Monday, June 30, 2008

Swimming Lessons

Today is week 2 of daily swim lessons for Scott.
I think his level of progress at this point in his life as compared with Connor's may highlight the extent to which he is hampered by attention issues. This even in accounting for the normal differences of temperaments and abilities in siblings.

One of the tasks I set myself is to learn more about ADHD, and the nature of the diagnosis. He scored high on a behavior checklist. So is a diagnosis confirmed? I need to consider whether it would be useful to have the consultation of a child psychologist, or perhaps a neuropsychiatrist. Then I need to find out if our medical insurance will cover such a consult. I can't remember, I never can remember, our password for our online account to verify coverage. It's amazing what an obstacle this can be. This means I need to steel myself for a lengthy time on hold. I need to make sure the boys are occupied and don't require my attention. I need refreshments, fortifications. I need to get my ducks in a row for questions to ask once someone comes on the line. When my boys are occupied I'm reluctant to let that window pass doing chores. I want to be blogging, or writing in my journal, catching up on the news. So when there is a good opportunity to take care of phone-calls-for-information, that is in conflict with my good opportunity for some Time For Myself.

Another task I've set for myself is to look into medication. His pediatrician says there are three classes: the "straterra's", the "ritalin's" and the "adderalls". Nice that there are only three. I need to examine the mechanisms of how they work, the positives and drawbacks, the potential side effects. I need to seek out blogs of parents of children with the diagnosis and receive the wisdom of their experience. I need to talk with friends I know who are teachers.

With schools on their summer vacation I've lapsed in my resolve to accumulate this knowledge so I have a footing to base some decisions on. I've given myself a break since the need is less apparent, and less urgent, with him out of school.

Interesting how predictable it is that mentioning Scott having attention issues will elicit the admonition: "Don't medicate him!" My feeling is that it doesn't serve Scott well to oppose medicating out of ideology--it is a requirement that I research it first and see where the information takes me. If I'm persuaded that medication is the best route for Scott, then he shall have it.

When Connor was nearly 7 he was jumping off the high dive at our local pool in St. Louis. He was independent, safe to wander the pool grounds at will. He had had the skills for a year to swim in the deep end of the pool.

Scott, at nearly 7 is repeating his second level of swim classes. No matter how many times he is reminded he is not able to bring his arms out of the water in a full circle for more than about 3 cycles. He can't remember to keep his tummy up and his chin back when on his back. He is fascinated with how well he can see underwater when he has the goggles on, and so often when the teacher is talking he has his head underwater, looking around. Given the person that he is, it seems he requires a narrow set of circumstances where he can learn, and these are not present in this class. His teacher is excellent, easy-going and flexible, which is a huge plus. However, there is a child who requires much hand-holding and nurturing or she will dissolve into tears. A good deal of class time was spent on day 2 in such hand-holding. Another circumstance that isn't favorable is the proximity of another active, impulsive boy. Scott gravitates toward these children, and they toward him. Then they form a volatile combination because their attention becomes fixed on each other. Their priority is not to learn from the teacher: it is to best each other. So while the teacher is talking they are jockeying for position. Rather than swim across the pool, they watch the other's progress. If the other is pulling ahead, they will stand and leap forward in order to pass the other, leapfrogging across the pool in this way. It is all about winning. If one is behind he will claim he is 'not playing' as the other gloats over his 'victory.' If the teacher reprimands one, the other will taunt, "HA-ha!" When the teacher is holding the needy child's hand, reassuring, cajoling, the boys are splashing water at each other, jostling, getting reprimanded.

I can see where other children in the group (the rest are girls) have made the connection between what they do with their bodies and how that propels them across the water. I can see they are beginning to build on this and refine it; how they are gaining mastery. I can see how Scott has not yet made that connection of how to make his body engage with the water and pull him through, and how he can enhance this.

That was my reminder today that I need to follow through on my goals to get the information I need to make some decisions in the attention arena. Back to the Harrison Bergeron analogy--assuming that what for most of us would be easily ignorable extraneous input is equivalent to the jarring alarms and interruptions for a person with ADHD, reducing or removing such alarms would be very welcome for a person trying to think. Perhaps medication does just that. Perhaps the greater wrong would be in withholding something that can mute the strength of distraction.

I also recommended to Lizzie, his teacher, that she put as many girls between these boys as possible.


Lori said...

The publishers of Adoptive Families, magazine also publish ADDitude.

I hope it will lead you to some answers.

Mrs. Spit said...

A couple of years ago, I was talking with my MIL about ADD (she's a child psychologist) and she had an interesting perspective. She said we don't deny that diabetics need insulin. We just also emphasize diet and excercise. Why wouldn't we do the same with brain meds.

I think she had a good point. Medication is a part of the puzzle. So are teaching kids coping strategies, watching the foods they eat, getting enough excercise, and adjusting expectations.

About the schooling, I came out of a girls school. I'm a huge fan. Boys and girls just learn so differently. Boys tend to be more active, more hands on, more unable to sit still. Yet, in our society, we prize the femine model of learning, and penalize boys for not learning like girls.

Just my 0,02

excavator said...

Thanks, Lori! I appreciate the link and will check it out.

It's funny, Mrs. Spit, when I wrote that about medication I also sensed a parallel between medicating for ADD and any other medication that corrects for a deficit in body chemistry.

So I'm going to have to come up with a lot better reason than ideology, or other people's resistance before discarding meds as an option.

That kind of tedious process of comparing medications and side effects vs benefits is something that doesn't come naturally to my brain, I'm afraid.