Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bright Update

Someone asked me the other day how Bright is doing because I hadn't done a Bright update on the blog in a while. Hmm... How is Bright doing? Well, he's just the same little guy, going on his own path that is confusing to us.

Academically he is on target in many ways. He knows his letters and numbers, and can tell you most letter sounds. He draws pictures very well, and is coming along with writing his name. He's at that stage where he has realized that he wants to read and doesn't know how to do it. It will be fun to see if that clicks for him next year! When it comes to more complex concepts like under/over, in out, etc., he doesn't do so well. Something isn't clicking there. He can memorize like a champ, but cause and effect thinking--not so much.

Behavior. Sometimes Bright is a helpful and happy boy who tries hard to be a "good boy." His laugh is just awesome! But on the turn of a dime he can go from that happy little boy to the boy who jack slaps his sister across the face in the middle of a museum. He will wait for just a moment alone so that he can choose a prohibited action (like writing on the wall) and then do it even knowing it's "wrong." The cause and effect thing again. He can tell you he shouldn't do something, but that won't stop him from doing it. Something doesn't connect there.

Bright sort of obsesses on a certain activity. Right now he's obsessed with watching movies. He would stay upstairs and watch movies all day and all night long if I let him. His newest thing is, rather than leaving a movie to use the restroom he will pull down his pants and pee on the floor. It's very intentional.

Bright is more and more shy around people. When we leave the house he quickly starts saying, "I want to go home." When we are at a family gathering and for some reason (even positive ones) the attention goes to him, he will hide in a corner and cry. He does NOT want the attention on him. Now it's to the point that he is paranoid that people are talking about him when they aren't. OR he will say something really funny/cute and people laugh--he takes it the wrong way and gets angry or cries because "they are laughing at me."

Bright's spoken language is still not typical of most kids his age. He speaks intelligently. It's just that the way he speaks doesn't sound like most kids. It's not like Samren (who couldn't say his "r" or "w" sounds). I can't put my finger on how he sounds different. It just does. He has started stuttering now, which makes us sad for him. It's happening more and more often. But, sometimes he can whip out statements that just crack us up. Today Eric ran in to do an errand while we waited in the care. Bright piped up with, "Mom, Daddy is taking forever long!" I guess most 5.5 year olds would say that and we wouldn't blink, but it sounded funny coming from Bright.

Bright has a TERRIBLE time sleeping. Since he was a baby this has been the case. He has a hard time relaxing to go to sleep, and he has a hard time staying to sleep. He's found that he can do lots of things on the "no-no" list when everybody else is asleep, so the middle of the night has become a time I think he looks forward to. Obviously, that isn't a good thing! We have tried melatonin and that works to an extent. Our doctor prescribed a medication that she said would DEFINITELY knock him out but it did nothing for him. So, he doesn't get enough sleep at night, which causes him to be in a worse place the next day! Nobody is at their best if they don't sleep at night.

At this point we really do think the root of all of Bright's issues is severe anxiety. Who knows if it is at all adoption or malnutrition related? Maybe he would have been this way in Ghana. I tend to think so, as I've met his brothers and I sort of "see" the same look in them that I see in Bright. Why does he obsess on one activity? Because it's a calming activity. It helps him get away from the anxiety he feels in normal daily activities. Why does he flip out and become extremely aggressive? Because the anxiety has hit a level he just can't handle anymore. As someone who deals with social anxiety, I definitely understand the paranoia he feels thinking people are laughing at him. With his speech, I tend to think the kid has to work so hard to get the courage to speak that it comes out choppy and uneven. Stuttering--duh--anxiety. I even think his amazing ability to memorize could have to do with the anxiety. There seems to be comfort for him in that--something he can control and master and concentrate on when the world is too tough to face.

I think that the academic inconsistencies we see may be related to the severe malnutrition he lived through. It's a pretty classic long-term symptom, and not at all a surprise to us that he may have to work harder than others to master more abstract concepts.

Before getting the chance to call Bright my son I never realized that some kids dealt with anxiety to this level. It is so far reaching in his life, right down to not being able to poop because it causes him anxiety! I hurt that he suffers so. He is a super loving kid. He is a survivor. He is smart, I think, to be finding ways to cope with his anxiety at such a young age!

