Making the right choices for my son turned me into a warrior mom.
My journey with my son, Liam, started 4 years ago. He had just turned 2 and I was concerned that he was not speaking as a 2-year-old should be. He would point to stuff he wanted and would do a whole lot of babbling. He screamed uncontrollably when I wanted to wash his hair, wipe his face or brush his teeth.
He had temper tantrums and you could see in his eyes he was totally out of it. The only way I could get him to come back to me was to physically hold him and it would take up to an hour at times.
I took him to an occupational therapist (OT) for an assessment
and was informed that Liam had sensory integration dysfunction. This is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with processing information from the five senses
(vision, auditory, touch, olfaction and taste) and the sense of movement (vestibular system).
It was decided that he have OT once a week
. About 6 months after that I voiced my concerns on his developmental delays and was referred to an educational psychologist to have him assessed.
In April 2006 we spent an hour and a half with this psychologist and she said that even though he is a bit young to make a diagnosis there is a good chance he has autism. I was handed a booklet and sent on my way to come back in six months time.
My immediate thought was: what? No way! I dropped Liam off and as I got into my car I just broke down in tears. I phoned my hubby and we met for coffee and spoke about what this would possibly mean.
That night I slept on the floor next to my son’s bed just to be close to him. The next morning in the shower I just broke down in uncontrollable sobs that came from somewhere so deep inside me that I did not recognize the sounds coming out. I will never forget, my hubby came and carried me out of the shower and held me like a baby and just let me cry. I felt like I was mourning the death of my normal child. What did I do wrong?
Soon after that Liam started with speech therapy. So we carried on with that and the OT
and then it was time to go for the follow-up assessment. The educational therapist then advised that he did not have autism (hooray!) as he makes very meaningful eye contact and is a very loving boy.
She recommended he join a school which is for Down syndrome children as she felt Liam was ‘indicating borderline intellectual potential’. As I walked out I thought there is no way my child is going to that school and this would be my last visit to this professional’s office.
On my husband’s suggestion I took my son for a second opinion and he was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
and signs of PDD (pervasive development disorder). Finding a school
After the first grief and shock you do reach the stage of acceptance. You go into ‘mother warrior’ mode; you fight to get your child the help that is needed for him. I decided to stop working as I felt he needed me at home with him. I got him into Carel du Toit Centre, a school for kids with developmental delays and he went for speech, physio and occupational therapies.
I also attended a parent guidance session once a week at the school to enable me with knowledge and practical exercises to get my child to listen and progress. Liam was at that school for 2 years. Then I had to find the right preschool for him - a remedial school for kids with learning disabilities.
He was assessed again by an educational psychologist who said he was making progress but not quickly enough to get him school ready. After three months of research and seeking medical professionals’ advice
and many, many tears later, I knew in my heart that I had to put him on medication. I had to think of what will be best for Liam.
Finding the right school was not an easy task as there are very few schools like these in the Western Cape and to go to a private school we could not afford financially. I eventually applied to two schools and then the waiting game began. After numerous phone calls to the education department, to the school where his application was sent, visits to the school and eventually speaking to the school principal, I got a phone call to say he’d been accepted. He is now in Grade R at Jan Kriel School, I am so proud of him!
There will be days that as a mother you want to get off this train journey and you feel you cannot do it anymore, and that is okay because in a couple of days you will be back with more steam than ever.
Thank you, Liam, for choosing me as your mom to go on this incredible journey of life through your eyes! I love you my angel.
Denise can be contacted on email@example.com.Has your child been diagnosed with ADHD or a related problem? Is medication necessary?