Monday, November 21, 2011

There's A Pill For That

It has been just over a month since we started giving Emily medication for ADHD.  Now before you all get upset about our decision let me just say that it was a very very long and involved process that we went through to get her diagnosed and prescribed and an even longer one for us to even decide to go down that track in the first place.  It has been obvious to us for quite some time that she has ADHD (its not that big of a stretch given that James has it and they share a lot of the same symptoms) and although it didn’t necessary bother us that much we realised that it is really affecting her school work.

Emily is a very smart kid and we believe she deserves the best opportunity to perform at the level we know she has the ability to be at.  She managed to cruise through kindergarten and held it together pretty well but once she hit First Grade things started unravelling a bit.  Now Emily loves school and seemed to be doing ok but I noticed that a lot of work was coming home uncompleted and when they started sending books home for reading she was being sent with very basic ones.  At home she had been reading much more advanced books including chapter books.  We were actually pretty amazed at her reading ability so when the teacher filled out the questionnaire for the ADHD assessment and said that Emily was a below average reader we were a little confused.

I questioned the teacher and she explained that Emily had been tested, along with all the other kids in her class, and had actually qualified for special education for reading and was currently on a 6 weeks course of it.  She seemed a bit sceptical when I explained that Emily was reading chapter books at home with no help from me other than the odd person’s name.  I think she thought I was one of those mothers who thinks the sun shines out of their progeny’s nether regions and while I do think my kids are amazing I am more than aware of their limitations and reading is just not one of Emily's.  It turns out that the test involved sitting still for 1 minute and reading a series of charts.  No wonder the poor kid failed the test, sitting still is not one of her strong points and neither is speedy on the spot thinking.

Well anyway, after being on the medication for less than a week Emily was retested for reading (actually I’m not sure if she was but I presume so given the outcome) and her reading level had jumped from a level 7 to a level 21 putting her squarely in the 2nd Grade zone.  I felt somewhat vindicated.  Her school work is now coming home complete and we no longer have to peel her off the curtains or ask her to get down off the ceiling fan when watching a movie together as a family.

Part of the process we had to go through was that once we had seen Emily’s regular doctor she referred us to a specialised set of professionals who are experts in the field of childhood disorders of a neurological type.  Otherwise known as the Center for Mental Health.  

The first time I stepped foot in their doorway I was on my own with Abigail who I had strapped into her stroller.  The Mental Health place is located on the first floor (2nd floor for Americans) and there was a lovely sweeping staircase to get up there.  I would have gladly trotted up the stairs had I not had Abigail safely strapped into her stroller so I looked around for a lift (elevator).  I couldn’t see one anywhere.  I went down the hallway a bit and found the toilets but no lift.  I stood there in the lobby with a slightly confused look on my face and at that moment a woman came down the lovely flight of stairs. 

She looked and me and I looked back and then I asked her if she knew where the elevator was (I decided to speak American to her).  She just kind of stared and me and I wondered for a second if she had understood my accent.  Then I saw her glance over my shoulder and I turned to look too.  She had glanced at the lift that was located directly behind me.  I quickly pressed the up button willing the doors to open super fast so I could get away and decided then and there that if I was ever to do the interior decorating of an office building I would paint the doors to the lift a different colour than the surrounding walls.  I figured the woman probably knew exactly where I was headed to that day.

After several visits to that office I thought I had it down pat.  We had needed to take Emily in once to visit the psychiatrist and be assessed by her which mostly involved the poor woman trying to have a conversation while Emily tried to play with the toys she had in her office.  Then we had taken Emily in to have a computer based assessment which involved her sitting on a chair in front of a computer with a bunch of wires attached to her head.  She had to press the space bar whenever a certain image appeared.  The headpiece monitored the movement of her head and eyes and cameras monitored her body movements.  She was supposed to sit there for 15 minutes for the complete test but she only managed to last for 5 minutes before she was upside down on the chair, spinning round in circles and jumping around the room.  All the other visits had just been with me alone to talk about medication and get results of assessments and stuff.

After Emily had been on the medication for a few weeks they wanted to see her again to weigh her and take her blood pressure and then talk to her about how it was making her feel.  I thought this seemed simple enough but because of the timing of the appointment I had all the kids with me that day.

I planned ahead.  I put plenty of snacks for all three kids in my handbag.  I charged up Kaitlyn’s DS and even took the broken one for Abigail to play with. I had learned that the normal procedure when you walk in the doors was that you told the receptionist you were there then they made sure you paid up front before they let you sit down.  You could then sit on the lime green chairs in the waiting room.  This waiting room seemed to always be nearly full which made it necessary to sometimes sit separately from each other or at least have some kids sit on the floor.  

After a little while of sitting in that waiting room they would call you back to the second waiting room.  At that point the nurse would take Emily aside and check her weight and blood pressure and stuff and then we could sit on some more lime green chairs and wait for our appointment.

The timing of this visit was going to be tight, Emily was coming home from school on the bus and then we were having to get straight into the car to get to the appointment on time.  This all worked perfectly in my head but in actual fact the bus was a little late that day which had me slightly flustered from the get go.  Then Kaitlyn was having difficulty being ready.  I don’t know why but she had taken her shoes and socks off after she got home from school and now couldn't find them.  I was chasing the baby around the house and calling out to Kaitlyn to get her shoes and socks on while Kaitlyn screeched that she didn’t know where her shoes were. 

I finally managed to get them all settled in the car and got to the office in record time (its only around the corner).  This particular visit I figured that we had been there enough times that the place was somewhat familiar and I could probably do without the stroller.  As we toddled our way to the door I noticed that Kaitlyn had only followed my directions half way.  She was kind of hobbling along with one red gumboot on and the other foot only shod in a not quite white sock.

I asked her where the other gumboot was and she shrugged her shoulders and said “I dunno, I couldn’t find it so I’m just wearing this one”.  Thankfully it hadn’t been raining but it was not at all warm.  I have to say wearing gumboots with the outfit she had on that day looked utterly ridiculous, wearing only one gumboot did not improve matters.  

There wasn’t anything I could do, if we went home to find the missing gumboot we would miss the appointment.  I took a deep breath and we trooped into the office.  We made it past the first waiting room and into the second one.  Once Emily’s vitals were checked and I had discouraged Abigail from joining several other families we settled ourselves into some seats.  I passed out the snacks and Kaitlyn asked for about the 20th time where her DS was.  I opened my handbag to get it out and couldn’t find it anywhere.  I took everything out of the handbag and felt around in the empty cavities.  No DS.  Kaitlyn started to get panicky.  I put everything back in my handbag while Kaitlyn screamed and kicked her half shod feet.  The woman sitting next to me quietly moved along a seat to get away from the craziness.

I noticed other parents sitting there with their “troubled” offspring, relief written all over their faces as they saw just how messed up my child was compared to there's.  If only they knew this wasn’t even the kid we were here for.  Meanwhile Emily sat quietly munching her pretzels playing on the broken DS which she had managed to bribe away from Abigail using one of Abigail’s own animal crackers.  Abigail sat there happily munching animal crackers and looking through a magazine.  Every so often when she noticed Kaitlyn calming down she would poke her with her foot while looking in the other direction.  

1 comment:

  1. Hello. Imagine this bit carefully: A Big Huge Long hug from me to you. You are a great mother. Kaitlyn's meltdown is an you will know normal & you clearly handled it really well! I am pleased for you both that you have come through the decision battles & made a choice that is working really well for Emily. Thanks for giving of your life so honestly in your blog. xxx Anita