Hurray for the Detox

Three months ago, I wrote a post titled, “Take Heart. There Is Also More Than I Can Manage,” in which I described (1) believing that Martin needed a better detox protocol, and (2) feeling certain that we could not manage a protocol I found on the Recovering Kids/Regarding Caroline blog. I concluded by compiling an abbreviated—and still “aspirational”—plan for Martin:

  1. A foot bath during iPad time at least four days per week.
  2. Dry brushing Saturday (or Sunday), Wednesday, and Friday.
  3. Herx water before breakfast and after school.

I’m here to report that the abbreviated detox plan has been so successful for Martin that we now exceed the aspirations. He gets the foot bath four days per week. With limited exceptions, we are dry brushing every day, and Martin drinks herx water before breakfast, after school, and again before bed. Depending on how the day is going, I might even slip in a fourth herx water.

As to the dry brushing, the nightly routine arose through his own initiative. The first time we undertook the brushing, I expected him to get bored or frustrated. Instead, he stood patiently and asked to help me count the brush strokes: “one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five six.” I took a break the next two nights, not wanting to “overdo” the new routine. On the third day, Martin remarked, “Remember the brushing thing? We should do that again.” So we dry-brushed that evening, and Martin said, “We should do this every night.” Since then, he becomes agitated if I’m home and we miss a night.

As to the foot baths (which he tolerates) and the herx water (which he despises), the proof has been in the pudding. I wanted a new detox routine because of Martin’s constant silliness, which was impeding his social progress. When Martin is detox-y, he cannot control his laughing and his calling out, even when he knows the behavior is inappropriate. (This happens also when he’s yeasty, which I could tell was not the primary issue in January.) The silliness decreased almost as soon as we started daily dry brushing and, as of today I would estimate that the decrease is about 90%. Martin’s increased self-control has even led to a couple social breakthroughs. He’s made a few friends at school. The school behaviorist, whom I like to call Debbie Downer because she shares so much negative news, sent me these texts yesterday:

Hi. All good reports. Minimal silliness this week. More peers going to Martin and interacting with him.

Data are looking good, and consistent. Will be picking new targets but need to think about them, as he’s doing well. Pace of unpacking and packing [his backpack] up.

Remember when I told you that you know when a kid makes it when everybody else starts to copy them? Well they’re starting to copy some of the things that Martin does.

All good news! What are they copying?

Some of the silly behavior. Blurting out “Mister Poopy Pants” or something like that from Captain Underpants, or calling out “ice cream” just out of the blue.

They think it’s funny so they do it as well.

            Oh . . . fab . . . .

Yes. Teacher loves it, lol.

Of course, despite these advances, life is no bed of roses. It never is. Those his self-control has improved in almost every other area, Martin remains fixated on a girl from his taekwondo class, Abby. He can’s seem to stop bothering poor Abby, alternately calling her cute and ugly, pushing her, running into her. When I confront him, he cries and says, “I don’t know why I do it! I just can’t control myself around Abby!”

Also, Martin’s skin is a mess, even worse than before we started the detox protocol. I think clearing pores and stimulating the lymphatic system, which dry brushing is designed to do, makes something I wrote six years ago just as true today: “[Martin’s] digestive tract isn’t as good as it should be at spitting out bad stuff, so his skin overcompensates.” He picks at the scratches, sores, and tiny bumps covering his limbs. I avoid the spots carefully when dry brushing. The weather has remained chilly this spring, so I have him wear long sleeves to school, but that won’t last forever. The school nurse already phoned me once to say Martin couldn’t stop scratching his arms. I attributed the behavior to dry skin, because really, how am I supposed to explain to a traditional school nurse that antimicrobial killing of bartonella and babesia can produce a lot of toxins, which we are managing through an extensive daily protocol? It’s hard enough to explain the whole thing to you, dear readers, and I know you are educated sorts.

Difficult Come, Easy Go

Two years ago, I wrote my only post ever titled in all-caps: “MARTIN MADE FRIENDS.” I described how Martin finally managed to make friends in a scenario not arranged by adults: He rode his bicycle across the street to play with the twin girls who live there. I also admitted that the friend-making appeared limited to the specific situation—the same week, Martin bombed a play date and failed to speak to another neighbor girl. I predicted that making friends might be one of those skills that pops up, disappears, and then reemerges to stay.

