One of the primary reasons I started writing this blog is that while there are lots of blogs and websites for parents whose children have specific issues – ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, etc – there didn’t seem to be much out in the virtual universe for parents whose children face multiple challenges, especially behaviourial issues. M has been diagnosed as having ADHD and anxiety, but in some ways, his behaviour has been the biggest challenge for us. When he was 4 or 5, he would fly into incredible rages, seemingly for no reason. He would throw anything and everything he could lay his hands on (we quickly learned to grab small and/or valuable items in his vicinity as we were ducking out of the way). Transitions from one activity to another were a total nightmare and we learned very quickly that giving M advance notice of a change (we are going to lunch in 30 mins; we are going to the cottage on the weekend) was essential; otherwise, he would explode or just refuse to do things. He hit other children, even his friends. His grade 1 teacher had an evacuation plan in case he lost it in class.
Having a diagnosis was helpful – it helped us understand why M behaved the way he did in certain situations – it isn’t because we are bad parents (clueless or deluded, maybe, but not bad) or because he is a brat; his brain is just wired differently. Once we knew what we were dealing with, we were able to adapt and begin to help him learn how to manage his behaviour and his reactions – yes, everyone gets angry but that doesn’t mean you get to hit that kid who called you “shorty” in the face. We are very fortunate to have the support of our families and friends. M goes to a great school with an amazing principal and terrific teachers who work hard to give him the support he needs. He’s making progress – this time last year, he had been suspended at least 3 times; so far this year, he’s only had one suspension and that was several months ago. Knock on wood.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. Most days, it is a struggle to get him out the door in time for school., as he needs constant supervision just to eat his breakfast and get dressed. He rarely does anything he’s asked the first time, even if he isn’t on his DS or the computer. If he decides he doesn’t want to do something (like go to karate), no amount of persuasion, yelling and/or bribing will get him out the door. It is easy to get discouraged. But we have learned to celebrate the successes, no matter how little: when M asks for help in resolving a conflict with another child, rather than lashing out; when he turns off his DS when his time is up; and when eats his brocoli spear first, rather than refusing to eat his supper until it removed from his plate. These little victories add up and they give us hope to get up – and do it all again tomorrow.