It started when he was only two. J had been a normal little boy…growing, talking, walking…just like every other kid. Just like normal we took him to his well-baby checkup and he got his shots and then everything changed. We are not sure what changed, but we know that within a few days, J stopped talking completely and changed into a different kid.
Where we once had a fun, talkative child, we now had a child that would melt down at any second, slamming his head and face into walls, floors or anything else that was close to him. Every day became about trying to keep him from creating black eyes and bloody noses because of his head butting. Where we had once heard sweet little “mamma’s” and “daddy’s”, we suddenly heard nothing but screams and fighting. If he didn’t get his way he would punch, hit and bite everyone within striking distance.
After a few months of this, we talked to his pediatrician who recommended him for speech therapy and we had him tested and started therapy and special needs preschool.
Just recently I looked back at a calendar and found where I had written, a couple months after his 3rd birthday that J had said “I want”. What a huge step that felt like at the time. I was so excited that he put two words together.
Eventually, J started making HUGE strides through preschool, and before his 4th birthday, he graduated from the special needs preschool and we put him in regular preschool.
I wish that I could say that from that moment forward everything was a bed of roses, but J’s acting out continued. Several times a week we would get called or notes about some fighting or another event that happened.
J started kindergarten and it was more of the same, but nothing that we did seemed to help. We could punish him until our faces were blue, but still the fits, hitting and screaming happened.
As the first day of his 1st grade year approached, we searched for some help. We had always resisted the thought of putting him on meds, because, we felt, he was just being a little boy. So in August we took him to a Christian counseling center and talked with one of the counselors. He gave us tests to fill out and test to take to his teachers to have them fill out.
Through these tests, the counselor said that J was ADHD and needed to go on meds. Still, we resisted. Surely there was SOMETHING else that we could do. As we talked about the results of the tests I cried. I was so tired. I was tired of being looked at as bad parents because we could not control J. I was tired of J being pegged as a “bad kid” at school and at church. I wanted others to be able to see the amazing child that I had, and that I saw rare glimpses of every now and then.
We left that appointment even more determined not to put J on Meds. We started taking all red dye out of his diet (have you ever realized how many things have Red Dye 40 in them?). We tried more behavior modification through chore charts, reward systems and tougher penalties…but still, J struggled daily.
Then, one day, my husband was told when he went to pick up J from school that they wanted to change the class that he was in because of his outbursts and his issues. For me, it was like we had failed, and that nothing we could do was helping. We called the doctor and got a prescription filled for the medication that they had wanted to put him on.
Even then, with the filled bottle in my hand, I struggled with feeling like a total failure as a parent. Surely there was more that I could be doing, surely I should be able to control my own child. But we had tried everything we knew to do, so I gave him the pill first thing in the morning and coaxed him to swallow it
We sent him to school excited for the changes that we hoped to see in the day. It only took about 3 hours for that excitement to crumble to dust. Just a little bit before 11 a.m., I got a call that J was crying and was inconsolable. I jumped in the car and was at the school in minutes. I talked with him and he said that someone had hurt his feelings and that he couldn’t stop crying. After he got calmed down, I tried to take him back to his class…only to have him freak out and start crying the moment I got out of sight. For 30 minutes this went on, with him wailing whenever I was out of his sight. It was finally decided that I should just take him home for the day. We put him to bed at the normal time that night, but he could not sleep. He got up several times throughout the night and came into the room with us, and I tried to get him to sleep in the recliner there, but he always ended up getting up and doing something in the house again. When I got up the next morning, I found J downstairs in the kitchen. He had fixed three bowl of cereal and three plates of toast for him and his siblings. Throughout the night he had put together an AMAZING train track in his room, and cleaned up his room. He had not slept at all.
I kept him home from school, expecting that eventually he would collapse, but he did not. I took him back to the doctor, and they said NOT to give him that medication ANY MORE. It took him 48 hours to finally sleep.
For me, it confirmed my worst fears. I was convinced that we had done the most horrible thing ever to our child. I worried that he would never trust us as parents again. The doctor changed him to a NON stimulant medication and we tried again.
Since then, things have gotten a little better. J got his first Blue Smiley face at school (meaning no problems) but most days he is still having issues. Somehow, I think that in the back of my mind I was hoping that there would be a LOT more and quicker changes than has happened. But I have to look at each day when there is only a few words, rather than a entire paragraph, written on his behavior report from school as a success. We are still working on his behavior at home, and trying to help get him where he should be.
Never in all my life have I had anything that was so hard to decide.