You take the good you take the bad...

...you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life...

OK, that was cruel.  What a crap earworm to start the week.  Sorry!

The past couple of weeks have been physically and emotionally exhausting.  The sad part of the physical exhaustion is that I can't blame workouts for it.  I'm probably the least fit that I've been since I started running 6.5 years ago.  Or maybe that's not true, but it feels that way.  It's been nearly 2 weeks since my new mountain bike arrived and I spent at least a week of this time with limited ability to move, due to a really jacked-up lower back.  I've never before dealt with that and really feel for folks who battle that regularly.  I started doing core work at least every other day and a few yoga stretches nearly daily.  It's made a HUGE difference.  I had a couple of days where my left hip tweaked-out, too.  Certainly related in-part to the back nonsense...and, um, other activities (TMI).

Falls from the new bike have not helped much, either.  My lower back feels a ton better, BUT yesterday I tagged a tree in a narrow spot and was sent flying.  I landed on my left knee and had some pretty intense pain from that.  My kneecap appeared to be what took the blow, but the worst pain was on the outside of my calf, just below my knee and to the side, a bit.  By last night I was really gimping around.  Today it feels a lot better.  Tonight DS and I have a 2 mile run planned (his first 5k race is now only 5 days away!) and I hope to do an extra mile or two.  I have high hopes that my leg will tolerate that fine.

What hurts more today is my left shoulder.  I suspect my upper body got a bit yanked as I maintained grip on my handlebars while they were forced abruptly to one side (I'm not even certain which side tagged the tree--it happened fast.  DH was behind me and wasn't entirely certain which side snagged, either).

I'm starting to think that I should have taken up this sport a decade ago, so that I could have gotten all this falling business out of the way in my early 30s, when I was a faster healer.  On the cusp of 40 I'm not doing myself any favors beating myself up on a regular basis.  Hopefully 2013 will be the start of figuring out what I'm doing on 2 wheels in the woods.  The new bike is offering an all new learning curve, since it fits me better (prior bike was way too small), but the handling is a fair bit different going from a bike with 26" wheels to one with 29" ones.  And it can get up to speed a LOT easier than my previous bike, which means that I can get myself into trouble with greater ease...ow.  But it's really nice to go out and do a few miles without tiring so fast.  The previous bike always had me wanting to quit by about 10 miles, since I was so whooped.  That limited my ability to really practice any skills.

So that's the physical exhaustion part.  The emotional comes from some new news received nearly a week ago.

Almost 5 weeks ago our son had an assessment done with a really excellent neuropsychologist.  He was diagnosed with ADHD back in kindergarten, 6 years ago.  Since that time he's been on various forms of extended-release ritalin drugs.  This allowed him to function in the classroom and in other settings where running in circles and being completely unfocused are not acceptable.  On his meds it's like the Jekyll half of Jekyll & Hyde is revealed and able to flourish.  He does well in school and has great impulse control.  Off meds he's a noisy perpetual motion machine.

But he's always struggled socially.  We were left wondering if it was the result of him being an only-child and having not lived near his classmates since 1st grade (he attends a charter Montessori school near his dad's work, which has been a wonderful environment).  We have some kids in our neighborhood, but many of them are sort of transient and live in an income-qualification apartment complex.  We've had some rather negative experiences with the residents of this complex, unfortunately, including at least one confirmed episode of theft from a child who used to reside in this building.  There are also frequent episodes of domestic disturbances requiring police visits.  Most of the other neighborhood kids are significantly younger than our son.  As a result it's been really difficult for us to encourage him to play with neighborhood children.

For a few years his teachers have been concerned about his communication skills with peers.  We were never certain whether he was simply a loner (his dad is also an only child and was fairly quiet and independent as a child, and my brother was also not particularly social.  Dane is very much like my brother in many ways--sometimes almost horrifyingly so).

Late in the 2010-2011 school year Dane started working with a speech therapist to help him with some R-distortion issues (my sister went through speech therapy for the same symptom).  By the time his 1 year speech assessment was completed, she and his teacher both were concerned about more than just his R pronunciation.  I mentioned that my brother had recently been diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD or NLD) and that I have an autistic nephew and Dane's teacher, speech therapist, DH and I all agreed that having Dane assessed to see if he may also be dealing with something in addition to the ADHD was necessary.

We filled out a questionnaire similar to the one we completed when he was diagnosed with ADHD; it was a 2-part survey--one for the parents and 1 for the teacher.  Dane also underwent 2.5 hours of testing, including an IQ test.

