- Mental Health
Warmest Coat on the Planet
Daniel has the “warmest coat on the planet.” I certainly would not want to deprive him of this precious article of clothing. The coat he is referring to smells funny and is too small for him. Daniel receives a new coat as one of his gifts for Christmas. The new coat is his favorite color (red), has many pockets with zippers and of course, is very warm. He loves his new coat, hangs it up in his closet and admires it frequently but continues to wear his original coat. I tell Daniel we need to wash his older coat, it takes me a very long time to get to that particular load of laundry and, alas, when I wash it, it falls apart and the Christmas coat becomes “the warmest coat on the planet.” I learn to manage some of Daniel’s behaviour and those successes help Fritz. Daniel has panic attacks at night, eating disorders and is unable to complete a day in school without getting into trouble.
Each night, Daniel wakes screaming. I console him and it takes what seems like hours to get him back to sleep. I am getting sleep deprived myself and I do not know what to do. My mother suggests I take him outside, talk to him and then when we go back in the house, his bed will feel warm and comforting. The next panic attack, we go out to the backyard where it is cold and drizzling. This has awakened my other children and they find us and want to know what is happening. I tell them that Daniel is just having a “panic attack” and I did not want his screams to wake them. They see we are just sitting and talking and go back to bed. Daniel wants to know when he can go back to bed, I tell him when he is relaxed and he knows he will go back to sleep. Soon, Daniel tells me he is ready to go back to sleep. This happens again the next night. The other kids come to find us and say: “Is this just another panic attack?” I say: “Yes, that is all it is.” They groan and go back to bed. Daniel says he is cold and wants to go back to bed and I tell him just a little longer. Soon, we go back in the house, he climbs into bed, and has no more panic attacks in the middle of the night.
When Daniel eats, he takes a bite of food, and then another without swallowing. Unchecked, he will have an entire slice of pizza in his mouth, his cheeks are puffed out and he struggles to swallow. I cut all of his food into tiny pieces. Pizza, fast food cheeseburgers, even french fries are cut into small bite size pieces. He wants me to stop cutting his food like this and I agree to when I see that he will swallow each bite. In a few days, I don’t have to cut his food and he swallows before he puts more food in his mouth.
A social worker named “Nikki” has been assigned to our house by our agency. I need better, more complete services for Daniel and Fritz. Nikki suggests a new center which includes counseling, behaviorists and a child and adolescent psychiatrist on staff. I set up an appointment for Daniel and Fritz right away and Daniel’s first interview with the psychiatrist goes as follows:
Dr: “How are things going at school?”
Dr: “I heard you had a little trouble.”
Daniel: (head hangs down a little) “Oh, yeah’”
Dr: “What happened?”
Daniel: “This kid cut in front of me in the lunch line.”
Daniel: “I had to hit him, on his head.”
Daniel: “With my tray.”
Daniel: “It was full of food.”
The doctor has observed other symptoms and he believes the boys both have ADHD and possibly “obsessive compulsive disorder.” He cannot prescribe medication for both at the outset and he asks which I believe treating would help the most. I ask for the ADHD medication and he prescribes a time release medication that I only have to administer once per day.
By the next day, the boys listen better and have less trouble in school. Daniel still cannot manage the cafeteria but he can pay attention long enough to follow directions and complete a task. The school staff and I have a meeting and Daniel is placed in a class for children with behavioral disorders but no learning disabilities. He no longer is allowed in situations that are not structured such as the cafeteria. He is given instruction with a “song flute” and masters it so quickly that he qualifies for the school band the next year and learns how to play the clarinet.
Daniel has a “court appointed special advocate,” commonly known as a “CASA” worker. I have not had any children with CASA workers until Daniel. The CASA worker calls and tells me she has a Christmas gift for Daniel and she would like to bring it over. The girls are accustomed to different workers and family members giving gifts or taking children places where they are not included. It is not a problem for them. It concerns me that someone would bring a gift for Daniel but not his brother, Fritz. I tell her that she cannot bring a gift for Daniel to my house without bringing a gift for Fritz. She tells me that I do not have the “authority” to tell her that. I say: “Of course I do, this is my house.” She will call me back after speaking with her supervisor. Soon, I receive a call telling me that now Fritz has a “CASA” worker. The “CASA” workers and I become good friends and Daniel and Fritz get specialized attention that helps both of them enormously.