Friday, December 6, 2013

ADHD and Kindergarten

Conner has been in school for a few months now. We are still getting in to the routine of things and Conner is still so tired when the day is done. His schedule is so busy at the beginning of the week that it is a relief when Thursday rolls around and we are finally winding down a little.

Let me first say that Conner's school has been AMAZING so far. They have done so much more for him than I ever imagined. The staff is great and loves him and takes care of him. It's not perfect and some days are better than others but for now, he is in a good place. His teacher is absolutely the best. I don't really know the other two teachers, but I feel like Mrs. D is just a wonderful person, teacher and the best possible teacher for Conner to have. That has made this transition to elementary school so much easier.

Conner now gets OT and Speech at school 2 times a week each. He started getting Adaptive P.E. and loves going to that once a week. He goes with 2 older kids and he loves the extra attention and physical activity indoors (he doesn't love being cold on the playground and it's during recess). He is also going to the Resource Room when necessary. We think he is getting Social Work services to help him deal with the situation that arises when other kids can't understand him. He gets very upset when you can't understand what he is saying and he needs some tools to deal with that. So, he is very well taken care of. There is a special education paraprofessional that visits his room during the day and will sit with him when she can to help him one on one. She is shared between all the kindergarten rooms, so I'm not sure how much he works with her. The staff is wonderful and we have been so pleased.

The biggest issue for Conner is that there are 25 (used to be 26 and I'm assuming they will go back to 26 by January) kids in his class and one teacher. He has significant ADHD and it has been very hard for him to stay focused at school. I'm not sure there is a solution to this problem. If you combine this problem with cerebral palsy and Conner's difficulty with using his hands (writing/cutting/etc.), it makes things a little more challenging. He also does not seem to be connecting with the kids in his class. He is so friendly and social but the kids don't seem that receptive to him. All I want for him is to make friends and to be happy. The staff love him. I wish the other kids would give him a chance.

We visited a new neurologist in September after having a terrible experience with our old neurologist. We tried to get Conner in to a U of M neurologist and he still does have an appointment scheduled for June 2014 (I made the appointment in July 2013) but we are thrilled with the doctor that we found. The first order of business for him was weaning Conner off the seizure medication he was on all summer. The doctor said that there are 2 reasons he should not be on this particular medicine. First, he has never had a visible seizure so we should not be treating an EEG. The medicine he was on was doing nothing for him. The second reason to take him off, was that this particular seizure medicine exacerbates ADHD symptoms. So the whole reason we were at a neurologist in the first place was for ADHD and the doctor gave us a medicine that makes it worse. I feel horrible that we even started the medicine in the first place. It took a month to wean him off. We noticed a difference as we lowered the dose.

We also have tried three medications for ADHD. I was so resistant to trying anything but it became very apparent once school started that it was very necessary. The neurologist wasn't sure anything would work and his hope is that Conner will eventually outgrow some of his impulsivity but he felt like we had to try in order for Conner to be successful in school. The first two medications we tried, both stimulants, were a disaster. The first caused rage (and Conner gave himself a black eye the one day we gave it to him) and the second medicine caused crying, mood swings and uncontrolled tongue movements. I was feeling very disappointed and was losing hope. I emailed our new neurologist, who is so fantastic and emails me back so quickly, and he said we should try a non-stimulant. I was hesitant. We started the third medicine on a Friday. The doctor said it could take a week or more to notice anything. We dealt with some side effects - sleepiness and diarrhea, but I felt like it was working and we stuck it out to see if those symptoms would get better and they did. We are noticing HUGE differences at school and at therapy. His teachers and therapists are also noticing a difference in his stuttering, which although it is still severe, he is having less tension in his neck when he speaks.  For once, we feel hopeful. We feel like Conner has a chance at school to learn and succeed. These issues we deal with are so stressful and to have something help is such a relief. We are hoping it stays this way.

These things may not seem like a big deal. But as parents, we are so tired. We are so tired of all these things that Conner has to continue to go through on a daily basis. School and learning and making friends is a big deal to a Kindergartener and we pray every day that he is happy and enjoying his life.

We are all looking forward to the holiday break so we can spend some time together. We really miss Conner when he is gone all day and look forward to our Starbucks dates, movies and time to play together.
 Running with a teacher (another K teacher, not his!)
 Running with his awesome principal!

