Friday, September 16, 2011

Little Things

This post was inspired by Laura Wright's new Blog  The ODD Mom. Laura has just started blogging, and she's on my must-read list. Go check her out.

My daughter has ADHD, OCD and Anxiety. Surprisingly, she can handle the big things pretty well-took my mother in law's death very well, and when my mother fell when she was there, she helped grandma bandage her hand (and injury that required 28 stitches to sew that skin back on-peeled it off the back of her hand) and then tried to clean up the blood for Grandma.  Big things don't seem to phase her.

Her OCD and Anxiety means that little things, on the other hand, can throw her right into a tailspin. We had a meltdown in a store last week because she was in a panic about whether her stuffed bunny was in the car or had been forgotten. She bolted from me one time, and I caught her a nano-second before she ran into 4 lanes of busy rush-hour traffic because Bunny had been forgotten on a table at summer camp across the road.  Barbies must be naked before they are put away for the night. They must go in a certain order into the box, and clothes must be below the dolls. She can't cope if it isn't done that way. Her hair is brushed before she brushes her teeth and she once locked herself in the bathroom for 20 minutes because I tried to hurry things along and brushed her hair while she was brushing her teeth. Her clothes go on in a certain order. She needs a clean spoon if she eats more than one thing requiring a spoon.

Her anxiety can be extreme. "But what if" enters into many conversations. She should go work for the Pentagon or CSIS-she can dream up scenarios that wouldn't occur to other people. Some of them are funny ("but what if someone breaks into the car and steals Bunny?" "Honey, if someone breaks into the car, Bunny is the last thing they'll be looking for." ) and some of them break my heart.  We were going to a fall fair last weekend and she was having a meltdown because she only wanted one of us to go with her, and the other one had to stay home.  She didn't care which one, but someone had to stay. We eventually found out that it was because she wanted someone to stay in the house to protect Bunny. Problem solved-Bunny came along in a zippered carryall bag. It took over an hour of her pleading with us before we found out. "Why do you want one of us to stay." "Because"  "Because why" "I can't tell you." "Well then I can't stay home." "Please...." "Tell us why" "Because" "Because is a preposition not an answer-tell us why we need to understand" "I can't" and so it went...

I drove to Welland, Ontario and back yesterday (2 hours each way) for my friend's mom's funeral. I dropped the kid at school and left, and had arranged for one of her friend's moms to pick her up after school for a playdate until I could get home. Vampira left her hairband ("her most favorite one in the whole world") at her friend's house and she was starting to panic. I called, talked to the little girl's dad and asked if they could bring it to school in the morning. No problem, I'm putting it in the backpack now. Crisis averted, kid went to sleep.

Fast forward to this morning and kid was trotting to school so she could get her hairband back. The little friend goes in a different door, so we waited by the door she goes in. When the bell rang, the little girl hadn't shown up yet, and Vampira was in a panic. She has a test today that we have worked all week to get ready for. When we left the house this morning, she was good to go. She knew the words, she could spell the words, she could write the words, she could recognize the words if I spelt the words...and I'm afraid it's all gone to pot because a hairband. Her brain may be stuck in the hairband loop all day.

She will have to learn to recognize and manage her OCD. People with older OCD kids say that it is possible and it will come. My little girl is 6 (okay 6 1/2) and she doesn't have the cognitive ability to recognize and interrupt the pattern. All she knows is that her hairband was supposed to be at school and it wasn't. Hopefully, the little friend was just late and all was well at recess, hairband returned to its rightful owner, or I will be heading to the accessories store after school.

Part of my job as her mom is to minimize her stressors. Sometimes that means sending 3 spoons in her lunch because she has soup, pudding and applesauce and can't use the same spoon. Sometimes it means walking her back to the car to show her her stuffed bunny is sitting waiting for her. And sometimes, it means buying a new hairband.  Someone who was supposed to have training in children's mental health issues thought I was enabling her compulsion by packing different spoons which told me she didn't understand OCD. While it may be enabling to an extent, it's also making sure that Vampira will eat her lunch. She won't use the same spoon, and it doesn't matter if you wash it in between. I have bigger mountains to die on, so I pack three spoons.

I'm meeting with her teacher after school today just to introduce myself, introduce the kid's challenges and commit to working together. One of her other teachers commented a couple of days ago that a little thing like where she was going to sit really got her stressed. I'm glad the school community is starting to see it. If they can't I'll educate them and we'll work together.

I just hope the bloody hairband showed up...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grade 1

My little girl started Grade 1 today. She wore her sparkly new shoes, her sparkly top, her jeans with sequins on them and her sparkly belt. She had her Hannah Montana backpack and lunch bag and was more than a little terrified.

My daughter suffers from Anxiety disorder, OCD and ADHD. She may or may not be FASD as well, but we have to wait until next March to have that confirmed. The labels explain the why she is, but not the whose she is. They are part of her, but I'm not going to let them define her.

School is tough on my kid. She's a worrier. She is a perfectionist and she'd rather say she doesn't know than to get an answer wrong. Her OCD means that things have to be done a certain way every time, and if things change unexpectedly she can be thrown off for the day. IF something has been promised, then it must happen as promised or she can't cope. Life is full of unexpected changes, so I've tried to mitigate that as much as possible. If there is only a possibility of something happening, I don't mention it until it becomes a certainty. 

My little girl is very intuitive. She knows when someone likes her, and she knows when someone doesn't. She wants everyone to like her. That's going to be hard on her-in fact, it already has been. One of the challenges with OCD is sometimes she fixates, and sometimes it's on a person. (If I never hear another word about Hannah Montana I'll be a happy person) If the person is someone that she has decided is her new BFF, and it's news to the other person, we have a problem. I have to let the fixation run its course, but I have a sad little girl in the meantime when her adoration is not returned.

We had a couple of really bad days this weekend, because school was weighing on my little girl's mind. She thought she had to know everything for Grade 1 the first day of Grade 1. Since I'm her mom, and I know nothing, I solved the problem by hauling out the Grade 1 and Kindergarten curriculum books I'd already purchased. We started with Kindergarten, and worked through some pages so she could see how much she had learned. Then I asked her whether she had learned things in Junior Kindergarten or Senior Kindergarten. She's a bright kid, and figured out the pattern quickly-that learning builds from stuff you already know. Then I grabbed the Grade 1 book and we flipped through some pages. She quickly discovered that she already knows a bunch of Grade 1 stuff too. Problem solved, at least for now.

I'm worried about test anxiety. I'm worried that the school will use the labels to define her, rather than to help her be her best. I'm worried that my kid will be stressed and anxious. She had a rough year last year, but over the summer, I got my sunny bunny back. I don't want to lose that kid again.

The school, teachers and principal will just have to get used to this face because they are going to see it alot. A good friend of mine, whose son has Downs Syndrome, tells teachers that "my child can't rise to low expectations." I like that. Yes, my kid has some challenges, but that is all they are. She's a kind, sweet, smart, loving, funny little fashionista with strong opinions. She will do great things, with a bit of help, a lot of support and love in abundance (and maybe the occasional trip by a stuffed bunny in a backpack.)

My little girl started Grade 1 today, and I couldn't be more proud.