Samuel was born 4 weeks early on a cold winters morning at the Tara Hospital, on the 7th of August
in 1991. Our pregnancy had gone well, with no problems, and being my fifth
child, I was looking forward to his arrival.
In attendance at his birth, as well as the regular hospital staff, who were all friends, were my husband Phil, and my brother Peter.
My labor was natural, quick and uneventful.
All went well and according to plan, and I delivered a healthy baby boy, whom we took home 2 days later, with only slight jaundice.
Samuel was a very wakeful baby from the get-go and fed often...being breastfed this was quite tiring, but I have always enjoyed breastfeeding and wouldn't have given it up for anything!!
When Sam was about 2 months old my parents-in-law came to stay with us for a few weeks. Sam became increasingly cranky one day and my MIL suggested that it was maybe because he
didn't have his favorite blanket, which was on the clothes-line. I thought she was nutty....how could a 2mth old be attached to a blanket!!
Nevertheless, I relented [ok...it was to shut her up!] and let her wrap Sam in his usual blanket..... within minutes he was sleeping!
I was stunned!
Samuel was the first and only of my six children to have colic, & I found this to be a
very rude awakening. I had always had placid babies and here was this screaming
monster who was attached to a blanket!!
Samuel weaned himself overnight at 14 months...he just woke in the night and didn't want boob and never had it again! I was rather put out as I wanted it to be a gradual process of weaning for both of us...but as was the way of things to come, Sam had his own mind made up about how things were to be done....and that's how they would be done!
As a toddler Samuel somehow knew how best to irritate the older kids, and with his 2 eldest brothers could often be quite violent. He was very hyperactive, and kept us all continuously on the go. Having already had four children prior to Samuel....I realized very early on that Sam was "different" to the other kids.
When Samuel was about 3 yrs old he set fire to his bedroom, which he shared with his brother Rian. I had bought new sheets for the room the day before, and in one quick hit Sam had effectively reduced the entire room and its contents to a smoldering pile of ashes. I was being stretched to the limit with Sams behavior and antics and needed some help badly!!
So began the merry-go-round of "Health Professionals"!
We initially took Sam to see our local GP, who after examining him and taking his history, decided that Sam was the black-sheep of the family, and we needed family
I felt so desperate on leaving the surgery...we tried a behavioral therapist, who said she couldn't suggest anything, as everything she tried to suggest we had already done!
To make all this a little more nerve-wracking, we lived 25km from the nearest town on our beautiful farm, but this also meant we were very isolated, with few friends, and no family living close by for support.
At the time Phil had started working in a distant town and was often gone before the kids awoke and came home just as they were getting into bed. I felt so alone, so powerless to help Sam. We knew there was a delightful little boy lurking inside him somewhere, but for some reason he just couldn't get out.
One night, after a particularly bad day, our friend Vern rang, who is also a doctor. He said I sounded stressed & I promptly dissolved into a sobbing mess....wanting someone to take Sam, for just a couple of days, so I could regroup to face him again. I felt so guilty for saying this but was desperate for some help. Vern hung up the phone, with a promise to ring back as soon as he could.
Within 10 minutes the phone rang again. It was Vern saying he had organized an appointment with a top Pediatrician in Toowoomba in a couple of days time. It would require a four hour round trip & I had only recently given birth to our 6th child Thomas, but anything that would help, we were ready to try!!
In our endeavors to find out what was wrong with Sam we had done a LOT of reading and were beginning to feel that it was possible that he had attention deficit disorder, but were loathe to think this, as at the time the media was having a field day with this disorder and a lot of incorrect, & rather horrifying, stories were being broadcast daily on the TV screens across Australia.
The day arrived and we dutifully set off to see the new doctor. We spent about an hour with him discussing various aspects of school/home life etc and the Dr decided that yes, Samuel did have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Then it was explained to us that it was our decision whether or not to medicate....I burst into tears!! What parent wants to "drug" their child each day!! We discussed it long and hard & made the decision to do a test trail of dexamphetamine, figuring it was time Sam was given the chance to be the boy we knew he could be and that he wanted to be.
