Thursday, December 12, 2013

The day I forgot...

You know that feeling of horror you get when you goof up in front of someone else?  What about if your goof also affects them in a horrible way?  Maybe you slip and fall on the ice and quickly get up to look around and see how many people saw.  This past week I did not just slip and fall in front of a crowd of people but I slipped and fell taking the whole crowd down with me.  This is all just a parallel but you get the idea.  I do embarrassing things all the time.  My poor husband suffers through them all quite bravely.  My kids do not.  One of my older daughters is constantly trying to teach me the correct way to behave in public but I do not believe she thinks I am making any progress under her tutorials. 

It’s been a week since I made a really big mistake and I’m ready to talk…  This is the kind of mistake that did not just make a small tremor in my world, but quaked the ground of the community in which I live.  Okay, so I am exaggerating a little, and it will someday be “no big deal” to the people involved, but on the day it happened…. it was huge.

If you’ve read very many of my blog posts then you are well acquainted with Sydney.  If you haven’t been following long, check out some of the older blog posts.  Here is enough background to get you to where you need to be in order to understand how huge my gaffe was… Sydney’s birth mother drank a lot of alcohol while pregnant.  Sydney will suffer the effects of that the rest of her life.  It has not been an easy nine years for her, or for our family, but since the discovery of the wonderful doctor who prescribed two medications to “slow her down” and help her to focus and learn, our lives have changed for the better.  Just saying “our lives have changed for the better” seems inadequate though.  Before we began these medications, I followed a little tornado around all day.  She could not sit calmly; even to eat.  She could not learn the names of shapes or colors, the alphabet, how to count, or even how to do one-piece puzzles, because her mind was never still long enough.  I heard a special education teacher say once that teaching a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was like throwing a ping-pong ball at another ping-pong ball that was bouncing and trying to connect.  She said that she was able to get the child’s attention for a brief moment about as often as she’d be able to hit that bouncing target with her ball.  I thought it was an excellent illustration.  Sydney has now had three plus years on medication and it is like night and day.  She is still somewhat immature, even on the medication, but I can almost imagine she is “typically developing” from 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM most days now.  Sydney has caught up to her peers in reading, with the exception of comprehension.  This is the semester that numbers have begun to make sense to her as well.  I’m excited to say she is doing two-digit addition, simple subtraction, and has mastered quite a few multiplication families.  For years she has been stuck redoing kindergarten math.  That has finally changed. 

So, are you ready to hear how I goofed?  You may have already guessed it.  One day last week I forgot to give Sydney her medication and I took her to school.  I have no idea how it happened.  Usually the difference in Sydney when she wakes around 7:00 in the morning, and an hour later when I deliver her to school is profound.  Once in a great while, her morning starts out calmly enough that I am not RACING to the pill bottles as soon as she jumps out of the bed.  I guess that last Tuesday was one of those mornings. I simply forgot the pills.   

I delivered Sydney to school and went Xmas shopping.  I had a great day.  No one at school did.  When it was time for me to head home, I took a minute to check my email.  It was about forty-five minutes before the school day ended.  I had email from two teachers telling me that Sydney was not herself.  I thought back to our morning at home and realized that I must have forgotten the medication.  I could not call the school fast enough.  I was able to talk to the principal and apologize over and over and over again.  You see, I KNOW what Sydney looks like off her medication.  The school staff was not prepared for what they had to deal with that day.  It had been three years since I had dealt with THAT Sydney but I remember what a struggle it was to get through a day.  The small tornado had been unleashed and I was the one responsible. 

I am so impressed with Sydney’s teacher this year.  I like her more with every passing week.  This is the first year Sydney has had a classroom teacher who I’ve not known well.  Her teachers in the past have had some (if not all) of her siblings and have watched her grow up.  All but one of her previous teachers were at her baby shower!  Our little rural school was closed a few years ago and we were forced to move the kids to school in town.  If you’ve read previous blog posts you will know that I had to constantly battle with that original special education team to get adequate help for Tate and Sydney.  We live in a small community and all that fighting left me with a reputation that I have been trying to live down ever since.  I don’t consider myself scary or intimidating but I’ve been told that some of the staff at the new school thinks that I am.  Add all that to something Sydney told me and I suppose that is why no one called me early in the day to inquire about Sydney’s “questionable” behavior.  Sydney told me that when she was asked about whether or not she had taken her pills, she told a teacher she was out of pills.  Now, Sydney’s medication is very expensive.  The two prescriptions combined are almost $400.00 each month.  Multiply that by 12 months for 3 years!  Our insurance does pick up a portion of that after we meet a deductible but we’d find a way to buy it anyway.  The difference in Sydney with and without the medication is just that enormous.  I think I’d sell my car (or a kidney) before I’d let her run out of her pills.  Ha!

The tornado, or as her siblings used to call her when she was very small, the monster, had been unleashed on Sydney’s poor schoolmates.  If you’ve never read one of my posts describing a typical morning with Sydney before the meds kick in, scroll down and read one, then imagine living that for eight hours, all the while trying to teach another twenty kids in the room the things they were supposed to learn that day.  That is what I put Sydney’s teacher through when I forgot her medication.  Imagine being eight years old and trying to learn and pay attention to the teacher while one of your classmates ran around the room causing chaos.  That is what I put Sydney’s classmates through.  They tell me she could not do simple math that day.  She could not read a simple passage.  She could not draw a picture.  She was intent on aggravating the other students and singled out one in particular to torment again and again.  She was “out of control.” 

I’m not sure that saying Sydney was “not herself” was really accurate.  Unfortunately, that is exactly who she was that day: herself.  It was all the other days that she was not the “real” Sydney.  You see, the medicated Sydney is sweet, affectionate, cute, calm, and so easy to love.  The medication alters who she is so she can learn but it also alters who she is so other people can enjoy her.  Sadly, the natural (non-medicated) Sydney, the Sydney that alcohol destroyed, is wild, aggressive, hyperactive, loud, obnoxious, and she tests the patience of even the most tolerant people.  But wait! Can I even say the unmedicated Sydney is a true picture of who Sydney is?  Perhaps the real Sydney, the Sydney without the effects of the alcohol, would be very much like the medicated Sydney.  It is something to think about!

If you’ve never known a child with extreme ADHD then you may have trouble understanding just how much we value the medication.  The contrast is THAT amazing.  I myself did not believe it until I saw it.  My kids have had classmates in years past that were behavioral problems in the classroom.  Me, not understanding, often figured they were kids who had gone undisciplined.  I now understand that they may have been kids with ADHD.  Perhaps their parents were reluctant to use medication.  Perhaps their parents had not found medication that made a difference.  Perhaps there is not a medication that can help some kids to the degree Sydney’s medications help her.  I do not know; but I do know this: Sydney takes her pills and about an hour later she has some self-control.  An hour after she takes her pills her brothers can come out of their rooms without fear of being tormented.  An hour after she takes her pills she can have an intelligent conversation.  I also know this:  A pregnant woman who drinks is inflicting a life-long disability on their unborn child.  The world would be a better place if there were no alcohol in it.

If you like reading about Sydney, here is another post you might enjoy: Never a Dull Moment

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