Friday, August 24, 2012

What kayaking tells us about our kids...

So when we were in the Ardennes we went Kayaking. I say: we, but really, Leland didn't go. The guys from the kayak company talked him out of it because the water level was very low and they thought he'd be in the water too deep and run aground. And yes, he would have, because I was in a kayak with Monty and we ran aground about, give or take, 30.000 times in the 9 kilometers the trip was.
So me and Monty went in one Kayak, and Stoney went by himself. Stoney who weighs just more then a feather, of course was floating on the water with no problem.

Monty and I were not as lucky however. About 500 meters into our trip (still next to the parking lot) we hit two rocks, the kayak tilted and filled with water. Try as I may, I could not get that thing moving. So we went back to the start off point and got a new kayak.

Meanwhile, I was worried sick about Stoney. I couldn't see him anywhere on the river anymore, and I would have asked Leland to go look for him, but he had left to go to the store and then would meet us at the end point of the trip.
I thought for sure Stoney would wait for us. But he didn't. Then I thought that he would probably tag along with some other family. There were plenty of other families on the river in kayaks, a lot of them Dutch speaking. But he didn't.
Much later, four hours later as a matter of fact, he told us that he had caught up with some other kayakers and then tagged along with them for a little while. But sometimes they got stuck and he would just keep going. Then he would catch up with some other people, but eventually they would run aground again somewhere and he would keep going. He just flew through the whole trip and made it to the end point of the trip in two hours before me and Monty. When he got to the end point, Leland had not arrived yet (he got there 10 minutes later) and Stoney just pulled his kayak out of the water and was perfectly fine. Even though he was all alone, he didn't know anyone, and the people from the company that received back the kayaks were all French speakers.
We were quite impressed. Monty would have gone completely hysterical in a situation like this. First time in a kayak, Mom or Dad no where in sight... Alone on the river for hours...
Stoney says he is shy, and Stoney still loves to act like a baby sometimes (he seems to think it is cute or something) but this proves he can be quite independent. Big score for Stone.

Monty and I meanwhile, did not do so well. In the new kayak we kept running aground as well, partially because of the low water level and partially because we were in a double kayak and all the weight was in the back. For the first three kilometers Monty would say with every rock that we hit: "we better go back". Or he would say: "we better go get some help". He did not feel good about this adventure at all. It was not till about a third of the way into the trip that he became somewhat positive about it.

 Meanwhile, because we were a little too heavy on the back side of the kayak, the darn thing kept filling up with water every time we tilted a little (which happened a lot because of all the rocks). I think we filled up with water completely four or five times. Most of the time there were other kayakers around to help us out, because it is not a one person job to tilt a kayak over that is filled with water.
I should also note that during the entire four hours that the trip lasted, Monty did not stop talking for more then five seconds at the time. During rapids, during difficult situations where I was trying to avoid the kayak from tipping over, when we were run aground again and I was walking in the water to get the kayak moving again... All the time: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.... That child loves to talk!

Towards the end I felt like we were going to die on that river and never make it to the final point, or turn into a water hobbit or something; simultaneously Leland, who had been waiting with Stoney for two hours at the final point already, was talking to the company crew about sending out a rescue team.
But when we were coming close to the end, Monty had had a change of heart and kept saying that we were not giving up and that we were going to make it. You have to understand that Monty is a quitter. He easily throws in the towel when things get difficult. But towards the end, he felt very proud of himself for making it. Mind you, not till the very end he actually got the hang of peddling or pushing out the kayak when we ran aground. So really, he hadn't performed that much work. But he did not give up. Not that he had much choice, I was in the kayak and kept peddling.

Just before the last bend in the river, the kayak was filled to the brim again with water and rather then trying to empty it, I decided we would just get out, walk through the water and pull the kayak along with us to the exit point. Monty asked me, all worried: "Does it still count as making it to the end if we walk the last part?"
Yes Mont, it still counts as making it to the end because you made it there, you didn't give up.

I am sure this is an experience the boys will remember for a long time. Hopefully they will also have grown some. Monty has learned yet another lesson in endurance and Stoney has done something all by himself that really impressed his parents. He may have impressed himself as well, even if he doesn't say it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Autism and ADHD...

So for those who didn't know yet, Monty was diagnosed with a mild for of Autism about six months ago, and yesterday Stoney was diagnosed with ADHD. It makes me wonder if there are still normal children in the world... Then again, what is normal?

Stoney's diagnoses is not really surprising. This child gets distracted by anything and everything. A pen in his hand while doing math will magically turn into a plane or a spaceship. He never finishes his work at school and then has to do it for homework and it takes him hours. And then when doing homework, you have to be right on top of him, otherwise he will take off in his imagination. He is smart enough, but he can't pull himself together to focus. I am not kidding when I say he is exactly like Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes when it comes to school work.

He has been struggling with this since first grade, and we already had him tested in 2nd grade, but then they said that he was to young to get a clear picture. We wen through a different organization this time and they have no doubt about it: ADHD. Actually, the H in this did surprise me a little, we were more thinking ADD, but the psychiatrist said that ADD is just a subcategory of ADHD. And even though he is not really hyperactive, he is really restless. Can't sit still on his seat for two seconds when making his homework. So they are going with ADHD. We will try to start him on Ritalin in a few weeks, under close supervision of the psychiatrist till we know how he reacts to it. I hope it helps him. Because he is suffering from this lack of concentration most. He hates sitting there and spending hours and hours on something  that could take 20 minutes, if he was only able to focus.

Now to Monty. Luckily he only has a mild for of Autism.  But it makes his (and our) life difficult sometimes. Most people who know him say that they don't really see it in him, but we do.
He has a very difficult time understanding other kids. If he looses at a game the others most have cheated. If he plays with his friends at school and he somehow gets tagged several times, the others are "out to get him," and are no longer are his friends.
This is becoming more and more of a problem now that he is getting older. Younger kids get over these fights easier, but now they are not so quick to step over it when Monty calls them their enemy. "you can't play with me because you are my enemy". And all the other kid did was probably not letting Monty win at hide and seek. Monty has a very different view of social interactions.
Another problem is (but this is not typically an autism characteristic, although according to the specialist it is only found in kids with autism) is that he has no border between fantasy and reality. Everything is real to him. The only thing he understands is that cartoons are not real, because he can clearly see that they are drawn, but even if it is 'Barney' then it is real. He sort of understands that there is someone in the suit, but everything that he sees must be real, because they are real people.
And then there is his anger... He is so often angry. It helps to have a very clear structure in his life.
But yet he can also be so very, very sweet.

For now we have him in a group therapy and he is on a waiting list for individual help. Next year at school he will get extra help at school as well.