Monday, January 10, 2011

Learning to Accept Gifts Makes Me a Better Mom






















When he was 2 years old, Spencer's therapists used to tell me, Spencer is Spencer and Logan is Logan. I did not listen. Since Spencer exhibited traits of inattention and feeding difficulty, I just assumed that Spencer would come to have an ADHD diagnosis as well. That PDD-NOS diagnosis that he received when he was 2 was taken seriously but at the same time, I always felt that he'd grow out of it with therapy.

But as my kids get older, the acronyms have changed. We are now looking at ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) as an acronym for Spencer. Many people don't believe it. I am not even sure I do myself but irregardless, one test does say that and he was very much himself the day he was tested.

For Logan, we are looking at adding more acronyms. Obsessive Difficult Temperament could be one and thus ODT. Anyone ever heard of ODT? And no, it is not ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). I have never heard of it until I met Logan's new doctor in the fall.

And there are more labels. The term "gifted," is another. I always knew he was smart but "gifted" seemed like a stretch to me. I asked Logan's doctor about this last week. Kai was with me. And the doctor said that he thought Logan was gifted but not a genius. There are very few geniuses in the world, he told us. Since the category "genius" was ruled out, "gifted" was a bit more easy to accept and my husband is starting to accept it too.

You would think that we would be embracing the notion of having a gifted child but right now, the "gifted" part of Logan is likely causing him a lot of trouble. It is like ADHD X 3. I don't know how else to describe it. You can't tell he's gifted either at most times because he is really unable to finish a lot of things without a grown-up. Sometimes, the grown-up doesn't have to do anything but just to sit down next to him while he puts a Lego plane together can make a huge difference.

The other day, I helped him make a twelve word sentence together and when he sat to write it down, he stopped midway because he couldn't spell one word. He doesn't like to ask for help and he doesn't like to wait for help either. Many times, he doesn't seem to know why he needs to demonstrate what he knows a.k.a. homework or classwork.

This past weekend, I played with a new pottery wheel that I bought for Logan. Spencer is tactile-defensive with his hands so he abhors getting his hands muddy. Nevertheless, I tried to involve Spencer and of course, he said "NO" a million times over. Logan has never said anything about his brother's tactile issue but sure enough, he knew everything and said, "Look mom, tell him to put his finger in here so he doesn't have to touch anything," as he made a huge hole in the middle of his clay work on the wheel thereby giving Spencer an opportunity to touch without actually getting his hands dirty. Spencer wouldn't come near it but I liked Logan's idea.

Sometimes, when I see Logan play with other special needs kids, he looks like he's really struggling because they don't match his cognitive level or they don't share the same interests as him. But this is what we face in the special needs world. There are so many positives in having a self-contained special needs environment and yet, it's not a perfect solution either.

Logan is doing better these days, I think. He has new medications and he is going to start therapy with a psychologist soon to better learn how to communicate what he needs or is feeling. This is huge for him. You would think he could do some of that but my theory is that he is so complex that even he does not know what he is feeling or perhaps he is too ashamed to validate it. For example, I think he feels really bad if he doesn't like someone. I think he also in turn, does not know how to handle being unforgiven or disliked.

I still don't quite understand how exactly he is gifted and how it plays into his behavior. I am committed to learn about it though. I have been frequenting a website called www.sengifted.org. It is really terrific because there are a bunch of articles that one can read about the emotional needs of the gifted. I never realized that high intelligence could really affect someone's behavior negatively.

I always knew Logan was bright but I never wanted to acknowledge that he was gifted. First of all, his IQ scores don't reach the super duper level. He was just rated as above average but Logan's psychiatrist doesn't think that all these tests are accurate when they are so young. Tests or no tests, when Logan's school psychologist told me that he was gifted last summer, I don't think I wanted to believe her because I didn't want to have hope. How ridiculously stupid can I be?

But I realized that my not accepting his giftedness is just as bad as not accepting his special needs. Why am I so willing to accept his faults but not something positive? This denial I had is so "all about me" and not "all about the kid."

