Monday, June 30, 2014

My Dreams Are Pinned to a Shiny Red Bicycle

I am pinning all my hopes and dreams on a small red children's bicycle. OK, that might be a little too dramatic. But it is totally true to say I am pinning a lot of hope onto this shiny new bike. My youngest son's shiny new bike. I have prayed for a breakthrough like this. Yes, I have prayed for the power of a bicycle to come and rescue my son. To some my bike prayers may seem silly. To me, it's just another day.

My youngest son has RAD. Reactive Attachment Disorder. This is the latest in an alphabet soup of diagnosis. ADHD, (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). SPD, (Sensory Processing Disorder). PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Possible FAS, (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Toss in anxiety and you have an alphabet soup no parent would wish to serve their child. I have come to learn that the diagnosis doesn't matter as much as the treatment. And I have learned that it is not one size fits all when it comes to treatment.

OK, now it's test time. Let's practice that alphabet. The SPD my son displays is a direct result of his FAS and RAD. One of the treatments for this is to teach him to take what we call "sensory breaks". We want him to take these breaks to break the cycle of hyperactivity, brought on by anxiety and PTSD. He doesn't want to take these breaks because he likes the way he feels when hyperactivity sets in. Plus this hyperactivity causes chaos in the household, which keeps him in control, something he is seeking thanks to his RAD. Got it?

The types of activities he needs to complete for these sensory breaks does not always make sense to someone not well versed in how the brain works. Which is me. With my oldest son, if I want him to calm down, I simply tell him to stop whatever activity is winding him up and offer a quiet one, such as an art project, a walk, or a TV show. When I want  my alphabet soup son to calm down I need to offer him activities such as jumping, bouncing, swinging, push ups, and bike riding.  And it usually goes something like this:

Me: "Let's take a sensory break!"
Son: "NO!"

And this goes on for a while. And then goes on some more. He'll try an activity and then discard it 30 seconds later. He doesn't want to change, and he cannot process why this would be good for him. As he winds up tighter and tighter his older brother watches and decides he wants to join in the fun. While he will listen when I tell him to stop, he cannot fully process they "why" part of my request either. And I wind up feeling like the mean mom who never lets her kids have any fun. I can't win, because if I let the fun and hyperactivity continue it will literally take hours for the youngest to wind down. He simply cannot play like other kids. Confused? Me too. Imagine how difficult this is to explain to a 7 year old!

So, back to bike riding. After years of refusing to pedal a bike my youngest has finally joined the party. And we celebrated by getting him his very own bike yesterday. He was beyond thrilled. After trying it out last night he asked if he could ride it some more this morning. (Notice I said he asked. He didn't demand. He didn't just run outside and do it himself. He asked! Progress. Slow, but it is there.)

He likes to ride his bike. Maybe, just maybe, he will occasionally accept this as a sensory break. Maybe he will do this activity for longer than 30 seconds at a time. Maybe he can complete this activity with his older brother without it going south and ending up in hurt feelings and tattling. Maybe I can actually do something else, every once in a while, instead of standing over him administrating a sensory break.

I have learned that there are no quick fixes here. It will take years to bring my youngest son back from the edge of early life trauma. So I celebrate this tiny victory that has been won in the form of a shiny red bicycle. We celebrate the small stuff around here, the every day, the mundane. There is always something worth celebrating- that alphabet soup of diagnosis? They keep our young family on a constant roller coaster of emotions, so we look for the small victories. And today that victory comes on a bike. A shiny, red, big kids bike. And I could not be more proud.

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