By 2006 our relationship with the school had deteriorated. We were fed up with them not listening to us and blaming us for our son’s difficulties. Even more worrying was their lack of interest in learning difficulties and/or disabilities and their lack of will to investigate further. By now my son’s behaviour had escalated to include moments of late night escapes from our home, threats to self-harm and our house being subject to attack during one of his rages. He was only 8 or 9 years old. Things were desperate. No longer could I accept the idea fed to me over the years that my son’s problems were due to his gender and immaturity; no longer could I accept the school’s apathy and disinterest. I knew something was wrong, I could see something was wrong and it was up to me to find out what. So ignoring everybody around me I did two things. One I made an appointment with my doctor and two, I clicked on the computer and researched dyspraxia and ADHD, the two conditions that my son appeared to have.
On looking up dyspraxia and ADHD, whilst these conditions explained part of my son’s problems, they didn’t explain everything. Something was missing. I felt I was looking for something else to describe my son’s problems, but I did not know what that something was. Nevertheless this was not a futile research for I came across an organisation called The Hyperactive Childrens Support Group who claim to be the “UK’s leading proponent of a dietary approach to the problem of hyperactivity”. I contacted them and they sent me comprehensive literature on dietary therapy including the Feingold Food Programme. I didn’t follow the Feingold Food Programme (it is quite complicated) but started at a basic level by removing all food additives that appear in even our most staple of foods such as certain types of bread and squash. By the end of the week not only had I become an avid reader of food labels but there was also a subtle change that I can only describe as less tension in him and in our household. His problems were still there but there was less intensity which proved a huge motivator for me to carry on, as I still do today.
As well as this minor progress, I also wrote down a list of my concerns about my son and headed to the doctor who looked at my list and admitted that he had no idea of these sort of things but would refer us to the paediatrician at our local hospital. At long last we had action. You know I have total respect for that doctor because he listened to us, he did not make assumptions and was intelligent enough to tell us that he didn’t know what the problem was but would help us find out. That, to me, is professionalism.
So a few months later, we found ourselves (husband, me and son) sitting in the peadiatricians office going through all the usual health check ups. Except for his asthma, everything else was physically fine with my son so the next step was to do an ADHD assessment which entailed a questionnaire for the school and a questionnaire for home. When the results came through, it came as no surprise that once again the school reported our child as calm and within normal limits whereas our questionnaire showed the opposite. The paediatrician declared it was not ADHD and that was that. Well it would have been if I hadn’t asked whether he had dyspraxia to which the doctor asked how I knew such things. By now I was quite prepared to fight back, so I explained that I had researched dyspraxia and that it appeared that my son showed signs of the condition such as difficulties in sports, an inability to tie shoe laces and ties, problems in getting dressed etc. Eventually the doctor gave up and said that he could refer our son for further assessment if we wanted, but there was a long waiting list. I was desperate and I grabbed the opportunity. I said we would wait and indeed we did, for over a year.
In part 3 I’ll discuss his assessment and diagnosis.
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