What are we doing for him? Well, at this point we are trying to give him ways to cope with the anxiety without allowing him to become so self-soothing with certain activities that he completely separates himself from regular life. Since he likes to memorize we are trying to give him specific procedures to try when he gets upset. "Bright, if Kendi does something you don't like, first do X, then do Y, then do z."

He LOVES to sing. Like most kids that stutter, he can sing beautifully without the stutter! Memorizing words is right up his alley. So, we've enrolled him in homeschool choir. The social aspect is hard for him, but he loves the reward of singing. We feel this is a perfect appropriately challenging activity for him!

We're working the obsession on watching movies to our advantage. [And I should say, it's really an obsession to watch movies in OUR little room, by himself, upstairs. It's more the environment than anything.] Poor baby, I know after a day where he's had lots of social activities that he needs to de-frag. If he doesn't release in that way, he will release in a more negative way. So, we let him go up there to help himself calm down. When he's starting to freak out at a family function and asking to go home, I will tell him he can do it, and when we get home he can watch a movie for a while. Right now, watching a movie is as good as any anxiety medication.

We have finally found a combination that allows him to go to sleep and stay asleep. It was so obvious. He always sleeps with a very stuffy nose anyway. Good 'ol Benedryl plus 1 melatonin allows him to sleep through the night. With his allergies the Benedryl is helpful anyway. [We've confirmed with our doctor.] I think he knows this is a good thing. He almost looks forward to taking the medicine. Last night he even came to me and said, "Mom, I'm tired. Can I go to bed now?" That was a first!

Bright will be a Kindergarten student next year. We're enrolling him in a charter homeschool program where he can get all services of the public school system. It will be interesting to see if he will need an IEP. I'm sort of waiting to see what develops there. I want to help him as much as we can without going down a route that is going to lead to anxiety medication. I don't want to be the pot calling the kettle black (since I take anxiety medication), but I do want to give him as many tools as we possibly can to help him cope without medication. If that's needed down the road, we'll go there. Right now we're in a pretty good place with everything. He's learning new skills all the time that will help him deal with this.

If you're still reading, thanks! Ha! Sometimes people ask "How is Bright doing?" and I just say "Fine." because it's pretty impossible to go into it all in a few words. He is doing well. We love him to pieces! And he really is in a better place than he was a year ago.


exmish 7:39 AM  

My oldest is like that sometimes (focusing on one particular activity, doing it one certain way, TV). I have found that for him, watching a video allows his mind to focus completely in one direction and with less distraction; sometimes his mind is going in a million different directions at once and I think the TV allows him to drown that out for a time. He doesn't need it all the time, but I can definitely tell during the times that he does.

Sometimes TV really _is_ a tool, and a valuable one! :)

He sounds like a wonderful little boy - hope I get to meet him (and your other kiddos) someday. :)

Amy 9:24 PM  

Thanks for the update Anita. It sounds like you're doing all you can to help him move through toward growth and he is making good progress in lots of ways. Love ya! He sure is a precious little guy. :)


Bingaling 10:45 AM  

I love Bright updates! You know...there are so many similarities with Bright and our boys sometimes. Mr. T has always struggled with stuttering and lately he's really been struggling with cause and effect thinking, too. We've recently got him started with a play therapist. I am hoping that it will prove to be helpful for him. I see it as a way for him to work out some of the things he's worried about in a safe (and fun) environment. Maybe it will help him gain some confidence.

Does Bright have trouble staying asleep once he finally falls asleep? Maybe he's anxious about bad dreams? Does he stop breathing while he sleeps (apnea)?

Just last night we had a sleep study done with Mr. T (for other reasons)...but if Bright is having some anxiety about bad dreams or if he wakes up with a start because he has sleep apnea and has stopped breathing, that might be keeping him from falling asleep. Just a thought.

By the way, I love the picture at the top of your blog!

A. Gillispie 10:18 PM  

Chanda, he has a hard time falling asleep AND staying asleep. He's never had bad dreams (thankfully) but I think it is possible that his stopped up nose could wake him. The benedryl is helping with that--so double plus there! I hadn't ever considered a sleep study. I will keep that in mind!

A. Gillispie 10:19 PM  

Chanda--the pic--do you remember where it was taken? At The Machine Shed last July!! ;-)