Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Just Jim--raising a unique child

I often find myself talking to people about how difficult it is to raise a child who is very smart and/or creative. These children are just a little different than other kids and many times don’t “fit in” with others. Let’s face it, parenting in general is hard, it is a full-time job. When the child doesn't fit into the mold of what everyone thinks of as “normal,” it is just that much harder. Many people in the child’s life, like teachers, administrators, etc., want to label the problems the child is having...or more accurately, the problems they are having with the child...as some psychological disorder or syndrome. ADD, ADHD, autism, Asberger’s, antisocial, oppositional defiance. That last one is my favorite...it just sounds like they are calling the kid a brat, which he may be. Do you need a diagnosis to see a kid is a brat?

In my opinion, too many parents take the word of the first person that puts a label on their child that makes sense to them. But if they heard other opinions, those might make sense too. To diagnose a child too young and start treatments too early that are only for that one possibility is, again just in my humble opinion, a mistake. I think it is important to get several opinions, treat the symptoms while keeping open other possibilities, and wait to see how things progress as the child grows and learns which behaviors are acceptable and which aren't. I also think medication is very rarely needed in a child. I would go so far to say that I think no more than 5% of children that are diagnosed with one of these psychological disorders or syndromes actually have it. Pablo Picasso exhibited signs of autism or at least Asbergers syndrome when he was a small child. What would treating him for it have done...maybe nothing bad, maybe something good...but would you want to take that chance? Why do so many parents search for a reason their child isn’t “normal”?  Why can’t it just be that the child is not like everyone else because he is just unique?


While I am by no means any kind of expert or even possess any kind of schooling for these opinions of mine, I do speak from my own isolated experience, so let me tell you about my son. When he was little, just starting to talk, he expressed disapproval with people changing the way they say his name by saying “No. Just Jim” (you know how people play around and say things like Jimbo, Jiminy, etc. to kid around). Now that he is a man in college, I wonder if that statement showed an insight into his own personality. From very early in his public school education, my husband and I would get called to school several times a year. There were meetings, behavioral modification plans, suspensions, and requests for counseling. I had many discussions, consultations, and even arguments with several teachers, administrators, school counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Each time I allowed testing but no diagnosis or medication. Everything had to go through me if they wanted any kind of treatment. Year after year, some behaviors would improve and others would emerge. Even my husband and I wondered sometimes if there wasn't a disorder there somewhere, but we kept to our guns and just dealt with each problem as it came up. Of course, being the age of Columbine and other school shootings, we had to deal with the “no tolerance” policies and the knee-jerk reactions to what used to be considered “boys will be boys” behavior. So, he had to learn that he couldn't just say things in this day and age, and we had to deal with taking him to several doctors and even drug tests. We heard all the possibilities of all the things I listed above that could be causing the behavior, and we continued to raise him as if it was the 1970s and boys will be boys and teaching him appropriate behaviors. Well, after 12 years of all this and getting to know my son better than any teacher or school administrator ever will, and after several years of counseling mostly to satisfy the schools, we got the final word from a board certified psychiatrist. He has no disorder and never did. He has no syndrome and never did. He doesn't care for society’s rules and thinks he knows better than at least 99% of the people around him. Diagnosis: it’s just his personality. He is a wonderful person; very empathetic; very, very intelligent; creative; and sometimes in his own world. In short, he is, always was, and probably always will be...Just Jim.