Mar 29 2009

A Big Big Ethan Update

Published by at 3:29 pm under amy's head,kids

I debated writing this but finally decided to go ahead and do it.

Ethan had probably the worst 2 weeks of 1st grade.

But let me back up. I haven’t given any Ethan updates in a while. James and I met with the school folks a few weeks ago for the outcome of the child study/big bout of testing. In November, they mentioned the possibility of Asberger’s, but it has been ruled out (for now). The rest of the various results showed (and this is just me remembering, with nothing in front of me) normal results, with elevated results in attention/focus, issues with social interactions, and a high need for sensory interaction. Academically, he is on grade level for everything, including reading (which he was below grade level on earlier in the year), and below grade level for writing. Writing seems to be the time when he gives attitude to his teacher. Most students are writing 5 sentences, where she will accept 3 from Ethan. Sometimes, he will only do one.

At the end of the meeting, we agreed that the issues he is having is hindering his education, and thus, he qualified for special education. They assured us that he would stay in his classroom and that “special ed” is nothing like it was in our day. They also noted that while he was in the ‘average’ range in all of the IQ tests, his inattention and wiggliness may have affected the results to be lower than in actuality. In the vocabulary tests, he scored in the very high range, which for kids, can be a better indicator of IQ. We will probably be looking into the gifted program as well.

Mostly, I am SO GRATEFUL that we have such a great school, with kind, caring administration and teachers. They all commented on what a special guy Ethan is, and in everything they said and did, showed me that they want the best for Ethan and his education. We have a meeting this coming week to develop a specialized education program for him.

We had met with the new psychiatrist, and I guess in my mind, I thought he’d start weekly sessions and work through this stubborn/angry/borderline behavior, but we went over everythign that’s going on, and all the steps we’ve taken so far. He said that the group class is probably the best thing for him and this is a process that will probably take years for him to work through. He said that it will mostly be him learning the hard way, that when you treat people/friends a certain way it doesn’t work to your advantage. He said that since Ethan is a smart kid, it may be quicker for him to catch on. He gave us some information on ADHD medication – it’s been around for 60 years, and works by increasing bloodflow to the part of the brain that handles organization, etc. (I am probably getting this wrong, so keep that in mind!) I said I didn’t think we were quite there yet, and he suggested if we weren’t seeing any improvement in 3-4 months, then it’d be a good time to revisit it.

So the week we met with the shrink, Ethan’s behavior went down the crapper. He was not doing super good before, but suddenly, it just sucked. He was not doing his work, being super defensive and aggressive when asked to do things, handing in BLANK assignments, antagonizing other kids. Ugh. The vice principal took him out of the class to walk around and cool down, and he threw his library books over a railing and ran away from her. These past two weeks have been pretty hard on James and I. It sucks to be in a pretty good mood on your way home, and then get the email from the teacher about how he tried to turn in a writing assignment COMPLETELY BLANK and then sassed his teacher when she tried to give it back to him to do. Then I would pick Ethan up and have to deal with his total shut-out-everyone because he’s so pissy (because of the consequences he has at home for not getting a “green” at school). It’s very hard to keep your patience up and keep your cool when your 6 year old is talking like a sullen teenager, or refusing to talk at all while he sits alone behind the couch. Generally, after he cools down, he does better, but even then when you try to talk about what happened, it can throw him back into this angry defensive mood again.

Pretty soon we were living each day dreading the news from school, feeling sick to our stomachs all the time, and feeling HELPLESS. What more could we do? Not much. I halfway joked that this whole situation was going to drive ME to medication, let alone him. My back has been killing me, I got sick and missed a day of work, James has been stressed out with all of this, plus midterms, papers to write, and projects to complete.

Social Achiever’s was abysmal. Kicking. Whispering to other kids to shut up. Getting in other people’s personal space. Giving attitude to the counselers. The conversation with the counselor afterward was laughable, but it was very telling. She let me know all the issues they had with him in class and I told the counselor he had a terrible week at school as well.

She suggested we coordinate with the teacher to use some sort of system when he does good or not.
I told her we were already doing that.

She suggested maybe some sort of immediate reward for good behavior.
I told her we were already doing that and explained the system they were doing in class for him.

She suggested contact with the teacher every day.
I told her we were doing that and that I was feeling very discouraged and I just didn’t know what else we COULD do.

She reassured me, and said she would like to have some psychological testing done so she could make some recommendations on what steps to take next. She didn’t feel comfortable giving any recommendations without seeing results, which would give a general look at his outlook.
I told her we had already done that in the round of testing from the school and we agreed I’d send her the results and she’d call me with ideas.

I had called the psychiatrist and told him of all this new trouble we were having and he suggested starting Zoloft, which would help keep him from having such dramatic mood swings. I had called still hoping I guess for .. well, a miracle, I guess. Weekly sessions that would miraculous suddenly get through to him and turn off the sullen teenager switch! Disappointed, I thanked him and said we weren’t quite there yet.

After I sent the test results to the group counselor, James and I both got on the line and called to hear what suggestions she had. She also suggested a mood stabilizer. She said that once he was a bit more on an even keel and able to keep his emotions from getting the better of him, he would be in a better position to get more out of the social achiever’s class.

There was more to the discussion but that’s about what it boiled down to. After James and I hung up with her, I cried. James was on board with the medication when the doctor had suggested it, but after talking to the counselor, I had to get on board too. They both had suggested it unbeknownst of each other, and honestly, it made a lot of sense to me. The more I thought about it, the better I felt.

