Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Determination and Headaches

I know, I know. It's been forever since I've blogged. Well, a lot has been going on in this household. I have so much to tell, but it's hard to know where to begin. It's a story of a boy who is so smart and has so much determination, that he's fooled a bunch of professionals. It's a story of a boy who wants to always do his best and gets frustrated when he's not doing as well as he should. It's a story of a first born who wants to please all the time. It's a story of a boy who is worried and frustrated and stressed and he's only seven years old.

It's a story about R....

R historically has loved school. Then came the night before school started this year and he cried because he didn't want summer to be over. But, to his surprise, school is fun (remember, "it's even more fun than first grade!") He has lots of fun in school and generally wakes up happy and ready to go to school. However, this year, he's had either a headache or stomach ache every night. Some nights are more severe than others. Some nights, he just mentions it in passing and then goes to sleep. Other nights (like last night) he's up really late -- past 10:00, which is two hours past his bed time. Sometimes his neck hurts; sometimes his jaw hurts; sometimes his chest hurts. He has great descriptions too -- a tornado in his tummy, a fire in his head; a magnate has a hold of his jaw.

As these seemingly random pains progressed, I thought maybe it was stress. I'd ask him about his day -- everything was fine. School was fine. I'd ask about friends. He had friends that he plays with. I'd ask him about hockey. Yeah, hockey is cool -- he loves it. We thought maybe it was his eyes giving him a headache because he reads a lot, but he passed the school vision screening with flying colors. Sometimes I'd give him Tylonol if his head was really bad; sometimes I'd give him Pepto Bismo if the "tornado in his tummy" felt like he was going to vomit; once I gave him Tums because he had a "fire in his chest and throat." Eventually, he'd fall to sleep.

On what seemed to be a totally separate front, we had R seen by an occupational therapist (OT) at school for his horrendous printing skills. We suspected that he had slow development of his fine motor skills. He has horrible writing. He also hates to draw and does it poorly. At first glance, the OT thought he was fine, but then dug further and found some issues. We were dismayed and elated to learn that he has issues with his visual-cognitive integration, or as I explained to him, his two eyes and his brain don't work together as a team. One easy thing that she showed us is that if you put your finger out in front of him and then move it to his nose, he doesn't cross his eyes. One eye crosses and the other doesn't. Some of the issues he has are with teaming, tracking, and visual motor integration. Here is a great website that shows you how he sees sometimes and explains it a bit more: http://

This was a bummer to learn because my poor boy has a really hard time on doing pretty normal stuff. I was elated to learn this because there is a solution: vision therapy. The OT would work with him each week and he should progress and be fine after two years. If we wanted to, she said, we could take him to a vision therapist outside of school and we would get faster results. She also said that it would help him with his sports (how did she know that poor R can't catch a ball for the life of him?)

Great. I did lots of research on this and read lots of testimonials from other parents that have gone through this. I was super excited! Oh, and when kids have these problems, the very often get headaches from the disconnect between their eyes and their brain, and sometimes they get stomachaches from the stress of not performing up to par. Allelluia! We might have an answer. Let's get this thing going!

By the way, the OT was absolutely amazed that R can read and likes to read. She was very proud of him, saying that he is very smart and has so much determination to persevere despite his problem. It just warmed my and M's hearts.

Of course, this news didn't stop the headaches and stomachs and other various pains. One day last week, we actually kept him home from school one day because his stomach was hurting so bad. M and I thought that it might be stress still, but decided to eliminate anything medical just to be sure. So, M took him to the doctor that day and I made a slew of appointments. I made appointments with the: vision therapist and eye doctor (they won't do vision therapy without a complete eye exam), allergist, and dentist. The pediatrician made an appointment for him to have a CT to check out his brain and sinuses to rule out anything that might affect his headaches. M and I felt a lot better -- we were on the road to a solution. We would talk up everything that we were doing to R and sometimes he was okay and some nights he wasn't.

