Well, we've gotten the diagnosis. I have been mulling in my mind what to do with it, now that we have a piece of paper. In the good news, 7 yo is not depressed, does not have Asperger's ( I could have told that to anyone!) and has mild ADHD, mostly with hyperactive component. I was told that he would not need medication (more relief) and that kids tend to outgrow hyperactivity.
Now, to the parts that are not so clear-cut. He has anxiety. He also has a writing disorder, but since he scored so high in other categories (reading, reasoning, oral, vocabulary, comprehension), and basically did not perform the written test, it is not clear whether he has a true writing disorder, or his anxiety is taking over, so if his anxiety is quieted, he might be able to write. I was told to work on his anxiety, and then reevaluate his writing in a year, to see whether a disorder can be ruled out.
I have been provided with a list of recommendations. I looked over it and sighed. Set-in-stone alone time with each parent? I wish; what am I supposed to do with the rest of my kids, it is not like anyone is lining up to babysit them. I would love for my husband to take him out regularly to do stuff: get a hot chocolate, wrestle, learn, walk. But the life of OB-GYN and regularity do not mix.
Provide a quiet, uncluttered environment for his schoolwork: oh yes, the proverbial clean desk. He shares his room with two siblings right now, the kitchen table and dining room table are used by mutliple parties and for multiple purposes throughout the day, and he likes to work on the floor anyway. What about the rest of the kids? Maybe I should just get him ear plugs.
Another suggestion was to do breathing exercises, or develop mental techniques to calm his mind. I have taken yoga, so I tried to sit him down, teach him some slow breaths, close his eyes, relax. Except that last time I tried it, both 3 yo and the baby were trying to get into my lap, squealing. Not a relaxing atmosphere.
Focus on carrying out multi-step activities: Legos, puzzles. This kid was never interested in either. I asked him whether he wants to play with Legos alone, without his older meddling brother. He said, only if there are instructions, basically, if there is a new set. Over the past two years, the boys bought three different sets like that from Costco, but all the pieces were mixed up with the other Legos we own. That's how 9 yo plays: he is always inventing, tweaking, modifying. 7 yo is always watching. I went digging for some Legos and found a Lego knock-off that somebody gave us. Perfect: a complete set, with instructions. I felt insane telling 9 yo that he absolutely cannot tell his brother what to do, or how to build, that is part of his schoolwork. 9 yo sulked, and wished that he had play as part of his school. Well, 7 yo took a day, and just a tiniest bit of help, and build everything in the set. I asked him later, whether he enjoys playing with it. He said, no, I am done building it. Obviously, he just wanted to be guaranteed a finished product, and now that it's here, he's not interested any more. Sigh, I am pretty sure that's not what the psychologist had in mind. I am much more there with 9 yo and Miss Frizzle: take chances! Make mistakes! Build whatever you desire! (Just clean up at the end, please).
Back to the evaluation: I asked the psychologist outright if 7 yo would be better off in a school setting. He said that right now he would need to have anxiety taken care of before going into a new situation, Also, his writing would be an issue, but he kept talking about how high he scored in reading and general intelligence, so he is pretty sure that writing will be OK, long-term.
One of the suggestions that I really did not like was the whole positive reinforcement thing: give him a sticker chart, a reward jar, constantly dangle a carrot, give him M&Ms, praise and praise, make him feel that he's winning, and, somehow, he will perform. Arf, arf, good boy. I am just starting reading "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn, and this whole behaviorism thing is really grating me the wrong way. My oldest will jump through hoops for rewards. 7 yo is a different story. This is a kid who kept forgetting to get his davening treat (before his brother came home and reminded him all the time). This is a child who stubbornly refused to do a page to math, spent 5 hours hiding out in his room, and was willing to skip a much-anticipated playdate, all to avoid doing something that he deemed too hard. He does not CARE that much for rewards, especially of the little silly kind. He is not competitive, in fact, he shies away from any competition. I strongly doubt that this form of positive reinforcement is what is missing from his life. I do encourage him, and I do descriptive praise ( the dishes are all stacked up nicely; those words are spaced just right, it is so easy to read this line, etc.), but I hate the whole fake "Good job!" and excited applause thing.
In good news: we should continue with taekwondo, and provide physical outlets for his energy.
So what to do, what to do?
I feel stretched very thin, as it is. Worse, I am starting to get into the mindset that if my kids were in school they would be better off: less yelling, more learning, more structure, more discipline... I have four kids, each with their unique needs. One size does not fit all, but I am having hard time providing for each one what he/she needs. So, do I send the oldest back to school, to free up some time and attention for 7 yo? Do I look for a school program for 7 yo, hoping that they will give him right environment? Do I hire a tutor to work on his writing, one-on-one. hoping that they coax out his true writing abilities? Do I get a babysitter daily and use that time to focus just on 7 yo? Do I get him to a local psychologist to work on his anxiety? Do I go back to unschooling, and hope that once he relaxes enough and gets interested enough, writing will flow?
It is not easy. We are taking Chanukah off, and I am taking my time to think this over.