Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Good Test

Sometimes we feel as if we are being tested. Often, it is a challenge to our current reality that makes us uncomfortable, or uneasy. At times, we may be "tested" by something that is a recurrent theme in our lives. Perhaps it is a situation with a loved one, or another instance with a team member at work, or even the local green grocer in one's neighborhood. The test often is similar, but the end result is usually the same: Will I make the same mistake I always do? Or, will I challenge myself to rise above the challenge and conquer the demon that awaits me.

My youngest daughter is suffering in school with a reading disability that the school has convinced itself is ADD. I had been summoned by the school administration to a forum meeting between the psychologist, the social worker, the teachers, and the principal on the last day of the school year regarding her needs.  Yes, the LAST day of the school year.  Already that, in itself, is so wrong on so many levels, but I digress.

At this meeting, it was clear that the staff was convinced my child was ADD and needed ritalin...and pronto.  So, I stopped their yammering about her, and I said "Look, I see where you are all coming from. I disagree that she is ADD, but I will bring her to a neurologist to see what he thinks, are we done here?"  After they discussed amongst themselves, the principal chimed in "That sounds like a great idea, and while you are at it, get her a T.O.V.A. test!"  I said "O.K." and left.  I had no idea what that test was, but I figured that we would go to the neurologist first. I did know that it was a play on words because the word "Tova" in Hebrew means "Good."

So, off we went to the neurologist. A lovely British fellow, who was not convinced that my daughter had ADD at all. He thought the T.O.V.A. (Test of Variables of Attention) test may be a good idea, but he was sure that the results would be the same as he had noted. This child's needs are not for ADD, there is something else that is preventing her reading acquisition needs. 

I made an appointment for the test, and two days ago, I received a phone call from the psychologist administering the test.  

The conversation proceeded as follows:

Psychologist: Hi, Ariel, this is Shira. Your daughter has a T.O.V.A. test tomorrow with me at 11:30.
Me: Yes, thank you for the reminder, I will be there.
Psychologist: Please remember that she needs to bring her Ritalin for the test.
Me: But, I am coming to  you to see if she needs Ritalin!
Psychologist: Well, this test is administered in two parts. The first part is without the Ritalin, the second part is with the Ritaliin. So, we can see what happens when the child is titrating the drug.
Me: But, again, my daughter has never taken Ritalin. How will this really show anything?
Psychologist: Go to your doctor, and get one dose, just for the test.
Me:(unconvinced) OK, I will do so.
Psychologist: Great! See you tomorrow.

                I hung up the phone, and I felt terrible. I am an English teacher, and a licensed Social Worker, and I have never felt so dirty and deceptive in my life.  This was not my client I was dealing with....it was my daughter. And, I was being told to actively push a medication upon a child who had never taken it before.  It felt so wrong...but I was desperate. I needed to have her take the test. I had already twisted the arm of my office to allow me to take her to the test during office hours.  I felt like I was about to sell our souls to the devil. But, if this was the only way to help my dear daughter, I would bite the bullet.

                So, I went to my best friend, and asked her for one pill of Ritalin. I knew that her son takes the medication. And, I knew that one less pill would not affect his care. In truth, she told me that her son was changing his medication anyway, and the Ritalin was irrelevant.  There was a newer drug he needed, something that is longer lasting, with fewer side effects.

                I walked out of my friend's house, with the Ritalin in my pocket, and I felt like I had done a drug deal.  It felt so dirty, and wrong.  Taking a drug for my little girl's test....it felt like the classic Ethical Dilemma by Konigsberg that I had learnt in college many years ago. There is a classic story of a man who knows his child needs a medication that he cannot afford. He knows that the pharmacist has it, and that if he steals it from the pharmacist, he can save his child's life. But, if he does not steal it, his child will suffer a very painful death. The father must make a judgment call that will affect his son's life, and his own within minutes. The ethical dilemma is debated amongst college students of what shall this father do? Shall he save his son, and end up in jail for life? Or, shall he go home to watch his son die the most painful death of all. 

                Although my child is not dying, my child is suffering a "death" of sorts in school. She cannot read or write at grade level. And, she feels as if she is stuck in a quagmire of meaningless nonsense at school. Her speaking ability is way beyond her years. So, she makes sure that her opinions are heard loud and clear. She can debate my oldest children until they are blue with envy. But, she cannot properly read or write.

                And so, I decided to take the Ritalin, place it in my pocket, and hoped that her taking one single dose would not break her spirit for the day.  It was a tough call, but Konigsberg may have been proud of my volition to do so!

                My daughter entered the test with curiosity and alacrity.  As I sat outside, she played a computer game that monitered her attention and impulsivity issues on the screen. Then, the door opened and the psychologist told me that she has done well for the first half of the test and we need to give her the Ritalin, wait an hour, and return for the second half.  So, we gave her the pill, and went off for lunch.  I decided to treat her for pancakes at a local restaurant.  God knows, that little peanut deserved it!

                We returned to the testing site, and my daughter returned to the test. She completed the tasks set on the screen, and the psychologist invited me back into the room for a discussion of the results. It had appeared that my daughter did not have ADD, and that the Ritalin actually made her MORE impulsive on the test. 

                I began to secretly smile to myself. "Yes," I thought," Mother always knows best!"  My child did not have ADD.  The school wanted to prescribe the medication just to make her disappear into the walls, and to quiet her in the classroom.  Ritalin, they thought, is the magic elixir. Alas, it is not the elixir for this child.

                After the test, I talked to my child about what the drug felt like.  She replied "Mommy, I felt like I was floating on the side of the chair, like it was in mid-air."  "Oh, God,"  I thought, "I have given my daughter the equivalent of L.S.D. for her little brain!"  She was tripping as if she was a character in Alice In Wonderland! A nine year old, floating in an alternate reality just for her to pay attention in school. 

