Our latest blog posts, written by the Wilson Centre experts on various topics surrounding child development.
A Testament to a Mother’s Love & Commitment for her son
New Year’s Eve, 1996, my first child entered the world, 4 weeks early. It was love at first sight and I adored my beautiful baby boy, who we named Adam*.
I was under no pretenses; I knew motherhood was going to be challenging. However, I was not prepared for just quite how difficult it was. Adam would often be awake for 2-3 days straight then after hitting complete exhaustion finally crash out for 24 hours. He also suffered with colic and cried frequently. It was extremely challenging. To the point where, when I fell pregnant with my second child I cried as I thought there was no way I could do it all again!
However, three years after the birth of my first due to having his brother to compare, I realised motherhood was not always so hard. Not all babies were like Adam.
Regardless of the difficult first year, Adam had hit all his milestones, walking and talking at the ‘normal’ ages. He was a feisty baby who had no fear, he would often take off in the middle of the mall, searching for an adventure! It was only when he started nursery I began to notice there was something not quite ‘normal’ with Adam…
When Adam was in KG2 he would sit underneath the desk in the classroom, the teachers would drag him out and sit him on the chair again. It got to the point that when I took him into school he would kick and scream, begging me not to leave. “Please don’t leave me!” “I don’t like it here!” “I want to go home!” His teachers thought I was being over protective so they would rip him off of my leg and tell me to leave. It was emotionally draining for me to see my son in such distress each day.
I voiced my concerns to the school, my husband, my husband’s family. We all knew Adam was different but nobody really knew what to do.
Back in 2000 there was nowhere reputable to get him assessed in the UAE, so we flew back to America, my home. It was then that the Doctor said he had ADHD and I was instructed to put him on Ritlin. My gut wrenched… there was no way I was going to medicated my 5-year-old son. That’s when I took matters into my own hands. We did lots of sensory play with clay, play-dough and sand at the beach. I always made sure he got plenty of exercise to tire him out as he was so hyperactive.
Adam had odd quirks. It took him 45 minutes to put his shoes and socks on because the seam had to be aligned just right or else he’d be uncomfortable.
One Winter break we went on holiday to London. It was freezing cold so I dressed Adam in gloves, hat and a jacket… he could not handle it. It was too much sensory stimulation for him, so he started screaming. A passer-by came up to my husband & I and proceeded to tell us that we ‘should not have had children’. My husband was distraught. People were quick to judge us as parents on what they saw without having any idea of the situation we were facing.
The judgement did not stop with strangers. I was constantly being told by teachers and friends ‘he doesn’t look like he has any problems’. ‘He looks normal, there’s nothing wrong with him!’ ‘You’re imaging this!’ ‘Over protective mother!’ I would reply by inviting them to come home with us, sit with him for a day and then tell me there was nothing wrong with him.
His teachers were constantly telling me he was ‘slow’, ‘lazy’, ‘organised’. They proceeded to tell me might never read and write… the worst thing you may say to a mother who is an English teacher by profession. I cried for two weeks solid…
When Adam entered Grade 2 he had a British teacher who was straight out of University. She noticed straight away and told me I needed to have him assessed. Shortly after her advice, the school then threatened to fire her… The principal of the school promptly threatened me, saying if I had him assessed & if they found out he had learning difficulties’, he would be stigmatised for his whole life and never achieve anything. I told him, ‘I would rather have my son stigmatised by other people than have him not learn…’
That’s when I met Sheena. She changed his life. And I know for a fact he would not be where he is today if it wasn’t for Sheena. I owe her everything.
She assessed him and then we went to the school. He was severely dyslexic, hyperactive and had a neuro-processing disorder, meaning he was taking everything in but could not get it back out again. That was why he was struggling with tests as the information would not come out onto the page.
We took Adam out of school and put him in Sheena’s programme for one year until he caught up. Sheena continued to see him for 4 years. We put him into a new school that gave him extra support. He went from being an angry child – lashing out at people to being a happy, positive and confident little boy. The change was profound.
Adam received Sensory Integration therapy. A form of therapy that sorts to integrate a child’s senses which directly affects their academics. Sensory Integration therapy is effective. I saw remarkable changes in Adam.
After 8 months to a year of therapy I noticed he started playing with Lego! I thought wow he normally just throws the Lego bricks around the room. He could hold pencils better, he started writing, shape sorting and more. Teachers also began noticing the difference.
I strongly believe that there is no need to use medication for children (in most cases). There are many things you can do to be proactive about the situation. Granted it takes more time and effort but it is worth it, I am living proof of that. Along with therapeutic intervention, establishing a routine, good sleeping habits and a healthy diet are all key. Most parents are not aware of this, that is why I think education on this is so important.
Today, Adam still has some issues but he’s learnt to cope now.
He has worked twice as hard than others to get where he is today. In fact, he just got an A on his paper in composition at the American University of Sharjah.
For any other parents feeling lost with their children’s seemingly ‘invisible’ issues. I would encourage them to look into Occupational therapy and get their children assessed. Do not be afraid to look for help, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent because your child has learning difficulties. You can help to fix the problem, the younger the child the better.
There is such a stigmatism on children who need extra help that a lot of parents don’t want to deal with it. However, this just leads to more problems down the road. If a child is failing in school, he might have a low-esteem, start to dislike school, in the end he may drop out and then perhaps turn down a darker road- drugs, alcohol, suicide, violence etc. I think a lot of children in juvenile detention in the US have some learning problems that have never been addressed. And I have heard of plenty of adults who said they hated school because they had learning problems that were never addressed. There are a lot of famous people who have learning disabilities. Therapy is not something to be ashamed of, it is how we can give our children, who need extra support, the best start in life…
How do you know what they’ll be if you don’t give them the chance?
*Name changed for privacy