This is a guest post by Mrs. 'Struction
About a year ago, my husband and I entered a strange land. Our son was finishing kindergarten and we were discussing first grade placement with his teacher. She looked took a deep breath and very carefully said “I have to be honest with you, I think that he is going to have a hard time in first grade and I think that he should repeat kindergarten”. Any parent who has been in this position knows how this statement conjures two simultaneous and contradictory thoughts: 1. How dare you say such a thing about my sweet, smart, and sensitive little boy!? and 2. Hmmm, he is a little *quirky* I wonder what that is all about.
So, being a little high strung, we called our friendly nationally known neuropsychologist office and asked for an in-school evaluation of our son to see if we could get to the bottom of what was going on. After the evaluation, we discussed a number of interesting possible atypical ways our son was experiencing the world including sensory perceptive disorder (SPD). Short story: it was heartbreaking. The professional who performed the observation strongly and kindly recommended a full neuropsych evaluation and arranged for the evaluation later that same month. What I did not know at the time is it usually takes 9-12 months to get a child in for a neuropsych evaluation, this practice moved heaven and earth to help us do the best thing for our child.
We walked away from the evaluation with an alphabet soup of diagnoses. First, he is smart, very smart, off the charts smart, especially when related to math. With this also came the diagnoses of sensory processing disorder (SPD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder-combined type (ADHD-C) and executive function issues. The neuropsychologist carefully detailed his strengths and weaknesses and she provided recommendations to help him succeed in school.
Once we received the report, we shared it with everyone, his daycare, summer camp, kindergarten and new elementary school. Much to their credit, everyone took it, read it and applied the recommendations. His elementary school began discussing further evaluations, how to develop his individualized education plan (IEP), and what supports to put into place at the beginning of the school year. Through the further evaluation, the school added more letters to the litany: autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I choked a little with the addition of ASD, however PP was thriving in school with the supports provided, so it was difficult to impossible to argue with them.
I began obsessively reading about the alphabet soup of diagnoses PP had received in order to try to learn how to be his best advocate. One of the many sources of information I found was a local blog: Stimeyland. The author is an amazing advocate for all of her children’s individual needs, in fact, one of the things I have learned from reading her blog is that we all have special and individual needs because no two people are exactly alike. These needs are not good or bad, just different, and they should be recognized. I will get back to Stimeyland in a minute, I swear there is a reason I brought it up!
One of the things PP has desperately wanted is to participate in team sports. I admit, I have been a chicken, which is a huge disservice to him. I have envisioned the breakdowns, the yelling, and the anxiety (both of us). I also imagined him trying to change the rules of the organized activity until it resembled Calvinball, frustrating him and the other players. So, we have passed on the organized sports, but not without significant guilt.
Jean from Stimeyland has sung the praises of the Montgomery Cheetahs hockey team. I wrote to her for more information and she very kindly got me in touch with the organizers and PP is on the waitlist to join the very popular team. This week, I received an email from the organizers, first I cheered, thinking PP was off the wait list, instead it was a message about a Cheetahs baseball team. I asked PP if he would be interested in playing baseball and his answer was YES! With much trepidation on my part and excitement on PP’s part we went off to his first practice this morning. We have not watched or played much baseball at home as evidenced by the fact that he ran the bases and called them first, second, third, and fourth bases. The coaches were amazing. All of the kids followed them through stretches, running, catching, throwing, and hitting. Then they played several innings. PP had a few minor meltdowns about not being perfect, I held back from running on the field to help him and watched as the coaches skillfully talked him through both the skills and the emotions he was having. I also watched him cheer on his teammates, glow the first time he hit the ball, and even shake off when the ball bounced off the bat and hit him in the face. After practice, we hit the playground for about 45 minutes, then headed home. As we were driving, I asked him what he thought of his first baseball practice, really not knowing what to expect as an answer. “It was awesome! When can we go back? Can we practice?” was the answer.
Thank you Cheetahs. Thank you for making PP part of the team.