Sunday, February 28, 2010


I have taken a few days to digest a conversation I had on Thursday with Max's teachers. As I mentioned before, we withdrew Max from public school during the winter break, and signed him up with a small learning center to complete third grade. I withdrew him because of a variety of social and educational concerns that I had. But it turns out, the biggest problem we are dealing with is something completely different.

It started innocently enough. He went from being pretty good about cleaning up after himself, to just....not. He stopped putting clothes in the hamper, or throwing away dirty tissues, or putting his dishes in the sink. His room slowly became a complete trash heap, filled with discarded cereal boxes and empty bottles and ripped paper and pieces of erasers and god knows what else. He started acting strangely, spastic, unable to sit still or concentrate on anything more then his legos or erector set for more then a few minutes. Even then, he would have trouble actually COMPLETING anything he was making...he moved from project to project, leaving things scattered far and wide, throughout the house. Then flying into a rage when he couldn't find some key piece for his next project.

I have asked Max's teachers for YEARS if they felt he had a learning disability. If he had ADD. He has always struggled with his writing, it took him forever to read, and spelling for him is just a no mans land. It's not even phonetic spelling - it's just...letters scattered on a page, sometimes forming words, but sometimes....well, not so much. My concern wasn't about being hyper or having a lot of energy - that all seems fairly normal "boy stuff" to me, but my mother, who works in a grade school, felt differently, and had commented on occasion that Max had an unusual amount of energy, and a hot temper......something that she felt was perhaps more then just "boys being boys". But because my two brothers, the boys she raised, are pretty mellow guys, I felt like perhaps she wasn't aware of how nuts little boys can be in their free time, and how completely normal it was. And his teachers and pediatrician have always told me that he was VERY normal, just your average wacky little monster who needs room to run and time to play. Which I have always given him. In public, his behavior seems fine, normal, nothing out of the ordinary. Other parents of boys scoff at the idea that there might be something out of the ordinary about Max - their boys are just the same, they assure me - Max is completely normal. A typical boy. He has lovely manners, is very conversational, makes eye contact, can joke and play and interact with other kids. But in private, when he is alone or with his sister, he is becoming increasingly odd, spastic, and out of control. He runs around in very detailed costumes, creating a full backstory to go along with each character. His sweet nature and incredible imagination and need to create thrills me to no end. I don't want anyone to ever discourage him from expressing himself creatively. But now that he is home with me, and now that I have to try to rein him in for a few hours to work on his schooling, his lack of focus has become a real concern.

Thursday morning, we sat for two desperate hours, trying to get him to write down 5 sentences. He got the first one down, and then it started......standing up, sitting down, kicking his feet, fiddling with erasers, pulling on his ears, looking around, staring into space, talking to himself. I sat with him, we discussed the question, and what his one-sentence answer would be. He repeated it to me, took his pencil in hand, and I walked off to fold laundry. 10 minutes later, he was exactly where I had left him. Nothing had been written. When I asked what was up, he looked at me with a blank stare. We started over again. And again. And again. Only eventually, there were tears, and bursts of anger, papers ripped up and thrown, pencils broken, drawers slammed.

I sat down and composed an email to the learning center. I asked, once again, if they felt like maybe he had some sort of issue, a problem that they might have noticed with actually completing tasks.

And the answer came back almost immediately.

They had actually had a meeting that morning, for over an hour, about Max. And yes, they did feel there was a problem.

And so, it begins. Assessments, new techniques, changes to diet, supplements, chiropractic, perhaps some medication if his pediatrician thinks it might help. Because it's more then just school work. He has begun eating compulsively: bowl after bowl of cereal unless someone stops him. And today, he made himself a bowl of yogurt, added granola, and in the time it took to put away the granola completely FORGOT he had made the snack, and walked away to play. I had to call him back and remind him that he had said he was hungry, and ask him if he wanted to eat. He sat down and ate, then wandered off again.

All I want if for his mind to slow down enough for him to focus and achieve and perhaps find a quiet joy in observing the world around him - his head is so busy, so loud and so bright and turning so quickly, that he cannot stop and smell the roses. Instead, he stops, rips off a rose, and then pulls it apart in a frenzy, scattering the petals in the ground. I wonder if he even realizes the beauty before the destruction, or if he is just frantic to see the end result, to satisfy some sort of compulsion that exists within him to create enough chaos to make the world inside his head seem calm by comparison.

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