Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What is "special needs" anyway....

So the doctor's say-"you're little guy has special needs.."; the teacher says "be assured, we can accommodate your son's special needs";  I say to friends "hope everything goes okay with the playdate-not sure if you know but our guy has some special needs."

We have parented both our children using a waldorf approach. A part of that philosophy believes that children are not born necessarily with their temperaments. They sort of "come into their personality" between the ages of 6-9-only after they lose their first baby teeth-it is a whole other post to explain the teeth thing, just know that losing those teeth is SO important in Waldorf philosophy. Anyway, I say all of that to highlight that while we may believe that, while we parent our children sharing many of Waldorf principles and ideals-well, we KNEW Seamus' temperament real early....not only before he lost his baby teeth-to be honest, before he even had those teeth.

Since Seamus was a baby, we as his parents thought something just wasn't the same as other children. But we were new parents, our first child and quite frankly, what did we know!! Also, having the job I have working with children every day who are truly suffering with emotional difficulties, well, you start to sort of make everything a big deal. Fast forward a few years and we finally had to admit we were at a lost. Hard to admit really when for a living you help kids and now I couldn't help my own!!!!

You see I was on my soapbox preaching that he was just a regular boy and our society didn't handle regular boys well and there was nothing wrong with him, but there was something wrong with everyone else-as an aside, I still truly believe our society does not handle boys well, but again, another post. But really my soapbox was actually hurting him. He was out of control, he was not managing school-an alternate Waldorf school that really provided lots of movement and hands on, lots of the boy stuff he needed. He also was not managing home-or more accurately we were not managing him at home, especially with the tantrums. When I say tantrums, I do not mean a 20 minute fit, I mean a 2-3 hour explosion that would always end in something broken, a room trashed and both of us sobbing...

So I got down from my preaching post and sought help. Not necessarily the conventional help at first, choosing to focus on helping him process his emotions, rather than just dealing with the behavior. After some time, Seamus was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. This was a whole new world for us, including a change in diet, at home "exercises" and therapy with an Occupational Therapist. We immediately changed our perception of him and our approach to him. We finally understood him (As an aside, if you are interested in learning more, read the Out of Sync Child-excellent resource). Later he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (like every boy could be I'm sure-see that soapbox preaching coming out!!!). Most recently our doctor, who I really really didn't like, yet who has turned out to be quite wonderful, has implied that we may actually be looking at a mood disorder that could possibly develop as he comes older, something like Bipolar Disorder. Who knows!!!!

I wrote this post because a couple of people who know me outside of this space have been asking some questions about our journey with Seamus-hope this is helpful. I also realize that people are reading this that I may not even know who maybe on similar paths-please be encouraged!!

Seamus certainly meets the definition for "special needs", but to us, he is simply SPECIAL. He is everything I wanted in a child-spirited, independent, free thinking, creative, dramatic, opinionated, kind, compassionate, a real "go big or go home" personality, competitive-yet feels bad for the other team...Well, we really like him in this house and to be honest, I couldn't have always said that!!!

So again it is nighttime and we know how much Seamus comes alive at night. Buzzing around me playing with his skateboarders (Techdeck I think is the official name). He is showing me what "grinding" is-if you are interested it is when you run the skateboard along a metal railing. He has just finished eating his second supper  (his medication really impacts his appetite and he basically does not eat from breakfast until about 6:00 at which point, he then doesn't stop until he is in dreamland!). He has begun to make his own ramp now with some clay and some cardboard he has found around the house. It wasn't working out quite like he thought, but no throwing the materials in frustration tonight (although that could still happen)-for now, he is sticking with it, trying a new paste to hold it all together.

I'm off to convince him that perhaps the skateboard race could wait until tomorrow as the bed is calling for us......What did I tell you-special right!!!


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