Monday, October 20, 2014

From the Eyes of a Sibling: Talking to the Principal

There is a lot said about how siblings of children respond to their special-needs and how they fit in with regard to the attention, whether intentionally or not, that goes to the special-needs child.  Now Elias and Adelaide are as competitive as siblings get.  They are just two years apart and both quite bright and capable in their own ways.  However, Adelaide is also intensely competitive.  I have a memory of Adelaide around age two being pushed home in a jogger from Starbucks.  Elias had been at home and Addie chose to save her empty chocolate milk drink all the way home so she could lord it over her brother when we got home. Of course, he took the bait and pitched a fit.  Now, I know none of this is atypical of siblings.

So, when Elias was given a probable diagnosis of Tourettes' this summer I wondered how much the other kids would take in.  Josiah has accompanied us to the therapist every other week and played quietly on the floor and every once in a while chimed in to "tell the teacher when the kids tease you."  He, in his quiet own way, has been very sweet to his big brother just by being so co-operative about going to the appointments.

And, one time this summer after a friend had spent the night, Addie's friend asked, "Why does your brother make those funny noises?"  Adelaide said matter of factly, "He has tics.  Not animals tics, but these things he does that he can't help."  I was so proud of her...Since then, all the kids have been around the dinner table when we have talked about doctors' appointments and occupational therapy and the teasing that Elias experienced last year.  They have been around when he chose to make his video about Tourettes and to share the information with his class.

But, were we ever surprised, though, when Adelaide casually mentioned to us that she told the principal that her brother got teased a lot at Media Elementary School.  We vaguely knew that all kids who had October birthdays get to eat with the principal.  But, she must have decided this was a good venue in which to bring it up with the principal. Curiously, I asked her what the principal said and Addie lifted her voice and said, "Oh?" imitating an older woman's response to such a statement by a seven year old. I think it took a brave girl to bring up that topic on her own in front of a group of peers and in front of THE authority figure at the school.  But, that is my Addie.  She can truly surprise me with her kindness and grace.

                And, then I made her big brother give her a big kiss on her cheek. She really deserved it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The VTS web and all its connections

We had the joy and privilege of visiting our Seminary this past week.  We were there for the awarding of an honorary degree for the Rt. Rev. Maimbo William Mndolwa.  This was the bishop whose diocese I had visited in January in Tanga, Tanzania.

He and his wife, Frida, were being honored at the Seminary's Convocation and he had invited us as his guests.  Adam and I enjoyed being back at the Seminary together.  We even had a chance to check out the new chapel being built as well as the remnants of the old chapel, which is being made into a Memorial Garden.

Three days later, we got a visit from Godfather Kyle, who attended, and now works at VTS, and his wife, Kristin, who is a student at VTS.  They came to see Josiah and were here for the inaugural  Kradel sibling art project. (The kids disappeared into the basement for a long time and we thought they were playing nicely...they were but they were painting a huge mural across the basement floor.)  Kristin thought it was charming...I was plotting ways for them to come and babysit for a weekend.

Practicing Non-violence with his Tics

A few weeks ago, Elias' guidance counselor told me that Elias had been trying to keep from doing his large motor tic and was complaining his muscles were sore.  There were so many interesting things at work, for me, in this contact.  First, I learned that Elias was having lunch with the guidance counselor every Tuesday. Unbeknownst to me, the two set-up that arrangement.  The second thing I learned was that Elias was going to her and talking about his tics and how they affected him.  For now, two of Elias' tics are very subtle and manageable; he picks at his teeth constantly and he also clears his throat which is exacerbated by allergy season.  If you didn't know he had Tourettes', you would probably think the kid had a wiggly tooth and bad allergies.  But, the tic which draws great attention to Elias is what he calls his "daydreaming" tic.

Elias had grown a bit since we wore these jeans last fall

Elias had decided he did not want to do this tic at school.  For one, it draws great attention to him as he makes noises and moves his hands as he "acts out" different kinds of daydreams.  I was a bit surprised that he didn't want to do this at school during recess to get the tension out, especially since he presented to his class about Tourettes and all the kids were so kind, understanding, and asked great questions.  So, that night I talked to him about it.  But, he was adamant about keeping the tic in until he got home.  He said "Besides, Mom, I'm at a Quaker school and my tics are kind of violent."  I almost fell over laughing, but then I thought that I should let the guidance counselor know.  Elias is such a rule-follower that he may very well hold in tics because he knows the school is avidly against weapons and violence. However, these scenarios are really like watching a child enact a Luke Skywalker routine--nothing more.

In the meantime, we got our call from CHOP.  So, we are all set for our big appointment on Wednesday.  Elias has a long list of questions, including if he can take the medicine to make the tics decrease.  I told him we could explore lots of things with the doctor and we would probably be beginning a new series of appointments.  I know he has high hopes for all of this to go away, but I think he seems to be managing quite well right now.