Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dr Evil

Yes folks, it has been confirmed.

I am Dr Evil.

I am the one who dispenses negative vibes and foul atmospheres upon the ones who are incautious enough to cross me.

How do I know this?

My eldest boy has just told me (at approximately 09.00 hours) that I have given him a bad day as he stomped into school with a face like a stone mason’s elbow.


On a day when he was already weighed down with coat, sports kit, lunch bag and school bag he also wanted to take in to school the biggest A4 folder of Yu-Gi-Oh cards that the world has ever seen. He could barely get himself out the front door let alone all the way to school.

So I vetoed the cards. They were staying home.

Cue a 10 minute tantrum in front of a work colleague who is giving us all a lift to school this week (Karen is in Birmingham every day taking an accountancy revision course) which made us all late.

And when I say tantrum, I mean TANTRUM.

The kind of tantrum that Godzilla used to throw over Tokyo in the seventies that saw buildings levelled and bridges bounced into the ocean.

However I didn’t back down and Godzilla had to settle for stomping his way across a playground full of oblivious school kids who were all intent on making the most of their pre-school playtime by having a good time. I told Ben the power to have a good day or a bad day was still in his hands and his choice to make.

That’s when I got the “you’ve already given me a bad day” line.

All my fault, you see.


I haven’t talked about this before as I wasn’t too sure how I felt about it but the school thinks Ben might be borderline – and they are stressing words like “borderline” and “mildly” – aspergers.

I guess this would explain some of his behaviour – his ability to become totally fixated on something that interests him to the point where he cannot stop talking about it and his total inability to cope emotionally with any kind of change to his daily routine.

And Karen and I are grateful to the school for being relatively quick on the ball and so openly proactive about it. They’re going to organize some tests to try and confirm their suspicions.

But to be honest I feel ambivalent about any kind of potential diagnosis.

If it is aspergers then I suppose it means we can use well honed coping strategies to (a) cope with it ourselves and (b) teach Ben to cope with it so that he can go on to have a successful life (as indeed do many people with full blown aspergers). But it also means he’s picked up a label that we’d rather he didn’t have. An inevitably weighty label that could wear him down if he’s not strong enough to carry it.

Or if it’s confirmed that it isn’t aspergers then – whoop-de-doo – he’s, to all intents and purposes, “normal” but has a genuinely frightening temper and a large streak of unreasonableness that could hold him back from any kind of future success if he doesn’t learn to control it.

*Sigh* yet again.

I’m trying not to dwell on the negatives but after an exhausting morning like this one it’s damned difficult because now I’ve been given a thoroughly bad day too.

Which makes me think that Ben’s behaviour isn’t that abnormal after all and maybe we’re all on the aspergers spectrum to some degree without always being aware of it...


KeyReed said...

Everything you say is well thought out. I speak from experience. You probably already have coping strategies without realising. As you can tell from my blog I probably have a degree of 'AS' because plenty of things get my goat but, when I was at school, nobody had ever heard of it. Will drop you an e-mail when I can.

Steve said...

I don't know, Tenon_Saw, my coping strategies feel pretty fraught at the moment! Look forward to your email.

Anonymous said...

My Dear Wonderful Steve,

I apologize for my long comment...

To know and be labeled is a tough call. To not know and wonder is hard too.

I will share with you that my middle girl (Shanderella) was diagnosed as ADD at the age of 9.

She was perfectly able to sit still and watch a movie or hear a story, but she was unable to read at the level of other children her age and the teacher felt it was ADD. We took her to a doctor and told him what the teacher said and he placed her on medication for ADD.

She took the medicine for two was a total disaster. We stopped the medicine and kept looking for answers.

She had been misdiagnosed. She was actually dyslexic. Everything she sees when she reads is backwards. She was purely frustrated and needed to be taught in a different manner than other children.

What I'm saying is the school has good intentions, however; many things cause kids to be aggressive, innatentive, angry and uncooperative.

As a parent, I say let the school test your son. If they think he has it, get a second opinion by a someone that actually specializes in Asperger's.

A label is hard to live with, but if he really has it you will all have to embrace it for him to succeed.

It is impossible to avoid the label if he truly has it. It's just a matter of time before someone declares it.

Starting now will give him the best chance of succeeding in life.

Keep us posted. And for what it's worth, I would have said no to the cards leaving the house too. Don't take his comment to heart. Good for you to inform him he is in control of having a good or bad day.

Much love,
Sweet Cheeks :)

Steve said...

Sweet Cheeks, never apologize for leaving me a long comment - the honour is all mine and your words are wise. We'll let the school do their thing and take it from there... a second opinion is always sensible to get. :-) All is calm again now. Though of course tomorrow is another day!

The Joined up Cook said...

Not an easy situation Steve.

I'd look to your last paragraph.