The friendship with our twin neighbors faded, once other kids got involved. That fall, Martin transferred to the same school as those girls, and they joined the school-bus bullying fiasco. Martin tried sometimes to make friends at recess, but his classmates rejected him, and we were left with only playmates from his social-skills group and former special-education school.

Twenty-four (long) months later, fledgling friend-making is back. A month or two ago, as Martin and I were walking to the car at afternoon school pick-up, a boy ran up and said, “’Bye, Martin! See you tomorrow.” Martin replied, evenly, “’Bye, Manuel.”

“Martin,” I asked in the car, “who was that boy?”

“That’s my friend Manuel. He just moved here from Texas.”

“Is he in your class?”

“No, I met him at recess.” Martin said this matter-of-factly, as if he were constantly making new friends on the playground.

I asked Martin whether he’d like to invite Manuel for a play date. He replied that he would.

The next afternoon, I introduced myself to Manuel’s grandmother, who picks him up from school because his mother works. The grandmother said, “Oh, you’re Martin’s mom! Manuel talks about Martin. Let’s get them together.” We arranged a drop-off play date, at our house. The play date lasted two hours, which is a long time for Martin to hold it together and pay attention to another kid, but he managed, and the affair went pretty well (some bumps, resolved with agreement to watch a spooky video together). Thereafter, Martin reported playing with Manuel at recess several times. Once he said, sadly, that Manuel had decided to play soccer with some other boys instead. I suggested that Martin consider asking to play soccer too, but he said he was sure Manuel and other boys would say he couldn’t play. The next day, however, Martin announced that he indeed asked to play soccer, and that the boys had said yes, and that he had played soccer. I was overjoyed.

Most recently, Martin invited Manuel to “bring a friend” day at his taekwondo school. I consider this Martin’s first self-generated, sustained friendship. Manuel is a cheerful and polite boy, slightly clumsy and overweight, in a mainstream classroom and receiving limited (very limited, by our standards) special-education services. I don’t envision him and Martin ever becoming the coolest kids on the playground. That’s fine by me. Adrian and I were hardly cool kids, either.

Martin plays Minecraft on his iPad. Back in February, he asked me to buy him a particular Minecraft book he’d seen two classmates reading. I did so gladly, because Martin hates reading, and I’m happy for anything that gets him looking at words. Then Martin asked for a plush Minecraft zombie, and then for a plush Minecraft baby zombie. I hesitated, as Martin is nine years old and doesn’t need any more stuffed animals, but relented on the basis that the Minecraft theme might be a way to connect with other kids. I made the right choice: Martin’s teacher and behaviorist both said that a couple boys from class asked Martin to play with his zombies, and subsequently that the three of them were sitting together talking Minecraft at lunch and snack time. Martin himself said, excitedly, that he’d played “zombie chase” at recess with his “friends.” His request for the plush toys appears to have been calculated, for the purpose of attracting positive attention. Good work.

Martin also has reported that playing more with Lucas. Martin has known Lucas since fall 2016, when they shared a desk, and we’ve attempted play dates with him before, without too much success. Now Martin says the two of them have invented a game that involves hanging upside-down on the playground slide and yelling, “Help me!” (Um, okay . . . .)

In sum, over the last couple months, Martin has cultivated a playground repertoire. He plays with Manuel, he engages in Minecraft-related activities with classmates, or he hangs out on the climbing equipment with Lucas. When none of those options is available, Martin says, he sits and reads a Minecraft book. Last year he spent virtually every recess alone on the swings. The swings have been removed due to ongoing construction at Martin’s school. I was scared of what that removal could mean for recess, but he seems to be weathering the storm. He’s made a few friends.

And now—just a few months after moving here, Manuel’s family has decided to leave. The cost-of-living in our area is too high, Manuel’s mother says, and they aren’t able to make ends meet.

Martin is losing his first real, independently found friend. He’s crushed.

