Mental Health wasn't something that I knew anything about growing up. I had a lot of quirks about me to say the least but I didn't know that there was such a thing as conditions and medications to help with them.
For the people who haven't already seen my blog, I am a mother of 4. I have 2 boys and 2 girls who are all amazing creative kids that I have learned so much from. My 2 boys were both diagnosed with Autism. My oldest son Mark, is 10 years old and was diagnosed when he was in 3rd grade. My youngest Mathyus, is 9 years old and was diagnosed in 1st grade. Their behavior was extremely different in comparison, especially when I started researching their symptoms.
A little throwback to their baby years...
Mark was always up and ready to go from the day that I had him. He breastfed with so much excitement that I was always having to clip his nails and literally pull his mouth off my nipple. He would just hold on to it even when he wasn't eating and would make noises without expression whenever he caused some type of facial animation of angst. When I tickled him, he would grunt but he wouldn't laugh. I looked it up online and talked with his doctor about it and was told that it may take time for him to learn those things. I didn't want to rush him, I simply wanted to allow him to grow and have those milestones just like any other baby. When Mark was about 11 months old I started get concerned about him walking because he barely crawled and therefore he wasn't pulling himself up on things like I expected. He didn't start naturally walking and smiling until he was almost 2 years old.
Mathyus on the other hand was a fast learner. He was not very enthusiastic about getting here and he wasn't in any rush to wake up when he got here. He slept for hours and was so fussy once I had to wake him. Breastfeeding was a lot more difficult with him because he just didn't want to. He wouldn't even attempt until I put the milk on his lip. Mathyus was not attentive and he smiled more often than not but he didn't keep eye contact even when I called his name.
I was aware that there was more to it than just simply him missing out on the social cues but he did everything in his own time. Mathyus was walking by 11 months and making an attempt to talk but he would scream noises not really verbal cues. He stopped breastfeeding and started with a bottle of regular milk when he was 1 because his weight wasn't where it should have been. He just simply wouldn't eat enough which left me engorged at times or leaking milk at others. The things that changed with Mathyus was the amount of energy that he had and how explosive his response to anything other than what he wanted to do.
As the years went by, Mark was emotional and a very picky eater while Mathyus was aggressive and would eat anything I put in front of him. Both boys were growing and some days would be very hard while others seemed like they were a breeze. Routines were set and if they weren't kept or an uncontrolled change would happen I noticed that they both responded accordingly. I couldn't change anything that they were used to without an outburst. I thought that it was just them being rebellious and out of control. I had grown accustomed to how different they were and I adjusted when necessary.
That all changed when Mark was in 3rd grade and Mathyus was in 1st...
There were so many rules and guidelines in school with a basic understanding of kids. The biggest issue was that the kids weren't being viewed with the compassion that they should have been. Most times kids are placed in categories in schools with a label. They were either good kids or kids that had behavior issues. Well, I think we know what category my kids were placed in. Although, I did make every attempt to explain that I had certain feelings about what was going on with them. I still wasn't aware of mental health being a priority because I was raised in a very religious home and was taught that you prayed while God did the work to fix it.
Mark couldn't stay seated for long and he would have complete meltdowns when he was in the classroom or cafeteria. He couldn't calmly walk in hallway with his hands behind his back because he was always fidgeting and very distracted by everything. Mathyus couldn't handle the classroom door being closed when his backpack had to be left in the hallway and he had a very hard time sitting on the carpet during reading or in the library. All of this seemed normal to the administration at the school they were going to because it just simply meant they needed to be redirected or given an explanation of the rules. I received phone 3 times a day from different teachers, counselors and principals.
I began having meetings to ensure that as I was researching and building up my knowledge on what could be going on with my sons. I updated the administration accordingly and they still believed that it was just behavior issues that were caused by the environment they lived in. I set appointments for assessments and even talked with psychologists, psychiatrist and counselors to find out how I could help my sons. Although, the assessments that were done for Mark first showed that he was Autistic, the school chose not to agree with it and simply accepted ADHD as the root of the issues they dealt with. Mathyus was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Mood Disorder even though he wasn't able to have eye contact or respond according to the conversation. No one took the time to go back over the past information and see what was really going on. It felt like I was being smiled at and pat on the back just for people to talk about my family later.
In January 2017, we moved to another school district and the previous school had no paperwork to give me for Mathyus even after all the things that we had come to find out about him. There was no evidence of all the times he ran out of the classroom and out of the school because of the noise. There was no evidence of him breaking things or screaming at the top of his lungs mid class just to forgot that it had even happened. They never understood why they were getting consequences and restrictions when they had done something unexpected/ against the rules. The first thing I requested at the new school was assessments for everything. Anything that they could do assessments for, was done without question at this school and after I explained my concern they understood why.
My boys were finally being given the attention they needed. It was a lot of rough patches during the process of the teachers changing and the school year progressing but it was all worth it. They still have challenges but as long as I continue to grow with them it will make their lives easier.
I need to be clear that my boys have been diagnosed but that in no way defines them. It has been years of educating myself and my husband on better methods of assisting them in this journey. We are not always on point with the way we handle some of the new things that come along with this lifestyle but its important to understand everyone is human. I was raised to believe that kids should be "normal" and they should do as told no matter what. I don't have that belief system anymore and I won't ever accept that from anyone who is willing to treat my kids in that manner. Everyone has their own thing and allowing them to be themselves is the only way the world will be better for the generations to come.