Monthly Archives: October 2013

Parental Development Disorder – Now Orbiting Sanity

The Boy and I have met so many fascinating people over the last couple of months.  Friends at our co-op; a serendipitous friendship arising out of purchasing karate gear; unexpectedly interesting people at various field trips.   We even have landed a sitter, the older sister of one of the Boy’s new friends.

Twice in the past month, while talking to moms (It is rare I see other Home Schooling fathers…which is a topic for another day…maybe) I have made a comment about The Boy possibly being on the Autism spectrum.   In both cases – one from a former teacher who specialized in Special Education and Learning Disabilities, and one from a mom with three kids on the Spectrum – the response was “of course”.  Neither were judgmental or condescending.  Both had waited until I said something, and both had noticed something straight off.  The conversation could have been “I think The Boy has a great deal of athletic ability”.

Without an official diagnosis (and hundreds of dollars which seem to be lacking the bank accounts at the moment) it is hard to say for sure, as he lacks so many of the  key indicators of Autism.  but a general consensus has been reached by his parents and his two therapists that he would fall under the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).  A category which seems to indicate that he is not Neuro-Typical, but certainly capable of fitting into society.

I have two issues that I am still trying to resolve.  Well, LW would insist I have more than two issues, but two that pertain to my son.  The first is, the label.  For a long time, based on his quirks, obvious intelligence coupled with his lack of social savvy, we were trying to figure out what was “wrong” with him.  Having a diagnosis, even an unofficial one seems to answer the question.  There is nothing wrong.  But so what?  We haven’t made drastic changes in our lives.  We still love to coddle him a bit while simultaneously pushing him to bigger and better things.  We still rejoice in his successes, blame ourselves when he fails, and get frustrated when he leaves his socks and light sabers all over the place.

Second, are we sure?  What is the dividing line between quirky, eccentric and wonderfully weird to actually having a diagnosable disorder?  My family is wack-a-doodle by nature.   Where do the Neuro-typical and Neuro-atypical diverge?

I guess in the end, we help, we push, we praise, we comfort, occasionally, we even punish.  The Boy will thrive.  While he takes life literally a bit too much, he is eager to smile and make jokes.  And he is competent and courageous beyond even our expectations.

Not the best trip, but we did finally see horses

Not the best trip, but we did finally see horses

Extracting DNA

Extracting DNA

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A Quiet Ordinary Day

The other day, I heard someone talking about just wanting their child to be a “normal, happy child”.  I got stuck on that term “normal”.  What is a “normal” child?  Is the kid who sits still in school all day and pays attention normal and happy?  What about the one itching to get outside and returns home covered in mud after chasing frogs all afternoon?

I never felt that either my LW (Lovely Wife) or I came from “normal” families.  We both had parents who were curious about the world, took classes when others were in the workforce, started and ran businesses.  And then, at a time in life when they should be settling in with all of the neighbors, both sets pulled up roots and moved…BIG moves.  That certainly can’t be normal, is it?

My brother and I had a happy childhood, but was it normal?  His idea of fun was playing football and tennis and basketball.  He would head off of a summer day and come back late having exhausted himself physically.  He seemed happy (until the teen years when we were both miserable wrecks, but that is a story for another day) and pretty normal, I should think.  I liked to read and swim.  There was always a book in close proximity to me and a great hang out was the library.  I had plenty of friends who shared these past times with me, so I never felt abnormal.  And I was happy.

So when The Boy has friends over and I find them reading in his room, or playing games on different devices, I do not think it is too strange.  The interaction may not be direct, but they are happy.  Should they be constantly outside playing football?  What level books should he be reading?  He started reading at the age of three, should I worry about that being normal?

The society has a path for normal.  It includes school and work and responsibility, all things I want for my son and our family.  But I have never felt that it has to be on the schedule allotted.  We were never concerned that he was reading early, why should we be concerned that he does other things late?

I’ve heard it said that kids grow up despite their parents.  All we can do is open opportunities, encourage investigation and discovery, and the boy will turn out okay.

