Case One: Bubba

Children are a journey. Every one special with it’s unique twists and turns, and bumps in the road. For me children were something I had always wanted. When I found out I was pregnant with Bubba (obviously not his real name ;)) I was already four months along, but that’s a whole other story.

His birth came a month early. It wasn’t horrifying, but he did spend a week in the Level 2 NICU. Once he came home he was a perfect tiny boy…mostly

As a toddler I noticed little things that I only thought back on years later. He was very good at putting things away, keeping his room clean, and remembering really strange things. If we moved something he would put it back even if it took him days to find it, weeks even. He couldn’t allow doors to be open, he didn’t slam them closed, he just preferred them closed.

As he grew out of baby toys we realized we couldn’t buy him anything with stickers. He’d rip them all off, he’d destroy toys rather than play with them as well. He was never really got into toys at all. I was always a little sad that I thought this toy was cool, but he didn’t want that toy. If he did, he lost interest almost immediately.

Sometime between the ages of two and three major things happened. I didn’t see it at first really, it mostly slapped me across the face as bluntly as possible when the time came. I always had this saying that the terrible two’s were a breeze, it’s the terrifying three’s that make me cringe. He stopped listening to us. We’d ask him to do things and he’d stare blankly at us. I remember mentioning something about how he stopped obeying around the age of two to his Dr. but it wasn’t until he was nearly four that it all came together. She wasn’t overly concerned at first, but at one appointment I finally said to her I feel like I’m talking to a wall. He doesn’t seem to get it. He went from keeping things organized to just blatantly disobeying us at every turn.

Bedtime was the worst. We kept a gate up so he wouldn’t wander the house, and we would leave the hall light on for him, but at three years of age he would not have sleeping in his room. His screaming was awful. He’d scale the gate to the point he ended up landing on his head. Down came the gate, and we tried discussing it, but he wasn’t able to really tell us what was wrong with his room.

At first taking the gate down helped some. Instead of sleeping in bed he was on the floor by his door. His bed had then become off limits. Nothing made him get in bed, he then moved by our bed over the following few months. He got a cool new bed with a slide and everything. He slept in it one night. Then we started to finally make connections. Standing in his doorway we could see our T.V. and sure enough that was what he wanted. For Christmas that year, grandma bought him his own T.V. Not once did we have another problem with him sleeping in his bed. No discussion, literally plugged it in and put in a DVD, the end.

Finally, at the previously mentioned Dr. appointment, she asks me how is his speech? Do you understand at least fifty percent of what he says. I had to really think about this, because for so long I remember being able to tend to him without many words, we basically got through on instincts.

Every meal time was a fiasco, not because of what he would eat or wouldn’t, but because he had to have the blue bowl and the Cars cup, and because he wouldn’t tell me which, I would literally pull out every bowl and cup and he’d pick. Every single meal this was such a strange habit, I knew it wasn’t right, but he still hadn’t fallen back far enough for me to think too much of it yet. Some kids have routines and rituals you just cope with to keep the day easier, and this was one of those things for us.

The Dr. sent us to have him seen by the school district to test his speech. He was scheduled for the speech pathologist, the early educator, and a psychologist. After testing was complete the speech pathologist comes out and says to me, “Who taught him his colors?”
I answered, “I did.”
She asked, “How?”
I explained it, and she says, “I think that’s the only language he understands. I don’t think he even knows what the word no means.”
Um, hold the phone, this kid is going on four years old in a week and he doesn’t understand a word I say??? Yeah, it smacked me clean across the face.

Needless to say we had a meeting with everyone involved and soon I learned that he has a typical speech delay, only it was opposite of what is normal for the delay. Most children are more receptive than expressive, but Bubba is more expressive than receptive, only you couldn’t understand him once he decided to really start talking. They showed me the chart, and at the time he was tested he was three, he was on the bottom of the chart (bad), but since the meeting was when he was four they showed me the chart for that, he wasn’t even on it!

Oh now I get it. I felt like I was talking to a wall, because quite frankly I literally was. And so began the next four years of speech therapy…

Now over the next few years we’ve run into numerous little things, like people understanding him in school and socializing, to all the bad behaviors he’s inherited from coping with not being able to express himself verbally.

For one imagine your child is doing something that you have to physically stop them, such as them reaching for the hot burner, you could say stop or no, but if they had no idea what that meant you’d have to grab them away. There would be some action in place to express the words he can’t understand. Sign language would have been a nice help, but as bad off as he was I’m not sure he would have learned it fast enough.

Little things grew worse. His destructive behavior was insatiable for him. He has chewed up everything from clothes to toys. Tinker toys no longer fit in the hole, games no longer load into the handheld system. Yes, he literally chewed up an entire Mario Kart, I kid you not. He eventually chewed and broke in half his DS, only after annihilating the styluses, both in fact. He chewed them down to nothing.

He used to have a border on his walls, but has ripped most of it to shreds. He has worked on art projects only to destroy them too. He now goes into his brother’s room and shreds his artwork. The brunt of it comes from being bored and the inability to entertain himself, but again he never really got into toys. The only thing that has ever kept his attention for more than a few minutes was his video game, and then he ate them and broke the leftovers. Even then, when it’s time up, it’s brace for the fit. Transition issues.

Now, at eight years old I see him still fling himself to the floor in tantrums even his brother outgrew since he was a toddler himself. In school, angel… on occasion we go out and other mom’s ask why don’t you behave like that in public… but if they only knew that most days I struggle to even get this child entertained enough to not eat my house starting with his room.

Over all he is much better. He has graduated out of speech, and now has orthodontic appliances in to help make more space in his mouth and hopefully that will keep and help his speech even more. He’s even found a few toys he likes outside of video games. In some ways he’s very normal, you probably wouldn’t even notice he struggles in these ways, and then there’s that one thing that triggers a horrible day from get go.

In most cases it’s daily events. He doesn’t learn. He will run in the house every day, even if I take away dessert, even if I yell at him, even if I take away games, movies, and play time with friends. He will do it regardless. It’s almost like he’s immune, I think this is learned from his toddler years, when he must have actually felt that way. He will do it, and it drives me mad, because when I was a kid we slipped up on occasion or learned after a few slip ups, this is perpetual. Day in, day out. The way he treats his brother is the same. He will go in his room and knock down his Legos every single day, it won’t stop until his brother outgrows them.

I deal with multiple other issues similar to those daily. I know this kid is screaming for attention, for something I am desperate to give, but haven’t figured out how. I know one day all of this will equal out and he’ll be a terrific person, but until then I grind my teeth, turn red in the face, and feel my blood boil wondering what is really happening here. I am not a horrible mom, and I know he is not a horrible child, but most days I think we both feel that way.

We are soon going to scout out other options outside the school. After speaking to the school psychologist I know there’s something else to this child, and I think it’s time to move onto someone else who may have deeper insight instead of just hoping he’ll outgrow some of these behaviors. Even if I’m told he acts this way for spending the first half of his life without the ability to communicate at least it’ll be something, even if I know that’s the ultimate source already.

UPDATE:
Bubba is now nine and a half years old. We have found the answers for the most part to what is going on with him. It is exactly as I had expected, and as I had, had suggested by teachers and friends. We have a formal diagnosis from one professional, but as we have not visited a behavioral specialist, we do not have the entire diagnosis. Which is fine I’d rather not label a child who will be able to be a wonderful adult, as long as I have a more concrete idea of what I’m dealing with. We know we will beat this, and so far with the adjustments we’ve made, life is closer to normal.

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