Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tommy and His Award

My son, my first born, won an award at school today. His teacher had sent me a letter letting me know and I knew I had to be there.

You see, Tommy hasn't always had it easy.

When he was two we discovered that he was speech delayed. He only knew a handful of words so he started speech therapy. Then we started noticing that Tommy would walk on his tip toes and flap his hands when he got excited. I remember when I brought it up to his pediatrician how I thought that I'd be told that it was just something kids did.

But then the pediatrician looked concerned and suggested that I may want to get Tommy tested for Autism.

Of course I knew about Autism.

But it's like a kick in the heart when someone tells you that your kid may be Autistic.

Tommy was three when we took him to be tested.

I was nervous the entire time. I watched as Tommy played with one of the women who was testing him. There was another woman standing in the corner of the room recording everything that my son did on a clipboard of paper.

What are you writing? Is he okay?

I wanted to ask but I didn't.

In the end it turned out that they didn't think that he had Autism.

"He's just way too social," I was told.

But it was obvious that Tommy had a bunch of sensory issues going on. He wasn't able to play with Play-Doh without shrieking in fear and he continued to walk on his tip toes.

So an occupational therapist started to work with him. It took a few weeks but finally Tommy was able to hold Play-Doh--it may have only been for a few seconds but it was something, you know?

He started Preschool around this time. I had warned his teacher that Tommy was an energetic child. Around the age of two I'd notice that Tommy didn't sit still for long periods of time. He'd even be racing around the room when he'd watch TV. He couldn't concentrate on playing with one thing for too long. When I'd take him to the park he rarely played on the equipment. Instead he'd run around the park in circles.

I started to receive weekly phone calls from his teacher.

"We can't get Tommy to sit at circle time."

"Tommy's speech is well below where it should be."

"Mrs. M****, Tommy grows frustrated in school because his communication skills just aren't there."

"Tommy was doing a dance in the corner of the room when he should have been working on his picture."

I began to dread the phone. Whenever it would ring I would hold my breath for a few seconds before picking it up.

Still, with all the complaints from his teacher, Tommy did improve. Oh, it was difficult for him to sit at circle time but at least he was starting to talk better. With each new word that he would master I'd clap my hands enthusiastically and praise him.

Because honestly, for the longest time, I thought that he might be mute.

I would watch him with other children his age and my heart would squeeze when I'd listen to the flawless speech of his peers. My own son struggled to get a few words out and here these other kids were talking up a storm.

I began to wonder if it was something I did wrong.

Did I not read to him enough?

Was he like this because I had him at nineteen?

Did I accidentally drop him on his head when he was a baby? I didn't recall doing so but then again, I was so tired when he was an infant so maybe I missed it...

Tommy started Kindergarten when he was five. At this point he had been diagnosed with ADHD and had started taking medication for it. He's currently on 30 MGs of Vyvanse.

I tried to avoid the medication. Of course I read all the arguements about the downfalls of it. But it was obvious Tommy needed it. He just was not able to sit and do his work. Instead he'd be jumping out of his seat and sprinting around the room.

But even with the medication I'd still receive phone calls from the teacher.

This time Tommy was bursting into tears.

Over everything, really.

I was called into numerous meetings.

It was found that it would benefit Tommy to be pulled out of the regular classroom and go to the resource room for most of the day. Obviously being in a room with 22 other children was too much for him. A sensory overload, I would imagine.

The phone rang one day and it was Tommy's teacher.

"I can't get him to stop crying. I had to take him to the Principal's office..." she told me apologetically.

Five-years-old and already in the Principal's Office...

I'd ask Tommy why he was crying all the time and he's shrug and tell me that his brain made him do it.

At this point his speech had improved greatly. He was still behind but he was at least able to carry on a conversation. True I had to remind him that he needed to look people in the eye when he spoke to them--but he was doing much better.

Kindergarten, admittedly, wasn't an easy time.

But he got through it. Even with all his crying he was still able to get his work done.

So he moved onto First Grade.

Things got better. Sure he struggled with reading but he was eager to learn.

He rarely cried at school anymore.

