Friday, May 9, 2008

Perhaps too soon

Gus had a horrendous day on Monday, which led to a phone conversation with his counselor and with her once again trying to convince me to try him on medication. I was getting very worried about his impulsivity, so I spoke to his pediatrician (the specialist he sees is also leaning towards medication). Everything is in place to decide on a medication trial - either Focalin or Strattera.

The funny part is that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, he was great at school. Not a single complaint from his teacher, and he even got to go with her to the school plant sale where he picked out some marigolds for me.

This does not sound to me like a child in need of medication. Maybe we're jumping the gun on this.

I'm reminded of a Dave Matthews lyric from a song called You Never Know:
"But rushing around seems what's wrong with the world..."

You're not kidding Dave.

Rush to vaccinate, rush to medicate, rush to integrate.... Can't we just slow down a tick?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is This What It Feels Like?

I had a very uncomfortable experience last night and somewhere in the midst of it, I started to wonder if this is what Gus feels like when he's wound up. If it is, I really feel for him, because it felt awful to me. This wasn't the first time I'd felt this way, but it was the first time I'd ever connected the feeling to what he might experience.

I had to work last night so I had a fifteen minute nap around 8:30 and some caffeinated tea around 9. After I finished my tutoring shift, I stayed up to take care of some other business until around midnight. I was thoroughly exhausted, but I could not fall asleep. After forty-five minutes of tossing and turning I started to look more closely at what I was feeling and I actually started to write down all the different sensations.

At 12:53 am, there was a loud humming in my ears, like the sound of a high voltage cable. This was mostly what was keeping me up. It was coming from inside my head and no matter what I did, it wouldn't stop. Not only could I hear it, but I could feel it - like my entire body was vibrating at a high frequency. Nothing worked to stop it and after a while, I really wanted to beat my head against a wall. The last time I felt like that was when I tried to go vegetarian years ago. I ended up with WAY too much energy and for 5 months, I couldn't sleep and always felt that humming/buzzing going through me. It didn't go away until I started eating meat again; the meat had a grounding effect on me.

In addition to the humming, the other noises in the house started to seem louder - I suppose darkness does that, but it made me extremely jumpy. I made my husband get up and check the downstairs once and two other times, I sat bolt upright, on high alert.

My muscles were tight. Being a yoga teacher, I've become very attuned to my body and I'm accustomed to a feeling of muscles hugging the bones when the muscles are engaged. Last night my muscles were choking my bones, causing a dull ache, and I had to keep stretching and flexing because of the discomfort.

Last, my mind was racing. I had more images and ideas than I could even keep up with - they just added to the internal noise. For a while, I was preoccupied with the stuff that's been going on with Gus's school, then with all the things I have to take care of...stupid things like applying for a new library card. That is not something that should keep me up at night.

I don't know if it was the caffeine or too much computer time just before bed that overstimulated my brain. But I have to work again tonight and I have a busy day today, and I don't know how I'm going to drag myself through it. One thing I do know, I'll be a lot more sensitive to Gus next time he wakes up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Never-Ending Battle

Yesterday, Gus was presented with an award at school: the Principal's Award for Outstanding Effort (he also got Academic Achievement). I say presented because when his name was called, he bypassed the principal, grabbed the microphone and shouted to the entire school, "Hey! Is this thing on?"

I've been chastised by at least one friend who took exception to the fact that I made him apologize to the principal. She felt that it was normal kid behavior and that the school has unrealistic expectations of kids, particularly the ones with special needs, and that it was funny. A few people thought it was funny, and at a certain level it was.

It also provided a little more ammunition to the school to push for medication.

I'm starting to think I'm fighting a losing battle here. He has no impulse control, and the boy tries - his efforts are Herculean some days. He cried at least twice yesterday because he knew that he shouldn't have done it, but he'd already been having a rough time and he just could not hold it together.

Part of me wishes that they would just get off his back. In a sense, my friend has a point - kids do things like that. But at the same time, the inability to control his impulses can get him into some serious trouble, possibly even danger. For example, he has walked into people's houses (and I don't necessarily mean people that he knows well) - just saw the door opened through the screen and waltzed in. That's a dangerous thing for a kid his age, but imagine the consequence if her was, say fifteen, and did that. He could get arrested, that's IF the person didn't have a gun and decide to shoot first and ask questions later.

At any rate, the counselor jumped at the opportunity (I had requested to talk with her because I'm concerned about how his self-esteem is slipping because he can never seem to meet the high expectations, which may be unreasonably high) and she talked to me about trying meds. She suggested that we look into Strattera and doesn't feel that Ritalin works well for kids on the autism spectrum. I said I'd look into it. I mean, should I wait until they threaten to kick him out of school because they can't handle his behavior?

I haven't done extensive research on Strattera, but it seems that is not a stimulant (a plus) but has also been associated with liver problems and suicidal thoughts.

If anyone has experience with this or any other medications, your thoughts would be appreciated. This is a horribly difficult decision that I'd rather not make, but I don't think I will be able to dodge it much longer, not if I want to keep my child in public school.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I.E.P. Diplomas Mean Squat

At Gus's last CSE meeting, it was mentioned that we have another year before we have to worry about standardized testing. I had asked about it last year as well. It boggles the mind how students in special Education are still required to take these tests. What's more disturbing is that if they don't pass the tests - or at least a certain number of tests - they do not become eligible for diplomas. This means that unless they complete at least an additional year of schooling AND pass a GED exam, they can't go to college or enlist in the military (military being a moot point in most cases anyway, I'd think).

This has bugged me for years, even before Gus was born when I was teaching high school. I worked in an incarcerated setting with children who were navigating the legal system. The last thing on their minds was a Regents test. So almost across the board, they failed and were rendered ineligible for regular high school diplomas even if they avoided long jail sentences.

What is the point of forcing a child who can't sit for thirty seconds, let alone three hours, to take an exam that stacks the cards against them? Years ago there used to be allowances for Special Education students to provide portfolios to demonstrate mastery of the state curriculum, but those have been phased out. It was certainly a fairer assessment tool than the damned standardized tests that are killing our educational system and leaving every child behind.

Test taking does not equal learning. There will be some brilliant kids denied higher education because they can't pass a stupid test, while those who can pass the tests will only have managed to prove that they can regurgitate information at least until that three-hour block of time is done, but not that they can necessarily think critically or assimilate the knowledge beyond the piece of paper with the annoying little circles.

Gus would probably be able to pass the third grade English exam now, if he could actually focus long enough to finish. It's going to be a thorn in my side for sure, but hopefully they can give him accommodations that will actually allow him to show how much he can spit back. No test will ever give a true picture of how smart the kid really is, but if he can get a diploma and go to college, I'll be satisfied with having that knowledge for myself.