Husband and I had a good meeting with the headmaster and two of the staff.
Basically we agreed that we need to seek professional help to ascertain what is bothering our son. I have in fact tried to kick-start this process by going to the GP. He has referred, but is not quite sure whom to refer son to.
Any way the school now knows a little more about son's peculiar habit of asking for instructions over and over again. This had previously be put down to his wanting to be perfect.
In the past three years he had been told consistently not to be too hard on himself, it's OK to make mistakes, he does not need to be perfect. I have since discovered that it might have nothing to do with wanting to be perfect. He asked instructions over and over again simply because he does not remember them.
For example I've been saying in the mornings for a week: brush your teeth, clean your face, get dressed and make your bed.
But after brushing his teeth he forgets what is the next instruction. "What do I do next?"
Yesterday I said, "OK, the sequence is 'teeth-face-clothes-bed'."
Son then muttered something like "Teeth are in the face, which is in the body, and the body rests in the bed which is where the clothes are." Sorted.
I had to print off some photos for him in a hurry and left him to his "routine". What a surprise it was that when I came upstairs again he was sitting in his bed reading a book, fully dressed on a well-made bed, having brushed his teeth and cleaned his face . Bingo!
Today, well, he got a bit distracted. He completed the routine but stopped in between to read something. Still the routine seems to have registered.
His continuous need to seek reassurance on instructions was seen as timidity and a lack of confidence and anxiety. Now I am beginning to wonder if it was just his way of checking and counter-checking, because some instructions, especially verbal ones, just do not seem to register.
Chatting with an old classmate over the net about her son said to be suffering from CAPD, we ventured into the area of being a spatial-visual learner. Then I remember how son always had trouble discerning where sound was coming from.
He's nearly pitch-perfect. You sing a note, he goes to the piano and nine times out of ten, he plays that exact note . You could even play intervals and he could identify these as 'doh-soh' or 'doh-fah', or whatever. More frequently he hears a tune on TV and he goes to play it on the piano.
But there had been countless times when he shouts "Where are you?" and I am upstairs in the en-suite bathroom with the door slightly ajar and I shout back, "Here!". Even though he might be in the next bedroom, he could not identify where the sound comes from. He would then wander off downstairs, check every room, and not finding me, starts crying, "Mum, where are you?"
And I am shouting myself hoarse upstairs in the loo, "Here, I am upstairs."
He wanders upstairs, "Upstairs, where?"
He's outside our bedroom and I shout, "In the bathroom in the bedroom." And then he finds me. He's in a flood of tears.
Of course now I shout "Here in the en-suite bathroom" or something like that instead.
Sometimes this happens when I am in the conservatory and he's in the next room. No bathroom door in between. I say, "I'm here" and he goes to the room further away from me to look for me.
It appears that he has no sense of where sound is coming from if it is not immediately in front of him, where he could see the speaker.
I wrote about how he was disturbed by the sound in an indoor sports hall. It was not loudness, perhaps, but that the noise and echoes were coming in all directions, unrelentlessly, and that upset him.
Ironically when he uses the bathroom he would turn on the light even in broad daylight so that the fan would turn on. "I like the sound," he says. The sound of the whirring fan comforts him,
O yes, when he was a baby I could not use the food processor until he was in bed, or shutting two doors between us, but the washing machine and tumble dryer were OK.
He was taken to the cinema by a friend when he was three and refused to go again for another three years time because of the "noise". (The sound level in the cinema was indeed very high.)
We have a friend who has suffered a head injury. She tells us that she too cannot distinguish the direction from which sounds are coming from. Everything is a blur and it tires her out just trying to process these stimuli. She cannot filter out the unimportant noise from the important noise. This lady also sings beautifully.
Could our son be suffering a similar condition? Does that explain why certain types of noise upset him so much?
Then I recall how much he had calmed down in the last half-term of school last year. Something caused me to think this coincided with the sudden departure of a boy who was very disruptive.
Our son used to get very upset if this boy had made it impossible for the whole class to "do any learning". He complained about this boy's whingeing. Could the whingeing have had an impact on my son?
Why do the episodes of anxiety happen only on Fridays?
Is it because he gets taken out of class for his piano lesson? And this often means he misses handwriting class? Does this make him anxious and then coupled with swimming -- which he perceives himself not to be so good at -- right at the end of the day, he gets too tired to compensate, and falls apart?
What are these "bad voices" as he was supposed to have said that bothered him?
But this week he has made phenomenal progress on the clarinet. He practised really hard to get rid of the puffy cheeks. (It helps when Mum plays wind instruments.) He tried and he tried, and by Sunday he got it. Dimpled cheeks while making a solid sound on the clarinet.
He learned to play two more notes on Wednesday (yesterday) and he's playing tunes, even those not in the book, as he makes them up.
His piano too is coming along and husband and I are really enjoying the exam pieces he has chosen to play. They are not easy to play, but very pleasant to listen to.
The teacher will decide in two weeks' time if he should be presented for exams in November or March.
Son also joined the Fun Choir, the Middle School boy's rite of passage, it seems. They are doing songs from Oliver Twist and son is enjoying 'food, glorious food'.