I get uncomfortable with modern society's propensity to label people with some kind of 'ism' or 'syndrome'. They end up being used by some people and organisations for inaction; 'Oh he's got bollocksism so we can't - insert your own phrase here'; get my drift.

Like you suggest; we all have them to some extent. It's a question of degree.

For me the important thing is how the individual deals with whatever challenges nature has given him or her. In your son's case he has a head start becuase he has thoughtful parents who are unwilling to give him a label that could act as a barrier but are prepared to look at him as he is and not bury their heads in the sand.

His tendencies are those, if channelled, could lead to opportunities and as to the 'bad day' accusation; I like that. My Granddaughter says things like that. I think it shows imagination.

No, not Dr Evil.

Professor Common Sense I think.

Keep us posted.

English Rider said...

I have tagged you. The instructions (can't say rules to you)are listed on my blog. I am still working out the technicalities of "following" a non-blogspotter, but I think I just had a brain wave that might help.

Anonymous said...

Steve, we are in the exact same situation, except maybe my son is a little older than yours. I know you read of my trials with 'Kev'.
He has been diagnosed as 'mildly' AS, but I too have been reluctant to put that out there because of the potential fallout from labelling.
I'm glad that your school is quick to help, but also I think with so many labels to choose from these days, many are quick to just assign one.
Things are fairly backward here and it took me 4 years to get any attention or testing for 'Kev' and I feel we could have managed his horrendous toddler years a little better if I we had had a little support or knowledge then.
I am also in total agreement that so very many kids, so many of us probably fall somewhere on that very wide spectrum, we as a society and inparticular schools need to celebrate and accomodate this neuro-diversity .
If you go to you can see a superb talk by Sir Ken Robinson on the subject of modern education in general where he uses a great example of tapping into the talents that these so called spectrum kids have.
You know I can have a day with my son that ends with me wanting to put a screwdriver through my eyeball, but he is phenomenally bright and I cannot fault his logic, these kids, if we all survive raising them ;) steered in the right direction will do great things.

Steve said...

Thanks AWB, Karen and I are trying to see the positives while at the same time admitting to ourselves that we feel a little unnerved by developments... however complete honesty in these cases can only be a good thing.

English Rider: I shall pop over to your blog and have a look-see as soon as I can!

Missbehaving: one good thing resulting from this post is that it's made me realize just how common this problem is - already 3 people have communicated to me that they are in the same boat. In a way that makes me feel a little better - not so alone - and hopefully Ben will realize the same. Thank you. :-)

Rol said...

I used to have a terrible temper when I was a kid, and look what a well-balanced individual I turned out to be.

Still, they hadn't invented Aspergers or ADHD or any of that nonsense back then.


Brother Tobias said...

I'm sure we all are, and that it is just a matter of degree. thank goodness - one could assign a syndrome to any variation from an arbitrary norm, but who wants to be an arbitrary norm? (It's a solace to me that our children take perverse pride in the whole of this family being so removed from normality that we are pretty much socially and behaviourally disfunctional!)

Steve said...

Rol: I am now considering suicide. ;-)

Yu-Gi-Oh is yet another Japanese card collecting craze involving other semi mystical gladiatorial beaasts and worlds... and I don't understand it at all but apparently kids under 10 do.

Brother T: good to see you back and as always you make a very good point: who wants to be condsidered normal anyway? When was normality ever a cause for celebration?

Andrew Glazebrook said...

My 10 year old lad has gone through phases of been hard to deal with, and some problems that are borderline OCD, he had an apologising phase a while back, where he apologise for pretty much anything, another time when he'd go nowhere without his water bottle,I think it's just kids, don't know if boys are worse than girls but we've had no problems like this with our two daughters.

Steve said...

Hi Andrew, I've no idea if it's gender influenced either but I'd imagine boys would be slightly more difficult due to the higher levels of innate aggression.

MommyHeadache said...

That tantrum was not unusual insofar as my eight year old has done this sort of thing. Yes I would be reluctant to go along the line of labelling him as aspergers, mostly because you don't want him being labelled as 'special' and also because in the US he would probably be offered a range of tranquilizers/ritalin etc to numb his brain and make him more 'performance focussed' (docile as a lamb). Here schools can by law force your kid to take that stuff or eject them from the school but I don't (I hope) think it is as bad in the UK yet.

I am totally against the drugging of kids - in most cases the school does not give an adequate learning environment for all kids to thrive and while that is understandable due to funding issues etc why is the solution always drug the kid to make him passive?

becomingkate said...

I hope the doc has some answers for you! I have a 20 year old and a 12 year old, each struggles with their own issues and have both been in therapy, which helped us.

(BTW, did you know there was a prominant character, a lawyer, in Boston Legal with Asbergers? He was a favourite of mine)

Steve said...

Emma, thankfully things aren't as bad as that in the UK and even if it were I know Ben's school - a pretty decent one - would be against it on principle. At the end of the day nothing has yet been confirmed... we're still awaiting the tests and will take it from there.

