This true story is told by the mother of a child with sleep breathing issues since birth, which modern medicine does not routinely diagnose. Luckily he was properly diagnosed finally and then treated by a Dentist. Once he was treated, his behavioral and academic problems completely turned around.
I can’t tell our story without starting from the beginning. My son was never an “easy” child. From birth, he was always demanding, temperamental, and the complete opposite of eager to please. This behavior had slowly escalated, creating a blind tolerance. The year of 2011 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
My son was always one to be the center of attention, albeit negative attention. He was throwing temper tantrums in class and at home. He hated me and the world, the expression we heard the most was “I wish I was dead.” He was always tearing up his homework and bullying someone. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for his behavior. No trigger. I could ask him to throw something out one day and he would do it without a fuss. But on other days, when given the same request, he would throw himself on the floor in a full tantrum at the age of 10. It would take him a couple of hours to compose himself once this happened. His report card for 4th grade consisted of D’s and F’s, with a slew of negative comments from teachers. One teacher went so far to say, “Your son may be ‘gifted’ but there is still something wrong with him. He doesn’t belong in Challenge Core (gifted program).”
Yes, my son was not behaving the same as the other kids. His inability to conform and to follow directions at home and at school was too much for everybody. The school was pushing me to put him on an IEP (Individual Education Program). Otherwise, they threatened to expel him from 4th grade.
Out of desperation, I signed the IEP and contacted several people to try to figure out, as one once put it, what was wrong with my son. First, I contacted his pediatrician. I requested allergy testing; a sleep study and anything else that may help us see if there was a medical issue. I also enrolled in a Parent-Child Interaction Therapy two times a week. The one decision I regret the most was the full psychological evaluation. It labeled him.
The psychological evaluation was performed on 12/14/11 before the allergy testing and sleep study results were available.
The sleep study results from Children’s Hospital of Chicago were compiled and presented to me on 1/11/12. They were as follows:
- Snoring arousals
- partial arousals
- increased upper airway resistance
- obstructive sleep disordered breathing
Allergy results from 2/16/12 stated that he has allergies to the following:
- dogs (we have 2 large huskies)
- cats (we have 2 domestics)
- Maple Trees (6 mature within 100 feet from our house)
- Walnut Trees (neighbor has 2 mature within 200 feet from our house)
- Cottonwood (passes 7 on his walk to school)
- Ash, Oak, Elm (again, all line the walk to school)
These allergies had no signs or symptoms; no itchy/watery eyes, sneezing, or post-nasal drip. There was nothing that would have alerted a parent that allergies were present.
It took the psychologist 4-6 weeks to put together the evaluation results. The psychological evaluation concluded (without taking into consideration the allergy test results and sleep study results) that my son is cognitively gifted and has ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). In order for the psychologist to include the “new” findings I would have to subject my son to another full evaluation at the reduced price of $975. I’m sorry; but if it were me making an accurate diagnosis, I would want all pertinent information.
During our consultation with Dr. Darius Loghmanee in the division of Pulmonary Medicine at Luri Children’s Hospital Chicago, he pointed us in the direction we needed to go to “fix” my son. He also prescribed some much needed allergy medication that would treat nasal congestion. He suggested that we contact Dr. Kevin Boyd, DDS to see if my son qualifies for his case study.
So, how’s a dentist going to fix behavior? Understanding the domino effect of undiagnosed allergies helps. The allergies caused his nasal passages to be chronically swollen. When someone cannot breathe through his nose, his only other option is the mouth. Mouth breathing 24 hrs a day over a number of years takes a toll on the development of the mouth. A higher arch is developed in the palate, jaw is no longer able to accommodate the tongue, the tonsils and adenoids work harder and can become enlarged. All of these things contribute to snoring. This is what I learned on our first visit to Dr. Boyd: Fix the mouth, snoring goes away, a full night’s sleep is achieved, and behavioral dysfunction is remedied.
Jump ahead 1 year of treatment with Dr. Boyd, one tonsil and adenoidectomy, one lazered frenulum, a daily dose of allergy medication, and I am able to proudly introduce you to my son. We found Connor Deegan. I knew he was there the whole time but we could not see him beyond his exhaustion. I once read somewhere that if there were a room full of children— half of them diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and the other half suffering from sleep deprivation— trained psychologists would have a low accuracy rate of diagnosis. This is because their signs and symptoms are almost identical. Is undiagnosed sleep deprivation the true cause of the increase of ADHD/ADD diagnosis in our country and around the world?
My son’s future looks bright. He has traded his D’s and F’s for 3 A’s and 1 B. He’s not perfect and can make some poor choices at times. He is still learning how to re-invent himself to get past being “that kid” at school. I am proud to report that he is succeeding. Who knows if my son could be the catalyst that changes conventional thinking at his school? Because of this experience, maybe the teachers have learned to ask the parent of a struggling child, “Has your child been tested for allergies?” or “Have you considered having your child’s sleep evaluated?” Maybe, just maybe, because of the work Dr. Boyd and Dr. Loghmanee are doing, the medical world would prescribe both allergy test and sleep studies when a “behaviorally challenged” child enters grade school. In my humble opinion, the health of our country would greatly improve.
I will forever be grateful to Dr. Loghmanee and Dr. Boyd. They alone, with their foreword thinking, bravery to act outside the parameters of what their colleagues expect from them, and questioning the big business of pharmaceuticals have given my son back to me. They have brought peace to our house and joy to our hearts. They have given my son something I could not—the ability to sleep tight.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You…
a million times over!