Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy birthday Ethan. You've come a long way, baby!

My super hero
This last school year has been very eventful for our family and especially for my Ethan. Here's the lowdown:
In August, Ethan started Kindergarten at Banyan in their Special Ed. Day Class. Previously, he attended 2 years of preschool at Frost Early Childhood Education Center, a San Bernardino County Special Ed. program. In April of 2010 we met as a team to decide where Ethan would begin Kindergarten. It seemed ideal when I learned there would be a Kindergarten class offered at our home school, Banyan through our school district.

In August, Ethan started Kindergarten. I was SO excited for a few reasons. First he was beginning Kindergarten. Next, he was at Banyan where his older 3 siblings had all attended (I was happy to have children at only 3 schools instead of 4). Thirdly, his Special Day Class was a full day class! A full day class is this area for Kindergarten is unheard of. But, I was grateful to have Ethan in school and grateful for an extended break and for additional time to prepare. 6 hours to clean and prepare and for me to do some self-care. I was excited!

Then, in September, things went awfully awry. Isn't that how they always go?

Beginning Sept. 24-29th Ethan was first admitted to Loma Linda University Behavioral Health Center. Beginning in August and then through September, Ethan's behavior steadily deteriorated. His behaviors worsened.  His teacher, although a good woman, was not adequately trained to deal with his behaviors. She gave in and ignored Ethan's bad behaviors. And, being the smart fellow that he is Ethan generalized this behavior. If the bad behavior worked for him at school, Ethan then figured he could do the same at home with similar results. Makes sense right?

Ethan was next admitted back at Loma Linda Oct. 6-11. This hospitalization began with a ride in the back of a police cruiser. You see during a therapy session he went into a murderous rage so severe the therapy staff were unable to help him. The police were called and disbelieving, the officer tried to help him. When her attempts failed, we had no choice but to transport him to Loma Linda on a 72 hour hold. It was a rather surreal event. I had never been in the back of a police car before. And, then trying to calm and restrain an irrational 4 year old in the back of a police car... well, it's something I will never forget.

During the following weeks, I kept Ethan at home. He was also enrolled in an Intensive Outpatient program in Temecula (an hour away). The school district was unable to help him. He would go, get angry and hurt others and himself. I finally put my foot down and said enough! It was obvious that Ethan's placement was not right. Why would I keep sending my child to school when he had meltdown after meltdown? Isn't that the very definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over expecting different results.

Ethan was hospitalized a third time at Loma Linda, Oct. 22-Nov. 2. Very little occurred during these hospitalizations. Ethan's behavior was stabilized. He tried different drug cocktails to help control his behavior. Some of them worked and some failed in the worst possible way. Our family was traumatized. It was hard to care for him and care for my other children. Thankfully friends were able to help out here and there with my house and the kids. I am eternally thankful to all those that helped our family during that time and continue to this day.

Ethan's last hospitalization occurred Jan. 4-14 at UCLA's Reznick Children's Hospital. That hospitalization was the hardest by far. We could only visit Ethan once a day. And, it was a 2 hour drive to visit him for 1 hour. But, the Children's Psych unit there is ABSOLUTELY amazing. His team of doctors were great. They even got him his MRI which we had been trying to get as a means of ruling out an organic brain issue as opposed to a strictly behaviorall/mental condition.

During those months, we stayed at home. We tried to limit his interactions with others because he was so completely emotionally unstable. There were a lot of meltdowns and even more tears. The slightest thing would set him off into a violent meltdown lasting an hour or more.

Then on Jan. 14th a beautiful ray of light and hope appeared though the clouds and darkness. The district offered placement in a County Special Ed. program with a very special woman named Ms. Michelle. Ethan would have an aide on the bus to and from school and at school.

Beginning Jan. 31, Ms. Michelle has worked a miracle with Ethan and in our lives. She has challenged him and loved him despite his best efforts to prove her otherwise. Once memorable day for me was watching her bring him to the car. Ethan had had a terrible day. He got angry during class and pulled his pants down and urinated on her. As she brought him to my car, she said, "Ethan, I love you!" I had never heard a teacher utter those words to my son before. To be perfectly honest, it was hard for me to utter them when life with him was SO very difficult. I couldn't take him out in public. The slightest frustrations at home devolved into hour long meltdowns. I was afraid of him, because of his ability and strength when he was angry. Life revolved around Ethan.

Ms. Michelle sees him through different eyes. She knows how to help him work through the anger and frustration. She helped him use his words instead of yelling and kicking. She helps us at home too. She has helped us analyze and document his behaviors. It has made a world of difference with us and Ethan. We have been able to identify his triggers. We have learned techniques to help him.

Ethan is doing amazingly well. He has turned around. The combinations of medication, counseling/therapy, the prayers of family and friends, the divine help of the Lord, behavior training, and the amazing influence of his teacher, Ethan is a different person. We have occasional flare-us but they don't last hours anymore. They last minutes.

One of the most miraculous things occurred Easter Sunday. Ethan stood up next to his little brother with our church's primary (children's) group and with no parental assistance participated in singing a song with the other children. He didn't sing very much but he acted appropriately. It was nothing short of amazing! It was miraculous.

With all that said, I knew I wanted to something unique and wonderful for Ethan on his birthday. That little boy has been through the fire at the age of 5 and has come out on top! So I figured we should celebrate in super hero style.

When Ethan woke up, power o's AKA donuts, were awaiting him. He loved them. And no he didn't eat all of them. He had 1 and shared the rest.

Then I took him to school. He wore his superhero cape and his mask. I stayed up until 2 am the night before to make them.

Then, later at school I brought in 2 of the $5 Little Caesar's pizzas, bottled water and frosted sugar cookies. Ethan likes sugar cookies way better than cupcakes. On cupcakes, he just eats the frosting.

I brought in some "special" bottle water. Wonder Water. The kids liked the labels I taped over the original water bottle labels. The kids used the labels I taped on as wrist bands. It was cute.

For dinner, I made 3 cheese pasta bake. Ethan liked the noodles. And then he had chocolate cake. He was funny and said, "This is MY chocolate cake. But, I will let you have some."

That's Ethan. I am so grateful that we he has received help. And that he has RESPONDED to help. Life isn't perfect, we still have a few blow ups. But, they are much rarer in frequency and the duration is significantly lessened as is the intensity. We are grateful!


Sara said...

I am so glad that Ethan is doing better. His birthday party was adorable! Sara

Claudia said...

What great news!!!! I am thrilled for all 7 of you & for Ethan most of all. Give his teacher a big hug or high 5 for me. The party looks great! Wish I were creative like that.

Love ya!

bonniemomof5 said...

Thanks for the comments. It really wasn't a party. It was just treats for the class. We don't have the money and he really doesn't have a whole lot of friends besides the kids in class. I just figured I would bring the "party" to them. The least I could do was feed them lunch. They have endured a lot with Ethan. But they accept him and he has a few friends in class.