Thursday, June 04, 2009

Diagnosing kids . . .

Okay, this post is not going to be anything eloquent or well thought out like Snarky Mom or anything well informed and planned like Lisa would write, but here goes. . .

I have always struggled with diagnosing kids with psychiatric disorders. It has nothing to do with labeling. I know some people freak out about slapping a label on their kids, but who the heck cares. Who has to know? It's not like they are required to wear a Tshirt that says, "I have been diagnosed BiPolar" to the local community pool. The only reason it should be brought up is in school and then only if their are issues or if services are needed. Then, it's obvious there's a need for that label. You don't have to place an ad in the newspaper to make the town aware of a diagnosis.

The reason I struggle is "how do we really know"? I mean, okay, when Dustin came to us in foster care he had every label imaginable. A few I can name off the top of my head are: Sensory Integration Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Early On-set Bi-Polar Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, blah blah blah. Basically the only label we never had was Reactive Attachment Disorder, even though this was mentioned more than once. Now we simply have a Fetal Alcohol Disorder and Schizophrenic Disorder label ONLY, with a Moderately Mentally Handicapped status thrown in for good measure. That's what's "driving the bus" in Dustin's brain and everything else is "sitting in the back seats along for the ride". Basically my child is psychotic due to prenatal alcohol exposure. Period.

Do those labels help me deal with him better. Nope. What they do is help others see his weaknesses and celebrate his differences. They don't give excuses for his behaviors but they do give reasons. Our psychiatrist once said to me, I don't really care what you call it, we still have to learn to deal with it whatever it is. Amen brother! Sometimes it helps to tell people he has traits of Aspergers Syndrome because that is what they are familiar with and it gives them something to work with. Does he have Aspergers? Who knows, he definitely exhibits some form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and it is definitely sitting in one of those back seats on Dustin's Brain Bus.

Okay, here's where it gets tricky for me. . . hold on to your panties. How dare people who don't know me or haven't seen my kid or spent time with them say he couldn't possibly have that. It does seem that there is a trend toward a specific diagnosis in the child's psychiatric community from time to time. A few years ago, everyone was ADD, then it seemed to be Autism, and now it seems to the leaning toward RAD. Now it may be one thing to say that a particular diagnosis is overused, it is quite another thing to say it doesn't exist. Excuse me? Are you a doctor? Just because you have adopted successfully and haven't had to deal with it doesn't mean other's don't. I am pleased that you are so wonderful that your child seems to love you at first sight, but seriously you don't know every child. And perhaps you don't know everything. *gasp* For me, it is similar to the troll that attacked Torina. I would love for that person to live her life for one day.

My whole problem with RAD is that these children are damaged. Just as my child's brain is "broken" due to prenatal alcohol exposure these children are "broken" due to abuse, neglect, multiple placements etc. Who am I to say that doesn't happen? Who am I to say that can't happen? I guess my take on it is that we as a country and as a people are moving toward a mentality that says "me me me" all the time. "Screw my kids, screw their needs I need a drink, a fix, a night out. Who cares how it affects them!" It's obvious that these kids who have been taken from their homes are damaged by this trauma and "broken". How can they trust another adult just because you say you are safe? Especially when some of the trauma came from supposed "safe" foster families. Maybe as the trend continues children are becoming more and more traumatized and now we are seeing more and more and more RAD. Whether a child gets FAS depends on the strength of the baby, how much the mother drinks and how often as well as the time frame in which she drank during pregnancy. Couldn't this be a similar situation for RAD, some kids are simply tougher than others. You, missy, got lucky, and so did your kids! Saying that because you haven't dealt with it so it doesn't exist is like saying I've never had a broken arm so I don't believe bones can break. Ignorant.

I guess my entire frustration with this is that we are all in this together. Does your child mad pee? Let's talk about options and what you've tried. Does your child bang their head on walls? Hey, what works for you to get them to stop? That's why I blog. I don't blog to bash someone else's child's diagnosis. I certainly wouldn't say that you wish for a diagnosis just to bring attention to yourself and say, "Hey look how broken my child is! I am a saint for taking this on!" That makes me ill. Funny, I find you judgemental and abrasive. I have however prayed for a diagnosis to get help and services my child needed. I rejoiced when Dustin got a low IQ score so that he qualified for special education services 100% of the time, and mourned when Anna did not. I wrote a whole post about wishing people would see my child as "broken" and understand his behavior similar to seeing a child in a wheelchair and understanding he cannot walk.

There, rant over.


Torina said...

I see this on blogs, on comments on newspaper articles, hear it in people's comments all over the place. When it comes to mental health issues, there are a number of people that seem to think that we can wish this stuff away or parent it away or ignore it away.

Mental illness is real. It exists. It needs treatment just like cancer or PCOS or thyroid disorder or anything else. And it is not a is a diagnosis. Is cancer a label? Nope, it is a diagnosis. Long before my kids ever came home, I dealt with the stigma of mental health issues in my life and the lives of my relatives. This isn't a fictional thing here. This is something that is an ILLNESS. But you know this. I am just adding my own little, "here! here!"

The reason that people think these things are "fads" is that people are FINALLY talking about them when they didn't before. We need to talk about this. It has always been around... just treated in different ways or hidden in sanitariums. Mental illness is not a fad. It is simply discussed more openly.

Thank you for posting this and offering me the opportunity to hijack your post with my comment.

Lisa said...

Sheri you totally nailed it. Very eloquently too I might add!
I heart you!

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

I have found that giving a label seems to force others to deal with the problem as it stands, instead of trying to write it off. I was told several times that I was trying to move too fast with Genea, that I wanted xyz to happen etc. I could not stand to wait and see.
Anyway that has been my experience. The symptoms overlap in so many mental or emotional disorders of childhood.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Ya know, and one more thing. I went and tracked down your um, inspiration for this post and resulting comments and such.
I go back and forth on the usefulness of diagnosis, whether it helps or hurts or even matters really.
Fact is, whatever the diagnosis, origin, behavior, etc, 90% of the change or solution or "fix" comes from the parents end. I don't mean that offensively in any way if anyone is thinking that. I just mean, whatever you wind up with, it is the parent who drives the boat, steers the wheel etc. The kid is not able to take much control of the situation. A little as they get older maybe, but mostly, the parent is the one who has to take on/ has taken on, the hardest role. So to say RAD or ADHD is popular is outright stupid. Or, parents want to get the diagnosis. Stupid too. No one wants their kids to have a hard road. This isn't about a prom date! Honestly, what are people thinking?
Ok, back to you.

Torina said...

Sheri, please email me with who set you off...I want to compare notes here and see if it is the same person as I think it is. Pretty please??

Eos said...

Late to the party...just wanted to say that I agree...for years I wouldn't talk about what my we go through because people simply didn't understand so to read entries like the one (I'm assuming here) I read was hurtful...the sad thing is that I don't think she gets can't just throw something like that out there and expect people not to counter...I live w/ RAD every day so's real!LOL

MomInTheTrench said...

Amen sister! I'm coming in very late on this. I bet you are responding to the very same post that led me to set up my own blog. You've said my thoughts.