After spending 2 weeks at Evexia I was so impressed that I wanted Ashton to go there for a rediagnosis. His mental health journey has been incredibly difficult, yielding little to no major improvements. Our efforts over the past 7 years seemed futile and I’ve hated watching my child suffer. To my surprise Ash requested to go before I had even had a chance to discuss it with him. So a mental health rediagnosis was a no brainer and Ashton joined the teenager group therapy program.
ASHTON’S MENTAL HEALTH REDIAGNOSIS – THE PROCESS
Making the right diagnosis for my child was extremely difficult and felt like a trial and error process. That’s why it’s important for a mental health professional to do a thorough, careful evaluation before giving a diagnosis. Multiple specialists later and we still didn’t have a clear picture. As Ashton got older, his conditions increased and so did his medication. We really felt like we were fighting a losing battle.
In December Ashton commenced the process to get a rediagnosis. In a structured interview, Ashton gave a detailed account of his life (I wasn’t present for this). His specialists, (all new) commenced with a baseline assessment which involved an in-depth look into his life from conception. Multiple blood tests were performed, as well as a Sensory Evaluation, an Electroencephalogram Test and Psychometric tests were completed weekly.
There was more to the process. Daily sessions and monitoring with the below mentioned specialists and healthcare workers formed part of the two week journey:-
- Occupational therapist
- Social worker
- Registered Nurse
In addition to all the above, I had to attend parent group sessions with a psychologist were parents are taught how to active listen and build strong relationships with their children. While Ash and I have always had an amazing bond, active listening has been my biggest downfall. Active Listening is the single most important skill you can have in your parenting arsenal. It’s a specific form of communication that lets another person know that you are aware of what they are saying. It also shows that you accept their perspective and appreciate their situation. It is listening without giving advice or a solution, something most parents struggle with.
- Listening to them, you are communicating that they are worthy of your attention.
- Hearing their distress, you are demonstrating that their view of the world has merit.
- Allowing them time to decide their course of action, you are indicating your trust in their ability to solve problems.
MENTAL HEALTH REDIAGNOSIS- THE OUTCOME
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER – BPD
Diagnosing a teen with Borderline Personality Disorder is extremely tricky. That’s because some of its defining features are very common to adolescents in general. Emotional instability, moodiness, identity issues, and sensitivity to rejection are all fairly typical in teens. This often leads to a misdiagnosis of the patient, which is what happened in Ashton’s case. Since borderline personality disorder often co-occurs with depression or anxiety, many mental health professionals simply decide to treat those symptoms.
The brain’s frontal lobe, responsible for executive function, only reaches maturity at age 25. Now let this mom brace herself as we still have 7 years to go. Therefore many clinicians feel like the symptoms might go away on their own, once the teen gets older. Are two weeks of intensive and consistent testing and evaluation, Ashton’s new doctors confirmed that he does NOT have BPD.
Sensory assessments consist of assessing how your child copes with the load of sensory information that enters their senses daily. Ashton walked out of his assessment knowing that he had severe sensory issues. In fact the boy has known this for a long time and instead of telling us, he researched his symptoms, created a sensory box and did his best to manage his sensory issues. He however didn’t want to burden anyone, so when in company Ashton ignored his needs which created anxiety. Ashton was screened for Autism which was thankfully ruled out.
Ashton’s sensory test results
- Smell / Taste Processing – He is sensitive to smell, however his taste isn’t affected. Peppermint essential oils in a diffuser as well as sucking on peppermint helps him a lot.
- Visual Processing – Ash is sensitive to visual stimuli, but we are still working on keeping his room decluttered and neat. Mom however has spring-cleaned the house to remove a lot of the clutter. We even packed his brightly coloured books away so that they are out of sight.
- Touch Processing – He is sensitive to touch stimuli and prefers deep touch. So big hugs are in, but only when he allows. A weighted blanket helps him sleep better. We still need to have a proper assessment done in the New Year to determine the correct weight and protocol that needs to be followed. It now makes sense why he hates the aircon or having the windows open in the car. As a little boy he didn’t like the tags on his clothes which we had to always remove. He also prefers comfy shoes and clothes as it gives him immense comfort. This has been a natural choice for him over the year but now we understand why. Cooking calms him hence his newly found passion which I aint complaining about. His sensory box helps a lot with his touch processing.
- Auditory Processing – Ash is definitely sensitive to auditory stimuli, so he now keeps a pair of earplugs on him especially when we go out to busy or noisy places. We have also had to learn to tone down the noise we make because we really are a rowdy bunch.
- Movement Processing – Ash is also sensitive to movement. Since we starting homeschooling we realised that the early morning traffic effected him severely. That one change has made a tremendous improvement in his quality of life.
- Multisensory Processing – Lastly, Ash is sensitive to multisensory stimuli. So routine is key and a schedule sees him thrive.
EEG prolonged test
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp. Your brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even when you’re asleep. This activity shows up as wavy lines on an EEG recording.
The results were within normal limit, but poor quality, disrupted sleep is a concern. His doctors feels that it could be a result of the medication he was on. We took him off his medication which was replaced it with something milder to help him adjust to all the changes we need to implement.
POOR QUALITY SLEEP
To ensure optimal quality sleep we are focussing on sleep hygiene, also known as good sleep habits. Here are some habits that can improve sleep health:
- Regular sleep and waking times
- Sunlight exposure 30 minutes after waking
- Daily exercise
- Limit caffein intake after 2pm
- Use dim lighting in the evenings
- 1 hour tech-free winddown before bed
- Block out all light from the room at night
- Minimise noise
- Reserve room for sleep
and sexonly (lol)
Two incredibly difficult and intense weeks for Ash has resulted in our prayers being answered. His final diagnosis is that he has emotional control issues but has been equipment with tools and skills to verbalise and prioritise his needs. He has been communicating so beautifully that it has made all the difference. Mom over here practices her active listening daily. He has severe sensory issues which trigger his anxiety. Autism has been ruled out and the doctors are not convinced he has ADHD. He definitely doesnt have BPD.
Going forward, if we manage his Sensory concerns then we should be able to manage his anxiety levels. We have decided that no more 1 Military Hospital for his treatment and Ash is happy to continue with his new doctors that have gone the extra mile for us. We are beyond grateful for the intervention, professionalism and genuine concern.
More so than anything I am beyond grateful that I have my son back. Ashton is thriving and back to his old self. Its been three weeks since he completed the teenager program and hasn’t once complained of a headache or experienced a panic attack. His anxiety has improved tremendously but still fluctuates. He has gotten to the core of the things that weigh heavily on his heart and best of all he has found his voice. Our entire outlook on a mental journey has changed and me getting sick was an absolute blessing in disguise.
God’s never early, never late, but always on time. God’s perfect timing grows our faith as we are forced to wait and trust in God and it makes certain that He, and He alone, gets the glory and praise for pulling us through.