Yesterday afternoon, I took Elliot to his soccer game up at the MCS field. He is playing soccer for the second year in a row for our local school, and he loves it! It gives him a chance to reconnect with all his school buddies and to play a game that he both adores and excels in. This year, MCS has a new gym teacher, Mr. McQuade, and Elliot is very fond of him. As I was seated in my lawn chair along the sidelines waiting for the game to start, Mr. McQuade came up to me and told me how much he enjoys having Elliot on the team.
He's a great kid, and man, can he play soccer! Has he ever gone to MCS before?
Yes, he has. We took him out at the end of grade four because . . .
And then I told him all about Elliot's anxiety issues at school and how he was diagnosed with a Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD). Being a teacher and having worked in a private school for children with special needs that prevented them from being successful in a public school setting, Mr. McQuade was quite familiar with our story.
Well, he seems to be doing great!
And then he returned his attention to the team in order to get them warmed-up for the big game ahead.
As I sat there waiting for the other parents to join me, I could not help but ask myself:
Is he doing great? Have we made any progress?
Lately, it feels like my world has been revolving around getting Zoe back on her feet and preparing for Thing 4's imminent arrival (4 weeks and 5 days to be exact, but whose counting?). The boys and I have hit our stride with homeschooling this year, and I really feel that I have created a program that is helping Elliot develop intellectually. Also, with his involvement in our church's Young Men's group, his invitation to play on the sport teams at MCS and thanks to our new homeschool group, which has provided us with field trips to attend every two weeks and starting next Tuesday a weekly gym class with the students at Valley Christian Academy (how awesome is that!), I really feel that all of his physical and his social needs are being addressed as well; however, it has been awhile since I really looked at how well Elliot is doing emotionally and with an appointment with Dr. Murphy, the Developmental Pediatrician who diagnosed him a year and a half ago, coming up next week, I can't help but ask myself:
How is Elliot really doing?
In all honesty, I don't know. Sure, I see definite improvements in his ability to sleep at night, to cope with the start of a new day, and to handle new situations, but I don't know if I have done enough, or anything for that matter, to address his anxiety caused by being unable to process the highly nonverbal world we live in.
Take this week for example. On Monday, he had a soccer game in Sussex. My friend drove him because Zoe was starting a new treatment that day and I did not want to be too far away. Also, I had to get groceries and attend a homeschool meeting that evening. As it turned out, I did not get home until almost ten o'clock that night. The next day, I had a doctor's appointment and a couple of errands to run. The boys and I finished up school in the morning and then I left them with Zoe for the afternoon. That night I could tell something was bothering Elliot.
What's up, Bud? Why are you so anxious?
I don't know . . .
and then he went on to list a lengthy series of non-related issues.
My legs hurt. My bed is scratchy. How can I possibly sleep knowing Avery is in the room too (even though this is nothing new). I need my own room. What am I going to get for Christmas? Why is Zoe still up? When is dad coming home . . .
and so on and so on.
Finally, after I had sent him back to his bed for the hundredth time, he crept out one last time, curled up beside me and asked:
Do you have anywhere to go tomorrow, mom?
Ahhhhh . . . and so the source of his anxiety revealed itself. Life had been too hectic lately and me, a constant in his life and probably a source of comfort and assurance (I really hope), had been missing from it.
Yes, Love. I will be home tomorrow.
And then he went to sleep.
Unfortunately, yesterday was a yet another hectic day for Elliot with school in the morning, another soccer game, and then Young Men's, where they played ultimate frisbee, but I was present and that seemed to make a difference. Even though he was definitely riled up when we got home and there were a few tears shed from being overstimulated, he quickly fell asleep after he asked:
Do we have to go anywhere tomorrow?
No where at all.
So, is Elliot doing great? I think he is doing well intellectually, physically, and socially. He is making giant leaps in reading and writing, he is healthy and active, he has plenty of opportunities to be with kids his own age and he is doing well to fit in with these kids, but emotionally, I don't feel we are where he needs to be yet to live a happy, fulfilling life. Negativity and anxiety still plague him, and in spite of all the books I have read on the issue, none have given me any concrete solutions, which really should not be surprising since mental health is probably the least understood area of the human experience and ironically, it is probably the most important.
For now, I guess, I just have to keep doing what I have been doing: creating a secure and loving home environment, trying to maintain a healthy balance between activities outside of the home and days spent quietly going about our daily routine within the home, praying for guidance each and every day (sometimes multiple times a day), and showing unconditional acceptance, patience and love to each member of our household. Hopefully, with all this and through seeking the assistance of professionals like Dr. Murphy, we will be able to equip Elliot with the tools he needs to face each day with optimism, courage, a sense of purpose and most importantly, a smile on his face . . .
which to me is far more precious and worth far more than the entire world's weight in gold.