Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Boy, a Granola Bar, and a Suspension

So, Bear was suspended from school for one day this week for eating a granola bar. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but that's kind of what it boils down to.

When Bear was first diagnosed with ADHD and ODD in the spring of 2010, TheODDDad and I wanted to do everything we could to limit the amount of meds he would need. Don't get me wrong, we're not anti-meds. In fact, we're pro-meds when they're needed, and we were pretty sure they were needed, but first we wanted to investigate some other therapies that might not involve drugs.

The first thing we did was take Bear to a naturopathic doctor who did some food-sensitivity testing on him. The results were astounding. The results are given in a numeric range, something like this: 0-40 = not sensitive, 40-60 = slightly sensitive, 60-90 = sensitive, 90+ = highly sensitive. Bear's highest score was in the 500s, something the naturopath had never seen before. Bear is sensitive (not allergic...there's a difference) to a number of different foods, but the worst are soy, casein, gluten, eggs, and sunflower (ya, sunflower, and it's in everything.). We eliminated those five things from his diet immediately, which is essentially the autism & ADHD diet, and a whole new Bear appeared. Within a week of changing his diet, Bear was slower to anger, quicker to calm down, and better able to concentrate. The difference was truly amazing, and we've kept up with the diet ever since. (For the record, we have friends whose boys have similar issues to Bear. They, too, have implemented this diet and the changes in their boys are equally impressive.)

Before you think the changes to Bear's diet solved all our problems, let me be clear. The improvements were impressive, but they took us from "kicked out of daycare on day 4" to "able to manage a 1/2 day in daycare with additional staff support." From "the other kids on the playground avoid him because they're scared of him" to "Bear and his friends had a good day today." It certainly wasn't perfect, but it gave us hope.

The meds were the turning point for Bear. He hasn't even been on them for a year yet (nine months, to be exact), but again, the changes have been astounding. He went from being removed from class daily for being too disruptive to being removed on occasion. From weekly (sometimes daily) phone calls from the school to monthly phone calls from the school. Again, baby steps, but it gives us hope.

Then came Wednesday's phone call from the school. It seems Bear didn't want to do the work in class (it was a math game, but it interrupted his Lego time), so he flat out refused to participate. Instead, he very calmly started turning chairs upside down, putting others onto tables, and doing all kinds of other disruptive things. When the resource teacher came to the class to see what was up, Bear took off running down the hall, only to be apprehended by the vice-principal as he was about to run outside. The principal got involved as well, but none of them could get Bear to cooperate. One Bear, three adults, and Bear won. Classic Oppositional Defiant Disorder behaviour.

Hence the phone call. They were very sorry, but they needed to suspend Bear for the day. It should be noted that Bear has an IEP that allows for different behavioural expectations and the school has been wonderful, but he had really pushed the limit this time. Bear, three adults, and Bear won. And, as the VP explained to me, a couple of suspensions on his record could help us immensely when it comes time to ask for additional resources for our guy. So it's a strategic suspension, if you will.

According to the VP and the resource teacher, they had never seen this side of Bear before. They're used to his behavioural challenges, but in the past they've always been able to talk him down. On Wednesday, however, things escalated to the point where he was hitting, pinching and threatening the resource teacher. Never a good thing.

"Huh, it almost seems like he's eaten something," I remarked to TheODDDad. Normally a sudden regression in Bear's behaviour can be traced back to either anxiety or something he's eaten. Bear, however, adamantly denied having eaten anything he's not supposed to eat despite the many questions we threw his way over the next 12 hours.

Note to self: Always trust your instincts.

Thursday morning, as Bear was jumping from couch cushion to couch cushion, far more hyper than I've seen him in months (which was probably the last time he ate something he wasn't supposed to), he gleefully -- and I mean gleefully -- informed me that he's been picking food up off the floor in the school cafeteria and eating it. Crackers, granola name it. EEEEEWWWWWW!!!! Oh, and that granola bar I was sure I had left on the dining room table but then couldn't find? Well, now I know where it went.

As I sat there absorbing this information, rather relieved that the catalyst had been something so simple, my eyes settled on a box of, make that two boxes of crackers...sitting open beside the TV. One of the major characteristics of ADHD is a lack of impulse control, which in Bear is made worse when he eats something he shouldn't. So his lack of impulse control caused him to eat stuff he shouldn't off the cafeteria floor (and again I say EEEEWWWWW!!!!), which further decreased his impulse control, which caused him to break into the cupboard at 6:00 a.m. while I was sleeping to get more food he shouldn't eat.

Thursday may have been the official suspension, but given the amount of gluten he had eaten on Thursday morning, I made a preemptive strike and kept Bear home on Friday as well. I figured it saved the school the trouble of calling me and me the trouble of having to go get him, because that outcome was just a given.

So my plans for this weekend? I guess I'd better work on perfecting that granola bar recipe I've been working on before someone gets hurt.


  1. Just followed you here from Mom 101. Try the Kitchen Sink Granola bar recipe You can customize it to avoid sensitive foods. Very simple to use.

  2. Thanks for the link, My Kids' Mom. I have a recipe that I use, but I can't quite seem to get them to stick together.