From birth, Caden's health posed issues for him. He was hospitalized at six months with RSV. He had asthma until we moved to a dryer climate when he was three. He has struggled with GI issues since birth.
Anytime someone would sneeze, Caden would get the flu. Yet, while his immune system was frequently compromised, his spirits were always so positive and his mind was very bright. Up to third grade Caden never struggled with anything academically. He was at the top of his class and his teachers suggested that he test for the talented and gifted class in fourth grade. But things changed for him in third grade. In the beginning of the year, it began to grow difficult for him to concentrate. Almost without thought, he was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and place on medications.The medications drastically altered his personality and by the end of the third grade, Caden began to slur his speech. Over the summer, he had his first seizure. The months that followed that were some of the most trying times of his life. Initial tests revealed multiple seizure activity in the left hemisphere of his brain. The neurologist mentioned the possibility of a brain tumor. It was a frightening moment for us. When test revealed the absence of a brain tumor, there was a brief moment of relief, followed by the despair of uncertainty. Not knowing what was going on seemed a worse burden to carry that having to hear the hardest news. I would think, even knowing the worst, would give us a direction to move in. That year, we were referred to dozens of specialists that all seemed to say the say thing, "this is a very complicated case".
The anti-epileptic medications created a brain fog for Caden. He essentially lost his short term memory. This was particularly difficult in math, which in fourth grade, happens to be memorizing multiplication tables. Instead of entering the talented and gifted class, Caden was put into special education for remediation. This was a huge blow to his self esteem. It didn't help that he had a few seizures in class that resulted in intense bullying by his peers. My very bubbly outgoing son, became extremely introverted and depressed. He was so miserable that a few times he expressed suicidal thoughts. This was a huge concern for us. School had become a war zone for him and his spirit was breaking. I ended up having to bring him home for a while, to home school him. That time gave him the opportunity to catch up on academics in an emotionally safe environment while we navigated the dozens of medical professionals that were trying to solve what they referred to as "a very complicated case".
Eventually, the right mixture of medications seemed to do the trick for Caden. No one has been able to figure out what exactly is going on, but he is now stable and back in a public education setting with a very loving and supportive staff.
The experience brought to light for me, the fact that there are many children with health impaired issues that perhaps, do not have a safe environment to receive an education. Children can be brutal with one another and teachers cannot see everything that is going on. This is especially difficult for the peacemakers of this world, like Caden who is a natural mediator for those who struggle with conflict. Kids like Caden need someone to mediate and advocate for them. I believe this kind of peer advocacy can be developed in a strong school culture where all diversity is respected and where kindness and compassion for others is the expectation.