Butterfly grew up with food intolerances and was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's
Syndrome, and learning difficulties. Now she struggles with OCDs.
This is the story of how we have faced these challenges.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Diagnosis and Lessons

It was shortly after deciding to homeschool Butterfly that our doctor thought it a good idea to send her to a pediatrician for diagnosis of her hyperactivity and difficulty focusing. It was ok with me, so off we went. At the end, Butterfly was officially diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (No kidding.) The usual treatment for this was to put the child on medication such as Ritalin. But I had been reading up on the side effects, as well as the suspected relationship to the development of Tourette's Syndrome in such kids. I also felt that one of the compelling reasons for putting kids on these meds was for the convenience of the public school system... to make things easier for overburdened teachers. But I wanted to get at the root of Butterfly's problems, not just mask or disguise them with meds. Also, since we knew she reacted to certain foods, it just didn't seem fair to send her up the wall with as yet unidentified food intolerances, then bring her down again with a pill. It just wasn't the way I wanted to go.

That said, understand that this decision was for our own situation; I'm not judging anyone else's. Every kid is different, as well as every situation. I had web site conversations with moms who'd put their kids on medication and these children were doing great. For one thing, these moms hadn't noticed any particular problems with diet. So, each situation has to be evaluated on its own, with each contributing factor weighed. My hubby and I did that with our family's needs in mind. Obviously if I was homeschooling, I wasn't working outside the home. This impacted once again on our potential income, but we had gotten used to never having enough money, and once again, I wasn't making any long term plans. Nothing was carved in stone. It just seemed best to keep Butterfly home at least until she was old enough to understand that she couldn't ingest certain things without having problems. She could be put in school once she was old enough, or if the homeschooling didn't work out. Then I could always review the matter of medication, and I could look for part time work.

So we went ahead with homeschooling, special diet, no meds.

Now, it doesn't particularly benefit homeschoolers to simulate a classroom for one child. A classroom isn't actually the best learning environment, it's just what works best with 20 to 30 kids all at once. But I had one. Oh, we got her a little used school desk and she sat at that in the living room to do some of her workbook pages. But we also sat together at the table, did experiments in the kitchen and got out of the house.. a lot. Seems to me if you're learning about lakes, going to a lake is a good idea. Same thing wetlands, woods and other natural environs. History was learned at the local historical sites and museums. Art was learned partly here with art colouring pages and art projects, but also at art displays, art stores, even craft sales.

One cool, Autumn day while we were still at Mom's, Butterfly had just finished a bath when we heard a sudden ruckus outside. It was migrating grackles landing in Nanna's trees and all over the road. They were after the beechnuts and oh, what a racket they made! More curious than fearful, Butterfly ventured out onto the deck, still barefoot, to watch them. They rose in dark waves off the roadway, only to land a little ways off. She was enthralled with those noisy birds, and no opportunity for learning missed, we got out the atlas and turned to the chapter on bird migration ~ the routes, the birds, the time of year... That was a lesson that "took."

And out in the community, she learned about economics from shopping and when some people demanded to know why she wasn't in school, she learned about social skills, and how not to behave. I always replied with, "she is in school." Even while we were driving around, Mom and I quizzed her with math or civics questions. At home, we spent five weeks on vowels, because they were giving her a hard time. (The public school would not have spent five weeks on this, and she would have been left behind.) We did jeopardy-like rhyming games, wrote silly stories on her white board, and more. Finally, something clicked, and Butterfly has never looked back. She began calling out street and store signs from the back seat of the car. She started whizzing along with her reading and reading comprehension assignments, and she was well on her way to becoming a voracious reader, gobbling up such series as The Boxcar Kids, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and Pendragon.

When we were done our lessons for the day, educational TV filled in the spaces. No, I didn't use TV as a babysitter. A TV can't wipe a runny nose, get snacks, or answer questions. No commercial TV was allowed while Butterfly was little. We didn't need her wanting this thing and that thing as advertised on TV. She started with shows like Sesame Street, and worked up to Popular Mechanics for Kids, National Geographic, the Kratt Brothers' shows and other programs of learning value. At our house, TV was an educational tool (at least until Butterfly was in bed).

As well as some things were going, there were problems: I noticed that she couldn't remember the arithmatic she'd learned, even if it was only the next day that I reviewed it. Same thing with learning to tell time. I showed her about a hundred times, no exaggeration, how to read a clock face, and while we were doing the work book pages, she could do it. But give it even just a couple of hours, and she couldn't anymore. This... this was not clicking. And while Butterfly's reading skills were great, she couldn't learn cursive writing. She wrote her letters in big, sloppy block capitals, and she couldn't seem to do anything else. Learning cursive writing was becoming a real stumbling block and a source of stress for both of us. I needed some help with this, but we couldn't afford private help. We turned to a social services family counselling unit. I wanted her tested, but we had to jump through some hoops first.


  1. Always hoops to jump through! We are still jumping, as I am sure you probably are too ;)

    Does she have dyscalculia? I just heard of this recently and believe that Goose and I both have it (more me than her, actually!) I'm terrible with numbers and directions. Thank goodness these days for my GPS, cell phone, and printable online maps. When I was first learning to drive, I had to stop and ask directions so much it took me hours to get where I was going, even if I had "paid attention" to the route before and had a map on hand.

    Thankfully I don't have to use very much math in my every day life now that I am out of school! When I cook and convert/double/halve recipes I often cheat and look online ;)

  2. Always hoops! Yes, she does, but all will be revealed in my next post. :) With me it's spelling. It's a good thing I got to look at the book while she was learning. ;o) I don't know if I'd trust a GPS. I'd only be able to afford a cheap one, so I'd probably wind up in a lake. "Turn left here... splash." ;o)