So are we. Adrian asked me, “Could we lend them money? Help pay for their apartment? Anything?” He wasn’t serious, of course. We can’t go around sponsoring families to make sure Martin has friends.

Even if we might do just about anything else.

The Beginning

This is the second post in response to last month’s reader comment asking, “I’m very curious to know where you started. I have gone back and searched the blog and couldn’t find a journey type of blog. Can you write about this when you can? When did you get diagnosed, what were your earliest challenges? Where did he stand verbally when he was diagnosed?”

I’ve described from time to time Martin’s condition before we started biomed. Here I will try to rope those descriptions into a single post, divided into two parts: (1) my memories of our realization that Martin had challenges; and (2) our initial neuropsychological evaluation, completed a month after we began biomed.

All of this will be written with a caveat. That is, from ages two through five, Martin had additional biological and behavioral manifestations of his immune disorder that, for privacy reasons, I do not discuss on Finding My Kid. Although this blog is written anonymously, nothing in this on-line age can ever be completely anonymous, and so I err in favor of protecting Martin’s dignity, and our family’s.

My Memories

Martin was born early summer 2008, in circumstances that I have described elsewhere and that I am certain contributed to the immune challenges he would later face. His first 18 months out of womb raised few eyebrows. After initial trouble latching and correction of a tongue-tie (many biomed parents see a correlation between tongue-tie and autism), Martin nursed well, for 22 months total. He started solid foods at six months.

Remarkably, at just 17 days, Martin could roll over, front-to-back. He did so in front of his pediatrician, who said, “You should videotape that.”

Martin also picked up words, so many words that to us, as first-time parents, he seemed to be “advanced”—whatever that means. He could give the nouns for objects to which we pointed. He could repeat lines of dialogue from movies and television shows. Wow! Adrian and I thought. We’d never heard, at that time, of echolalia.

Looking back with the hindsight of almost eight years in the world of autism, I recognize at least four red flags before Martin turned two. First, despite his ability to say words (lots of words), Martin never began to develop any functional language. He never combined words independently. Although he learned how to say and use “no!”, he failed to grasp the concept of “yes” or “I.” Second, Martin never took interest in other kids. He never reached the level of parallel play. Indeed, he never even seemed to notice when other kids were present, never walked up to or investigated them. Third, he could exhibit extreme hyperactivity, to the point of being unable to stop moving. He ran in circles for long periods of time. I could put him into his oval-shaped crib for a nap and return to find him running tiny laps around the edge of the mattress. Fourth, the sleeping troubles started early. We sleep-trained successfully at seven months old. Within six months, that had ended. Martin began taking longer and longer to fall asleep (60 minutes, 90 minutes, two hours) and waking frequently throughout the night.

Adrian and I finally began to recognize a potential problem around the time Martin turned two, in summer 2010. Samara, Martin’s nanny, invited some neighborhood kids over for cake to celebrate Martin’s birthday. When I observed the group, Martin stood out. He didn’t appear to be part of the group. The other toddlers came excitedly to the table for cake; Samara had to chase Martin repeatedly to get him to the table. Martin wasn’t able to blow out the two candles. He couldn’t make his lips into a pucker. He appeared to have trouble focusing on the task.

In general, Martin wasn’t listening. He couldn’t follow any direction, no matter how simple. If I held out a toy and said, “Here,” he walked away without taking the toy. He participated in Soccer Superstars. When the activity was “kick the little orange cone,” a dozen toddlers kicked little orange cones. Martin bolted to the next field and tipped over a goal. Because we were starting applications for selective private preschool—this really does seem an eternity ago—we enrolled Martin in the “Twos Club” at the Manhattan-based, for-profit “City Kids Club” (not the real name). When we signed Martin up with City Kids Club, they said they could help. They wouldn’t coddle him. They’d teach him to listen and to follow directions. It didn’t work out that way. When the Twos Club let out, half a dozen toddlers would sprint from the classroom and into their parents’ arms, showing off the art projects they’d made. Martin would wander out last, appearing not to notice me, shuffling under the direction of a staff member who carried his incomplete art project. (Eventually, the City Kids Club kicked Martin out of the Twos Club, an experience I recount here, under the subheading “Whence My Anxiety?”)

