My son is an above-average student. In second grade, his teacher recommended we hold him back a grade. She felt he was immature and not ready for third grade. This rang in my ears like a personal assault. It also started my reluctant journey to his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.
Get over yourself
This was my first of many hard lessons in putting Noah’s needs first. I loved this teacher, and I knew she loved Noah; it wasn’t personal. She was around children his age every day, and had much more experience with children in the wild.
I questioned my cousin, also a teacher. She described how often she’s approached parents when she notices that something may be amiss, and is greeted with denial. These children fall further into the abyss.
Don’t blindly accept everything at face value
School is a different environment, teachers are our best window into it. Talk to them, decide if you trust them. Talk to other teachers, are they observing the same things? If they are, it is something you need to objectively listen to.
When my daughter, Olivia, was in fifth grade, her teacher approached me with the notion that Olivia had moderate ADHD. I talked to other teachers, past and present. We saw two different doctors. Olivia does not have ADHD. She is a free-spirited child. Teachers aren’t always right, but their intentions usually are.
Noah’s second time in second grade was really no better. We succumbed to psycho-educational testing, which resulted in his pediatrician unceremoniously diagnosing Noah with ADHD, primarily inattentive type, and prescribing stimulant medication.
Noah’s school life turned itself around, but his home life was increasingly alarming. To the casual observer, Noah liked to be around other children. When I really started watching him I realized he was not playing with them, rather isolating himself near them while performing odd ritualistic behaviors.
This led us to a pediatric neurologist who diagnosed Noah with OCD, and recommended anti-psychotic medication. Stung by the casualness of the stimulant medication, I was hopelessly frustrated.
I hit the internet to learn as much as I could. It quickly became evident to me that he did not fit the bill for OCD. Countless hours of research had me questioning the possibility of a brain tumor.
When his neurologist all but laughed in my face, that was enough to get me to seek a second opinion. Not because I was certain Noah had a brain tumor, but I wasn’t certain he had OCD. Noah was then diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. In retrospect, the brain tumor is laughable, and a distinct example of how the internet cannot substitute for a proper diagnosis.
I devoured all the books about Asperger’s I could get my hands on. Suddenly, a light in the overwhelming darkness blazed.
See the light
Disorders of the mind are difficult to grasp. There is not cold hard evidence to definitively prove what the issue even is. It is an adventure in extreme parenting. Every parent should be vigilant. We must be hyper vigilant. We must objectively listen, observe, and learn, without our injured egos tripping us up. It is up to us to decipher what is best for our child. We cannot just assume, we must persevere until we know.
Once I understood where Noah was coming from, the problem evolved into solutions. It transformed Noah from someone wrong into someone right. Noah would not be thriving today had I succumbed to my initial instinct to smack that teacher and resume blissful oblivion.