in the way of him focussing, sustaining his attention, and resisting distractions from his task. That he's not choosing to be distracted but that he can't help himself."

"But he's only 5!"

Dee nodded. "Yes, one of the conditions of this diagnosis is that symptoms appear before 7 years old."

"But he's great at home, or at karate!"

Dee nodded again. "Often, the symptoms aren't obvious until a child starts school. That's where he would be put in settings that would really showcase his challenges."

I leaned against the counter. This is Dee. About a dozen years' experience in the area and a wall full of accolades. I would trust her with Bear's life or future without thinking twice.

I felt all my rejection of the whole situation drain down into the floor. 'This is real,' I thought. Like it was the first time.


The last 3 weeks, all these phone calls and meetings and research. I have been consistent in my insistence that there is nothing wrong with my son. I refused to even consider the idea. I clung to his lack of hyperactivity and his ability to focus well at home and at karate as a sign that the school was terribly wrong.

And the truth is, Bear isn't the only one in trouble. CD is struggling and while he wants to be part of all this - he must renew his efforts with his own demons. My lack of employment has knocked the stuffing out of him, and he's trying to get back up.

So. I had decided, in my vast imitation of a Divine Being, that nothing could be actually wrong with Bear because CD was struggling. Only one at a time, right?

Heh. Cause I got all that Power. (When I was a chaplain, we used to help each other remember our limitations with little jokes like "Hey, Elizabeth. God called. He wants the car keys back.")

Remembering that helped. I'm here, whole and healthy.There is nothing stopping me from doing what I can for Bear and letting go of what I can't.

I looked at Dee and nodded. "No medication," I said firmly.

"Absolutely not," she agreed. "He's 5."

I nodded again.

"So have him tested," she touched my arm. "And remember that it is going to be OK. Even if it's not OK, it will be OK."

"It will be OK?" I repeated, disbelieving. "He can still live like..."

"Yes," Dee promised with enthusiasm. "If this is what he has, then remember - it is a common diagnosis. You wouldn't believe all the amazing people who have lived with it."

"We were thinking of moving anyway.... now, for sure we need to find a good school district for him. Especially if we can't afford a Montessori program next year..."

"One step at a time," Dee warned. "One step at a time..."

I hugged her for a long moment. And then she drank more of my bad coffee and I nibbled another roll.

Here are the symptoms of AD/HD (known as either/both ADHD or ADD) Inattentive Type. The key is that they have to be consistent, persistent (not triggered by something like a parent's divorce or an illness like a cold), start before the child is 7, and impair the child from expected developmental levels:

# often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities;
# often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities;
# often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
# often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions);
# often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities;
# often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework);
# often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments,pencils, books, or tools);
# is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli;
# is often forgetful in daily activities.

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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life


I went to a Montessori preschool also, and at a certain point, they went to my mother and told her that I was hyperactive and that I refused to stay on one task at a time, instead, I flitted from table to table and tried different things. After a couple of times of them saying that to her, she gritted her teeth and told them that if they couldn't handle me, she was happy to take her $10,000 a year elsewhere. They never mentioned it again.

I did have a lot of energy, but I calmed down when I got older, graduated valedictorian of my high school, honors college, ivy league law school.

Maybe Bear has this, maybe I did too, but it doesn't have to impact his success at all. He is going to be fabulous.

Posted by: halloweenlover on March 15, 2006 03:13 PM

Sigh, the alphabet soup diagnoses of this modern world, it's enough to make you want to claw your eyes out. My oldest son, Toby, is four and probably has 75% of those 'symptoms'. I'm positive once he reaches kindergarten, we'll be getting similar warnings from teachers. We just had his preschool conference last night, and though the teacher acknowledges his mad fidgeting tendencies, and difficulty staying on task (they like to see 20 mins spent in one area, Toby usually goes to three), but he's also an eager learner and performing at a kindergarten level with language and math. She gave us some strategies to help keep him focused (such as using a timer while doing an activity), and I'm hopeful that we can find other non-medicating ways to keep him on task.

So, maybe this is a case of boys being boys (did you read the newsweek article about Boys in School?), or maybe Bear does process things differently. Either way, there is nothing to stop him from thriving and discovering his own personal talents.

