When the Best Isn’t Good Enough

Levi's Lego Dinosaur
Levi shows off his just-put-together Lego Dinosaur Christmas present.

It all sounded like gibberish. We sat there for an hour, asking barely four questions, and all I heard was gibberish. Afterwards, Peter commented that it sounded like a recitation of academic training… all talk, no substance. I did hear a few points: 1) Levi is borderline AD(H)D, 2) He scores low in “Executive Function” which could lend itself to the spiraled outbursts we’ve met with his school about, and 3) we could consider occupational therapy to give us coping techniques for these impulse control issues.

We sat there for an hour. This was our third (3 of 3) appointment. The last of the two parent visits that sandwiched the Levi observation where he was tested. Peter and I heard the words that were spoken to us, but we were hardly able to make sense of them. Levi is a bright kid who has struggles with spacial motor skills and impulse control. After an hour of reciting and rehashing the outcomes of the testing, I think this is what we were supposed to learn. I was able to recap three-fourths of the way into the appointment which was followed by more recitations… and when my clarifying question, which in summary is really: Are we making a mountain of a molehill? But I worded something to the extent of – given how boys develop normally and what we expect them to learn over the course of a lifetime, is this something to be worried about or are systems not set up to deal with average boy behavior? This query was answered with, “We’re running out of time. If you have more questions, we should schedule a follow-up appointment.”

Some history: The Wonders of Wang & Levi Behavior.

Nothing has persuaded me that my assessment is incorrect. My assessment is that we are putting boys (kids, really) in a system that sets them up for failure. The assessment noted how Levi was focused on the things he wanted to do but not on the things he didn’t. So, if he didn’t want to remember something, he scored poorly on it. It was clear, while we observed, that he didn’t see the point of the exercise. He wasn’t told he was being tested. For all he rationalized, it could have been a series of games. Now, we find out he scored poorly on short-term memory and some motor skills of drawing shapes. He didn’t draw his triangle correctly – at all, but got the Union Jack pretty close to spot on. I know adults who couldn’t get the Union Jack to line up, and if they weren’t paying attention, they wouldn’t have been able to get the triangle. The point, as it was explained to us, is that he doesn’t focus when he’s supposed to be focusing.

I’ve done a lot of self-help book reading this last year. In part to get a better understanding of myself and those around me. In part, too, to get some ideas on how to do things like best manage my time. What we were being told, then, is that Levi doesn’t want to focus in Quadrant II. He wants to play in Quadrant I (urgent but not important) or III (not important and not urgent). Regardless, it’s the fun stuff. Other books I’ve read encourage, without specifically stating, that we should all work in a variation of Quadrant III – play to your strengths so it’s all fun. (If it’s your job, though, it’d probably be Quadrant II (important, but not urgent). So, my other question is: why aren’t schools set up to play to kids strengths?

I queried – the actions that have brought us here have happened at school. The answer I received was that we should be mitigating these things at home. But, the problem is, when Levi plays with friends or is at home – he doesn’t hit. He has only hit other kids at school. I’m perplexed on how I was to plan for this situation, when he knows he is not supposed to hit and we have no real option for role-playing when we didn’t know this situation would happen.

Naturally, my mother wasn’t home when I called her after we got home. But, she did call me back an hour later. She asked me, “Is the place you’re going – is it the best?” I answered, “Yes.” Because it is. It gets rave reviews. A friend is taking her child there and loves the entire center. The behaviorist recommended it. The pediatrician acknowledged it’s very good. So, why wouldn’t the best be good enough?

Because sometimes the best, reflected my mother, sometimes the best isn’t looking out for your own best interests rather their own. She recapped with a story of a local rehabilitation facility that, while touted as the best, was only interested in rote mechanics before they let patients go. It didn’t matter if the patients were fully rehabilitated – or not. As long as the check boxes were checked, they were let go.

So, my mother astutely recommended we look for not the best. She has encouraged we look for a real human who is interested in listening to our stories. A real human. A real human who can listen and is more focused on the goal of patient healing rather than furnishing an office or having a great lifestyle (which this young doctor told us, in appointment one, was one of the perks of his job).

Yes, mom, sometimes the best really isn’t good enough. I have a message out to the pediatrician. Maybe he has some recommendations of “not the best.”

5 Replies to “When the Best Isn’t Good Enough”

  1. Where are you taking him? It really sounds like OT might be a good fit for him. E has been a completely different kid since we re-started. He is finally able to separate his impulses from what he does/does not need to do. We’re learning so much about how to help him be successful and his therapist has come to school and has met with his teacher to come up with ways to help him be successful. At first, the goal seems to find the ways to help him self-regulate. He still needs help with that (still has a tough time recognizing when he needs the regulation), but we have options to offer him when he needs it and hopefully as he becomes more aware of his body and brain and how they work, he’ll be able to understand what he needs. There is also a program through the public schools that can send a therapist to the school to work with him specifically on that environment. They can come to E’s preschool, so I imagine they can go to Levi’s school.

    1. We haven’t decided where to go for OT yet. I am waiting for all the information to be transferred to the pediatrician, then we can do another consult with him. I’m thinking something NOT the center though because I wasn’t really impressed with the process thus far, as indicated in my rant. Our dear friend Ms. KCB has been very helpful today helping me sort out my own internal conflicts with this whole thing.

      So, he DOES NOT have an ADHD diagnosis, but the suspicion is that is coming right around the corner (next year or so). Instead, he’s been lightly diagnosed (diagnose is too strong a word) with difficulty in “Executive Functions.” So, Executive Function Disorder, or trouble making decisions… or common problems associated with kids who have ADHD. So, I’ve been reading through the books I purchased last year for more help/suggestions. I have some good ideas from there, but implementation will happen after the consult with the pediatrician.

      Regarding going to Levi’s school, we already have hired a behaviorist, and she’s been to Levi’s school. Now that we have the beginnings of a game plan, I can see how her services will be valuable in going BACK to the school to continue and train them on proper and appropriate feedback to Levi and to us, his parents.

  2. So you have been going to the Artz Center then? We’ve really liked it, but that probably very much depends on who you get. Our OT has been wonderful, so, so, so much better than at Doernbecher. And, on the money end, it is less than half the price of Doernbecher per session.

    Oh am I familiar with Executive Function. That is part of E’s diagnosis as well and it part of what we’re working on. In fact, the Sensory Seminar in Feb. is all about sensory processing disorder and Executive Function (hoping to NOT be in labor Feb. 8th). Fun stuff!

    I have heard that ADHD diagnosis isn’t really firm until around grade 2, so yeah, makes sense that you wouldn’t have a diagnosis of that as of yet.

    Hope you figure out what you all need soon! It is a long, crazy path to navigate through. All I can say, is that we’ve been very happy with our current OT experience. It has made SUCH a huge difference.

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