I honestly can't even remember how much I've written lately about some of the struggles Gabe has had in school, but it's something we've been dealing with since he started preschool two and a half years ago. No major issues, but a lot of little stuff - trouble concentrating and staying focused; rushing through tasks and/or not completing them; inability to sit still/constantly fidgeting; very impulsive/lack of self-control.
Almost right from the beginning, I suspected ADHD, but since a lot of those behaviors are also characteristic of a lot of 4-year-old boys, we didn't jump to any conclusions. And in all other respects, preschool went great - Gabe just always required a lot of extra one-on-one attention and supervision.
Fast forward to Kindergarten. New school, new teacher, same issues. He entered Kindergarten with an IEP that outlined some of these concerns, and thankfully he is at a wonderful school and had an absolutely amazing Kindergarten teacher, and a great support system from his occupational therapist and the school's special services coordinator.
Aside from a few incidents, Kindergarten went well, and academically, he was at the top of his class - reading, writing (although his writing is very sloppy, he organizes his thoughts very well), and math skills at or above grade level. It went so well, in fact, that he was no longer eligible for his IEP, so that was no longer in place when he began 1st grade.
Even without the IEP, though, his 1st grade teacher was doing a fabulous job keeping him on task and helping him stay organized throughout the day. It's a very small school, so she knew Gabe, and knew exactly how to help him.
In spite of her efforts, though, there were a few weeks in late fall that were absolutely disastrous. Gabe was being very disruptive in class, yelling things out, making lots of noise, getting out of his seat constantly. It just got to a level where he was getting himself in trouble and having to be sent out of the classroom. Not a good time for any of us.
We had a few meetings with his teacher and the principal, and we all agreed that now that Gabe was almost 7, it was probably time to have him formally evaluated for ADHD. Scott was hesitant at first, but after talking about it a lot, I was able to explain to him that a 'label' like ADHD really isn't a big deal, and really isn't even seen as a negative thing, and that having these issues documented would only help Gabe in the long run, as it will help us ensure that no matter where he goes to school, he'll get the help and extra attention that he needs.
So, as we all anticipated, the evaluation did in fact lead to a diagnosis of ADHD, which means that he now has a 504 in place, which doesn't really change a whole lot at the moment, since his teachers already have lots of systems in place to help him out, and since that awful few weeks earlier this year, he's been doing fantastic.
But, I still feel it was a necessary step for us to take, because eventually he will leave this school, and when he moves on to middle school and high school, it's going to be really important for them to know his history and to know what his needs are - as well as what his strengths are, because he has lots of those, too!
Getting the diagnosis was anything but a surprise - frankly, I would have been shocked if they had said he didn't have any kind of attention deficit. But even though I saw it coming a mile away, it still made me a little sad. It's tough to think that there's something wrong with your child. And I know I shouldn't really think of this as something being "wrong," and usually I don't - it's just his unique personality that can create challenges for him, and our challenge as parents is to help him figure out how to work around the issues, and work through them, and make sure that HE doesn't ever think that there's something wrong with him, because there isn't. He's a smart, funny, lovable little boy, and he just needs a little extra guidance navigating this crazy world we live in.
I got a few books to try to help me understand the whole thing a little better, too, because I know there are things we can do at home that will help him, too. Scott and I both have a tendency to get too easily frustrated with his lack of self-control and his inability to follow directions, and things escalate far too often to both of us raising our voices. And then I always feel guilty afterward. I know everyone yells sometimes, and I don't expect to never do it again, but I don't want it to be the knee-jerk reaction. Not only because it just causes the whole situation to escalate, but because it just creates a lot of bad feelings for everyone.
One of my goals, in line with all this, is to try to make our days at least a teeny bit less hectic. I know that's a tall order for a family with three small boys, but every little bit helps, and I'm not looking for miracles here - just going to focus on the small stuff. First order of business has been simplifying dinner.
I love to cook, and I love to experiment with new recipes and make fun, healthy dinners every night. The only problem is, that takes time - and the time that I need to be doing all that cooking is also the time that Gabe needs to do homework, Dante's getting bored and antsy, and Carmine's getting hungry and crabby. So every minute I'm trying to cook, I'm also trying to attend to all three of them, which inevitably results in someone crying or whining or having a tantrum.
So I'm going to be a little less creative in the kitchen for a while. I'm still going to cook - no pre-packaged junk for us - but the meals will be simpler and faster to prepare. I've been using this tactic for a few weeks, and there's still some chaos and whining, but there's a lot less of it.
And the nicest thing is that I've found myself with at least 45 minutes almost every day to just sit down and hang out with the boys before dinner, and we've been having so much fun during that time. It's so nice to have some time in my day where I'm not rushing around trying to do stuff, and instead I'm just able to be with my family. I need more of that.
So that's where we are. Reading, educating ourselves, and trying to make small shifts in our behavior, not only for Gabe, but for all of us. We could all use less rushing around, less craziness, and less stress in our lives, so maybe getting this diagnosis has been a blessing in disguise.
At the end of a long, busy, crazy day, Scott and I sometimes look at each other and sigh and remind each other that "They're good kids - they really are." They are good kids, and we love them to pieces, and that's the one thing that we''ll make sure they never forget.