Forest Fun Run 2013

Brennan update

B started preschool in September again. She is doing the 2 year old class again (she doesn't turn 3 until March so this was the most appropriate place for her). There are 11 kids and 3 teachers in her class. She is one of the oldest kids in the class. She is enjoying it and is learning a lot. She is talking a ton these days and all those initial worries about her speech are pretty much gone. She has a few weird speech things but Conner's speech therapist wasn't worried when we talked about it. Anyway, she loves going to school. I think her favorite part of the day is Arts and Crafts. She is very crafty, especially compared to Conner. She also likes music, stories, cooking, etc. She has made some friends and she is well behaved at school. Going to school is great for her and we love hearing everything she has to tell us at the end of the day.

school picture - 2's

Brennan also takes a dance class and to say she loves it is an understatement. There are 5 little girls in her class and her teacher is fantastic. Brennan talks about her teacher all week and practices her moves. I loves watching her in her little tutu!

Princess day (Halloween) at dance

She also takes a class at the gym and is loving that too. She has changed so much in a year. Last year, she was so shy she wouldn't go near anyone and now she goes willingly to all of these activities. It helps that she knows her teachers and is very familiar with everything but she is getting so grown up!). Her class at the gym is a little playtime and a little bit of preschool type activities (songs, books, bubbles, art, play). She loves it.

A few weeks ago, she started swimming lessons as well. She loves this too. She has gone 3 or 4 times and has already started putting her head in and doing big scoops, pushing off the wall and jumping off the side of the pool.

At home, B is a little drama queen. This morning, she HAD to wear tights. She HAD to have her hair in braids (which I am not that good at doing!). She is particular about what she wears, likes to wear dresses, only will wear her pink tutu to dance, likes her hair a certain way, likes to wear a bandaid and stickers to bed. She is tiring! But also so sweet.

She is a picky eater and a little difficult at night to get to sleep. Her favorite foods are Chobani yogurt (every day), Kraft Mac and Cheese, plain noodles, and hot dogs. Gross. She will eat broccoli and almost all fruits and if we go to sushi, she likes edamame, California rolls and Miso soup. We just wish she would try a few more foods. We have tried a little to give up nap time because she has been having trouble falling asleep at night. But she is so tired in the day that she is still sleeping for about 1-2 hours. If her bedtime gets much later, we will have to try again to give up her nap.

Brennan, overall, is doing so great and we love her so much. She is such a great buddy to Conner and even though they sometimes don't share and they get a little crazy, I'm so glad they have each other.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Conner started Kindergarten last week. We never thought the day would come. We are so proud of how far Conner has come.

Let me back up...2 days before school started, Conner lost his first tooth. He was a little freaked out when it was loose, but was really excited when it was out. He was more excited to have the tooth fairy leave him a surprise at the foot of his bed (we can't do under the pillow because Conner is a crazy sleeper!). The Turtle was protecting his tooth for him until the tooth fairy came to get it! 

So Conner started school after Labor Day. He was excited to go... I asked if he was nervous and he said "NO". We were more nervous than he was. We met with his teacher and saw his classroom a few weeks before school started just so Conner would know what to expect. The first day of school came and Conner did great.

For a parent, walking your child in to a class with 25 other kids is a little nerve-wracking. It's hard to believe that one teacher can teach all those kids at all the different levels that they are at. But she is an excellent teacher and has tons of years of experience so she is definitely the right teacher for us. She is very kind, yet firm.

After the first few days, I found out Conner was telling the teachers that he couldn't write his name. So we went home and wrote it and brought it back to school. Now they know he can do it, so now he's doing it. The next day they told me that Conner said he couldn't identify any letters or letter sounds. He can do that too. So the following day, they took him in a quiet room and redid the testing and he showed them that he knew everything. There is a lot of distraction in the room and a lot of noise, so hopefully they will be able to continue to work with him on this. They have suggested headphones for him for some of this work, but I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Conner was totally hooked up with services from the first day of school. I am so grateful for all the people at preschool that helped us get him situated in Kindergarten. He is getting speech and OT both twice a week and hopefully he will start getting Adaptive P.E. He also gets Resource Room 30 minutes a day which is just 30 minutes when he gets some individual attention to work on whatever the class is working on but with one on one assistance. He will also start getting some Social Work too to just help him deal with the times when kids can't understand him or when he gets too close to people (Conner has NO boundaries!). We have been so happy with everything so far and the transition has been WAY better than we expected...not perfect, but very good! The staff at Conner's school has been 100% amazing. Every person we have come in contact with has been great, from the principal, teacher, paraprofessionals, janitors and lunch ladies. I am thankful that we are where we are this year.

We are trying to get Conner all situated in everything else too. He is so tired after school so we don't want to do too much, but we are continuing private OT, PT and Speech (at least for now). And Conner still wants to do Friendship Circle but we had to switch nights...he will now go on Mondays with the boy volunteers (first time we have been with boy volunteers...he likes the girls, so we will see how this goes!). It's hard for me because I liked the social time with friends on Tuesdays, but it's what we have to do at the moment for Conner.