Is this normal?

Is this normal?

The Boy versus the Pen

There is an old family story of which I am the center.  As a freshman in high-school, I had to write a paper on a subject of my choice.  I chose the subject of English soccer violence.  In the 80’s there was an outbreak of extreme fan “hooliganism”, which fascinated me as I never quite got (nor do I now) people being violently fanatical about a game.

The paper went a bit like this: “There is a lot of violence by fans in soccer stadiums.  It is bad.  I read these articles and you should as well.”  For some reason, my parents found this sadly lacking and through Easter break I was limited to home or the library to re-write and re-research the subject.  At that time, I learned about outlining and that there is a basic standard to writing (especially if I was going to have to have my parents as editors.)

The Boy has a passionate hatred of writing.  For all of the words that spill out of his mouth, the absurd amount of information he keeps in his brain, processing that to paper is akin to bamboo slivers under the fingernails.  Writing was one of the big obstacles in traditional schooling.  If he wrote about the Titanic, the sentence would run “The Titanic was a big ship.  Now it is all wet.”  But ask him to tell you about the Titanic?  Hold on to your hats!  You’ll get all of the names of the engineers, the complete passenger list and the number of rivets in the damn ship.

To get us up to speed and to try to remove the hatred, I have introduced writing a weekly letter.  One week to my parents and the next week to my in-laws.  These are short notes at this point.  I encourage him to be light, breezy and to outline (there’s that word again) three things of the past two weeks that we could tell them about.  Today was the letter to my folks.  The first draft covered: I will tell you three things I did last week.  I made flash cards, I read a book and I ate some dinner.

Okay, I am not the most outgoing individual.  It is a process for me to get up and go face the world.  With traffic, crowds and expenses, I generally would prefer to stay at home, read a book and catch up on BREAKING BAD (I’ve just started Season 5…no spoilers please).  But for my son, I have braved the outside world.  Last weekend we went to a Renaissance Faire and earlier this week, we hit up the batting cages for the first time.  This is the kind of stuff I would hope to see in a letter.

When I asked him why he didn’t mention anything about what we did in the last week, we looked at me with that deer in the headlight look he gets sometimes and said: “Honest, I don’t remember anything we did in the last week!”  Even pressing him made me wonder if maybe he had absolutely no memory, but with a couple of verbal cues (and a noticeable decline in my patience, I am embarrassed to admit) some of the events did come back to him.

Tonight, we are starting a journal for him to which he can refer when things get muddy.  Maybe I should stop smacking him in the head with his trombone?

The depraved torture of my son.

The depraved torture of my son.

I do not recollect this incident

I do not recollect this incident

Kar-ithmatic

It is a slow morning.  The government has shut down, the third cup of coffee has had no effect, and the Boy is doing his Math problems…and his karate.

Not unlike many people with ADHD, it is hard for him to focus.  I urge him to try, and he does his best, but hell, I have trouble keeping one thought in my…oh look!  Something shiny!!

Where was I?

On mornings like this, where sitting and thinking is very hard, the Boy switches between two of his favorite activities, solving math problems and working on his Tang Soo Do forms.  It is fascinating to watch.  After each problem, he will get up and do a strike or a particularly difficult maneuver (He’s working on Pinan 2 right now).  After this effort, he is able to switch back to the problems.

At first, this bothered me.  One should sit down, do their work, and then play.  But I can’t argue with results.  When I beat him into the seat, he frequently skims through the work, making careless mistakes.  But when he moves and leaves and comes back to it, he has gotten every answer correct and the work supports the answer.

I don’t pretend to understand the way my son’s mind works.  I don’t understand how my mind works.  And I know that this style will not serve him should he join an accounting firm.  But for my money, I love it.  We get the work done eventually.  And it’s fun to watch.

I need more coffee now.

Concentration when it matters

Concentration when it matters

Sometimes you just have to turn away before you step back into it

Sometimes you just have to turn away before you step back into it