As a parent, a mother especially I believe, it's hard to face reality and accept that your child may have "issues" and seek to get them help. It's common to get feedback from well-meaning strangers, friends and family members like "Oh, it's a phase" or "Well, what do you expect, you spend too much time with him" and other shit along those lines.
Recently, while facing the reality that Nixon will be going into some kind of Pre-Kindergarten this fall, I've also been faced with his less than perfect behaviors and took the first step to see if these were real "issues" on a larger scale or if they were, in fact, just a phase.
The county we live in offers evaluations for learning and behavioral disabilities through a program called Child Find. While this info is not easy to find, on your own without guidance from the school system, it is there if you are like me and willing to spend hours scouring the Internet searching for public resources. I finally made an appointment, after explaining my concerns for Wednesday May 15th.
What were my concerns? Nixon is easily frustrated by new tasks to the point of tantrums, he has some speech issues, he's very sensitive to sounds,he's very focused on things being done "right" if he thinks it's wrong everything is ruined. To someone else, these would seem small and like I'm overreacting but put them all together and on any given day Nixon is a ticking time-bomb in a new environment.
We met with the evaluator and were taken to a small classroom setup. Nixon was given a few small tasks to complete, puzzles and things of that nature, while Mac and I spoke to the evaluator about our (mostly mine) concerns. After talking to us for roughly 20 minutes, during which time Nixon completed an advanced puzzle meant to occupy him for several minutes in less than one minute, she went to spend time with Nixon one-on-one. This was when I had to focus on filling out paperwork and tune them out because I needed to resist the urge to correct Nixon's behavior. He wasn't being horrible, he was just forgetting his "please" and "thank you"s while he was constantly saying "I can't do it" a favorite phrase of his before he does a new and unfamiliar task and more than once being bossy. But this was why he was being evaluated and he was told to be himself, much like he would be in a classroom.
He didn't like when the tasks had to change, for example switching from cutting paper to drawing suddenly. He wanted more time building blocks. He displayed his "this is ruined" behavior when he found a broken peg, but didn't flip out because it was quickly removed from his sight. He was able to hear a classroom of students through the wall and asked why they were "being so loud", the evaluator said they were learning like he was and he said "they should do it quieter, they are being too loud"...she looked over his shoulder at me and gave kind of a knowing "Oh I see" glance. He was able to copy building block patterns she made, even a more advanced setup that she didn't expect he would be able to complete...he did!
She made notes of his language the whole time. With the exception of his "th" sounding like "f" at the end of words mostly, which is age appropriate, he is fine with language and can carry on exceptionally well for his age. He is above age-level for grammar, with his sentence structure of "Excuse me, may I please play with this box now?" according to the evaluator. I just thought I was teaching my child to be polite, I never gave a second-thought to sentence structure.
One of the funniest moments came during the verbal analogy part. She'd give Nixon an analogy and ask him to complete it. The first one was "Food is for eating, Milk is for_____", expecting drinking. Nope, Nixon says "cow". So she repeats it and he says "cow" again, she tries a third time and Nixon says "I said milk is for COW", she moved on and he did fine on the next 3 analogies, even correcting himself with a more appropriate word at one point: "My hand is big, your hand is____" Nixon first said "little" but then said "No, wait...my hand is small." She was impressed that he would correct himself like that.
After all was said and done, she sat down with Mac and I again and went over her findings. She does not see anything that leads her to believe Nixon has a learning disability, first and foremost. He has no signs of being on the autism spectrum either. He does have sensory perception disorder with sounds, but we've got a firm understanding on that and are handling it appropriately at the moment.* Nixon is showing signs of being very bright, above age-level intellectually wise but (there's always a but right?) he has behavioral issues which can pose problems in a classroom environment.
Nixon is self-dictated. He's happiest when he's setting the pace on what he's learning and doing. Which is no surprise to me, I saw him learn how to walk independently in a matter hours when he decided he was ready and potty training was the same way. When he was ready, he went from pull-ups to undies in a couple weeks...full-time, no accidents overnight even! Self-dictated? Yeah, I can see that!
But he's not good with taking directions. Which will undoubtedly be an issue in a classroom. He's so damned bright, I want him to love school but he won't if he's getting in trouble for not listening to his teacher. Which is why the evaluator referred us to another program BEST (Behavioral/Emotional Support and Training) to help us learn how to help him control that now before he's in school.
Overall, it was a good evaluation. Until the end. We'd mentioned Nixon's epic tantrums that happen when he's told to do something he just does not want to do. Well, he did not want to leave when our appointment was over. And he let it be known...by screeching at the top of his lungs! I was my usual calm, I've-shut-down-because-I-need-to-check-out-and-just-deal-with-him-non-emotionally-right-now self, and the evaluator and her boss both asked if this behavior was normal, and of course we replied, "When he doesn't get what he wants and a distraction doesn't work, yep, this is normal" I'm glad they got to see it. It's important they see all the behavioral issues we'd mentioned, and they're going to pass their notes onto their Occupational Therapist as well.
* I've been worried, especially since I only have one child, that I might be over-indulging Nixon and making his issues worst unintentionally. When going shopping or to a restaurant, we have his PSP with shows on it so he can watch that and focus on the familiarise of his shows rather than the noises around him. I had been worried that I was helping him "check out" of reality, but the Child Find head behaviorist actual said, given how she had been witnessing Nixon in the classroom setting, giving him something else to focus on is great. He's still out in public, getting to do things like eating out and helping with the grocery shopping, when he's comfortable enough, but he's not overwhelmed by the surroundings all-at-once. By having something for him to focus on, that we know works to keep him focused, we're providing him safety from the chaos he would otherwise be going through. The fact that I will also take him outside and let him decompress away from the site and sounds of a busy diner, is another good thing I'm doing for him. I'm not punishing him, for getting overwhelmed, I'm giving him a chance to regather himself.
It's been hard to see Nixon struggle and not know if it's me causing the issues or if he's had genuine issues. To get actual professional opinions about him has helped. We know where to go from here, how to help him and what steps to take to help make him successful when he enters school. It's hard to admit your child isn't perfect and might need help, but the very best thing for your child is to get them that help early so they can be successful later in life.