Sunday, August 30, 2009

Roller Coaster to Tightrope

Last week was a roller coaster of behavior and emotion--from some of the worst days Ben has ever had (see my last post), to some of his best as the week finished out. The catalyst for such dramatic change was pharmaceutical in nature--I finally followed my gut, made an executive, maternal decision, and pulled Ben off his then-current medicine in favor of the ADHD medication he was taking last year. And wonderfully, miracles do happen.

I made this switch on Wednesday morning, after Tuesday left both me and Ben's teacher wondering if Ben was going to be able to succeed in a mainstream classroom. Around 10:30 Wednesday morning I got a short email from Ben's teacher that said he was working well, staying on task, and had not hit, kicked, or spit on another person yet. That afternoon I got another short note simply stating, "So far, so good!!" And as the pinnacle of the day, when I went to his classroom to pick him up after school, his teacher said that the change in Ben was "night and day." With tears in her eyes, she said, "He can learn if he's like this. He can do it."

There's always a catch, though, and here it is: The reason (well, one of them) we pulled Ben off the Adderall in the first place is because it doesn't always work very consistently. It may be a week, or a month, or maybe more, but sooner or later, it will stop working. And then we'll have to start playing with his dosages, shifting him up and up until he can't take anything higher. In the meantime, he'll have good days and bad days, and days that start good but go bad before they're over... And then it will be time to try a "cousin" medicine, hopefully getting the same good result that we had with the Adderall. Again, after a while that medication will stop working, and we'll have to adjust, and adjust, and eventually switch back... So maybe we've exited the roller coaster, but making this medication work effectively will be a tightrope act. Less action; same knot in my stomach.

Progress is being made toward getting an IEP in place. The speech therapist did some testing last week, and then called me to say that she has a bit more to do--hopefully this week. The principal also called me to say that he's asking her to make Ben her top priority (problem is, she has to conduct hearing screenings at a couple schools this week, so her schedule's tight). On his initial testing though, Ben demonstrated a pretty clear deficit in understanding emotional signals. He could identify when a picture depicted someone who was happy (smiling, laughing, etc.) But anything that wasn't happy was relegated to the category of "sad" for Ben. He couldn't identify angry, embarrassed, surprised, etc. All those were simply "sad." Hopefully the rest of the testing will be done this week and an IEP will follow shortly.

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