Monday, March 29, 2010


Sometimes, I have trouble deciding if something is BS or if it's for real.

Like now. My current dilemma started in early January, when Fly went back to preschool after the Christmas break. But really, I guess, it started long before then.

His preschool teacher said by halfway through the school year, most kids have settled into the routine and what's expected of them. But not Fly. He doesn't want to participate in class. He knocks things on the floor on purpose. He won't sit down for story time. He hits his classmates. He goes to a religious school, and they won't take him to chapel anymore unless I go too because they can't handle him and he is too disruptive for the other kids. The teacher suggested he get tested by a free program run by the county school board. "Parent to parent," she said, "I would want to know if he has a developmental delay."

Fly? Developmentally delayed? The child who knows more about trains than anyone I know. Who keeps asking to learn to play the violin. Who uses four-syllable words on a regular basis.

And yet ... I recognized his impulsive and often out-of-control behavior.

Warily and wearily, I scheduled a testing appointment.

I also got great advice via Twitter from Jodifur, who had similar school conferences with her son. On her recommendation, I also got an appointment for Fly with a developmental pediatrician.

I even had food allergy tests run for Fly.

These appointments have taken us on a bumpy, frustrating, time-consuming and expensive ride through the first quarter of this year to where we are now. Which, well, frankly, I don't know where exactly we are.

The school board testing, in my opinion, was a joke, and I told the preschool that. They thought that was "interesting" and said they wanted to "chat more" about why I was so unimpressed with the program.

The developmental pediatrician was more helpful but very stern and very expensive. But at least, that route led us to occupational therapy, where Fly has been diagnosed with a sensory processing or sensory integration disorder and low muscle tone -- reasons, or excuses, for why he rarely remains still, why he can't hold a crayon and color for more than three seconds, and why he's so uncoordinated that he is always running into things, tripping on his own feet and can't pedal a tricycle yet.

I get that Fly "has challenges." I have blogged before about his intense, high-need, high-energy personality, which he has had since he was a baby. It's not uncommon for people to tell me, "Boy, I thought my kid had a lot of energy, but yours has even more!" This afternoon after quiet time, Fly broke a toy and then hit the Bug and me with it. Twice. Even after timeout for the first time hitting. Then he hit JP at the dinner table, where he can't ever sit still. He can't follow multi-part directions. He asks the same questions repeatedly. He will argue with you and say or do the opposite thing you say just for the sake of doing so. I could go on.

But, big deal. Lots of kids -- normal, healthy kids -- could be described in these same ways, right?

As a mama, I am overwhelmed and bewildered at this array of doctors and therapists that has come into our lives.

I wonder how much of this is just Fly being an active three-year-old boy and how much is a real medical or developmental problem. Obviously, there are areas he needs to work on in the classroom and at home, but I can't believe that Fly is unique in having to work on certain areas -- surely every child has strengths and weaknesses, like adults. Part of me wants to think all the "experts" know what they are talking about, but part of me thinks it's a lot of mumbo-jumbo.

Does having a sensory processing diagnosis mean his teachers will be more understanding now that there is a reason, a label, attached to his seeming bad behavior? Will it be a great early-intervention tool to getting him on track and ready for kindergarten?

Or does a diagnosis mean that educators are too quick to put a stamp on a child and herd him through "the system" to get him to conform? Does it mean that as a parent I've fallen prey to some new-fangled notion that therapists have come up with for excusing bad or weird behavior?

I haven't decided which.

In any case, JP and I want Fly to do well, and the occupational therapy can't be bad for him, so we will try this out for a while and see how it goes. The therapist says after a few sessions, she will come up with things I can do with Fly at home that will help him -- she called it a "sensory diet" -- not food, but activities that will help him. She is also doing exercises that help him focus and help strengthen his muscles. I don't get how a kid who is constantly moving, who plays on the playground and takes soccer class has low muscle tone.

I don't get a lot of this.

But I want Fly to succeed and feel good about himself. I know beyond his sometimes almost-manic behavior and despite the days when he wants to hit everyone, Fly still has a kind and generous heart. He has a spooky-good memory and likes telling jokes (badly). He likes animals and can identify several species of birds. He enjoys music and asks me to sing songs with him, or play specific songs for him. He likes to give hugs. And get hugs.

To get right down to it, he's worth fighting for.

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