So here in this impromptu series of mine, we've so far established that A) my kids are nuts and B) M1's insanity is entirely different than M2's insanity.
So what does one DO when one is confronted with raising crazy children?
Well, if you're me, you'll go through every stage of grief before you even manage to come to grips with the fact that your kid is different than most. For illustrative purposes and because I've actually done all of this with him, I'm using M1 as my example. I'm currently somewhere between denial and pissed off with M2. If I didn't find the entire situation just FUNNY, that for whatever reason *I*, the most impatient person I know, have been deemed worthy of raising two very special and very different children, I'd probably be well into anger by now. Or maybe with the second kid, you just kind of skip that stage. We'll see.
Anyway, stages of realizing that you have a crazy kid:
Denial: "What do you mean, he's different? He is not. He's busy, but that's just the way some boys are made. Well, yeah, that and he'd rather talk to adults and learn about science than play with other kids. That's just who he is. It's normal."
And then, because you've decided he's normal, you pack him up and send him to preschool or kindergarten because while you had considered homeschooling, you'd much rather have some alone time, and he *does* need the practice interacting with other kids. In the back of your mind, though, you consider the off chance that there might be an issue and ask the administrator about special-needs programs. Just in case. Even though your kid won't ever have problems. (I realize that for several of you folks reading this, sending a kid to a school isn't an option, but for me it is... was... is... whatever.) :)
Anger: This comes after you've had the umpteenth chat with the preschool teacher about your kid and his temper tantrums. Or gotten the 47th e-mail that month from the kindergarten teacher asking you how on earth to control your son so he will wait his turn instead of blurting out every answer he knows.
"Good grief, so he's a little different. FINE. But he's not a BAD kid. He just has a few issues to work out. Why can't YOU work with him? I'm doing everything I can at home already! It's not HIS fault that he's different. It's not like he has a diagnosable problem or anything. He CERTAINLY doesn't need medication. He's just busy! Keep him busy! Send him to the hidey-hole if he blurts out answers. YOU'RE the teacher. YOU come up with a few ideas."
Bargaining: "OK, so I'll take him in to see the pediatrician for a psychological evaluation. But I'm not putting him on meds. Just because he might have an actual problem doesn't mean he needs them. Well, or if he DOES need meds, I'll only use non-stimulants. And we'll definitely get some counseling/therapy because that way we can get him off the meds more quickly. And it doesn't mean he's a bad kid, does it??"
Depression: "Oh... he *does* have a problem. A significant one. And I'm the idiot who buried my head in the sand for two years trying to just say that he didn't. My poor baby... if I had just paid more attention, maybe he'd be in a better place already and wouldn't be having all these problems."
I cried a lot during this stage. And the anger stage, too, because I just couldn't work out why everyone kept harping on my boy when he was doing his best. Which he WAS, except his best and accepted norms are in somewhat different ranges, and teachers don't often get Aspies in their classes. ADHD, sure; autistic, maybe. Asperger's, not so much. Or if they do, not Asperger's with ADHD and anxiety. And he was being difficult at home, too, and I spent a lot of time crying about what a crappy parent I must be because I couldn't make him settle down or mind me or even follow a simple command. Like "tie your shoe, please."
Acceptance: I'm the proud mother of a very smart, socially inept boy with Asperger's, ADHD, and anxiety! And, to coin a phrase, I can help him be the best he can be.
It's quite the process. And that's just the emotional side of things. From a logistical side, things are much, much simpler. Here's how the diagnosing process broke down for me:
1. Give in to the fact that your child might be a tad different when he's the kid throwing Legos at another child's head or crying in the middle of class because someone touched his art box or hitting another kid because they accidentally brushed against him... and that's just in school.
Home is even worse.
Ask the assistant teacher whose son is ADHD if you think *your* son might be a little ADHD (Asperger's wasn't even on my radar then). Watch in horror as she nods so hard you think her head might fall off and then be secretly relieved that you're not the only one who thinks your kid is crazy.
2. Call the pediatrician because you don't know who else to call. Set up a 2-hour psychological evaluation. Find a sitter for your other child and make the spouse take that afternoon off of work to go with you because this is his kid, too. Fill out the stacks and stacks of paperwork and go to the evaluation. Listen as your pediatrician (whom you have known since this kid was 1 and whose hobby is studying about mental illnesses) goes through everything, listens to the family history, and tells you straight up that she can't diagnose your kid exactly because he falls right in the middle of ADHD and the Asperger's side of things and that, really, we'll be able to tell in a few more years when he's a bit older. Oh, and he definitely has anxiety. Would you like to try some medication? Sure, we can do non-stimulant. Strattera it is (Intuniv wasn't out yet). And go schedule that appointment with the psychologist.
3. Visit the psychologist. Fill out loads and loads of paperwork again to get a diagnosis from the office pediatric psychiatrist who is quite good at what he does. Get the "official" diagnosis of ADHD, anxiety, and pervasive developmental disorder. Surprise! Your kid is officially nuts! Attend many sessions and learn the basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy to try to get the boy to *think* about what he's doing instead of just doing.
4. Read book after book to figure out what else is going on and how else you can work with him to treat it. Use your highlighter prodigiously.
5. Find a happy medium and realize you actually *can* raise this kid after all.
Next step for me is to do the same thing with M2. For now, I'm keeping a "mood log" for a week. She doesn't know I'm doing it; she doesn't know that I suspect her moods are even a bit off. Though when she came in last night at 5:42 and told me she'd had a nightmare where "a paw came down and squished the people and cooked them," it was kind of hard not to shudder.
In addition to the mood log, I'm reading everything (well, everything USEFUL) I can get my hands on. Come fall, we'll see how she does in kindergarten. Many of her friends will be there, and I know that two of the boys in her class have issues of their own - one is moderately autistic and the other hasn't been diagnosed yet but I suspect Tourette's and sensory issues - so we'll see how she does. If she has no issues at school, then I suspect I won't have a leg to stand on, so to speak, if I haul her into the doctor and say the word "bipolar" out loud. So right now it's a wait-and-see sort of thing.
I hate waiting. If I'm gonna have crazy kids, I just want to know what's going on so I can help them!
Though having one with an autism spectrum problem and one with a mood/conduct problem could make life very, very interesting.
As if it wasn't already fun enough :)