I am amazed by this little boy who has made such an incredible transformation. This was a hard year for him. LA has always been a challenging child, and through the years I had a nagging feeling that it was something more than just typical toddler tantruming and defiance. Time and again though, our concerns were brushed off as “he’s just a boy, it’s just a phase”, and we pushed it aside and waited for the tide to turn. As his school year progressed though, his behavior was becoming more intense, and each morning was a challenge to get him to actually go to school. At one point last fall, we honestly considered just pulling him for the year, since we knew he wasn’t going to kindergarten the next year and would be doing Pre-K4 again regardless. There were tears, and meltdowns, and massive amounts of frustration (his and ours).
He couldn’t quite explain why he didn’t want to go to school other than to cry “they make me do tricky things”… and it wasn’t until the holiday celebration as C and I sat at a table with LA and all of his classmates that we really started to notice the distinctive difference between his drawings and the other childrens’. The more we started to talk and think on it, the more we realized that there were a lot of things that he struggled with at nearly 4 years old – dressing himself, holding a pen, using scissors, buttons, zippers, you name it. Beyond that though, it was his inability to control his behavior and some squawky ticks that were really most concerning. We brought our concerns to our pediatrician and asked for a referral to an OT while simultaneously asking is preschool to do an evaluation on him so that we could all be on the same page.
LA was diagnosed with a significant fine motor delay, low muscle tone, and Sensory Processing Disorder – which made SO much sense. He’s been a bumper and a thumper and a crasher since he was a baby. He nursed every hour and a half around the clock until he was 6 months old, and literally went from crawling to running at 13 months. He needs a ton of physical input, but is very sensitive to lights and loud noises. Finally…. there seemed to be an explanation to that nagging feeling. We enrolled him in OT, and also started exploring options for alternate preschools in the fall. Though the private preschool he was in is a great program, he needed more than what they could offer. We went through countless PPT meetings, observations, questionnaires and finally after months, he was accepted into the special needs program in our town. That acceptance came with many mixed emotions. Certainly as I was rubbing my nine months pregnant belly, I never dreamt that I would be wishing that my child would eventually be classified as special needs, but in that moment it was such an incredible relief. Finally there was acknowledgement and understanding, and the promise that he was going to get the help he needed.
C and I were under the impression that we were talking about the fall, and that he’d finish out the school year in his private preschool… so when it was said in the final PPT meeting “he can start as early as 5 days from today”, we were thrown for a loop. With just under two months of the year to go, did we really want to pull him out and disrupt his routine and start all over with new kids, a new school, new teachers? We thought long and hard about it and eventually decided to go for it. LA is a kid who needs time to adjust, and he gravitates towards adults, so we thought that this transition would give him the opportunity to get used to the routine and the teachers, and most of all they were going to be able to provide additional OT and social services immediately.
The night before he started his new school, he was filled with anxiety. We had been talking for a week or so that he would be going to a new school that Monday, and as I went to kiss him goodnight he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and asked “but Mama, are you going to leave me tomorrow?”. His little lip quivered as he tried to hold back his tears. They bubbled over despite his bravest efforts, and I climbed into bed and held him as he cried scared little tears, comforting him and promising that it would be better.
And it has been. So.much.better.
He’s like a new child – he loves his new school, adores his teacher (who is amazing!), and is happy and excited to go. The other day I dropped him off, and as I started to walk him up to his locker as I’ve done every time since he began attending. Suddenly, he held out his hand and stopped me and said “it’s okay mom, I can walk myself from here”. I bent down and gave him a big hug just as one of the teachers was walking by and she asked with a smile “How does it feel mom, that he is a big kid and doesn’t need you to walk him up?” and without hesitation, I beamed, “It’s wonderful!”. Not that he doesn’t need me, or (gasp!) is it that he’s already embarrassed by mom hugs at his locker?
It was wonderful because this is a child who three months ago I was literally carrying into his old school crying, dropping him off and running for the door to escape his wails that pierced my heart. This boy is different. He’s happy, he’s engaged, he’s learning…. and I am so so grateful.
I share our story, because it was a friend of mine on a photography forum who first mentioned Sensory Processing Disorder, and I remember reading about her son thinking “gosh, that sounds like LA”… and it was her post that sort of started our journey of discovery, and fighting to look beyond the “he’s just a boy, it’s just a phase”. I will always be thankful to her for that, and if our story helps just one more family, then I feel like maybe we’ve done a little good.
Happy Summer, everyone!