Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Starting Point

We'll be the first to tell anyone that Kaden has always had more energy than most kiddos his age. He's always been a little more impulsive. What we have spent the last year and some change trying to figure out is, how much of this can be chalked up to him being a 7 year old. A 7 year old boy. 

We've done our research. We've met with our pediatrician and discussed his behavior and energy. We've implemented a few things here and there but at the end of the day, we were just seeing more and more symptoms of a child who may have ADHD. So we continued conversing with his pediatrician and she suggested that we take the Vanderbuilt assessment & see what comes of it. Now, the first time we took this assessment he was in kindergarten & in the end, he showed a little elevation in hyperactivity and inattention but nothing that would consider him "clinically significant" but she said that we could repeat the test in 6 months once he's into 1st grade. 

We did. & the results were a little different, showed him clinically significant at school but neither Justin or I had him clinically significant at home & if you've been through the process then you know it needs to be present in two separate settings--it wasn't. We kept pressing the issue, not because we felt the test were wrong but because we wanted to ensure that Kaden was set up for success & there had to be something we could for him. That's when our pediatrician introduced us to a behavior therapist at KU Behavioral Pediatrics. We set up and visited on a regular basis. Justin and I were given some "light" reading to gain a better understanding of what might be going on in Kaden's head. We took another series of assessments, the Connors, and once again, he wasn't clinically significant in two settings---one, yes. Two, no. We continued to work with his teacher on figuring out a system at school and how to carry it over at home. 

Somethings we have implemented in the last few months---a daily report card at school in which both his teacher and Kaden worked together to assess his days. We had a marble system at home and offered a tiny (he thought it was big) root beer or sprite for good behavior days. We implemented a shower system for the boys---Kaden was born on an odd day, Logan on an even day so the date determines which boy goes first. 

Even with these modifications we still saw struggle but now we knew, from our research and speaking with professionals, this wasn't Kaden's fault. He wasn't choosing to misbehave or make poor choices, his little brain just wasn't working the way that it should. This broke our heart. We want the best for Kaden, in all things and it was tough watching our son struggle no matter how HARD he was trying. We kept pushing for answers.

At the end of school we received a call from his teacher and she wanted to give me a heads up that we will see a drop in his reading grade. I challenged portions of her reasoning, he's been at grade level or above for most of the year, in the top reading group and yet this was the first we were hearing that there was an "issue". & frankly, we had never heard from the reading teacher herself so we were very confused & a little disappointed as he wasn't tested for 3rd quarter because he was above reading level and testing isn't done on students who are above reading level. The system failed him. We failed him. So we continued to push. I pushed the teachers for more information, more details on why they felt Kaden's grade dropped. They stated more of what we already knew, he does just enough. Doesn't give he full effort. & when the report cards came home, it showed what they said it would show but it was still a pretty great overall report. Most parents would look at it and say, "whatever, this doesn't mean squat." We couldn't do that. This was an indicator that more was going on. That his behavior was starting to impede on his work which meant, we needed to push even harder to ensure we were doing everything we could. I had another call with his pediatrician and she referred us to the ADHD Clinic at Children's Mercy. She was certain we would be well taken care of here so I called that day. They told me that as soon as I got the paperwork filled out and the assessments taken (his 1st grade teacher kindly filled them out again for us) that we could schedule an appointment and that typically they are scheduling 2 weeks out but that they had received so many referrals since school had let out that we were looking at August, late August. I was bummed. Justin was bummed. We had hoped for some direction and advice before school started so we could hopefully start off on the right foot. But we would wait. This was where we needed to be.

& then one Friday in July I got a call from the clinic, they had a cancellation for the following Monday and the appointment was ours if we could make it. I would have moved Heaven and Earth to make that appointment so we took it. After 2 hours of meeting with a child psychologist and a MD, we had our answer. He still wasn't showing clinical significance when it came to life at home but being able to talk things through with the psychologist and explaining that even with what we have already been doing we are starting to see more and more symptoms. Honestly, it was making life at home a little more difficult too. Kaden was getting frustrated with himself, with us. We caught ourselves getting frustrated multiple times with him, with the situation in general. With everything taken into account his doctors felt comfortable diagnosing Kaden with a mild to moderate form of ADHD. I cried. But not for the reason most would think, I cried because we finally had an answer. It wasn't Kaden's fault for some of the behavior he was showing, for the impulsiveness. He wasn't conscientiously choosing to make the wrong choices. He honestly had no control over it.

Now we had a starting point. We could come together with a team of doctors and build a plan for him, to set him up for success. To help him, be the best version of himself that he can be.

Our starting point consisted of three options--behavior management, medication and then what they referred to as the gold standard, behavior management with medication. We discussed all three options in pretty good detail and then they asked what I was thinking and I was honest. I had to be. We've been doing the behavior management for awhile now and it just wasn't helping, at least not enough on it's own so I wanted to discuss the medication route in conjunction with our continued behavior management routines. I had worries though. I didn't want him to lose his sweet, loving personality & what do we say to him when he asks why he has to take this medicine. We talked about the side effects--he would be taking a stimulate and it would take effect immediately versus needing a few weeks in order to start working. He would also be on the lowest dose. They felt pretty confident that it wouldn't change how big his heart is and they gave us some great advice on how to talk to him about it. To be honest but keep it simple. To let him know his brain runs like a Ferrari but that he has brakes like a bike, so when he tries to slow down, his bike breaks just aren't enough & this will help give the power he needs to slowdown.

So this weekend we are going to give medication a go. I am hopeful that this will give Kaden what he needs to be more successful. To help him build relationships that he may not even realize are missing & for him to be able to take more control of his life. Honestly, it's exciting to be at this point, to have hope that your kid will spread his wings and soar, really soar.

I'm not naive, this is a process, we will have a number of follow up appointments to ensure that everything is tracking and working in the most effective way. We could have set backs where he experiences more side effects than the average person does and we will have to work through those but again, we are now moving forward and forward is so much better than being stalled out.

Now, some will question why I would write about this. Why I would let everyone know that Kaden had been diagnosed with ADHD. & therein lies the problem, education---there is a lack of REAL education around ADHD. The stigma that our son is anything but a good kid is completely disheartening. That Justin and I just let our son get away with anything, because we have to, I mean when he acts the way he does at times, must mean he has ZERO discipline and he walks all over his parents. & this couldn't be further from the truth. I know the kind heart he has. I have seen the struggle with controlling his actions and emotions. I can see the regret set in. This is a disorder. One that can thankfully be managed with the help of a team of doctors & the village that loves and surrounds Kaden. He's destined to do GREAT things, I am most certain of that & now, thanks to being in tune with his needs and being open-minded, we can help set him up in the best possible way to achieve success in whatever it is that he sets his mind to.

It's okay to talk about these things, it's important to.

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