Wednesday, January 28, 2015

He's different.

Every parent has a moment or two in their life that was defining, or changed them somehow. I have a list of things I'll never forget, for those reasons. But, there is one that stands out in my life that completely changed me, both as a person and as a mom.
At the time, I had 5 year old and 2.5 year old boys. My 5 year old seemed completely "normal" as far as development, interests, etc. But there was something different about my 2.5 year old. Don't get me wrong, he was the cutest thing on the planet....smiley, happy, sociable, etc, But,he had these crazy obsessions with things that seemed beyond normal.
I was taking my boys to Target, and we were getting ready to walk through the automatic double doors, when Brett started to have an absolute melt down because other people were triggering the door to open, and he liked to do it himself. Not only did he like to cause the doors to open, but he liked to stand back and tweak, as we affectionately called it. We had to stand and wait for people to go through, so he'd have an opportunity to stand there and trigger the doors without anyone else doing it before him. Although we'd been through this scenario several times, it was this particular moment where I knew we were dealing with an issue beyond the realm of normal. I remember climbing into the car, and I could feel the tears burning in my eyes. I didn't want to have a kid that was different. It was embarrassing, it was hard to explain, it made me ache for him. Even though he wasn't quite three, I was already picturing a life time of him being teased by people, of having to explain to strangers, and of him not fitting in.
As the months went by, these problems escalated and we were dealing with doors, fans, and anything else with a swinging, rocking or shutting motion. Our lives were dramatically impacted because it's all he wanted to do. Once we were at a birthday party at a jumpy house place. You know, where kids love to jump on inflatables. All of them except mine. We spent the entire two hour party, watching him open and shut a door that led to the lobby. Every single second of that party, he opened and shut a door. I knew my kid was different.
Finally, I sucked it up and realized that we were going to seek advice, help, whatever we could get. So, I contacted the birth-three program at our local county. They sent someone out to evaluate him and go through a lengthy list of questions. Brett's smile and charm seemed to throw them off from the beginning...typically the kids they are dealing with for issues similar to his, are lacking many of those skills. They were stumped as well. His third birthday was just around the corner, where he'd be eligible for a district developmental preschool program, if he qualified. Oh, I prayed he qualified.
After about an hour of being put through many tests, we sat down to meet with the psychologist. It seemed that he was just on the border between qualifying and not. He was extremely bright, but had these "issues" that prohibited him from learning in a typical classroom setting. They agreed to put him in the program and I could not have been more thrilled!
Over the years, I wanted so badly to have a diagnosis for him. It's not that I wanted him labeled, but I wanted to have answers. Sadly, no one could provide that. We even met specialists at the children's hospital, thinking they'd be able to tell us. We thought he might have signs of autism, but they continued to rule it out. Finally, we saw a psychiatrist who met with Brett in a room with one sided glass. She interacted and played with him, for several different visits, and was wonderful. Her best explanation was that he has a sensory processing disorder. It's not a diagnosis, but something that helped to explain what was going on and why he acted and reacted the way that he did. His body processes things differently and he has a heightened awareness in different situations. She explained the tweaking as something similar to an itch being scratched. It's soothing to him.
Somehow, her words made me feel better.
The years went by and he did really well in the developmental preschool program and went on to be a star in Kindergarten. At that time, he no longer qualified for an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and would enter back into the reality of general education. As a parent, I felt torn with this idea. I liked having the IEP because I knew he'd get the support and services he needed, but I was so proud of him for working through a lot of his issues, to the point that they were no longer impacting his learning.
Here's what we know now. Our boy is different, but that's okay. He's pretty amazing, too. I'm not ashamed to tell people my story. In fact, getting him the services we did, at such a young age, was what has made him so successful. I encourage parents everywhere to get help if you sense something is wrong. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Now, Brett is a super star in his first grade class. He's excelling in all subjects and far surpassing our expectations. As far as his SPD, he's improved a ton! We sometimes joke about him tweaking out and he giggles. "Mom, I don't tweak in front of my friends!", but we sure do love him.
I remember sitting down with his kindergarten teacher, last year, and telling her that we were concerned about him fitting in. What was going to be his thing? Jake is really into sports, what would it be for Brett? She smiled at us said, "I think you are looking too hard". She went on to explain that Brett's thing is school. And instead of looking for all of the outside things for him to excel in, to notice how great he's doing in the classroom. Just because he may not be a super star at sports, doesn't make him any less than his brother. He is a different kid. He is lovable and silly. He is friendly, and kind. He is funny, outgoing, inquisitive and sensitive. He has the biggest heart and even thinking about where we were 5 years ago, brings tears to my eyes. I know he's going to do great in life.
Sometimes we have to look past the differences, and realize the potential.

Oh, Brett. On the eve-eve-eve-even of your SEVENTH birthday, we couldn't be prouder to call you our son.

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  1. Totally relate to this post. We have had the same issues with my oldest. Our tutor/OT has been fantastic.

    1. Thanks for sharing. OT's are pretty amazing people! I'm so thankful for the work that they do. =)