Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Father's Take on SPD

Hi, this is Bil (Patty's dh)-- honored to be a part of this guest blog on Pancakes Gone Awry..."to those who would suck the marrow from life, come and partake..."

I think what I need to talk about here is how my son's SPD has affected me.

I think Patty has already explained about how she 'figured it all out', and it may not surprise you that she was much more accepting of the diagnosis than I was initially. We would debate it frequently and I kept reverting back to anecdotal information I had heard about children who later became normal functional adults, but just didn't speak right away. You see, the biggest indication to us that Danny had a problem was that he wasn't speaking. At all. An old supervisor of mine at the University of Chicago, was one such example...he didn't speak until about age 4.

My attitude was that we should never expect children's mental/physical development to fit into a 'linearly progressive' model, the same way some doctors try to fit childbirth into a linearly progressive model. (It just doesn't work that way, you don't dilate to a 3 at 3am, 4 at 4 am...it's more like all of a sudden after 25 hours of no progress, you go from a 3 to a 10 in 60 minutes and it's time to push. It's totally unpredictable.)

I admit, there's something very male about having unreasonable expectations for my first-born son...not as unreasonable as expecting him to master Calculus at age 6 (like John Von Neumann), but I admit I just never expected him to have problems. I think after my initial doubts, what convinced me was meeting and speaking directly with Danny's OT. At the time of the visit, I had my mind open to the possibility of SPD, but somewhere I was still fully armed with mental reservations. If I wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, I would have to politely refute the claim... it is an unwritten law that I get to default to the "Bad Cop" role when there is an insistent telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson; Patty is sometimes too nice or reluctant to deliver the graceful blow, whereas I sometimes relish the opportunity to do so for an especially pushy specimen.

I was very hopeful that Linda would not make a strong case for Danny having some dysfunction... I would convince Patty of the holes in her theory, and we could go on with our lives and difficulties. Fortunately, Linda didn't even have to make a case: what convinced me was she had such a grasp of the condition, that she could tell us things about Danny, detailing difficulties that we faced daily that no one else would have known about so intimately; she even was able to put her finger on other difficulties that we couldn't even describe in words. To say the least, it was both enlightening and scary; we now had a new dimension of Danny's world to consider that was completely hidden to us before. While it was difficult to accept, I think finally embracing his condition was very liberating, in that Danny's behavior could be understood and we could use this new knowledge to help and empathize with him.

Patty is Danny's champion empathizer. It amazes me how much in tune she is with what Danny needs, additionally evidenced by how he trusts her so much in return. Her ability to calm his shattered nerves, and bring peace to our home in difficult times...Patty is a real blessing and inspiration to me.

So what do I bring to the family? Usually, I bring the Bad--er.. the 'Dad' Cop. The Dad Cop helps keep the balance between Good and Evil, Order and Chaos, Mania and Exhaustion.

1. At a family get-together, the Dad Cop says "Danny has had it, and we need to go home now."

2. Dad Cop says, "We've loved having you all over, but now we need to play with our kids before bed... (Please disperse, nothing to see here...)"

3. He says, "No, you have to eat some real food before we eat Popsicles."

4. He says, "You're acting out of control, you need to stay in your room until you are ready to stop pushing other kids."

5. After Danny has paid his time-out debt to society, Dad Cop calmly (usually) explains to him how society expects him to behave if he wishes to remain a free citizen.

6. During OT Therapy in the home, he helps to push the envelope a little bit at a time-- "Come on, I know it's hard, but I also know you can do it."

7. He initiates some serious 'roughhousing' and impromptu wrestling rematches on the master bed -- duck for flying pillows! Avast Ye! Ooof!

8. Sometimes he has to use tickle torture (to get information) but not too much...

9. Dad Cop has to be a good example of serving the public trust; he has to do a 'time-out' when he gets out of line (maybe too much tickle torture) and has to apologize later.

10. Dad Cop always needs to back up his partner. He jokes, "Honey, you look totally guilty of enfrazzlement. I hereby sentence you to the comfy chair while I finish sweeping/cooking/the dishes/disciplining/insert chore here."

Thanks for indulging me and my little list-- I know... I am a real dork, but I think that's why my family keeps me around. At home, you get us all together and we are a buzz of non sequitur mayhem, and the kids love it, especially Danny. We are so much alike, he and I, we both like to talk in funny voices, we act out movie dialogues, (I catch nearly all of his obscure 'references' and inside jokes, and 'translate' for Patty,) we hate shopping for clothes, and we LOVE putting excessive condiments on our food. As tempting as it might be for me to wish away his problems and difficulties, there's no part of me that could bear to take away any component of him for fear he would wind up any less of the wonderful person that he is... I love how empathetic, protective and kind he can be with his sister and his friends. Danny has demonstrated his sharpness and cleverness, has a near photographic memory, and he outsmarts me to shame continually...I only wish that I could know his thoughts, and know best how to communicate with him at his level. (I'm always trying to reason with him the same way I do with an adult, and it really taxes his patience.)

In closing, I want to let Patty know how glad I am that she trusted her instincts and got help from an OT when she felt something was wrong. I don't think I ever would have come to the same conclusion, or conceded that we needed help with Danny. There's just no telling how our lives would have been had we not taken the path to understand our son's condition better. There's no substitute for good, timely information--Parents everywhere need to be informed about SPD today! C'mon, we could make T-Shirts to commemorate the month! ("ASK ME ABOUT S.P.D." might sound a bit more inviting than "PROUD PARENT OF A CHILD WITH S.P.D." but I'm not picky.)

With your help, dear reader, who knows--maybe SPD could be the household word that ADHD once was; only this time, parents would be running out to buy shaving cream, trapeze swings and Moon Sand(TM) rather than Ritalin. What a wonderful, fun-filled world that would be.


Amy Jane said...


What a treat to "hear your voice" on Patty's blog! I really enjoyed your post, and am (as always) awed by your intelligence, wit, and vocabulary. :)

P.S. On the way home from Effingham, Nick told us that "Mr. Bil is a good man." We agree.

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

Wow, this is an awesome post! Bil, you should "visit" Patty's blog more often.

I was so encouraged to hear about how you guys work as a team and how you are actually doing what it takes to help Danny. So many parents employ lazy parenting. Keep going the distance, you are doing a great job.

autismfamily said...

Nice to see the perspective from the Dad here. My kids father comes Sats for 1.5 hrs and last week I asked if he wanted to read autism for Dummies and it turned out he had alread read it from the library.

Anonymous said...

Thank you ladies for your warm comments, not just for me, but for Patty, too... Lately, I'm really enjoying reading this latest thread of awareness dialogue between all of you fine moms, and I check back pretty regularly. Patty's writing is always a pleasure for me to read, and I enjoy reading your posts, too. It's been good for us to write about Danny, too. Just when it seemed like we were 'slipping' with him, this has given us pause to stop and consider just how far he has really come. :)
Bless you all for your friendship and have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill, great post, I am going to print it out and put it up on our board at the office. You really expressed the feelings that many a parent, especially the dad's feel. I think they will identify with what you have written. You and Patti have both been awesome in your work with Danny and I often tell parents about what you have done with your program at home. By the way, we need some more CD's, any chance of this.

bernthis said...

okay does your DH have a twin? a cousin? You are a very lucky gal but you deserve it.

mrsbear said...

What a great glimpse into your perspective. You two are blessed to have each other, you have a wonderful family.

Shellie said...

Not only would that be great, (sp per your last paragraph) I think it would be a retailer's dream, don't you?