So Kindergarten is under way. And it's going well. Conner is exhausted most of the time but he is listening (most of the time) and doing his work (most of the time). I am so so so proud of him. He is an amazing, wonderful, feisty little guy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tree Climbing -

Conner gets to do some really cool stuff. This was the 2nd year that we participated in a tree climbing event hosted by Dance Marathon at U of M and Mott Children's Pediatric Rehab. The college kids that we have met through Dance Marathon are the best. Conner absolutely LOVES them and when a few of them graduate this year, we are really going to miss them. So here are a few pictures I got from the day. Brennan is still a little too small to climb but she enjoyed the swings and hanging out outside. 

 Conner is so strong and a superstar. I love how happy he is and I love that he has these amazing opportunities.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Walk 4 Friendship 2013 - September 1, 2013

Conner's Crew participated in the Walk4Friendship for the 3rd year. The Walk benefits The Friendship Circle of Michigan. The Friendship Circle is an incredible organization that provides so much to our community, not just for kids with special needs, but also for the volunteers that participate in the many programs. This year, through the many generous donations of our family and friends, and so many can and bottle donations and lemonade stands, Conner raised over $5000. This year, I had a big volunteer job at the walk, so we didn't get too many pictures but these are some highlights. 

 part of Conner's Crew

We are so grateful to all of our friends and family who have supported our fundraising efforts over the years and also so grateful to Friendship Circle for all they give to our family.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Minnesota - August 2013

Summer ended and we decided we needed one little summer trip to cap it off. This summer was very challenging for several reasons so we just needed some fun. So one day we decided we were going to check out Minneapolis and the Mall of America and the next day we got in the car and drove there. We chose Minneapolis because there is a lot to do and we thought it would be cool enough for the kids to have lots to do outside. But when we got there, it was REALLY hot...unseasonably hot. So our plans changed a little but we stayed very busy while we were there and would definitely go back. 

We got there in the evening and took the kids straight to the Mall of America, not really to shop, but to just walk around a little and show them what we would be doing. They had been cooped up in the car all day so it was good to get out and run around. We took a quick trip to the American Girl Store. It was so cute to see Brennan running over to everything and saying "oohh" or "Oh My Goodness"! We didn't buy anything this time...she already has a bitty baby and bitty twins...but I know she will love it the next time we go. Brennan has never slept well in a hotel so we didn't have high expectations. This is her first trip out of the crib, in a big bed, so it was a little better. 

The next morning, we went to the Como Park Zoo. It was free and beautiful. There was a ton for the kids to see and it was small enough that they weren't exhausted after. It was a great morning with the family and the kids loved it.

After the zoo, we headed over to the Mall of America. We had no idea the magnitude of this place or that you could literally spend an entire weekend inside and not even shop. There was so much to do. So we took the kids to one store that we don't have at home and they were done shopping. After that, David took them to the "amusement park" in the middle and they had the BEST time. Brennan is a daredevil and loves rides. Conner likes them too...just nothing too scary! The most exciting thing for Conner was this:

He LOVES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and he got to meet them. He was in his glory! He was running around with them, karate chopping. Then when we left, he hugged all of them and blew kisses. He was so excited and it was great. Brennan got to meet Dora and Boots (which she had never seem before this and now it's one of her favorites!) but I wasn't there with the camera so I missed the moment!

The kids would have stayed there all day and all night. That night we had special plans. 

We met up with some old friends that I wish we lived closer too. We might have to make a trip to Minnesota an annual occurrence just to visit them. Corbin and Carrie and their two kids met up with us at the Mall and we walked and talked and had dinner and just enjoyed their company. Conner's favorite part was going with the big boys to the Lego Store. Brennan was a little shy but in the end, she warmed up! I have a bunch of pictures on my phone that I still haven't downloaded. I'm sure I can find a good one!

Our last day in Minnesota, we went to the Aquarium. It's also in the mall (crazy!) so it wasn't too big. It was actually okay because the kids went through it once and liked it okay and then later in the day, David took them back so I could do a little shopping. I figured I better do a little shopping if we spent a few days in a mall!

Our last night in Minnesota, we met up with my great aunt and 2 of her daughters (my cousins). The last time we saw my Aunt, Conner was in a baby carrier. It was so great to have that time with them. We went back to her house after dinner and had desert and the kids had a great time.

This was a great road trip and I hope we will do it again (not sure how David feels about that!). Next time, hopefully it won't be so hot (wasn't expecting that in Minnesota) and we will do more outdoor stuff. It really is so beautiful there.