Sometimes, sitting down in front of my computer to write about my experiences as a parent and husband is hard. It’s like looking in a mirror, except that this mirror shows you what’s inside- it shows you who you really are. Good and bad.
Today I’m going to talk about a bit of both.
I don’t really have any idea where to start, so let’s just jump in and see where this goes.
Also, I hope this doesn’t come out as the deranged rant of a father at the end of his rope. Which I suppose could have it’s own high levels of entertainment value, depending on what you’re looking for. ;)
My almost 14 year old son- aka The Spazmatician, Bilbo Douchebaggins- has always struggled in school, and I’ve worked really hard to try and help him... I don’t know... learn.
For years I’ve helped him with his schoolwork- teaching, rewarding, organizing, punishing, cajoling, begging, practically doing it for him, and recently, giving up. Because nothing worked.
I’ve had meeting after meeting with all the teachers that he’s ever had. One on one meetings, as well as big group sessions with the principal and all Bilbo’s teachers. Not once did any of them say-
“Hey, you might want to get him checked for ADD and ADHD and learning disabilities, I think he’s having a tough time. And, you know, I’m a professional educator, and I see this shit a lot and he’s pretty jumpy and spacey and he’s showing a lot of easily discernible symptoms that could certainly point to a possible diagnosis of... you know, one of those ‘things’ I mentioned before... and at the very least, it’s a good reason to get him checked out. Just thought I’d give you a heads up. You know, so I wouldn’t be leaving you to try and figure it out on your own, with no fucking resources at your disposal, pulling your hair out in frustration and feeling directionless and totally despondent.”
Oooookay. Sorry about that. Didn’t think I’d start ranting this early on. If you are an educator, please know that I’m a deranged father at the end of his rope, and I apologize if you were offended. Fear not, for I shall sing your praises soon enough. Because you rock.
I sat in those meetings and said each and every time, practically verbatim-
“Do you think he could have a learning disability? Or something else?”
To which I never got any kind of response. Ever.
It was weird, and I always felt that there was something conspicuous in their silence. Whoever was running the meeting, usually the principal, would at this point change the direction by whipping out Bilbo’s standardized test scores, and blathering about that for a while, until we were on to something else that usually put the onus on me and the boy. Hmmm.
But I trusted them to have my son’s best interests at heart, so I never pushed the issue, even with a long term, nagging suspicion that something was not right. Well, it turns out, something actually was not right.
I made a terrible mistake not trusting my instincts, to the detriment of most of my son’s education to date. And I feel ashamed that I wasn’t strong or smart enough to fight for him sooner. I was indecisive when I should have been obstinate. And I put him through years of shit for fucking nothing. Duncan, I’m so sorry. I feel it may be one of my biggest regrets as a parent.
My boy has been diagnosed with ADHD and is going to be evaluated further for something called “auditory processing disorder”- I’m not so sure about the latter, but the ADHD diagnosis is rock solid. Here’s how it came about.
At my daughter’s annual check up, the doctor asked after my son- he’s the family pediatrician- and we got to talking.
I told him about Bilbo’s struggles with school and his spaciness. He then started asking me questions like this-
“Does he ever seem jumpy and fidgety?”
“Does he have a hard time completing tasks like chores and homework?”
“Is he easily distracted?”
“Does he sometimes seem spaced out and zombie-like?”
“Is he overly social in class?”
“Does he get frustrated or annoyed standing in lines?”
I just sat there nodding my head saying yes to every bloody question he asked.
“I think we should get him evaluated for ADHD, so I’m going to write a referral for you. I know you haven’t had much luck with the psychology department, but they’ve got some really good, new people, ok*?”
*We’ve tried three times with our medical insurer, but Bilbo never really connected with any of the therapists.
And the door was opened. And questions were answered. And relief arrived.
My kids’ doctor is exceptionally good at his job, as well as being a kick arse dude. I mean, he was able to determine that Bilbo might have ADHD from a 5 minute conversation at which my son wasn’t even present! Thank you, Dr.Puente*, you know who you are.
*That’s not really his name. I call him that because he plays latin percussion.
Dr. P was right about the “really good, new people”. The psychologist that he referred us to is fantastic.
She did the evaluation, gave the diagnosis of ADHD, and Bilbo and I go to very rewarding counseling sessions with her twice a month. But with the diagnosis came....