                "Well, honey" I said, "You will never have to feel that way again! You will never have to take that pill.  The test shows that you do not need it!"
                "Good!" my daughter replied, with her bright dimpled smile, and her cheery attitude.  "Now, can we just go home?" she begged.
                "Yes, honey, the GOOD TEST is now over!" I replied.  And, I flipped on the radio and listened to the following Gloria Gaynor song on the radio:

Oh no, not I, I will survive,
As long as I know how to live
I know I will survive
I've got all my life to live, I've got all my life to give,
And, I'll survive
I will survive
I will survive

Yes, sweet child. Your strength is greater than any Good Test can grasp.  You are a fighter. Keep fighting that good fight. Because, I will be there for you always.  You will always show me the strength of how to live and how to survive.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Shofar Calls

I have been waking up at the crack of dawn, or thereabouts. I am always an early riser. It suits my personality. I am eager to get up, and get and go conquer the commitments of the day. Even on vacation, I find myself rising before the rest of the family to peruse the schedule of the day, plan additional stops with my guide books, etc.

Now, I am waking up not only to do my own preparations for the day, but to care for our new dog, Panda. She is a Black Laborador and Husky mix.  She has one blue eye, and one brown eye, and she is the newest addition to our family. I have already begun to call her one of the children!  Although her "siblings" help her with walks, and feeding, if I am the one up earliest, then I am the one who will walk her.

On my early morning walks, I am often out before the sun rises.  No one is on the street. Well, not exactly.  I see the newspaper guy.  (Boy, does he drive fast!) I see some joggers. I see a couple of wlking buddies, too.  And, I also have bumped into a herd of wild boar. Yes, that was terrifying, but Panda and I survived.

Usually, I am just walking quietly with Panda, and trying for our walk to not be one of those sit-com lines from Seinfeld of "Who is walking whom?"  It is a time for silence and reflection.  I usually plan out my day of lessons, the rest of the day's errands, and just life. I mean, really, who has time to do that anymore? We are all so busy with work, social media, and family. Do we ever just take time to walk, breathe, and reflect? Not many of us do, unless the Mindfullness bug has caught you already!

But, lately, I have seen a lot of cars at 5:30 bounding down the street. They are all heading towards the Sefardic synagogues in our yishuv.  For, during the entire month of Elul (the Hebrew Calendar Month before Rosh Hashana), the Sefardic synagogue has a selichot service in which a special book of prayers of forgiveness is read aloud, and a shofar is blown.

As the sound of the shofar wafts through the early dawn air, both Panda and I jump a bit. It is a shocking sound...one of wailing, and despair.  Panda often looks at me in a quizzical manner, as if to say "What was that? Are we O.K?"  And, I look down at her and smile. I encourage her to keep moving.  For, isn't that what the shofar is all about? Stop. Reflect. Grow. Act. Live. Repent. Keep moving.

The shofar beckons us all to reflect upon the last year, and to think of the New Year's potential.  I know this will be a good year, one of progress, growth, and attained goals.  What will this year be for you? Let the shofar lead the way.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pain in the Epicenter of Entertainment

Orlando...we have all been there, or want to visit there with our children.  It is best known for Disney World, Universal Studios, and other attractions. Dare I mention Alligator Land?(As they say in Hebrew, Hamavin Mavin, those who understand, really understand).  And, now it will be forever remembered as the site of the September 11th.

"How" and "Why" are the obvious questions we are all asking. And, honestly, there are no good answers. Evil has shown its roaring head in the epicenter of all goodness.  It is like a roaring tornado in a sleepy hollow of a town, shaking the homes, and spitting out the contents.

It does not really matter where the tragedy happened.  Yes, it was a nightclub catering to the gay and lesbian community, so what?  It was a crime against innocent people, who were just out to have a good time.  And, a fundamentalist decided to take it upon himself to rid his world of what he judged as evil.

Welcome to the world of terror, America.  No, it does not make sense.  We in Israel have been living this reality on a daily basis.  The Dolphinarim Club massacre was Israel's first massive terrorist attack in a dance club almost 15 years ago.  Survivors are still nursing their mental and physical wounds. Innocent people's lives destroyed while just being out to listen to some good music, dance and have a good time.

We just experienced the attack at the Sarona market in Tel Aviv.  Sarona is one of the most unique outdoor shopping experiences in the country.  It is best known for its amazing restaurants and its green lawns.  Often, passersby can be seen dining on the grass with picnic baskets from a local restaurant that prides itself as giving a picnic lunch or dinner to share on the grass with friends.  Quaint, normal, and calm.  What could be more serene than a picnic lunch or dinner?

But, terrorism has roared its face in our midst.  Calm is not our reality.  The terrorists want to instill fear and control.  Ruining the serene is their modus opperendi. We, in Israel, are tough, and we can take it and fight back.  Will America be able to do so? Will your leaders take control and fight against the terrorists in your midst?  Are you ready for the  battle ahead?  This appears to be only the beginning of the taunting season.

My first visit to Disney World included a trip to the Snow White ride.  It was the scariest ride of my life, I screamed the whole way as the evil Queen kept popping up on the walls saying "I will get you my pretty."  I held onto my sister for dear life, terrified of the evil in our midst.  As we exited the ride, tears falling from my face, and visibly upset, my mother gave me a big hug and tried to calm me down.  I don't think I could ever watch Snow White again, but the experience hardened me...the ride made me realize that I had to deal with my fears and fight with the evil, tooth and nail, even if it included screams and tears along the way.

Dear Western World, I hope you can fight the Evil Queen of terror in our midst.  Yes, there will be tears, but it must be done.