Monday, September 08, 2008

Reading Between the Lines

I think Fiver had a hard day, but I can't be sure because talking to him can be difficult. It's hard to explain, but we very rarely have a linear conversation with a natural progression in topics. Our conversations are circular, with us asking the same question about twelve different ways. We rarely get a complete answer.

He came out of school grumpy, which is unusual, and he was whining that he was thirsty. While we rode home, he complained about the minor scratch on his hand like he had lost the entire limb. I know that he feels things more intensely when he is tired, so I figured he would forget about it once I got him home and watered.

At home, I noticed some extra stimming, which is another big clue to his state of mind. He has a hand-held video game with a pause button, and he must have spent a solid five minutes pushing and releasing the pause button. I know, five minutes doesn't sound all that long. But set a timer for five minutes and then do nothing but push one button over and over for the duration and you'll see how long five minutes can be.

Of course, he also went straight down to his trains and watched them go around the track for a while. He needed to escape to his own world and I let him go.

While going through his folder, I found two letters that helped shed some more light on the day.

The first was a note from his teacher saying that Fiver has pushed some children at recess. He had a brief timeout, and his teacher sent home the note just to keep us informed. Since pushing people is very out of character for Fiver, I wanted to find out more.

Fiver rarely touches other people with his arms. For a long time, he didn't have the strength to hug people, so he would simply lean his head on a person as a sign of affection. He will give weak hugs now, but pushing, real down and dirty pushing, still requires more strength than Fiver can usually muster.

He admitted that he had pushed someone and that he had timeout, but from his explanation I couldn't understand what he actually did. Finally, I asked him to demonstrate. Without using his arms, he pushed his body against mine until he could get past me. Sort of like a weak headbutt.

Rob spoke with him about it later, and we eventually pieced together what is a common reaction from Fiver. He becomes so focused on doing one certain thing in one certain way that he manages to become oblivious to everyone around him. During cross country, he will run without watching out for the other runners. We routinely have to say, "Fiver! Watch out!" before he even realizes he's about to run into someone.

In this case, he was trying to get somewhere on the playground, and rather than deviate from his perceived course, he pushed past another child. The child was fine, but that doesn't matter. The principle of the matter is that he needs to be aware, and he needs to learn that it's all right to alter your original plan of action.

The second letter in his folder was from the speech pathologist who comes to the school from the local intermediate unit. She performs routine screenings of the children to see if any of them might qualify for further evaluation.

Hey, guess who requires further evaluation?

She indicated that she wanted to test him for auditory processing issues, and I cannot say that I am surprised. In fact, this is the area that his neurologist red-flagged the last time he was there.
Many auditory processing problems do not become apparent until the child gets into a full-time school setting, so we had even alerted his teacher and principal that these issues may be on the his horizon.

Fiver, who has been in therapy for half his life, is no dummy when it comes to these kinds of tests. Other kids may think it's like school or a fun game, but he knows the deal and he really dislikes taking them. I guess I can't blame him; I might be more than a little weary of them myself. I think by the time recess rolled around he was at his limit of carefully controlled behavior.

And this may sound strange, but I was a little bummed to read the letter from the therapist. I certainly knew that this may happen. In fact, I may have even expected it on some level, but in other ways I guess I fooled myself into thinking that Fiver would be able to meet a milestone without some kind of difficulty.

It's tiring to always focus on what he can't do, so we celebrate what he can do and what he has learned to do and how far he has come. We insulate ourselves with our loving families and our close knit group of friends and therapists. To them, Fiver is just Fiver. We don't have all the constant explaining.

When we get letters like this, from someone who has no knowledge of Fiver's background, it just brings it all back to me: This is really real and other people notice. It's jarring. Is that dumb? Probably yes. Definitely yes.

I'm sure everything will settle down for him, and we will see what this "further evaluation" brings our way. But until then, I think we may be in for some more bumpy days. For both of us.


  1. This is really real and other people notice. It's jarring.
    I wholeheartedly agree. It IS jarring and it does take you out of the insulation. It's TOUGH to be the mother of a kid like this! I know all too 7 yr old is very much the same and I hate having to explain his SPD to the blank faces. Thank God his new teacher seemed understanding and accepting and instantly asked me for more information on what we do to help him. It wasn't foreign to her and she was willing to work with us and him. (((hugs))) I completely understand your feelings!

  2. Hang in there... not that it's practically helpful, but you've got sunny/breezy support from the Florida coast... and your blog is helping other folks (like me) understand more about SPD so we wont' have blank looks when we meet Fiver- or other cool kids like him :) -Kristi

  3. Is there a better way for teachers/therapists to deliver the information so that little guys like this don't have to come home feeling this way?
    (It's a good image for me to have in my head- might stop me from laying it on more than I need to.)
    I hope he has a GREAT day today.

  4. Anonymous5:48 AM

    When you are feeling frustrated just think about how far Fiver has come! I know he will get through this too!!

    Thinking of you...


  5. I really like to read about Fiver's coping skills -- even if it's pushing the pause button on the game for five minutes. He's figured out that it helps and he knows what to do to calm himself. That's good! He's still little. Lots of kids -- even kids without extra problems -- would just bounce off the walls and floors because they don't know how to calm themselves.

    My Josh went through lots of testing at Fiver's age. Ultimately, he had some therapy, grew out of some issues, and we got used to some issues and they still exist. He was tested for auditory processing issues and the experts said he didn't have any marked problems. He always had difficulty comprehending, so even though it might not have been auditory processing, he still has some processing issues. They are not, apparently, "diagnosable." I have my doubts about some of those tests, though, so my advice is make certain that whoever is testing him knows what they are doing. If your insurance pays for private testing, you might want to consider that over the school testing (they have ulterior motives).

  6. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Aimee- because Fiver sounds so much like Little P from a couple of years ago, I wanted to share about him. LP always went to his room right after school and didn't re-emerge for about an hour. I think he went to his room and did stuff like Fiver just to sort through all that sensory overload. And LP had also been flagged for auditory processing stuff; however, since I am a SLP, I was able to sort out that it was not auditory processing but an attention issue. You can't process auditory info if you never heard it in the first place because you were paying attention to something else.

    All of this will settle down. It's a huge transition so I think issues are exacerbated in the beginning of the year. Big hugs from me.

  7. Hang in!! I hope things go better as time goes on. Fiver is blessed that he has a family who cares so deeply for him--his pain has become your pain.

  8. I'm sorry. *hugs* I'm not sure which is better - you forgetting that Fiver is anything but a normal child and being surprised that others notice sometimes, or me for assuming that it's my job to introduce Micah to the world and be there as a buffer 24/7.

  9. We have our first therapy appointment for WiseGuy tomorrow. i am actually dreading what they will tell us...and i don't know why. Maybe because i don't SEE anything wrong with him...i just see HIM....even though i know in my heart that there is more going on than i care to see....but others do.
    WiseGuy may not have the same issues as Fiver, but i understand all too well how you feel and wish i could just wrap my arms around you and give you a big hug...because Lord knows i need one myself most days after reading the teacher's note that inevitably comes home day after day.

  10. Anonymous8:56 PM

    Hang in there and I hope the bumps in the days (if they have to be there) are mild ones.
    Mirabella MOM


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