I called an old friend who was working upstate in Early Intervention. We talked by phone several times over the summer and, in September 2010, she was able to make a day trip to the City. She arrived late morning, and by mid-afternoon, she said, “I know this isn’t easy to hear, but based on what I’ve seen, Martin has autism.”

Martin’s autism was never entirely regressive; the autism was classic, insofar as there were skills he simply never acquired when he should have, like language or interest in peers. On the other hand, I recognized later that, during summer and autumn 2010, Martin was regressing. He lost the ability to point to distant objects. He lost eye contact, almost violently so: His determination to avoid locking his gaze on mine would lead him to twist his neck so far in his stroller that I feared he might injure himself. The hyperactivity began to alternate with extreme lethargy, when he would lie on his side, humming and pushing a toy car back and forth. He began drifting, walking the perimeter of our apartment’s large main room, dragging his fingertips on the wall to a sing-song sound. And his sleep, already poor, degenerated to almost non-existent. He could no longer fall asleep unless physically restrained. On the worst nights, Adrian and I had to work together, one of us securing Martin’s legs and ankles while the other lay half-upon Martin’s upper body and pinned his arms. Even then, Martin would clench and unclench his hands, roll his head, move however he could. When he finally slept, it would last no more than two hours or so. There were no more naps, ever.

Martin had the habit—I don’t remember if he did this always, or if it started around two years old—of going slack. When he grew frustrated, or didn’t want to do something, he let his body collapse onto the ground and stayed there, sometimes also screaming. Transitioning (moving from one activity to another) frustrated Martin, so he spent ample time, gelatinous, on the filthy subway floor and mats around the supermarket check-out.

He bumped into everything. When he ran, his head flew side-to-side and his limbs exploded in all directions. Low in muscle tone, he sat in the W position. He toe-walked. If he did take an interest in another child, he thrust his face uncomfortably close, as if trying to discover what it is that makes humanness.

During these days, these days I’ve just described, I saw my husband cry, the only time in our 18 years together.

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Martin observing London Bridge, from the Tower of London vantage.

The Professional Analysis

We changed Martin’s diet in January 2011 and began biomedical interventions in February 2011. The next month, March 2011, we brought Martin to the developmental neuropsychiatry program at one of New York City’s leading hospitals, where he was evaluated over four separate visits. The report, presented to us in April 2011, concluded with a diagnosis “according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR, 2000): Axis I: 299.00 Autistic Disorder.”

Here are selected findings (from the two examiners, as opposed to the parent interviews), as written in the report:

  • In the area of communication, Martin used a number of single words to label and some learned phrases, such as ‘I want . . . .’ He repeated ‘No’ frequently when he did not want to do something. Frequently his expressive language was not directed at anyone in particular. He pointed directly at objects but not to show interest in an object at a distance.
  • “In the area of reciprocal social interaction, Martin did not consistently use eye contact to engage others. . . . . He did not respond to the examiner when she attempted to call his name on four attempts but did so immediately when his mother called his name, though he did not look at her. He responded to the examiner’s pointing to the remote control bunny rabbit, not to her gaze and vocal prompt.
  • “In the area of restricted and repetitive behaviors, Martin gazed at the wheels of a truck repetitively and repeated ‘Hello’ over and over as he held a toy phone.
  • “Even though his mother remained with him, Martin had significant difficulty transitioning to the examiner’s office and into the structured testing environment. During testing, he was easily distracted by specific interests, specifically with letters and numbers, and this interfered with test administration at times.
  • “Compared to other children his age in the normative sample Martin’s overall performance on the [Mullen Scales of Early Learning, AGS Edition] was significantly delayed; he performed better than 2% of similarly aged children. His Early Learning Composite score is approximately two standard deviations below and suggests some delays in his cognitive development. Additionally, he demonstrated more unevenness in his cognitive skills than would be expected. His nonverbal, fine motor skills are a particular area of weakness and very low for his age, and his nonverbal, visual reception skills are also mildly delayed.
  • “Martin’s current repertoire of adaptive skills is somewhat more limited than would be expected for his age. His Adaptive Behavior Composite of 78 classifies his general adaptive functioning as moderately low; he scores better than 7% of other children his age. . . . [His mother] notes that he is making progress and attributes it to improvements in his sleep and the DAN protocol that was started 1½ months ago.”
  • Martin’s Early Intervention teacher “completed the Achenbach Caregiver-Teacher Report Form for Ages 1½-5 based on her view of his behavior over the past 2 months. . . . Her primary concerns relate to Martin’s inattention and his passive noncompliance throughout the day. . . . Martin is noted to sometimes use scripted language and to display delays in both his receptive and expressive language. He often does not answer when people talk to him and sometimes avoids looking others in the eye. He is sometimes disturbed by any change in routine. He is somewhat upset by new people or situations and may resist entering a new environment at school. He will occasionally place play-doh in his mouth.”

