I mentioned in my last post that there was lots I needed to catch everyone up on. The past 2 1/2 weeks have been so crazy — so much stuff going in Little Man’s world and in mine. It all started with a visit to a pediatric specialist at the Center for Development, Behavior, and Genetics. That translates to a specialist that works with kids with a variety of special needs. He’s crazy hard to get into–appointments often take a year to make. However a year ago, when Little Man was still with bio mom, there was some concern that he might have Autism, and so an appointment was scheduled. And now the time had come for that appointment. We actually came back from vacation a day early to make this–it’s that big of a deal.
Since I’ve had Little Man it’s been clear to everyone involved that he doesn’t have Autism. However he does have a whole list of other issues and troubling behaviors. So this was a very helpful appointment. Some of the things he was diagnosed with were no shock–developmental language disorder, at risk for learning disability, and severe problems with impulse control, explosiveness, and aggression. Others were a bit of a surprise, but not too intimidating–probable ADHD.
But then there was one other diagnosis. The one at the top of his chart. I’m not going to make it public yet, because I’m not sure I’ve bought into this diagnosis. But let me tell you, it’s bad. Like, really bad. In fact, when I did my home study they had to ask me about a long list of challenging behaviors, medical conditions, mental health issues, and special needs. I said I’d take kids with severe learning disabilities or special needs. I said I’d take kids who started fires. This is the ONE THING I said I couldn’t handle. The place where I drew the line.
God has a great sense of humor, huh?
I received a copy of the doctor’s full report and it was full of lots of things I just had to laugh at. Like “He can be very sweet, but is also prone to violent and aggressive outbursts. Many things trigger him very quickly” And “He actually exhibits quite a lot of attention-seeking and limit testing behavior with his foster mother. She is quite skilled in her responses to this behavior.” Well, thanks.
That week I actually had three different appointments for Little Man. Two days later I took him into the clinic for a follow-up appointment for a health problem he’s been having. We saw my favorite doctor there-she’s awesome. Little Man was displaying a few challenging behaviors. Most of the time he was pretty good. But then he started throwing a chair. Nurses came in, afraid that someone was getting hurt and the doctor needed help. Welcome to my world, folks. Anyway, Little Man was fine and at the end of the visit the doctor told me “I wish I could bring you in to train the other foster parents–you’re great.” Did I mention how much I love her? So much better than the snooty doctor who stepped in the door one time and before even saying hello told me I needed to teach my son that his behavior wasn’t acceptable. (Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do? I thought I was supposed to encourage the yelling, hitting, and throwing.)
The next day I had an appointment to determine if Little Man was still eligible for services as he transitions out of EI and into the school district system (since he just turned 3). It was an interesting meeting–two people from the school district, his special needs preschool teacher, his EI coordinator, his caseworker, bio mom on the phone, and myself. The preschool teacher started bragging on how far he’s come in the past few months and that he’s doing so great. But I had come to the meeting with my report from the specialist he saw on Monday. And when they passed it around, everyone’s jaws hit the floor. For real. His caseworker said “I had no idea it was this bad.” Maybe she wasn’t getting my desperate e-mails. Who knows. His teacher was shocked. Apparently he spends a lot more time acting out at home than at school. But his EI coordinator listened to my descriptions of his behavior and said “That is exactly what he was behaving like when I was doing in-home services with him before.” Well, at least someone else has seen it. They clearly saw his need for continued services and assigned him to everything the doctor had recommended. Win.
As I was leaving the meeting, his caseworker walked out with me and we were able to have a good conversation. She apologized for not knowing Little Man’s needs were so severe and promised to raise him to the next level of care (which means I’ll receive a higher reimbursement and can start a college fund for him as well as buying some of the therapeutic tools and toys he needs). I laughed, “Yeah,” I said “my definition of a good day had drastically changed–the other night he hit me several times, bit me, pulled my hair, and pinched me, but it really was a good night.”
Then she started talking about mom and I asked her about some of the things she’d said in the meeting. I wanted to know if mom was really making progress on getting Little Man back–because that’s how the caseworker was speaking to her during the meeting. In the process of answering that question it came out that mom does not, in fact, have other children. I was told multiple times by other caseworkers and by Little Man’s lawyer that mom had several other children who had all been freed for adoption and that meant he was on the path for adoption as well. Now I was finding out that wasn’t true. Apparently dad has other kids that have been freed for adoption, but mom has no other kids. Woah. That is a huge difference. I felt like the ground had been ripped out from underneath me. The caseworker shared some other info about his court case that had occurred the day before (I didn’t even know he had one), things going on with mom’s progress, and we made a plan to meet at my home for her visit the following week.
The beginning of the next week she came out for the visit. She sat on my couch and observed Little Man and was completely shocked. For real words that came out of her mouth: “Is he always like this?” “You should think long and hard about whether you want to adopt him, because I can’t promise he’ll ever get any better.” Not so encouraging. I know she’s just doing her job, and she needs to protect him against someone who says yes and then after adopting decides they can’t handle it. But seriously people, if your biological kid was diagnosed with special needs would you just send them back?
In the midst of all this craziness we also had Little Man’s epic birthday party, I met with a social worker at the specialist’s office to discuss ways to handle his challenging behaviors, my computer completely crashed–losing about 3 months worth of work and being out of commission for nearly 2 weeks, I enrolled Little Man in his new special needs preschool program and took him for a tour, and dealt with an incredibly infuriating screaming episode in the middle of a nice sit-down restaurant. (Seriously, Little Man, I refuse to accept defeat and stay at home or the park for the rest of my life–you need to learn how to behave in public, sincerely Mommy.)
So, if you’ve been wondering what’s going on in the world of Little Man, the answer is A LOT. A lot that is super overwhelming. But there’s been so much that’s super rewarding too. Like . . .
* My baby, who could only speak about 5 words three months ago, is now talking up a storm. He can speak in complete sentences and is learning new words and phrases every day!
* And he is not just looking at books anymore. He is “reading” them. For reals. He picks up “Go Dog, Go” and carefully turns each page and says words and sentences that are on that page. “I like it! I like that hat!” How magical is that!!
* He has decided that he now loves being at our home. (I’m sure all the amazing toys his friends got him for his birthday are helping that!)
* He overheard “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” in church and it’s new favorite song. He sings along and does the motions–his favorite part is the “tick tock” part, with “Don’t touch me!” coming in as a close second!
* He also has decided he loves being at church. No more crying when we start heading that way. Instead he’ll start asking for church multiple times in a day!
* He has gotten so much better at staying at the table during mealtimes.
* I have significantly less bruises and injuries than I did a month ago. His violent behaviors are getting much less frequent (and more importantly) much less damaging.
* And also super encouraging: an awesome friend contacted someone she knows who is a specialist in that diagnosis I was so afraid of. And she thinks it’s wrong. She described another diagnosis which is similar, and in some ways even harder to manage. But the major difference: the love, support, and affection I give him now can radically change and even cure what he’s dealing with. And that is a HUGE light at the end of the tunnel.