The recommendation to put my son on medication- specifically adderall. Aka amphetamine salts. Aka speed. Aka The Dope. I was wicked bummed.
What parent wants to medicate their kid? It’s a hardcore drug, for Christ’s sake! A controlled substance that could get you arrested if found in your possession without a valid prescription.
And now I have to decide whether or not to give this to my child?! Great. What a shitty decision to have to make. So I did my due diligence.
I spoke to other parents, my dad (who’s a doctor), Mrs. H, Bilbo’s mum, and friends at great length. I read as much as I could stomach on the internet, but I really listened to the people I know and trust. And this time I listened to myself.
I chose The Dope.
I couldn’t stand by and watch my son struggle anymore. I couldn’t bear to watch him failing his classes, shredding his self-esteem in the process. I couldn’t stand to watch him hurting anymore. Enough is motherfucking enough. Been there, done that.
And you know what? It was the right choice, at least for now. I will never be happy being a “pusher”, but the change has been stunning. Like a curtain has been pulled back to let in the sun.
Bilbo has been a lot more organized- writing in his class agenda perfectly, bringing all his work home, showing me he’s completed it, handing everything in on time and fully completed, not losing any work, completing all his chores in a timely fashion- and it’s been wonderful to watch his confidence begin to creep back in. He needed this. And so did I. Praise Jebus!
We’re going to stick with The Dope for now, maybe when he’s older we can see what happens. But it’s friggin’ working. So, before any of you choose to “Tom Cruise” out on my decision to medicate my son, remember this: You’re not me. Ok?
I’d like to do a quick rant about the education system now, before we wrap things up.
I feel seriously let down by the education system. Each and every one of the educators that have passed through my son’s life failed him. They let him down. Many of them saw him every day for an entire school year, and couldn’t see that something was wrong, FFS! They couldn’t see what Dr. Puente saw in 5 minutes of questions, and Dr. P only sees Bilbo for about an hour a year! This is a joke, right?
But I don’t hold any of his teachers responsible. No, I think that the teachers in this system are totally hamstrung. They’re overworked and underpaid, when they should be loaded with money and given every resource they need to do their jobs. But they’re not.
Instead, schools continue to face brutal cutbacks in funding, so they have to look for places to “trim the fat” and keep costs down, at our children’s expense. It boggles the mind.
Check this out.
I now know why I never got a response when I asked them about my son possibly having a learning disability.
They couldn’t answer, because I didn’t ask correctly. That makes perfect sense, right?
Apparently, I needed to follow a specific procedure with specific wording, which I didn’t know about until I contacted a local parent’s advocacy group and was told that I had to request a thing called an IEP- in writing- using a very specific set of words.
No one at Bilbo’s schools ever said anything about an IEP. Why?
Because it costs money, and money is scarce.
So they left me to find my own way, like some kind of Educational Darwinism. Well, I survived because I’m strong, and fuck you very much. Thanks for the burn.
As soon as I put in the official request for an IEP, I was told that The Spazmatician was eligible for testing, and then they started spouting endless “legal responsibility” and “we will fulfill the requirements set out by the State” bollocks at me. Once I had crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s, they jumped right on the Bilbo Bandwagon and became very helpful. Arseholes.
So, my ire is really directed at the policy makers and administrators. They’re the ones holding the purse strings, and if you have the money, then you have the power. Scarface was right.
Teachers? I salute you. Your job is always hard and often thankless. So, I thank you.
Administrators? Blow me, you heartless bastards.. You. Can. Fuck. Right. Off.
Bilbo? We’ll make up for lost time, Honky. I’m so sorry we didn’t arrive here sooner. I won’t let you down again.
Me? I will trust my instincts from this day forward. And woe be unto those who mess with my children, for Hell hath no fury like a father burned. I will eat your soul*.
*My lawyers have asked me to point out that this is a figurative, and not literal statement. Thank you. I wanted to put “I will eat your face”.
If this entry is resonating with any of you out there, trust your instincts. Know that the system wants to give your child a great education, but it no longer has the re$ource$ to deliver this for everyone. “No Child Left Behind” doesn’t exist- it’s up to us, the parents, to be advocates for our children.
Fight for your kids with everything you’ve got, and don’t stop fighting until you win.
There is no other choice.
That’s it for now.
“Like” the Huttsez facebook page.
Follow Huttsez on twitter.
Thanks for reading. See you soon.
“... the unread voice of a generation.”
p.s. Here's the rabbits