At the time we received the report, April 2011, I skimmed but did not read it thoroughly. The exercise would have been too disheartening. Instead I invested myself wholly in biomedical recovery, and trusted that we could make this better.

There you have our starting point.

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Martin discovering his inner knight at the Tower of London.

Awareness

A few months ago, Martin stuck part of a toy—the pink hand of a rubber action figure, perhaps; we reached no conclusive determination—in his left ear, which his MAPS(-ish) physician (“Dr. E”) discovered during a routine check-up. The next day we trooped over to an ENT specialist for removal. That doctor proposed placing a hollow cone with lighted tip into Martin’s ear, then reaching through the tip with a long tweezer sort of device to grab the “pink thing” (as Dr. E had dubbed the object). The procedure, if Martin held still, would be painless and last only a second or two.

Martin let the doctor peer into his ear but drew the line at the tweezer thingy plunging in there. Each time the doctor got close, Martin yelled, cried, struggled, and protested, hands clenched over his ear. The doctor was all patience, leaving the room while I calmed Martin and returning to try again, and again, for almost an hour. Finally the doctor suggested that we restrain Martin, and I agreed. I took Martin on my lap, crossed my legs over his, and held his wrists straightjacket-style. The nurse used her palms as a vice to steady Martin’s head. Martin screamed “NOOOOOO!” The doctor put the hollow cone in place and deftly, immediately, extracted the pink thing. He hadn’t lied: Once we had Martin still, the procedure took less than three seconds.

Martin stopped screaming immediately. His body relaxed. He studied the pink thing now in the doctor’s hand. Then he said, “That didn’t hurt at all. I guess it was just my anxiety making me scared for no reason.”

What kid is this? I asked myself. Admitting he’d been wrong? Musing on the role his anxiety played? Holy self-awareness.

That was in September. Since then:

>He asked me if I could send something to school for him to chew on instead of his pencil eraser, because he feels like he needs to chew but doesn’t want to keep ruining pencils. (I rummaged through a kitchen junk-drawer and found a silicon pencil-topper.)

>When I asked him why he was jumping in the living room one afternoon—jumping and hand-flapping are rare behaviors nowadays—he replied, “I have some extra energy that I want to get out so I can stand still when I go to taekwondo.”

>While he still won’t admit to being tired, ever, he will make comments like, “I really don’t think I should be up this late,” or, “Maybe I don’t need to read before bed tonight.”

He even said to me, before Christmas, “Mommy, do you remember when I used to be real shy and have trouble talking to people? That’s getting better. Now I can talk to people.”

In the seven years since he was diagnosed, Adrian and I have never told Martin that he has, or had, autism. I guess maybe we’re going to call his spectrum disorder “shyness.” I can live with that, at least for now.

So we’re getting a lot more self-awareness. With self-awareness, on the other hand, comes awareness of the challenges that still distinguish Martin from his peers. He asked to reduce his services at school (physical, occupational, and speech therapy, plus resource room) because he dislikes being pulled so often from the classroom. Then he acknowledged, “I guess I have to keep going to OT because my handwriting still isn’t as good as the other kids’.” He wants to join the school band next year, playing either trombone or percussion. He asked, “Mommy, what if next year the band teacher kicks me out because I can’t concentrate?”