Not only is Zoloft a mood stabilizer, but it is anti-anxiety medication, which I am sure he has. I think he is very anxious about failing at writing, which is why he is refusing to do his writing assignments at school. I know he gets anxious about reading still as well, even though we try to keep it as light-hearted and easy going as possible. Just yesterday, he mentioned how he is nervous meeting new kids and commented on how he wished it was as easy for him as it seems to be for Jocelyn. I think he is anxious of being rejected by other kids, which is why he acts FIRST – on the defensive and aggressive. I’ve always thought that is has been kind of a “i’ll hurt them before they can hurt me” sort of a thing.

A part of me is wondering why a mood stabilizer seems “better” .. or perhaps, “more acceptable” is a better way to put it, than ADHD medication in my mind. Maybe it’s because I have more personal experience with friends and family needing antidepressants, or more likely, it’s probably because of the “press” or “word of mouth” bad rap ADHD meds have, which I obviously have taken to heart. I spoke to some family who has 2 of their kids on ADHD medication and have seen great results. I just want to make sure we need to, before we take that step.

So to cut a too long story short (TOO LATE!), we’ve started Ethan on Zoloft. It’s been 3 days now at a low dose. I’ve heard that sometimes you can see some improvement right away, and I’ve also heard that it takes 2-3 weeks to really start working. I don’t know if I’m just imagining it or not, but I think he has been a little less apt to fly off the handle.

We’ve talked to him a bit about it and said that it is to help him not get quite so angry. His very first response was, “HOW can MEDICINE help THAT???!?” in disbelief. James told him that it for the brain. Today on the way home from Target he asked me again, “Why am I taking medicine?”

“Well, it’s to help you with anger, and I think that if you’re not getting as angry, then it can help you with that then I think it’ll be easier for you to be polite and respectful and use a bit more self discipline.”

“I think it’s working. Well, I dunno, but maybe. I think my brain thinks it is.”

I have no idea what to read into this response, but I’m glad he doesn’t feel weird or strange.

I’m nervous posting this. I know some people I care about a lot, friends and family alike, who disagree with giving medicine to these precious growing bodies. All I can say is, I really believe we’ve explored every avenue, and this is the right choice for our precious growing boy.

-amy

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “A Big Big Ethan Update”

  1. Annon 30 Mar 2009 at 10:44 am

    Wow! Your family has really been dealing with a lot. Don’t worry what other people think – you’re the one with the information specific to your situation. There is no “right” or “wrong”, just what you think is best given all the evidence and information. I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of “anecdotal” evidence from people who have been through similar situations. And while that sort of thing can help, its nothing compared to the advice of doctors and professionals. Good luck!

  2. Gingeron 30 Mar 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Bravo to you! I hope things go the way you hope, and your little guy is doing well!

  3. Joeon 30 Mar 2009 at 12:47 pm

    What? Two total nerds breed and have a genius child with ADHD… and thats shocking some way?

    You should chat w/my finance.. she’s in special ed and works with kids k-6. I’ve learned a lot the different reasons kids end up in special ed and on medication from her.

    It sounds like the staff at his school really has their shit together.

    I’m with Ann, there is no right or wrong, just what is best for Ethan.. if tattooing a purple star on his forehead will help than do it.

  4. Bekon 08 Apr 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Amy,
    Giant hugs…
    We are dealing with many of these issues and questions and options as well.
    Many people do judge and don’t realize that every child is different.
    Medication is not the answer for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help some, not everyone can see that difference.
    When Alex first had an ADHD diagnosis we heard not one word of support before anyone started ranting about the evil of meds.
    Anyone who has lived with any sort of a neurological difference and struggled with it knows better than to judge, at least that is what I have found. Most of the people that label the meds, and look down their noses at parents who are helping their kids, haven’t been there. Yeah, it would be nice if they’d keep their ignorance to themselves (imagine the peace in the world! :-)
    Anyway, just wanted to say hi and send you a virtual hug.
    Oh and we found out that our guy’s acting out and defiance typically peaks when there is a major disruption or change that other kids might not even notice, but it winds up triggering a chain reaction in him that can be startling to witness. Usually, it’s sensory related- if they move a bookshelf in his classroom or if there is a new kid in class or the schedule is changed a little, or a lightbulb is flickering and about to need a replacement- it winds up throwing him way off for a very long time. His classmates are ok with these things, most people don’t notice them, but he does. We found that he doesn’t have ADHD symptoms most of the time- but in a new environment (even going to a different grocery store), or in an old one that has had a noticeble chance, or any situation that is different it triggers this hyper sort of shutdown- he can’t listen, can’t sit still, is too rough in his physical expression, and his train of though is like the song clips on a CD infomercial set on warp speed….
    Just some thoughts as I find the sensory stuff wasn’t obvious to us as a legitimate trigger for him, but as it turns out almost all of his more challenging behaviors are sensory related… (by the way, Alex has Aspergers but we have not been able to get any diagnosis as our docs don’t seem to read the diagnostic information and are stuck in the dark ages..We now bring copies of the criteria with us on every visit just in case we encounter more people who brush his “symptoms” off as “just being a boy” if only it was that!)

    If you ever need to or want to talk and don’t feel like blogging give me a holler! Although sharing your experience through your blog can’t hurt, it can only help -not only you, other people who are going through the same thing.

    More giant hugs!

    Big hugs…

  5. Melissa (oddharmonic)on 27 Jun 2009 at 2:15 am

    What works for your kid is what works for your kid; it’s not other’s places to judge. I’m glad your school is so attentive and helpful, I love my local school for recognizing and working with my daughter’s needs.