My oldest son has cerebral palsy. I understand that. We’ve learned how to navigate life using a wheelchair.
My youngest son, who is adopted, has a label of emotional disturbance. He came to us when he was 3.5 years old. I just thought he had boundary issues. I thought that once we got into a routine, things would get better.
But they didn’t. When he was five, we were asked not to bring him back to pre-school. That was the week before Thanksgiving. He was suspended from kindergarten on the fourth day of school. It was then that I knew something just wasn’t right. Learning how to handle a child with such extensive trauma is one of the hardest things I have done.
When he was suspended, we decided to put him in a partial hospitalization program. He was there for 12 days, during normal school hours. During that time, he was diagnosed with anxiety, ADHD, and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.
The first three years of life are so critical for brain development. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the nurturing that his little body needed. He now deals with issues of abandonment and neglect.
He is now 8 years old. As he gets older, his anger seems to be getting worse. He can tear a room apart in no time. We are now dealing with elopement issues. I’m scared he’s going to hurt himself or someone else. Our home seems like a battlefield.
He is on medication for ADHD. He is also on a mood stabilizer. He goes to counseling once a week. I think the counseling is helping. It’s definitely helping me learn how to help him. But it’s exhausting.
His little heart is so broken. He is in so much pain. He lives his life in a constant state of fight or flight.
Our hearts are broken too. Our entire family is in pain. Sometimes I feel like we are just treading water. We’re all just trying not to drown.
Some days I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Other days, that light is a train heading right towards me. But I won’t give up. I’ll keep on fighting. I’ll keep trying to learn ways to help him.
If you have a child with an emotional disturbance, please know you’re not alone. I’m here. And I’m fighting right along with you.
The Mental and Behavioral Health pages provide information on services and resources.
Living with a child who has mental health issues can come with a lot of unknowns just like having a child with physical health issues. But society can treat both children very differently.
I have two boys. One is 10 and the other is 8. Both of my kids have disability labels. One has a physical disability and the other has emotional and behavioral issues. One disability you can see, the other you don’t – but it is there.