Last week DH and I met with the doctor and it was revealed that Dane indeed is ADHD, but also suffers from Asperger's syndrome...aka "high functioning" Autism.

I'd be lying if I said this diagnosis came as a shock.  Perhaps to anyone else it might have, but over the years we've seen the similarities and parallels between Dane and my sister's autistic son.  Dane and Soren are more alike than Soren is like his own "neurotypical" brother.  And Dane is SO much like my brother.  We actually suspected NLD before Dane was even assessed.  It was really my brother's diagnosis that had us most suspicious.  We've joked that I gave birth to a clone of my brother.  Mostly this is a very good thing.  My brother struggled socially all through his childhood, but really came into his own in college when he was surrounded by so many other "quirky" people and was able to find his niche (in Engineering, vocal music, and Big 10 marching band).

The ways in which Dane differs from my brother make his struggles a bit greater, though.  My brother is also ADHD, but with not nearly the severity in symptoms that Dane struggles with.  My brother was not diagnosed until his 30s and managed all the way through a tough master's program in Computer Science.  He also has a genius-level IQ that likely helped make up for his social deficiencies.  Dane is still a smart little whipper snapper with an IQ of 114, but ~30 points lower than his uncle doesn't give him that same academic edge.

While the diagnosis was no great surprise, it still hit me hard by the next day.  Granted, knowledge is power and with our new knowledge we can better serve our son -- and diagnosis or not, he's still the same kid he was without the new label.  The way we approach his limitations will be changing, as will his IEP.  Thus far we've treated only his ADHD symptoms and have had him on a fairly high dose of medication so that he can focus on his academic work.  BUT we have found that his current dosage is making his autism symptoms worse.  His focus is better...but so much better that he's not able to see "the big picture."  He dwells on all the little details.  He misses sarcasm while on his meds...or he catches it, but not until he's analyzed the literal aspect of a joke or sarcastic comment.  It makes him appear awkward and weird to other kids.  Because we don't see him on his school day meds and interacting with others, it's been easy for us to miss some of these things.  When not on his meds or on a lower weekend dose he's a bit of a comedian.

Never without a well-worn book
Many of his formerly "oddball" quirks now make sense to us.  Like the way he refuses to watch TV without closed captioning.  He learns and understands best what he reads.  He was already a voracious reader -- reading things well above his grade level -- and we understand why this is, now.  What he sees isn't processed as well by his mind as what he reads and hears.  Like with my brother's NLD, Dane struggles with facial expressions.  He can't perceive when others are angry or bored.  As a result he struggles to have positive interactions with his peers.

We also understand why he has a tendency to chew on the collars of shirts and jackets and the cable on the Wii remote that connects the nunchucks.  He's not pulling our legs when he tells us he doesn't realize he's doing it--he really doesn't.

And at movies and concerts he will be fully enjoying what he is hearing, but still covers his ears a lot.  Yesterday we saw Wreck-It-Ralph (awesome, BTW).  He said afterwards that it's one of the best movies he's ever seen...even though he spent most of it with his hands over his ears.

And the food texture issues...nearly everything he eats has at least one "bad piece," even mac-n-cheese.

Now that we have full understanding of the whys we can approach these things with more patience and less criticism and help him to hopefully develop the skills to be aware of his symptoms and try to work beyond them.  While I wish we would have pursued a diagnosis earlier, sometimes the ADHD label was already more than we wanted to deal with...and the thought of adding another label was overwhelming.  I'm thankful that he will have tools to work with before puberty and adulthood -- things my brother didn't have.  As successful as he has been, I'm certain childhood and college would have been less of a battle for him, had he known the whys of his own quirks.

Now our struggle is how much should he share with his peers.  They already realize he is different.  Will telling his classmates that he has a mild form of autism make them more supportive and accommodating or will they make him a pariah (at a regular public school I am certain I know the answer to this, but he attends a school where bullying is truly not tolerated and there is a strong community atmosphere)?  We're thankful that he has band (like his uncle he is really enjoying trombone) and he loves Destination Imagination.  The neuropsych recommended that he take part in formal activities with other kids at least once/week, so these things can really serve him well by giving him opportunities to hone new skills and make friends with similar interests.  Once he enters high school he will be at a new school and potentially not know anyone.  That transition will be so much easier if he has Music and/or DI to help him fit in with a group right away.  My brother was never as shy or self-conscious as Dane is, but Music was always his "in," too.  He excelled at trombone and vocal music.  He always had friends in the small circles of Jazz band and show choir.  I would be happy if Dane felt comfortable in these sorts of environments.  Feeling safe and accepted at school is something every kid deserves.

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