Back in the beginning, Cameron did NOT want to go to Kindergarten. Getting him to agree to go to Kindergarten Roundup without a fit took a lot of bribery on my part. I was hoping going through the Kindergarten experience for a couple of hours would give him enough of a taste that he’d be excited to start the following fall. Nope. If anything it reinforced his deep seated desire not to have anything to do with school.
I figured he’d have three months of summer vacation to get used to the idea and maybe then he’d mature enough to change his mind about Kindergarten. And it worked, well sort of. By the time school started Cameron was anxious for the school year to start and excited about getting to go to the “big” school with Brendan. He was a little nervous when the first day came, but overall seemed happy with how his first day went.
That didn’t last. Soon he figured out that there’s a lot more to Kindergarten than just getting to play and color. There’s work involved too. Thus began our year long fight about not wanting to go to Kindergarten. We kept hoping that as time went on he’d get used to it and stop disliking it so much. But rather than getting better it just seemed to get worse.
We realized pretty early in the year that Cameron’s issues went way beyond just not being mature enough to handle school. We were getting reports home that he was easily distractible, had trouble finishing his work, and wouldn’t/couldn’t follow the basic rules of the classroom. Finally at parent/teacher conferences we realized that the problem was even bigger than we thought.
Whatever other social issues have come up through the years, the one thing they’ve always demonstrated is a firm grasp on academics. Going into pre-school all three kids have been ranked at the top of their class for understanding what they needed to know to go on to Kindergarten. So we hadn’t been worried about Cameron’s academics. But by October his teacher showed us that he was falling behind. Basic rhyming was a concept he couldn’t seem to master, and his reading was way below where it needed to be because he couldn’t seem to remember the words (even if he’d just gone over them a minute ago).
We decided this was beyond our scope of understanding and when I took Kaylee in for her 3 year checkup at the pediatrician I asked him what he thought of Cameron’s situation. He recommended we take Cam in to see a psychologist and let her determine where his issues were stemming from and what our next steps should be.
So for the next four months we took him to the psychologist on a regular basis. She spent a lot of time playing with Cameron and interacting with him, and on two or three separate occasions had Cameron’s teacher, Matt, and I all fill out questionnaires about what types of behaviors we were seeing at home and at school. She taught us new behavioral techniques to try out at home and through a sleep study even got Cameron to sleep through the night.
After months of evaluation the psychologist determined that Cameron had ADHD. ADHD is one of those things that sometimes gets a bad reputation because it seems that every doctor says every kid who can’t sit still for 5 minutes has ADHD. But after living with Cameron for the past 6 years and going over the list of symptoms with his psychologist and finding out he hit every single one on the list, I wasn’t too surprised to hear her diagnosis.
With her guidance things began to slowly improve at home. Cameron wasn’t quite as high strung, and his moods became a little easier to manage. School was a different story. Cameron still struggled to concentrate on his work, and was still behind where he needed to be to be successful. We finally determined that behavioral therapy just wasn’t going to be enough. She recommended we look into medication to treat the symptoms.
Thus started the great debate in our household. Obviously we wanted to do what was best for Cameron, but had concerns about medicating him. We didn’t want to turn him into a zombie or alter his personality with drugs, but we did want him to be able to succeed in school. After a lot of discussion we finally decided to discuss the matter with our pediatrician and see what his stance on the subject was, because if we decided to go that route he would be the one monitoring and prescribing the medication.
After reading the psychologists report on Cameron he was a big advocate of prescribing medication. He was very thorough in his explanation of what the medication would do for Cameron and answered all of our questions. He assured us that the meds have come a long way in the last 20 years and no longer make kids into zombies or anything like that. He also said that he starts out prescribing the minimum dosage and through time and monitoring will adjust the dosage as needed.
We have a very good relationship with our pediatrician and have trusted him with our children for more than a decade. He’s also a behavioral and developmental specialist so we know he knows what he’s talking about. With his endorsement we took the plunge and put Cameron on the medication.
At first there was no discernible change in his behavior. When we took Cameron in for his follow up the pediatrician had no trouble seeing that the small dosage wasn’t going to be enough. In the 25 minutes we were at the doctor’s office Cameron was so wound up that he managed to fall off of the exam table three separate times.
The pediatrician prescribed the next dosage level and scheduled another follow up for the first week of summer vacation. This time we were able to see a bit of improvement in Cameron. At home we began to see him being a little less wild than from time to time, and his mood swings weren’t quite so frequent or often. School remained a struggle, but improved slightly as well. When we went in to watch Cameron’s class perform a reader’s theater for the parents we were amazed to see Cameron stay on task through the entire 30 minute performance, even though there were lots of times where he just had to stand around and wait his turn.
Things are by no means perfect yet, nor will they probably ever be 100% perfect. But in the days leading up to the end of the school year we finally witnessed a breakthrough with Cameron. After months and months of hating school and never wanting to go, Cameron burst into tears over breakfast one morning because he was sad that Kindergarten was coming to an end. Suddenly, he liked Kindergarten and he was going to miss his friends, and his teacher, and Kindergarten in general. We were so happy to see him finally come to these realizations and yet sad that it took him so long to get to that point.
The last day of school came and I picked Cameron up from his teacher for the last time. He gave her a big hug and followed me across the school grounds to the shady tree we’d told Brendan we’d meet him under. Sad though he was about school coming to an end he seemed a bit excited to think that summer was finally starting and that he’d get to come back in the fall and start his next great adventure, First Grade.
We go back and see our pediatrician again in a few days, I’m hopeful that with a few more tweaks Cameron might be able to start First Grade on the right foot.