I’m very thankful that Martin is suffering less anxiety these days and has better emotional control. The Friday before Christmas was belt testing at taekwondo. Most of Martin’s friends (as always, I use “friends” loosely) from his green-belt class—the kids with whom he achieved green belt together in September—were awarded blue belts. Although he has attended more practices than any of those friends, Martin was not eligible to test for blue belt, because he’s had trouble mastering the new forms and doesn’t have the third stripe on his green belt yet. Adrian took Martin to taekwondo the next afternoon, and I warned him that Martin might become upset or even have a meltdown when he saw his friends with their new blue belts. (The Saturday class is combined orange, green, and blue belts.) But he didn’t. According to Adrian, Martin became upset when he realized I’d forgotten to pack his green belt (way to go, me!), calmed down as soon as the dojang lent him a belt for the day, and never said a word about missing the blue-belt test.

It was September when Dr. E spotted the pink thing in Martin’s ear and sent us to the ENT specialist. In November we had another appointment with Dr. E. That morning, Martin said, “Dr. E won’t find any pink thing in my ear today!” When Dr. E went to look in his ear, Martin said, “Dr. E, you won’t find any pink thing in my ear today!” So I couldn’t believe my ears when Dr. E said he saw a pink object in Martin’s ear. Plainly, Martin thought he was being funny and had shoved something in his ear for Dr. E to find. Back to the ENT specialist we went. This time the object proved more difficult to dislodge, and Martin had to hold himself still while the doctor threaded a noisy vacuum tube into the ear canal. Martin did beautifully. Not a peep during the 20-to-30 seconds the doctor needed to extract what appeared to be a chunk of pencil eraser.

Martin gave me various stories about how the eraser entered his ear, ranging from “no idea” to “I had my head resting sideways on my desk while other students were throwing erasers around.”

Increased self-awareness—yes. Increased maturity—not so much.

The Facts of Life

If you’re my age (sorry!) and grew up in the States, you probably know the tune to these lyrics:

You take the good, you take the bad

You take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.

 There’s a time you got to go and show

You’re growin’ now you know about

The facts of life, the facts of life.

When the world never seems

To be livin’ up to your dreams

And suddenly you’re finding out

The facts of life are all about you.

How long have you been reading this blog? If it’s a while, then you’ve experienced the good and the bad. You know that, over six years, Martin has moved from virtually no functional language or eye contact to a kid whose social awkwardness is primarily the inability to shut up. Early on, he was removed from a twelve-student, two-instructor preschool class because he wasn’t up to the task. Now he’s in a 22-student, one-teacher mainstream classroom, albeit with an aide. You also know that the path has been beset with obstacles: frustration, setbacks, inexplicable ROOS.

After we switched to a low-salicylate diet, Martin soared. Every day last week, we received a “best ever”-type report from school. His meltdowns reduced by 90%, I estimate. Though he continued perseverating/obsessing about New York City landmarks and trains (not unusual for kids with spectrum challenges), he was able to snap out of it when requested. Over the weekend, we went skiing with friends. Martin played with their typically developing, seven-year-old son, and his ski instructors referred to working with him as “a joy.”

. . . Which brings us to yesterday, Wednesday. No stellar report came from school. The across-the-board 5’s from his Friday report gave way to a crop of more-usual 2’s and 3’s. Martin came off the bus happy but talking nonsense (“Blurb the dinosaur is on the bus and he might eat us! Look out, it’s a birdjay!”). He spent his trombone lesson dancing about and lying on the floor, challenging even his patient instructor. Then he conducted a 90-minute tantrum based on my refusal to give him an iPad until his math homework was done. (Once he decided to stop crying and do the math ditto, he completed it in approximately 45 seconds. Forty-five tear-filled seconds.) He woke during the night, for three hours. This morning his behaviorist reported that he seemed “off” and “someplace else,” that he was acting goofy, that his fingers were in his nose, or in his pants.

PANDAS flare? I don’t think of Martin as a PANDAS kid, but—. Parasite activity? The full moon was last week, not this week. Detoxing? Increasing MC-Bar-1™ too quickly? Mold exposure? Dietary infraction? Mast cell party? I’ve also been unfocused and “off” this week. Adrian says he has, too. After a terrible report on Martin’s day, his behaviorist followed up with this text: “That said, I’ve been bombarded with phone calls this week. Everyone off.” So who the hell knows?