Fast forward a couple of days to last Saturday when R had is VERY thorough eye exam. T and I were in the exam room too. The doctor would ask R to read the first letter of the third line: F, R said. The doc would ask, Is that the first letter of the third line? Oh, it's an E, R would say. T looked at the board an looked at me and said, "that's a T, Mom." I know it is. Shhh. We have to be quiet.
I would say that R missed about 40% of the letters. The final word: he is farsighted and has astigmatism. The poor boy can't see!

The doctor asked again, How is his reading? Great, I'd say. He's very good and loves to read. Wow, he said, he is a very determined boy.

Then the doctor did some more tests to check out his visual-cognitive integration and confirmed the OT's diagnosis. R's eyes don't work as a team and don't transmit the same image to his brain. The doc gave R a paper that had a small outline of a circle on it and asked R to take a pen flashlight and move it under the paper so that the light was right in the middle of the circle. Each time he did it, the light was always about a half an inch outside of the circle. When the doctor cover one eye, R could do it no problem. Crazy, huh?!? The doctor had me look at R's eyes when he was doing some "center line" tests (making R look right in front of him) and showed me that his left eye moves from side to side very slightly in an effort to focus and work with his right eye. I was amazed. The doctor put his hand on my arm and said, R is making his eye focus. He's trying to get it in the middle. He does this every second and every minute of every day. He is working so hard just to see. I nearly burst out crying! My poor baby!!

The good news is that glasses will help the farsighted and astigmatism, which will make it easier for him to see and should lessen his headaches. We still had to get him to the vision therapist to get going on the whole working-as-a-team issues. (did you count that he has THREE things wrong with his vision! Can you believe it?)

So, here's this week's appointment schedule:
Tuesday: 2-hour vision therapy evaluation, get fitted for glasses
Wed: Total physical by pediatrician
Thurs: 7:00 AM CT scan

Next week is the allergist; the dentist is in three weeks. I think he has allergies similar to mine and I think that he clenches his jaw at night like I do when he's stressed. Stay tuned...

By the way, I'm looking into doing the vision therapy at home. There are some books, software, and kits that I can buy online. I'd like to work with him everyday for 30-minutes on it at home instead of twice a week for an hour at the office. R already feels like he "has no time to play" between hockey and Cub Scouts. I don't want to overschedule him. He'd have no free days if we go to the vision therapist. However, if I don't think we can do it at home or if we start and it doesn't look like it's working, we'll march him right over!


CaliforniaGrammy said...

Gee whiz! I'm so glad you've been able, through the fabulous professionals, to figure this out. I'm so proud of R for doing so well with the roadblocks he's been stumbling into. My gosh, when this is all figured out, and he gets his glasses, and gets those eyes teaming up with his brain . . . watch out world! He'll be so much happier too! Great telling of the blow-by-blow events, SS! I love your opening paragraph! I had tears of pride and sadness as I read it . . . sadness for R and pride for your talent in telling a good story!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I just checked out the website you referred us to, and it was so very helpful. Poor R . . . what a struggle reading must be and amazing that he is as good a reader as he is. Just imagine what it will be like with his new glasses so that he can see so much more clearly! Wow!

A.J. said...

Wow, some news, huh? And you'd think this would be a diagnosis for a kid with terrible learning disabilities who would hate school. I agree with CA Grammy. Watch out when he gets fixed up!

gramonthelake said...

Tears filled my eyes when I read your blog to Grandpa. What a strong character R has developed. Never giving up, even though it was so very difficult for him each and every day. We believe he will be able to succeed any future hurdle that comes his way in life. We respect and love him. Thank God for that wonderful, caring professional that diagnosed this. Who would ever think his eyes were causing so much havac in his life. It's wonderful news that there's a remedy. We're also proud of the way you & M are handling this. All of you are in our thoughts & prayers. Love, G & G

SeattleS said...

:-( Poor R. I am soooo glad that you dug into what was going on with his random "thunder" and "fire". Good for you! I bet he is going to be thrilled when he gets glasses and can see!
Good luck, little man!