“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.” – Cheryl Strayed
When your child is dealing with issues or has first been diagnosed with a condition, whether it’s a learning difference or a major illness, there is always a moment of grief. Grief that life is unfair, that this wasn’t how things were supposed to go, this wasn’t planned, you don’t deserve this hand of cards.
I’ve been through this type of grief twice now. It takes time to process how things are different now and figure out what comes next but, at some point, you have to decide to put your grownup pants on, and then take action, to play the hand you’re dealt.
Recently, I reached out to the autism center that we’d worked with before to perform another assessment of C. It had been over a year since they informed us that C had “red flags” but, he did not meet the qualifications for an autism diagnosis, mostly because he is so social. When we left that visit, the doctor handed me a list of other evaluations that she strongly recommended that we look into to facilitate additional help and services.
Over the past year, I’ve looked to the public school and our local therapist and, eventually, E’s psychologist, for help. Nothing was forthcoming, and I was tired of waiting. So, I called the autism center and I asked for help and referrals. I wasn’t sure that they could help since it had been at least a year since we were last in but, they put the referrals through that same day. That. Same. Day! I am still in awe at how helpful the nurse I spoke to was. (If by some chance you read this, Jan, thank you so much!) I was given several options of additional offices, not connected to the children’s hospital, to call, as well as direct referrals to the hospital.
The next step was figuring out the best doctors to start with, considering the distance to drive and our insurance coverage. Amazingly enough, two of the alternative locations were preferred providers on our insurance! I was in shock but, rushed to call. The good vibes kept flowing and each call resulted in an appointment that was not long off! Hurrah! I was going to keep fighting for my little man and figure this out! I was so happy and excited.
Finally, the time comes, and we make the two-plus hour trek to the various doctor appointments. The first doctor was a pediatrician who was going to evaluate C for ADHD. Even though we arrived nearly an hour early, we decided to sit in the lobby rather than in the car. I was shocked when we were taken to see the doctor early, nearly right away. She was so nice and observed C while chatting with me. Then, sends us off with the “Vanderbilt” forms. These are the standard starting place for an ADHD evaluation. The parents and the child’s teacher each fill out the form and then it is scored and reviewed by the doctor. Since C is homeschooled through a public school program he actually has an official teacher to do the form, however, she couldn’t really fill it out because her personal time with him is limited. Dad and I each filled one out. Then, being me, I look up the scoring sheet online and “score” our forms. Dad and I each filled almost identical forms, and yet, the way I read the score sheet, seemed to indicate that C did not actually qualify for the ADHD diagnosis but, we are not doctors.
Our next appointment was actually two in one. We found a therapy center that focuses on pediatric occupational, physical and other therapies. C was evaluated for occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT). In both cases, there was no question that he needed help. They even caught a potential issue with his vision and sent us to a developmental vision clinic for evaluation.
While we were there, E gets all pouty and grumpy. He thinks everything looks fun and wishes he could go there. Currently, he is only getting OT from the public school. As much progress as the school has helped him make, they tend to focus on the things that help him get through school rather than long term, overall growth. I see the value of E having additional help and arrange for a referral from our local general doctor. He was more than happy to help, but warned me it may take time due to the high number of referrals his office is already working on for other patients. But, again, I’m blown away by the help I received. The next day the paperwork was done and E had an appointment for evaluations for the next time we go to sessions for C. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
The next week I (again) make the three-day trip for therapy. (I say three days because, with the travel time we face and the hour-long ferry ride we have to make work, we have to go the night before, then have a day of therapy and then stay one more night before returning home.) So, C starts out with his very first session of PT and OT followed by a speech pathology evaluation. Meanwhile, E starts his evaluations for PT and OT. Again, it is obvious that E really could use this extra help. I’m in love with this place! Everyone is so friendly and accommodating. Due to our distance, they are working with that in mind and schedule us for every other week rather than every week, and also worked as an entire office team to work out a way for all our appointments to be on one day in order to limit our travels.
After all this is settled, we go to the vision clinic and get C evaluated. He is diagnosed with Binocular Convergence Insufficiency. Basically, when he focuses on a point in the near distance, both eyes start to focus on the point as they should, but then one eye drifts off to look behind it. He has said that his super power is to see through things. I assumed it was pretend, because people don’t see through things, however, it really seems that way to him because, with each eye looking at different points, the primary object seems to disappear. He has no clue that this this is a problem. We had no clue because he has excellent vision but, this is a developmental issue that would not have been caught by a regular eye exam. It also does much to explain his issues with focus on school work and, possibly, explain many of the reasons we think he has ADHD. With the combination of eye and brain fatigue from this issue, in conjunction with his sensory issues, it makes perfect sense that he would act out, melt down and have trouble sitting still. Again, this therapy needs weekly appointments but, due to our distance, the vision clinic will work with us every other week. Thankfully, this issue can be resolved in less than 6 months if we can get C to do the homework every day. The hard part is that it’s one more thing he has to deal with and needs help with. It guarantees our staying away from home longer. It’s also very expensive out of pocket, with limited insurance help.
All these travels and therapies are a huge deal for our boys because they both hate being away from home. It’s so difficult to weigh the situation to make the right choices. Do we push the kids out of their comfort zone more, travel more, deal with more meltdowns and “sensory hangovers” yet, get the services they obviously need or, do we make things easier on everyone and try to just continue working with the school system? At this point, we’ve decided to give the therapy a try. I say “we” because the hubs and I make these decisions together but, it’s on me to execute them. He is the breadwinner and has to go to work each day. He won’t be making these trips. He stays at home to care for the animals and home, and work to pay for these services that the kids need. I appreciate him so much, I value his contribution to our family and how I can actually be an at-home-mom for our children. However, the impact of this new routine affects me more than him. I pack and unpack, parent the children solo more now and, have to spend time away from my own comfort zone. Somehow, I need to keep it together. He still gets up and goes to work. His routine doesn’t change much. The main difference for him is that his evenings are quiet and he gets more time alone. So, we have been trying to figure out ways to make the travel and changes easier on our family, and we take things a day at a time. We also wait; wait for evaluations and diagnosis.
After a couple of weeks, I got a phone call from C’s new pediatrician regarding the results of our Vanderbilt forms. First of all, I was so surprised that the doctor, herself, personally called to talk and, second, she did it to avoid us having to come in again for something so minor. She told me that the scoring on the forms indicated a combined Hyperactive and Inattentive form of ADHD as well as ODD. We talked for a while and I filled her in on the results of the other evaluations. Something she said really struck me as fascinating: Often times, when kids deal with these kinds of issues, it’s hard to determine which is the chicken and which is the egg. Basically, it’s really hard to know if one thing is causing the other or, if they are separate issues. Regardless, we were right in our concern for him and, the next time we go in, we will focus on a treatment plan. I’m ecstatic. I mean, I am not happy that my kid has ADHD, but I’m happy that my instincts were right and I’m not just crazy! I knew he had untreated issues.
My first thought after hanging up the phone was vindication. I’m vindicated as a mother with an intuition that my son needed extra help. We are finally on the right path! Our new doctors and their services are our future.