The next morning was to be his first tablet. We awoke and had breakfast, gave Sam his tablet, & thought nothing more of it. About an hour later our eldest child started yelling from the back yard for us to come QUICK!!!
We ran out, envisioning Sam to be fitting or something, but instead to find him happily playing cricket. No big deal I guess, except Sam had never had the co-ordination or patience to play until then. He actually hit a ball with a bat for the first time in his life...& did it consistently!
He also became more co-operative both at school & at home, but more importantly, his concentration & patience showed a marked improvement.
Alas these results were only to last about 6 weeks, until the tablets only seemed to be helping him for a couple of hours each week. This meant a return to the doctor. He suggested we do a trial of Ritalin. More weeping from Mum
(thanks to media hype), but after reading much literature we decided to give it a go.
Instant results again!!
A beautiful, loving, considerate little boy whose aim was to please, not torment.
Help not harass.
He began reading & writing, and was catching up with school work he had not been able to retain until now.
That was 4 years ago.
During 1998-99, we started to consider that
perhaps Aspergers Syndrome was a contributing to factor as well as the ADHD, so
with the assistance of Samuels School, the Special Ed Unit, and Sams Doctor, he
was again assessed by his Pediatrician.
A confirmation of ASD was returned and now, with that in place, the school are able to offer him more support with his learning etc.
He is currently being ascertained, and an IEP will be put in place shortly.
Samuel is by no means an angel now.
Mornings & evenings especially can be sheer hell....he can be mean, spiteful & nasty.....his mood swings can be very extreme, from sheer glee and delight one minute, to body wracking sobs the next.
Sam also has a very heightened sense of smell, which in turn causes him to audibly 'sniff' a lot. I think a lot of the world is 'seen', for him, through his sense of smell. His sense of touch is also acute, stroking his hair, to him, feels like you are pulling it hard.....tags on shirts irritate him to extreme, if something feels 'funny' in his mouth, he is unable to eat it, even if the taste is too his liking....
Sams Dad finds him very difficult to deal with.
I think the reason for this is two-fold. Partly because of his own ADHD, and partly I think because he sees so many similarities to himself, in Sam, that I think it scares him.
Unfortunately this makes him rather intolerant of toward Sam, which in turn makes Sam more difficult to handle, particularly when Sam is having one of his 'moods'.......but that's a whole other story....
As all parents do, we have at times blamed our parenting skills, and anything else you could possibly think of, for what these disorders have done to our child, but we are doing all we can to teach Sam to help himself to handle life, and what it has ahead for him.
Samuel is growing up a little more each day and while I know he will always be a challenge for us, and to himself, we are doing the best for him that we know how. I am trying my best to educate not only myself, but others who have no understanding of any of these types of "hidden handicaps".
A Parents Creed
I believe that being the parent of a child with a hidden handicap is the most important and challenging job I will ever have.
In the few years I have to help him mature, I will always attempt to instill in him a deep knowledge of his innate worth as an individual and never measure his behavior or scholastic achievement by any other child.
I will strive to always remember that this child is operating under great pressure and much frustration; therefore, I will not reject his outburst as being abnormal or unrestrained misbehavior.
I will recall the many times he has been loving and kind and try to overlook the incidences when there is overt hostility. And then I will try to help structure his world so that frustrations might be lessened and he will feel more secure.
I will have endless patience when directions are not followed at the first command, and when some rule or concept is forgotten or misunderstood.
I will not expect perfection. I will be aware of and grateful for every small improvement he makes.
Through the trials which I may face each day, I will always remember that this child did not choose to be different and that he would, if possible, gladly be "normal". However, since he is different, he deserves special understanding, patience, acceptance and love.
He's my child, and it is my right and my duty to guide him in finding fulfillment in life.
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