My son was up half the night last night. He woke me every couple of hours complaining of headaches and stomachaches. He was doubled over in pain and clutching his head by 8:00 pm last night. The interesting thing was he was fine all weekend. He hung out at friends’ houses, played on the computer, watched TV, walked the dog, even did a few chores. The symptoms started when he realized he was going to have to go to school this morning. Monday mornings are always a challenge but Tuesday mornings after a long weekend are even worse!
I’ve gone over “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” with my son many times, explaining in full how by crying sick all the time I won’t believe him when he is really sick. Now, in retrospect, I can see how fool-hardy that was on my part because he is sick – this is real. Just because I can’t determine it’s validity with a thermometer or by holding his hand while he throws up does make it any less real. He is not crying wolf, he is in serious pain. So what do I do? I can’t make the pain stop, I can’t make his anxiety go away, so how do I help him?
Well, right or wrong, here’s what I did. I called in late to work and drove him to school at 8:30am. Technically my mom drove because my van died on the weekend, but that’s beside the point, the point is I took him to school early so that I could talk to his teacher. Mrs. D is great and always receptive when I just pop into her classroom. She taught my daughter last year so she is familiar with our family history and is very sympathetic to what Alexi is going through.
I talked to her about his stomachaches and she agreed that the stomach pain he experiences is real and she is very concerned about his well being. She did mention how much his grades have slipped this year, she said she hadn’t wanted to bring it up because she was concerned the added stress would make his stomach pain worse. She’s right, it probably will, but it’s a truth that still needs to be dealt with.
We also discussed that he hasn’t been eating his lunch. Alexi’s school in on the balanced day timetable so they have two 45 minute breaks rather than three shorter breaks and he hasn’t been eating at first or second lunch. She also told me that his best friend is very concerned because Alexi isn’t eating – pretty impressive for an 11-year-old boy, he’s a good friend to Alexi. Eating, especially at lunch, has always been a bit of a problem. Loss of appetite is a common side-effect of medications designed to help with ADHD symptoms. The concern with my son is that he weighed about 65 lbs in January, which was underweight and a concern at the time, now he is down to 60 lbs, but hasn’t stopped growing taller. He is becoming so thin I can count his ribs while he has his shirt off – from across the room.
It’s a nasty cycle – he doesn’t feel like eating because of the meds and the anxiety, but not eating makes the stomach pain worse, which in turn increases his anxiety. Lack of nutrition throughout the day also causes an inability to focus, something Alexi already struggles with because of the ADHD and causes the stomachaches to be more intense. This lack of focus in turn means that his schoolwork isn’t being done as well as it could be and that causes more stress for him because he’s upset about his grades and feels stupid. More stress, more stomach pain, poorer grades, more stress – it’s dizzying.
I’ve been sending Boost, a meal supplement in his lunches for months and most days the bottle returns unopened. I’ve tried sending cold pizza, one of Alexi’s favourite treats, to no avail. Tuna sandwiches, crackers and cheese, apples, oranges, bananas, chips, popcorn – all return home uneaten, slightly squashed and ready for the compost bin. He asked the other day for peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch, but I had to tell him no because of the school’s no nut rule (which I totally understand, I don’t want anyone’s child sent to hospital because of a PB&J). I feel like I can’t win for trying.
Mrs. D. and I discussed that with only 5 weeks of school of left there wasn’t much of a chance for him to pull his grades up especially since 2 of those 5 weeks are being dedicated to EQAO testing. It’s time to admit that this school year cannot be salvaged. The one good thing that has happened is that Alexi has a really good friend at school and a couple from outside the neighbourhood. The concern now is the transition into grade 7 in the fall.
Each school year is a big year, each year filled with fabulous learning opportunities for both academic and personal growth, but Grade 7 means only 2 more years until high school – YIKES! So, what can I do to help my son? Well, Mrs. D. e-mailed the learning support teacher to request a school meeting regarding Alexi, which reinforced the call I had made to the Vice Principal on Friday requesting the same thing. I had to leave a message and the VP just called to say that she thought it was an excellent idea to set up a meeting to prepare for Alexi’s Grade 7 year. Also, the board psychologist has Alexi on her radar now because of the interactions she’s had with my daughter.
Also, I finally had a call from OECYC today to schedule an appointment to do the intake for Alexi. I called them over a week ago and have been getting more and more impatient. I know they are doing their best and it is no fault of the dedicated staff there for how long the wait times are, but while we’re waiting my son is literally wasting away.
On the upside, I feel like I’ve finally taken control of this situation and am moving forward proactively on my son’s behalf. As the Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That step has now been made.