Welcome back. I hope you had a week without chaos. Or reduced chaos. That’s all we can wish for at the moment, right?
At the moment, my 3 year old Queen is refusing to wear anything but pink tulle dresses. And to reduce the chaos I’m allowing it. I’m not a big fan of pink frilly dresses, but in some external battles you have to wave the white flag, so that you’re fully equipped for your internal battle.
Too deep so early in the day/night….year?
Anyway, while you help yourself to my chamomile (it’s like you live here now – just don’t leave the tea bag in the sink; Mr H hates that), let me pick up from where I left it last week.
I was talking about our journey of discovery around JJ’s ummm diversity, wasn’t I? Here, before I continue, poor me a cup. I’ll need at least 3 bags in that cup.
So, where were we?
That’s right, after the climatic meeting with his Prep teacher Mr H and I agreed we needed to talk to a psychologist and work out what was going on.
Choosing a psychologist is like picking lottery numbers (no offence to all the psychologists). There are so many, it’s overwhelming, but you want to pick the winning number, right?
The psychologist we decided on was a lovely, calm, woman called Shae. I needed calm.
While JJ redecorated her office, we talked to her about the uh, challenges, that JJ was having at school. She listened with kind ears (I could tell her ears were kind).
At the end of our parental dump, she told us gently that JJ had a lot of flags that most likely indicated ADHD, but that she felt he was a little too young to be diagnosed (he was 5). Children this age can mature at different rates and it was recommended that we continue to see how things went for the rest of the year.
I went home (cried, of course – big surprise there) and began my research on ADHD. What were we up against? I needed to know.
My first source was YouTube. I typed in ‘ADHD’ and searched. And watched. And cried. For days. You get the picture. I came to realise that ADHD was more than being hyperactive. It was about executive function and emotional regulation and maturity levels and life outcomes.
I realised what this could mean for JJ.
Somehow, we survived the rest of the Prep year. It’s a blur. As the year finished and Grade 1 was just around the corner, Mrs Trunch’s parting comment was, “he’s really going to struggle with Grade 1, but there’s nothing we can do, he’s here now…”. Thanks Mrs Trunch.
Grade 1 came – new year, new teacher. I felt sick with anticipation.
JJ ended up having the most beautiful teacher. Mrs P. I will NEVER forget her.
Mrs P became enamoured of all of JJ’s glorious qualities that I loved, his charm, humour, energy and kindness.
However, at the first parent/teacher interview I sat down, and my heart dropped at the grave expression on her face. There were some challenges with JJ’s difficulties in class, she said. He was very hyperactive and disruptive, had difficulties focussing, and these behaviours were impacting on his learning. And on the other children’s learning. JJ was struggling with basic number activities and was having unofficial teacher aide support for basic maths.
But we both got on with it, and worked as a team. Mrs P raided the Special Ed room and ‘borrowed’ items including a wriggle chair, and fidget toys to use during floor time. She arranged a meeting for me with the Head of Special Education (she was weird, but whatever).
I got back into the pursuit of answers behind his behaviours. I bought books, I read articles, I joined ADHD forums. The more I read, the bigger that sinking sensation felt, but like a good emotionally intelligent person – I pushed that feeling aside and completely ignored it. I was on a mission.
Our journey felt crazy and exhausting. I started with our lovely family GP, who couldn’t see anything different except “brightness”.
We then went to a clinical psychologist who a friend recommended because this psychologist ‘didn’t jump straight to ADHD’. Hmmmm – pin that for a later time please.
We waited a long time to see this popular psychologist. I dragged Mr H along to our first appointment secretly hoping he wouldn’t talk (The man can talk underwater, and the appointment was expensive). Picture Selma or Patty Bouvier (aka Marge Simpson’s sisters) sitting in the Clinical Psychologist’s chair. We outlined why we were here, discussed our concerns but we decided not to mention ADHD.
She took a puff of her cigarette, looked at us and said in her gravelly voice, “yep, looks and sounds like ADHD. Only option is to medicate. Nothing else works. We will book 10 sessions for testing. There’s no hope for him”.
Ok, it didn’t exactly go like that. As Mr H says, don’t let facts get in the way of a good story. She wasn’t exactly like the Bouvier twins, she certainly wasn’t smoking during our sessions, she didn’t talk like that but that’s how that experience has been etched in my mind. She was blunt, quick and it felt like she picked my heart up and dropped it from a twelve-storey building.
Sorry, I can be a little dramatic. Have you picked up on that yet?
As soon as Mr H and I were safely in the car, we looked at each other. “I don’t think like her, “I said breaking the silence. He just nodded.
This is how the next 6 months went:
I went back to our GP.
We were referred to a Paediatrician. The Paediatrician diagnosed and wrote a script for Ritalin before I could say, “JJ, please don’t dismantle the Doctor’s desk”. And the Paediatrician got to have his lunch on time. I cried. Predictably.
I went back to our GP. He gave us another referral for another Paediatrician that wasn’t “quick to diagnose”.
Another few months, waiting then we saw the second Paediatrician. He was thorough and more interested. He looked me in the eye, he asked thorough questions. His message was that it was most likely ADHD but also suggested observing a bit longer due to JJ’s age. He supported us in trialling medication, and he supported us in holding off on the medication. So yeah, a fence sitter. But I liked him.
Our mornings became insane, so I decided to take JJ to an OT. She was amazing and picked up his sensory differences quickly and came up with some awesome tools and ideas to help us as a family. These strategies had such a positive impact on our mornings, and things looked brighter for a bit. However, her opinion was that JJ did not have ADHD and that his issue was anxiety and of a sensory nature. So, this didn’t cause me incredible self- doubt, confusion and anxiety AT ALL.
Our lovely OT decided to end the relationship, feeling that she had done everything she could. But I felt far from confident that I was ready to take on our world on my own. And felt a little dumped.
I went to my own psychologist and came to realise that until I felt sure inside myself, of whether JJ had ADHD or not, I had to keep climbing that mountain. And I knew I couldn’t give JJ the best if I was to do this on my own.
And so, after several more months of feeling lost, I woke up and made another appointment for JJ. I decided to go back to the first psychologist we met, Shae. Something told me that this was the right thing to do and she was the right person for us.
And she was. I felt that she really understood how lost I felt, how confused I was with all the conflicting advice from professionals. I felt that she understood that I just wanted to know what was going on with my little spirited boy, so I could be the best parent I could, for him. I felt I could breathe.
It was suggested that a Connors questionnaire be completed and for JJ to see the Clinical Psychologist at the Clinic (different to Maggie’s sister from earlier) for cognitive testing. Finally I felt that something was happening.
Then COVID happened.
I see you are looking at your watch – I’ve been talking for a long time! And here I am complaining that Mr H talks one’s ear off!
I’ll promise you something a little more brighter and lighter next time. Maybe. And I meant content – not food. We will continue to have cake. Maybe next week I’ll make a gin cake. I’ve always wanted to try that…..
Be kind to yourself and thanks for reading!