Posted by: A.K. on March 14, 2006 10:27 AM

So my big beautiful bear may have ADD. So what. It's not the end of the world, no kid is perfect although Bear comes close. I'd rather find out now than when he's 10. Now is the time to acquire the tools that will help him focus and pay attention and learn. They are much easier to implement now than when he's older. Go for the testing, set your mind at rest, you'll all learn something from this. ONe step at a time and one day at a time, you can't solve all the problems before you know if they even exist in the first place.

oxoxo - Auntie Marfa

Posted by: Auntie Marfa on March 13, 2006 04:30 PM

Both my girls go to a Montessori school and this sounds unlike any Montessori school I know. Montessori doesn't do "homework"--you don't finish things at home. Maybe he spends 15 minutes on one thing and tomorrow he spends 30 on something else. I don't understand why this would be a problem. Isn't the point of Montessori that kids do things at their own pace and they choose their works for the most part. Your posts never sound like he is disruptive in teh classroom. Maybe the specialist gave him something boring to do and he lost interest and generally when a kid in Montessori loses interest in an activity they move to something else. The list of symptoms seems like it could apply to any five-year-old in the country on any given day. I suppose if that many people were telling me to get my child tested, I probably would. But don't forget, you know your child better than anyone else.

Posted by: lawmom on March 13, 2006 09:39 AM

I started to comment once ages ago when this whole testing thing first came up and wound up deleting it 'cause I got all emotional and messy, so this time I'll keep it short: not "normal" doesn't mean wrong. My son is profoundly learning disabled. When he was five, I was adamant that there was nothing, nothing, NOTHING wrong with him. You know what? There's still nothing wrong with him. He is a delightful, charming, fun, brilliant child--who at 10 has such a severe processing disorder that when he was tested a year ago he was reading at a pre-K level (something he'd successfully covered up for three years). Different doesn't mean wrong. It doesn't mean bad. It just means not normal, not mainstream. Bear's not going to be a good fit for the school he's in, that much is clear. And it may be that he's not going to be a good fit for any ordinary mainstream school. But there's nothing that says that's where he has to be for the next 12 years. Get him tested, because testing is good. I fervently wish I'd gotten my son tested at 5, instead of waiting until 9. Testing gives you information. But what you do with the information is up to you. I feel myself getting emotional and messy again, so I'll stop. I will just add though that the most devastating part of the process for me was the first six months: if you get him tested and he does turn out to have Inattentive ADHD, six months from now it's going to feel like no big deal. Well, not much of a big deal--but the sadness and the anger and the fear all go away a whole lot faster after you have the answers and can move on to dealing with the problem, instead of fearing it. (Get him out of that school, anyway, though--it's never going to be a good fit.)

Posted by: Wendy on March 10, 2006 02:19 PM

I'm with Cheryl. Ethan has those symptoms too so I'm also in a tizzy. Keep us posted! And thanks for sharing!!

Posted by: Kelly on March 10, 2006 10:21 AM

I'm with Tracie on this one. Also, as an educator with my masters, I have done alot of research to help friends and family with this same issue. Some options to consider....based on your health issues, some children have allergies to many of the processed foods and sugars on the market today (remember the infamous red dye #2). Some parents have found results in cutting way back on the processed and overly refined foods. Check in the organic sections of the market for pesticide and dye free flours and pastas and stay with the freshest fruits and veggies. Another thing that impacts these children are the cleaning products used in the house. When one family switched to more "natural" products without all the chemical additives and fumes, they noticed a big change in attention and behaviors. A controversial treatment is the chelation therapy since some children react to the heavy metals and other components of the "standard" innoculations. Though a child just recently died from the intravenous chelation therapy here in Pittsburgh, there are medicinal "muds" and salts that you put in the bath water to leech the contaminents from their bodies. I have seen all of these therapies work with different families and they kept the kids off the meds for their entire academic career.
This may even be the issue with CD since some depressions are based on environmental factors. There are a TON of great blogs and information sites on the web and being the research freak that you are, you will have no problem locating ideas and blogs to work with.
Hang in there, my favorite students were the so called ADD/ADHD kids because of their creativity and enthusiasm. However, I was a music teacher, not a "major" subject area teacher so my criteria of a successful student was different than sitting and absorbing information shoved at them.
Good luck and hang in there!

Posted by: janeye on March 10, 2006 09:09 AM

I agree with Tammy. Also, there's a heck of a lot of change going on in your household right now. I will be interested to see if they do diagnose him with ADHD; if he is, I think I should seriously consider getting myself tested for the adult version of it. Maybe I am, in fact, more than a little spacey and easily distracted. I've sometimes wondered.