I am going to spend the rest of this year (and more) dedicating myself to figuring out how he is gifted and to help him discover what his natural talents are. For now, what I seem to know is that he is upset when things don't come easy to him. I wonder if it is because so many things do come easy to him.

Sometimes when I hear him talk, he makes me burst out laughing. He wasn't even telling me a joke but his words reveal how he thinks and it sometimes amazes me. Some of his thoughts are so mature. He knows what my behavior modification tactics are and I see him employ my tactics on his little brother. It is a comedy in my house and when he does what I do, I get to see how ridiculous I must look when I get angry and expect total compliance.

I also have to figure out how to get compliance and/or cooperation from a child who questions "Why?" to just about anything. Why do I have to do homework everyday? Why do I have to write this sentence? Why doesn't Spencer have homework too? Why do I have to clean EVERYTHING? Why doesn't Spencer have to clean? Why can't I go to second grade now and not next year? Why do you make me do all this work?

Ugh.... some of these questions he asks are asked because he doesn't want to do the work but I think sometimes he really does not know why he has to comply. And it is to those questions, that I don't have many answers. Sometimes, despite it being vilified in just about every parenting book, I really just want to say, "Because I said so."

When I have lost my patience or if I am in a hurry, I do have to be more authoritarian but I know that this works better now because he's seven and soon my "You have to.." or "You better.." statements will be ignored. I need to figure him out better so I can have him cooperate faster. I am even thinking about religion and philosophy at this point. Some of his questions are very ethics-basedl and he sounds like he needs to know more about these things and while ethics has been taught, philosophy and spirituality have not. I think maybe that is why Logan's doctor told me that I might like reading Aesop's Fables to him. I used to love that book when I was little.

On second thought, if Logan really thinks like a scientist, I wonder if introducing him to religion and philosophy will only create more WHY- questions and drive me crazy. Maybe, but I suspect that he needs it so I am going to try. I wish Confucius lived next door. I would just plop my kid down at his doorstep with a box of coins and sacks of rice and Logan could ask all his WHY questions all day long. Confucius would have an answer for everything and would never tell Logan, "Because I said so."

Caption: For his birthday, my husband built him a little "workshop" by converting this little-used closet into a place where he can go and tinker. It has become a place for him to store his favorite items and stare at his ant farm. Also, he doesn't have to be afraid that his little brother will come and mess it up. Spencer is pretty good about staying out.

If you are thinking of doing this yourself, I strongly encourage it. It cost us less than 80 dollars. He bought some board at Home Depot and borrowed a saw and just put it in! We bought a stool and when he is not using it, he just rolls it under the desk and closes the door. We absolutely love it and have yelled at him a lot less for leaving his stuff everywhere. The workshop was his psychiatrist's idea. I couldn't believe what a great job Kai did. I love how the space just envelops Logan's forward view and peripheral view and lets him escape into a place where he can create and find calm.

Lastly... my friend Melissa and I made a yahoogroup for parents of 2e kids in the NYC area. Look for a button on the right hand column if you would like to join it.

3 comments:

Penny Williams said...

As you know, I too have a 2e kiddo. It's so difficult for them to have the intelligence for a task to come super easy to them but then have the barrier of the ADHD to complete it at all. I think being 2e really raises the frustration of these amazing kiddos.

Penny
http://aMomsViewOfADHD.com

Spruce Kids said...

I just came across your twitter and blog pages. So glad to meet you. I appreciate your stories so much! Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca,
Spruce Kids {www.sprucekidsblog.com, @sprucekids and on fb}
visit us and say hello! we love visitors.

Deb said...

I love this post. I agree it is sometimes difficult to see or accept the positive in our kids. I find I struggle with knowing my child is bright (perhaps gifted) because I worry his diagnosis (ADHD, anxiety, sensory processing disorder) will keep him from reaching his full potential which always worries me....
looking forward to reading more..

www.getsuperpowers.blogspot.com