Monday, August 2, 2010

We have some new words

No... not more of those words! We have had enough of those thank you.

Our new words include things like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, evaluations, phonological learning disorder, poor fine motor control, occupational therapy, difficulty, delayed, psychologist, unable to, below age level, high intelligence, struggles, medication, Adderrall, proprioceptive input just to name a few.

Over the course of the last school year we had several meetings with Liam's teachers as we all knew that he was struggling to learn to read, pay attention and sit still. So in April we had a Psycho-Educational evaluation done by a psychologist. We were not surprised by most of the results. Liam's results spanned both sides of the scale. One one side he tested in the 96th percentile for intelligence, testing at nearly a 16 year old level for some areas. On the other side he tested in the 20th percentile and shows signs of a learning disorder. He was also diagnosed with ADHD. Around the same time he was also evaluated by an occupational therapist at school and shows signs of fine motor control issues that are causing him problems with handwriting.

Over the next couple of months we explored various options, including medication for the ADHD. We were able to test out Ritalin during the last 2 weeks of school and saw some improvement with Liam’s focus and attention. But we also saw some anxiety as we tried to get the dosage correct for him. By July we had gotten in to see a pediatrician, and we are now testing out a different, long lasting ADHD medication - Adderrall. It’s only been a week so far, but we have seen huge improvements in Liam during the day. He’s calmer, he’s focused but he’s still the fun loving amazing kid that we love. None of his personality is being lost or obscured by the medication. The down side is that since most ADHD meds are amphetamine based they do interfere with his sleep. So he is falling asleep later and later right now, even later then me the other night! But some minor side effects are worth it. Even Liam notices a difference with the Adderrall and is happy with how it is helping him.

Now that we have the medication under control (at least for now, we may still tweak it) we are focusing on the learning disorder side of things. The phonological awareness disorder means that Liam has trouble with the sound structure of words. He doesn’t understand that the same letter can have 2 different sounds depending on how it is used in a word. So words like CAT and KATE cause him great confusion. How can a C and K sound the same, and why does the A sound different in each word? He has a great memory, so we are working on a rote learning and phonics approach for word recognition. We know that it will be a long hard road, but we also know that we can conquer it together.

We are also exploring using sensory inputs to help Liam pay attention. We discovered by accident that rhythmically squeezing the pads of his fingers gives him enough input that he can sit still and not need to fidget. This accident got us through a 45 minute funeral mass. It also works to squeeze his arms from his wrists to his shoulder and back down again. Deep pressure therapy is used for a variety of disorders and we are finding ways to incorporate it for Liam. We are also looking at other aids like a Move ‘N Sit cushion that will help position him for handwriting activities while also giving him some sensory input.

We have 4 weeks of summer left and the Liam will be starting grade 2. Grade 2 is an important year where kids need to learn to read so that in grade 3 they can read to learn. We are looking into after-school reading programs, and Liam will get extra time with the school’s resource teacher. We don’t know yet who his teacher will be this year, but his Grade 1 teacher has offered to come (she won’t be at the school this year) to meet with his new teacher and us before the year starts so that we can hit grade 2 running.

And the last thing that we are dealing with is an opthamologist appointment in 2 weeks. Liam got a 2nd prescription for his glass a mere 6 months into his previous prescription and his right eye continues to turn in. So we will be going to the local children’s hospital to see a specialist and find out if any next steps have to be taken. ***SHUDDER*** Given my eye issues, I’ll be opting to stay with friends if it ends up that he needs surgery. I’m not as strong as my good friend Heather.

We are forging ahead, finding support and getting the tools in place that we need.  This post has been a long time in coming.  The first was that family needed to be told what was going on.  Could you imagine finding out that your son/grandson/nephew was going through all of this because you read it on a blog at the same time as the rest of the internet?  Yeah, we didn't think that was a good idea either.  The second was that it was hard for me to write.  Even though we've been dealing with all of this for a few months now, it's still new and I'm still a bit raw.  It's hard to think of your baby struggling.  But I've pulled up my big girl panties and I've got my "get 'er done" hat on, so here we go!
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