You know what? EVERYBODY has SOMETHING. This might be Bear's challenge, and if so, its good to figure it out early. And he's got lots of loving and smart people on his side, to help him with whatever challenges life gives him.

Posted by: laura on March 10, 2006 12:12 AM

Hey Elizabeth? There is NOTHING wrong with Bear. Nothing. He simply processes info in a slightly different way than most. He learns the same things, just his own way. He might be ADHD, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with him!

Posted by: Tammy on March 9, 2006 09:58 PM

Okay--first a disclaimer. I am not an expert in this area. That said, I can remember that teachers made similar comments about my performance in school (but I was never diagnosed or treated). I am now an assistant professor at a highly-rated university. But I still can't find my car keys.

Posted by: waving-at-tenure on March 9, 2006 01:52 PM

Gosh, looking at the list of symptoms, I'd suggest that just about all of us have this problem from time to time. I have it right now, in fact.

Posted by: RP on March 9, 2006 01:44 PM

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: abogada on March 9, 2006 01:28 PM

He may be inattentive, but what little boy isn't? You may find that Bear is borderline ADD. How many of those signs does he really have?

Have him tested and realize that for MOST kids changing their learning environment is a big help. As you said, he's fine at home and at Karate, so maybe a different school is all he needs.

16 yawns and 2 nosepicks? Sheesh. What teacher has the time to count all of that in a room full of busy 5 year olds? I mean HONESTLY. Doesn't the headmistress have better things to do? And really, just 2 nosepicks? Most 5 year olds have their fingers up their like it's their own personal goldmine.... LOL!

On the other hand, by knowing NOW instead of later, you'll be able to work with his teachers to come up with a good learning plan for Bear that much sooner if he does have ADD.

He's bright and he's got plenty of support. He'll be fine. Good Luck and a big hug to all of you!

Posted by: caltechgirl on March 9, 2006 01:17 PM

Susan of Friday Playdate went through a very similar experience last year with her son. She changed schools for little Henry, the whole bit. You may find some comfort in her posts.

Hugs and prayers to you.

Posted by: ieatcrayonz on March 9, 2006 01:00 PM

I am no expert on these matters, but what I do think is that educational professionals tend to lump kids into this category when they don't know how to deal with a child. With all of the changes that are going on in your life right now, leaving your job, changes in your hubby's work sitation, the possibility of moving, etc., it may just be that your son is not able to concentrate because there is a lot going on at home right now. Change is very stressful to kids. In addition, these are all changes that he doesn't have any control over either, which may further increase his level of stress. His lack of attention or concentration may be due to the fact that he just doesn't want to deal with or doesn't know how to deal with all of the changes going on around him.

And by the way, I think 15 minutes of concentrated effort on a project for a 5 year old is pretty good. My son is 5 years old (he'll be 6 in April) and that is about the amount of time I can get him to sit down and work on school stuff in one sitting. It's been my experience that boys just don't seem as interested in school as girls do. (my daughter is 9 years old.

As far as the testing thing, if it makes you feel better to know whether or not he is ADD, then do it. But, I would be willing to bet you that they will find something wrong because that is what they want to find. They want to label your son because it makes their lives easier. Once they label him as ADD then they can come back and say you are not being cooperative because you won't put him on meds for it. It's a pandora's box; as a parent, I'd be careful in opening it.

Take care!

Posted by: Tracey on March 9, 2006 12:59 PM

When I was a kid (this will date me) it was called: "Hyperactivity". I have zero experience in this, however, I am a martial arts instructor and teach many children w/attention disorders so I think it's great he's taking karate, that will help keep him focused (whether or not he's ADD/ADHD).

I will say this: they students diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (whatever) were much more fun because they brought life to the class and could get the other kids excited, too.

Posted by: Mia on March 9, 2006 12:52 PM

Hang in there. It probably doesn't hurt to get him tested, but also keep being cautious, cause a lot of those symptoms sound also like the behavior of a bright child who isn't being challenged or interested.

Let us know how it goes!

Posted by: beth on March 9, 2006 12:10 PM

It WILL be ok. Just keep repeating that.

And now I'm in a tizzy cause Caleb has Every. Single. One. of those symptoms. Hmmm.

Posted by: Cheryl on March 9, 2006 12:08 PM