Of course he'd admit to me that he "cried a little bit but told my brain to stop" on some days.

Then his teacher wrote me a letter saying that Tommy was going to be recognized for his hard work.

So Natalie got herself ready to go...

....complete with her Easter basket.

And Natalie MAY have slid all over the floor even though I asked her to SIT DOWN more times than I care to remember..

I also wondered if I wasn't dressing like a Proper Mom. Most of the other Mom's wore simple button down tops. And here I was sporting a shirt with a cheese grater attacking some cheese. (In case you can't read backwards stuff, the cheese is screaming "You Monster!")

But then my boy walked in and I forgot all about how Natalie was mistaking herself with a human mop and how I may not be wearing regular Mom clothes...

When he was told to stand up and get in line for his award, he did so. He stood diligently in line without even fidgeting.

Then when the Principal called his name--the same Principal whose office he was sent to a year ago--he expertly marched forward. The Principal explained to him that he was receiving an Industrious Worker award and did he know what that meant?

My son, without missing a beat, nodded his head.

I was impressed because at 9 in the morning, I wasn't sure if I could have told you what it meant. My mind is not all there before noon.

The Principal looked surprised. I think she expected him to say no.

"What does it mean?" she pressed.

"Being responsible and hard working," Tommy answered and flashed the audience a grin.

The Principal was clearly impressed. "That's right! For being responsible. Fantastic job, Tommy!"

Then Tommy was handed his award..

...and he stood on the other side gazing at it. (His shirt, by the way, says Ladies Man. We love shirts that say stuff in this family.)

At one point he looked up and met my eye. I stuck my tongue out at him like this:

...and Tommy giggled and made a face back.

True, some of the other mother's tossed me a confused look. Because they were all waving at their kids and leaving it at that.

But oh well.

They don't know the story.

They don't know how hard Tommy has worked.

How far that he's come.

Congratulations, my boy.


  1. Oh, hon, I'm sniffling a little over here. I don't even know him and I'm proud of him. You are one lucky mamma to have such a sweetie pie (two of them, really! - and I love the mop-girl scene).

  2. What a sweet story! I'm so glad I found your site and was able to read it. :) I love shirts that say things too!! I even had to giggle a bit at the cheese and grater have a happy week.

  3. I just loved this story. Congrats to you and Tommy. What a great day that must have been.

  4. Thank You. I am so glad I found your blog. Thank You. And BIG CONGRATS to Tommy!

    ::wipes tears off of her cheek::

  5. What a proud moment for both of you! Thank you for sharing it! Boys are wonderful!

    BTW, I would love to know where you found that t-shirt! It's a riot!

  6. That's so great! Congrats Tommy! I'm a teacher and well understand the difficulties of ADHD for everyone. You should be so proud of Tommy and yourself for coming so far. :)

  7. I think your shirt is awesome! Hate boring shirts, they are just so blah. Gotta have fun.

    Yipppeee for Tommy & his award. He is earned it! I also am dealing with ADD with one of my kids. Trying to figure out which way to go...this part of parenting is so hard.

  8. Oh no - you made me cry first thing in the morning. In a good way. I feel so proud of Tommy. Good for him and good for you! (LOVE the cheese shirt.)

  9. so happy for you and tommy! what a great story! thanks for sharing it (even though i am in tears right now). congratulations!

  10. What a wonderful day and story to share. I want to squeeze both your children like an eccentric aunt and borrow your tee shirt (or know where I can get one). I only have daughters, and I can really feel through this, what mothers with sons feel :)

  11. Oh my goodness! I would be just so proud! You are such a good mamma to that boy! That was the sweetest things I've ever heard!

    (I love T-shirts that say things too, my favorite is my "I heart Lamp" T-shirt)

  12. Congratulations Tommy!! What a huge milestone- something he will always remember, his first award (of many I'm sure!)

  13. What cute kids!! So glad that your sweet son was able to get this award and have such a positive experience.

    Have a great day.

  14. I LOVE That! Congrats to your baby!

    And I like your cheese grater shirt. I giggled out loud at work.

  15. A few years to late but YAY! And I just relized my best friend Andrew is on the same meds as Tommy


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