Sunday, May 19, 2013

When a child is hurting, Part 3

By the second quarter, it was as though Amelia had become a different person. I no longer knew this little girl that was my daughter.  Her personality had changed.  She was always quite dramatic but she began to become very emotional.  Her teacher would tell me at least once a week that she was not getting along with the other kids in her class.  She was also getting calls from other parents telling her that they didn't want their children sitting next to Amelia.  As a parent, this was heartbreaking to hear.

Amelia stopped doing anything independently.  During second grade, she was able to do all of her homework on her own.  Now, I had to sit with her and walk her through every step.  If I stepped away for any reason, she was off task and it took me a good hour to get her back to where she could focus again.  It was almost too intense for me.  I had to coach her to put her name at the top of the paper, to find the right page in her number her paper.  It was like she was back in preschool. 

Her reading log was the worst!  She was required to read for 20 minutes every night and then write a short observation or summary of what she had read.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.  It was a struggle every single night!  She HATES to read!  She HATES to write! Some nights she just refused to do it!

After getting almost constant emails and notes from the teacher, I decided that I had enough and I called the public school office.  I learned that they did have a program for private schools for evaluations and assessments.  Several weeks later, we were sitting in the county offices, along with Amelia's teachers and several members of the evaluation team.  We talked for well over an hour and we came up with three main conclusions:
  1. Her grades were still "too good" so she technically did not qualify for any ESE services.
  2. Her problems were mostly behavioral related and should be treated as such.
  3. There were several "accommodations" that should be made for her.
When she was able to focus, she did her work willingly and correctly so they were not worried about her academically, but, they felt that eventually her grades were going to suffer just simply because she couldn't seem to function at school.  The county team recommended that she be evaluated for something called a "504 Plan".  Since this was a private school, this was basically all they could recommend.  So, they gave us several evaluation (BASC) forms...some for Dan and I, as well as a couple for the teachers.  In addition to the forms, they wanted to conduct an "in class observation".  This would all take well over 6 months.  In the meant time, we struggled. However, her teachers came up with some very helpful accommodations to see if Amelia could function better.  Because of her trouble reading, they decided to have someone read all test questions to her.  Also, they decided to take her out of the classroom for tests so she wasn't so distracted.

The school had also been recommending the medication route from the very beginning.  I admit that I was against this from the get-go.  I have heard horror stories from both family and friends about the danger of these medications and the havoc that they cause in these little bodies.  In my mind I had this whole scenario where we would be looking for the right combination of meds for months and months and all the while, filling my daughter with dangerous chemicals that can cause devastating  side effects.  Plus, I had heard that some of the ADHD medication can cause some of these kids to lose weight.  My little Amelia is only 9 years old and was barely 50 lbs.  She didn't have a whole lot of reserve to work with.  Even so, we called our pediatrician.

Our pediatrician is a wonderful woman who has raised 6 boys!  She is a practicing Catholic and is a member of our parish!  We've known her for many years.  I trust her.  When we finally met with her, she explained a lot of things.  She sat in an exam room and used the tissue paper on the exam room table as her notebook.  She drew pictures of the brain, she explained all about neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine.  She was a human encyclopedia of information!  After that appointment, I felt like my head would explode, but I was happy.  I knew we were in the right place and if anybody could help Amelia, it would be Dr. M.  Unfortunately, she gave us yet MORE forms to fill out!  I tell you, I'm sick of forms!  It's always the same thing....answer "Always, Sometimes, Never"!

After she had a chance to review our responses (as well as the teacher responses), she recommended that we "try" a medication called Tenex.  This medication is typically used to lower blood pressure, but she thought it might slow Amelia down just a tad so she could be more functional in the classroom.  I agreed because it is a non stimulant. She told us that she really didn't think Amelia had typical ADD/ADHD symptoms.  She thought she was exhibiting symptoms more related to something called ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder).  She also thought Amelia had some depression/anxiety issues too.  Wow.  I wasn't prepared to hear that!  I've suffered my whole life with depression/anxiety and it upset me to think that this could be a genetic thing....a situation where I've passed on my issues  to her!  This was mind blowing and if I didn't already feel guilty for allowing the medication, I definitely felt guilty for this!  After all, I still struggle with the fact that even though there was no breast cancer in my family, I was still diagnosed with it and now there is a good chance my girls will end up with it too.  This was a major blow to me and to tell you the truth, I am still coming to grips with it.

The Tenex made her sleepy for the first week, but, she did a ton better!  Mrs. J. said she was able to focus, she stayed in her seat, and she participated in some of the classroom activities!  We were all so happy.  I was just shocked that we had found a medication that was a non stimulant and it was working!  Our happiness lasted only about 4 days.  I have come to know the term "honeymoon period" really well now with regard to this type of medication.  I'm told this happens all the time...a new medicine works for awhile and just stops working.  Since this is a blood pressure medicine, we were not able to increase the dose.  She doesn't weigh much and lower her blood pressure too much could cause her to pass out....or worse!  We stopped the Tenex.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of When a child is hurting, Part 4!

Catch up on this series if you've missed it......Part 1 here, and Part 2 here!

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