I have said this a thousand times and I will say it again. We have been SO blessed with the doctors that have been placed in our lives to care for our precious boys. Dr. M traveled all the way to our southwestern suburb today to meet with Elijah's team at school. The meeting was AWESOME. Dr. M spoke as if he has known Elijah his whole life. The entire time, I found myself shaking my head yes...yep, that's our boy...yep, that's him....oh definitely yes, that explains Elijah..
He started by explaining that E has not just one or two strikes against him, but many strikes. The main ones being an extensive medical history, Nonverbal Learning Disorder and also being on the autism spectrum (some resulting strikes being sleep issues, anxiety and OCD). He explained the main aspects of NLD and how it is not a learning disorder but an information processing disorder. Also, how there are certain things that E's brain cannot do and will not ever be able to do, such as looking at a sheet of math problems and having the ability to prioritize the information and get through it without being totally overwhelmed. I could see things clicking with the teachers as Dr. M described how NLD kids react to school work and expectations and visual clutter.
Together, we addressed the main problem areas and even set a few plans in motion. Dr. M really stressed reinforcing SKILLS. For example, probably E's biggest "trouble spot" while in school is his inappropriate talking. Sometimes he blurts out noises and sometimes he says potty talk. Sometimes he calls people names for no reason at all. Since kids like Elijah think in steps and learn through a lot of verbal repetition, we came up with a plan to write out three concrete steps for him to follow when he starts to say an inappropriate word or noise. Dan and I are in the process of coming up with exact verbiage and then we will repeat, repeat, repeat those steps to him until he can stop the inappropriate sounds/talking before they happen. We will share our exact steps with the school so they can use the same words. Every time I talk to Dr. M, I gain some sort of new and valuable information. One of the things he said today that really helped me understand Elijah was that we (teachers/parents) need to keep repeating things to him until he understands....and that even though he might appear to understand and tells us he understands something, we will not truly know that he understands until we HEAR HIM REPEAT OUR OWN WORDS TO HIMSELF. Our scripts become his scripts. This is how he is going to get through school and life.
One of the things I've been saying for so long is that Elijah is confusing because at first glance, he appears to process information in a completely normal manner. He makes eye contact, he is engaging, he answers questions (mostly) appropriately and he smiles, laughs, interacts and even tells jokes. A person just meeting him could have a 2-minute conversation with him and have no idea the amount of processing that is taking place in his brain. So when you ask this engaging, smart little person to complete an abstract task like draw a picture and write a story to go along with it, you become confused when he absolutely cannot follow through. It can even be seen as complete defiance or manipulation.
Dr. M once again provided such good information. We feel very thankful for him and for E's teachers and team who were so willing to attend the meeting and who seemed so receptive (as they feverishly jotted notes in their notebooks) to understand more about Elijah and NLD in general.
I'll end on that thankful note. Next installment...the sassiest Sammy you'll ever meet. :)