BecomingKate: thank you so much for dropping by - hope I'll see you again. Karen and I are both great believers in therapy and counselling so if that comes up as an option neither of us will have any qualms about pushing for it. Wish we'd made more of an effort to get into Boston Legal!

Annie G said...

Hey Steve, sorry haven't commented for ages - been busy with guests from Australia, one being a 9-year-old boy with Aspergers.
You know, it could just be a healthy growing-up phase. If Ben does has AS, think of it as a gift because despite some social difficulties, people with AS often have such wonderful special talents.
Oh you must never feel alone in this Steve - there is always help and advice available, and support from your friends.

Owen said...

I apologize for how short this comment is, rather than how long, but I feel a bit out of my depth on a subject like this (arms flailing, splashing, going under, coming up gasping...). As parents we all want our kids to be within the range of "normal" (whatever that is) functionning children that get on well socially and scholastically; but there are so many millions of variables and pitfalls early in life, I suppose we must make the best of whatever cards turn up in the great poker game of life. Everything is relative, and things could always be worse. In becoming parents we realize just how fragile we are, and how devastated we could be by anything happening to or going wrong with our offspring. But they need us to be strong for them and show them day in and day out that no matter what, we are there for them...

I don't believe in "praying" per se, but I do believe in wishing people well, so I hope your money issues will improve soon and that he was just having a bad day, and will not need to be "labelled". Labels are dangerous in that they can become self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am, as always, impressed with your writing, and admire your ability to discuss so openly your fears and sources of major worry. It looks to be very therapeutic, and the range of warm and intelligent responses from many quarters illustrate how much people care about you. I am personally more than a little afraid to bare my soul, as it were, in public places, no doubt out of some nameless fear that probably goes way back to childhood...

All most positive wishes for you and the family !

Steve said...

Annie: thank you - that's much appreciated.

Owen: thank you as ever for the time you willingly give composing such carefully considered comments. I agree about labels becoming self fulfilling prophecies if you're not careful - I think that is why Karen and I feel so mabivalent about any possible diagnosis. As for my ability to discuss my fears so openly... well, there's a lot I don't say, a lot I hold back. Sometimes I think blogging is a way of ordering / editing what I feel, pulling myself up where I fall short, being aware through the possible censure of others of where I'm taking missteps... I do often wonder just how honest my blog is, how honest it is possible for it to be...? I expect there is no definitive answer and, you know what? That's fine by me!

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I would be cautious about labeling. I worked with a wonderful paediatrician in Kendal as my mentor who specialized in autistic spectrum disorders as part of my general practice training a few years ago.

She often worked with school psychologists and accepted school referrals. It was an eye opener and it is certainly very useful to get help early if needed.

If the school has suggested it then they can liaise with a community paediatrician. It is usually done in a very positive and non threatening way, but also with the special care of not labeling people too early or falsely.

Kids and their tantrums...especially the terrible twos ! It is not an easy task but remember, you are a wonderful dad. I am sure of it.

best of luck


KAZ said...

From what I see of my fellow humans (and remember I used to be teacher) that last sentence is 100% true.

Steve said...

Janete: thank you - the school is very organized and very well equipped; we actually feel we're in safe and sensitive hands for once.

Kaz: that's very reassuring - by the way, did you teach English? All the best teachers taught English in my experience.

skatey katie said...

steve - have written about ten comments and deleted them all.
suffice to say - all our kiddos have quirks of one kind or another - i think i might have one or two too. no idea about Bulldog lol.

knowing our children's quirks can cue us into how to help them deal with the world for sure. X

Steve said...

Thanks Katie - that is so the right way to look at it! :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm with Katie. None of my four children are at all the same - they are interestingly different. The school often speak to me about my youngest and I just smile and nod and ignore them. He is just himself and he'll find his niche in life. But he is my fourth - if the school had said that kind of thing about my first or second I think I might have panicked and well, who knows.

By all means explore any extra help that might be available but I do agree with the general sentiment here about avoiding labels. They are SO hard to shake off - they worm their way into your psyche and affect the way you feel about yourself and make you worry about your rightful place in the world.

I was a strange child (no surprises there eh?) with what were probably autistic savant type abilities with numbers. Apparently for 2 years I refused to speak to certain people at all and generally was self-absorbed and stubborn. But I'm OK - a bit odd maybe but I have never felt that my peculiarities have limited me in any way, I just get on and do my own thing.

If he can find something that absorbs him (with me it was mathematics) he will probably succeed and be happy and fulfilled. Which is more than can be said for a lot of people.

But I do know how worrying these things can be when it is our children - I would be lying if I claimed I did not sometimes have doubts as to what to do with regard to my youngest. Well, often I just feel like throttling him!!

As for the tantrum - not evil at all.

Steve said...

Gina: I do sometimes think that the mechanisms for diagnosing things these days is so damned fine that absolutely everybody could be labelled with something or other!