My sweet Sam. He can be so loving, so happy, so excited about life. He loves to give hugs and kisses to everyone in the family, including his Bear. He is beginning to speak very well, and will parrot back anything you say to him. Usually, Sam seems like a pretty happy-go-lucky type of boy.
But then, something will happen. Sam can’t get the toy to work the way he thinks it should, or his banana breaks in half, or he is being told to wait. A nuclear explosion goes off in Sam as he hits the floor, screaming and banging his head. All his new-found language skills vanish. Yes, sometimes these are regular two-year-old tantrums, but other times, they’re just . . . different. You look in Sam’s eyes and he is just not there, completely unreachable.
All of this and more sent us on a journey earlier this summer that landed us in a psychologist’s office, where Sam was only too happy to demonstrate his mad headbanging skillz. I’ve been able to handle Sam’s allergy-related curveballs he’s been throwing at us for two years — they sing the song of my people — but this is more foreign to me.
The first (and probably best) thing I gleaned from all this is Sam’s behavioral issues are not mine and Steven’s fault. We aren’t bad parents, we aren’t doing anything wrong by him. After all, Lydia is turning out okay so far, despite her hearing problem.
After a couple of visits here, some questionnaire tests there, then one big fight with Blue Cross/Blue Shield*, we ended up at a psychiatrist’s office with a diagnosis: “ADHD . . . and watch out for Asperger’s.”
So . . . what do I think? I know Sam’s young, and that was continuously acknowledged throughout all this. He’s way too young for medication and will be for a while. For me, it helps to know why. There’s a reason why Sam is so easily frustrated; there’s a reason why Sam won’t listen to me reading books; there’s a reason why he wont acknowledge you when you call his name. Hey, knowing is half the battle. #gijoe
Since all this is new to me, I did what I do best when knowledge is needed: to the library! I snapped up all the best books on ADHD and even one on Asperger’s that the Pelham Public Library had to offer. I was surprised to see there were as many books on food allergies as there were for ADHD. I’ve never thought to read up on allergies. Heck, I’ve lived the dream.
The books were very insightful (except for that one crappy tome) and I’ve still been scouring for information when I have a spare moment. At home, we’re now trying to be more attuned to Sam’s moods. We’re making an effort to redirect Sam’s attention if he is about to get overly frustrated with something, before he gets so mad he cannot express himself verbally. We still employ time-outs, though I don’t think he always understands what rule he is breaking.
We also have found that music helps calm him down when he gets agitated. Whether it’s singing, music from the stereo, or a musical toy, he is immediately calmer and focused on the music. At night when Sam goes to bed, his room is a cacophony of sounds: there’s the musical aquarium thingy, the inner piece of a musical glowworm that we call “baby guts,” and an iPod/speaker setup that plays Steve Roach music. Sam enjoys music so much, we have to replace the 4 C-size batteries in the aquarium thingy about every six weeks. A 4-pack of C-size batteries cost $7.49 at Publix — I know this well.
Then there’s the psychiatrist’s other concern: “watch out for Asperger’s.” There really will be no knowing about Asperger’s until Sam is older, like around five years old. By then he could very well grow out of some of the little tics he has, like his love of pushing buttons over and over (and over and over again). I can’t do anything about it, so there’s no need of worrying now.
For the present, we will work with Sam where we know we can make progress. I will also enjoy my son, the one that reads letters**, counts to twelve, loves anything orange, and wants me to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Sam over and over.
* I don’t know why people fret about socialized healthcare on the basis that it will force you to go to certain doctors and you’ll have to wait weeks for an appointment — we already do that now. I had to wait five weeks for Sam’s first appointment with the pediatrician-recommended psychologist, only to find out two appointments and two months later that our insurance carrier will not pay for any of that. They only want us to see mental health professionals that have been approved by them. In Birmingham, there is only one doctor’s office that is on that list.
**We’ve recently discovered that Sam knows his alphabet. I don’t mean just the alphabet song, though he kinda-sorta knows that. He knows the letters, randomly, all uppercase and many lowercase, plus some of the numbers. He can also read the word “off.” Figures — ‘off’ was one of his first words.