Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Laie Summit Trail

A few months ago, my 16 year old son got the idea to take some friends and hike the Laie Summit Trail. I'd been to the falls several times and had seen the sign that points to the right for the falls and the left for the summit. Of course I wanted to see what was over in the other direction from the falls, and hiking to the top of the mountains that I can see out my front door every day? Awesome.

The first date we planned for the hike got rained out. Today we woke up to partly cloudy skies and a chance of rain. I could see the tops of the mountains, so we decided to go.

While looking around online I had a hard time finding something that told us exactly how long the hike would take. So here's the breakdown. We had two adults and three teenage boys on the hike. We all like hiking, but we're not avid hikers. People who are conditioned for 12 miles and 3600 feet of elevation could probably do it faster.

  • 9:00 AM - walked away from our front door
  • 9:15 AM - arrived at Cricket Field (closest place to park if you're driving)
  • 11:00 AM - reached the Laie Falls/Laie Trail sign at the fork
  • 12:30 PM - reached the summit
  • 1:00 PM - started down from the summit
  • 2:30 PM - reached the Laie Falls/Laie Trail sign again
  • 4:30 PM - reached the gate to the Laie Falls Trail
  • 4:50 PM - arrived home.
Walking from our house it was nearly an 8 hour hike. If we'd driven to Cricket Field, it would have taken 7.5 hours. 

Above Laie Falls we had to push through undergrowth, wade through mud, and jump over a few washed out sections. It was never hard to find the trail, though. I was glad I wore jeans and had a long-sleeved jacket. Once I stepped in a washed-out place that was hidden by ferns and sat right down on the trail with one leg hanging over a cliff. Just keep your eyes on the trail when you're moving and watch out for gaps and holes.

The forecast was for mostly cloudy with a chance of rain. As we got near the summit we climbed up into a cloud. It rained on us for only a few minutes, but that was enough to get us soaked and make it uncomfortably cold in the wind near the top. When we reached the summit and the ridge trail we went up the hill and found a nice spot to sit and eat lunch. While we were at the top it cleared off enough that we got a good view of Laie, and could also catch a glimpse of the surf on the Haleiwa side. We had cell phone coverage most of the way. I sent my daughter a text at the top, and also checked the weather radar and our exact location on google maps.

Next time I want to go when it hasn't rained for a week, and when the forecast is for clear skies. That should make the mud less and the view more.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Our Experience with Adderall

Near the end of second grade, my youngest son was evaluated by the school district and we were told that he was high-functioning autistic. The specialist who gave me the news seemed to think she was doing us a favor. We could get accommodations now, she said.

One of those accommodations was special education. For certain school subjects, my son would be in a classroom with only a handful of other students. He would get specialized attention. This sounded like a good thing, since in his regular classroom his teachers often gave up on trying to engage him at all.

The first time I met with my son's fourth grade special education teacher, she asked me if I had considered putting him on medication.

"No," I said. There wasn't a medication for high-functioning autism. By then I'd had a year to read up about it, had been meeting with the school's autism specialist, and we had been making progress using Applied Behavior Analysis. I didn't see any need for medication.

The teacher proceeded to tell me the story of a boy she knew who had been put on a small dose of medicine and it had helped him so much in school. He had turned into a model student and was now in high school and you wouldn't know he'd ever had problems.

"I'm not interested in putting my son on medication," I told her.

She then told me that if I didn't do something about his behavior in school, my son would end up in remedial classes in middle school, with the "bad kids."

A little shocked to hear a special education teacher call students in remedial classes "bad kids," I dug in. I don't like being threatened. There was no way I was going to medicate my son. We were going to do this by patient effort alone.

And a lot of effort it was. Hours of sitting at his elbow repeating, "What's your next problem?" like a broken record. Day after day of turning away friends at the door, "He's not done with his homework yet." Assignments that should have taken him twenty minutes took two hours. And then they only took one hour. And then I didn't have to sit next to him. And then he could work downstairs with the rest of the family around him. We had come a long ways.

And then came middle school.

Our first semester of middle school was really hard work for both of us, but we did it, and did well. My son was in all honors classes, despite his fourth grade teacher's dire prediction, and he even got a 3.5 GPA his first semester. Still, it took a lot from me and from all of his teachers. Most days I had a phone call or an email about a behavior problem, usually because my son was not paying attention or not doing work in class.

When it came time for the annual IEP, one of his counselors, a woman who had really gone out of her way to help him, someone I'd come to really trust and appreciate, said, "All of his teachers say he has a hard time focusing in class. Have you considered putting him on medication?"

I looked around the table at those weary teachers, and felt the ache of exhaustion in my own bones. This was taking a lot out of all of us. "I don't even know where to start with that," I admitted.

"Just go see your regular doctor," she said.

So I did. Apologetically, I told the doctor I really didn't want to do this, but the school had suggested we try it. He didn't ask me any questions about my son or his behavior, just wrote out a prescription for Adderall, like it wasn't a big deal. We decided to start on the second to lowest possible dose. It almost scared me how easy that was.

We started the medication over spring break. On the second day of taking it, my son felt a little nauseated for part of the day, but it went away, and that was the only side effect we had. I noticed some differences immediately. I could ask him to do something that took more than one step, and he would complete the task without any further prompting from me. This was an entirely new and wonderful thing.

When school started up again after spring break, my son found it easier to focus in his classes and do his work in the mornings, but after lunch the medication would wear off. He could feel it when it happened. We raised the dose one notch, and after that he could get through the whole school day. I still had to monitor his school work and check up with his teachers somewhat, but he started getting more done in class and therefore had less to do at home. For several weeks things went very well. He liked being able to concentrate and get things done. I even thanked the counselor who had suggested the medication.

Then the inevitable happened. The medication stopped being as effective. Once again I found blank classwork in his folder and got notes from the teachers saying he had spent the class period doodling. "It just isn't working," my son said tearfully one evening as we struggled through an essay he had been too distracted to write in class. "At first the medicine was great, but now it doesn't help me any more. In fact, it's worse than before we started. I got used to it being easy, and now when it's hard, I can't do it."

"Do you want to try a higher dose?" I asked.

"No, I want to stop taking it," he said.

I didn't think he should stop when it was only three weeks to the end of school, so I suggested we just keep going until then. "If the medicine isn't working as well, it's up to you to try harder to focus. You know what it feels like to focus now, don't you? Can you do it on your own?"

He rubbed the tears away and told me he would try.

Things got better again. Grades that had dropped came up. Best of all, my son was learning to work with himself. One Saturday morning, I noticed the door to my walk-in closed was shut. I opened it to find my son sitting on the floor, working on a project for social studies. "I had to come in here so I could focus," he said. He was almost finished, and had done the project all on his own.

On Saturdays he doesn't take medication. He had found his own solution.

It's summer break now, and we're not planning to use Adderall again next school year. I think we've learned what we needed to learn from it. When my son was taking the medication his grades didn't go up. His personality didn't change. It only made things a little easier for me and for his teachers, and it made it easier for him to do his school work. He learned that he could focus, and began to find ways to do it on his own. For that, I'm grateful we gave it a try.