Thursday, October 20, 2011

Would You Please Sit Still!

One of the things that is awesome about Jonas how how totally and completely engaged he can become. A lot of the time, he gets completely plugged in, both mentally and physically. Energy simply oozes out of him and that translates into creativity, enthusiasm and optimism. It's a double edged sword though, because it can also be a hindrance. When he was first diagnosed with ADHD, we couldn't see the link between what was going on in his brain and what was happening with his body. Sure, it was easy to tell that he was hyperactive, but like many people who are uneducated about these conditions, we thought that his physical movements meant that he wasn't focusing mentally, and we believed that it was simply a matter of discipline to "fix it." (Looking back now, I think "Duh!")

Like most kids with ADHD, two of the things that are big challenges for Jonas are being still and being quiet. It has something to do with the dopamine levels in his brain but I don't understand the science of ADHD nearly well enough to write about it yet. What I do know is that he is always talking and always moving. Whether it's a tapping foot, chewing on a pencil, crawling on the floor, bouncing up and down on a couch, or literally trying to climb the walls, he simply can't sit still. It can be frustrating, but the reality is that he can't help it. His body is simply wired to always be "ON". 

We have a tough time dealing with this at home, at Scouts, and in other social settings, but the biggest conflict comes in the school setting. We've come to realize that Jonas learns best when he's on the move. Unfortunately, that can be a distraction for other students if it isn't managed well.  At home, where he's a got a few less restrictions in that regard, he is all over the place, especially when he's learning. Homework and reading time usually mean moving from a chair, to standing beside the couch, to laying on the floor, to squatting on the desk, and this morning we had a new one - kneeling on the kitchen counter to read.

Kneeling on the counter reading a magazine.
He's a whole body learner and worker!

I was upset when a young man with ADHD was let go from our company a few weeks ago because he couldn't sit at his desk and focus on his work long enough to get the job done. A friend told me that I'm getting ahead of the situation, but it made me worry about Jonas's future. While that scenario is something that would be way down the road for us, we are dealing with some of the early reprecussions of it right now. On the OT referral form we recieved this week, his core teacher noted that he "prefers to stand to do his work." (She said it's actually one of the ways she can tell that he's dialled in.) Thankfully, she has made accomodations for him in the classroom, and allows him to stand at his desk to work, and also allows him movement breaks, as long as he doesn't disturb the other students while he's doing it. (i.e. Walking around the class is fine but putting on a one-man-band dance party, not so much.)  Some of his other teachers have not been so accomodating and we expect that situation will repeat itself in the future. We know we have to be proactive about getting the help he needs to learn to manage these symptoms. Telling him to "Sit still!" simply won't work and punishing him for it only erodes his self-esteem.

One of the key things we are pursuing is Occupational Therapy. We finally got the request forms home from the school this week, after fighting for it for the past year. HOORAY!!  We also got a great referral for private treatment, and are very hopeful that the wait lists won't be too long. Cross your fingers with us, ok?


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