I texted back: “On a positive note, we have seen a real decrease in meltdowns. I hope that is carrying over to school.”

She replied: “No meltdowns reported or documented.”

I said: “I’m going to hang onto the positive, in that case.”

You take the good, you take the bad

You take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.

He Doesn’t Seem to Know

Back to the topic of school.

We’ve been hoping to transfer Martin from his self-contained special-education school to a general-education classroom with an aide. Our local zoned school, at Martin’s grade level, had 26-to-28 kids per class, which is too many, so we looked at private schools. We found two church schools we thought would be good fits. Each school asked Martin to visit, for an entire day, without an aide. Each visit, Martin was at his worst; fighting his Lyme disease has been a rough ride. Combine “Martin is having a bad day” with “Martin is making a full-day visit to a general-ed classroom with no assistance.” The result was no private school placement for Martin.

At the same time, Adrian and I became increasingly convinced that the time has come for Martin to leave his current placement. Martin has started copying undesirable behaviors that he witnesses at school, like whining. Four other boys are leaving the class, including Martin’s two closest social peers. Martin has started self-advocating, telling us that he’d also like to go to a new school. He says he has too many teachers and that he’d like to be in a bigger class, and that he wishes he could go to a school close to home like his friends from play group do. Finally, Martin is finishing second grade, so these decisions concern possible third-grade placement. We’ve been told, by multiple sources, that the distance between second-grade curriculum and third-grade curriculum is the biggest jump in elementary school. Academics (except for reading comprehension and drawing inferences) are Martin’s strong point. Adrian and I worry that the longer we leave Martin in a slower-paced, modified learning environment, the less possible an eventual move to general education will become.

Just when it seemed that leaving Martin in his current school would be our only acceptable, available choice, two late entries arose. First, our district passed a new budget, part of which added additional sections to our zoned school. The class sizes dropped from 26-to-28 kids to 21 or 22 kids. Second, our local Catholic elementary school, which works closely with our district, invited Martin to visit—for a few hours, with an aide—and he happened to be doing well that day. Then the district offered Martin an IEP for general education, with a full-time, one-on-one teaching assistant, plus a consultant special-education teacher, plus resource room, plus regular visits from a behaviorist to the classroom, plus continued speech therapy and, if we wanted more services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and counseling (services he has in his current placement). This panoply of benefits would be available to us at either our zoned school or the Catholic school.

The decision to pull Martin from his current placement was almost clear. Almost. We still faced this hesitation: Whatever our concerns with academics or behaviors, Martin is safe where he is now. His class is small, structured, and constantly supervised. He faces no playground bullying. He does not stand out because of his differences. His self-esteem is high, his confidence intact. The headmaster of one of the church schools that turned us down earlier this year is a former special-education administrator. Immediately after Martin’s full-day visit there, the headmaster kindly spent 20 minutes on the phone with me and Adrian. He enumerated the reasons why they wouldn’t accept Martin (including, apparently, the 11 times Martin stopped between the gymnasium and the classroom, because he wanted to examine a vase, to look at a photo of last year’s graduates, and so forth). The headmaster also said, in Martin’s favor, “I have to tell you that he made himself right at home. This is quite extraordinary—Martin doesn’t seem to perceive that he has any challenges at all.”

I’d like to keep it that way: that Martin doesn’t perceive that he has challenges. With continued hard work and a little luck, we just might be able to lose the ADHD diagnosis before Martin wonders too much about being different. If we toss him into a classroom of typically developing kids, how much of Martin’s own perception of himself will evolve?

Well, we’re about to find out. Last week, Adrian and I accepted the district’s proposed IEP, placing Martin into general education with an aide, in our zoned school, with one change in plans: At our request, Martin will repeat second grade. He’s changing schools, so the other kids won’t realize that he’s repeating. I hope that repeating second grade will give Martin a chance to adjust to the faster pace of general education before he is called upon to master new material.

Martin’s going to spread his wings. Here’s hoping he can fly.

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Martin, in orange, with friends.