Thanksgiving weekend finds columnist’s son ‘new and improved’
by Joe Kirby
November 30, 2013 11:01 PM | 1378 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Like most of you, I have plenty to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend: a few days off to spend with loved ones; plenty to eat, including seasonal delicacies like sweet potato casserole; good health, a good job and good friends.

I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Italy for two weeks this past summer in the company of old friends and new; thankful for a new and faster home computer and thankful for a new (to me, anyway) and faster car to drive.

I’m grateful for a wife who has kept her girlish figure to go along with her still-lovely face and who is willing to put up with her husband’s orneriness and peculiar ways.

I’m thankful for a daughter who grows more beautiful, talented and intelligent by the day, and who has already been accepted at The University of Georgia and Martha Berry College with possibly others to come.

But most of all this Thanksgiving, I am thankful that our son, Miles, who turns 13 this week, seems to have a new and improved outlook on life.

Last fall found Miles — and his parents — challenged to a greater extent than ever before.

He was beset by severe anxieties and was refusing to go to school. His grades, which had mostly been good till then, plummeted as a result. Psychiatrists say festering school-attendance-anxiety issues are especially prone to surface when a child is promoted to a new grade in a new school, and Miles had just entered sixth grade at Durham Middle School.

He also had attention-deficit issues. But they were overlooked because they were not accompanied, as they are so often, by hyperactivity. Miles was anything but hyper. He was content to sit on the couch in front of the TV or computer for as long as we would let him.

And as his anxieties grew, his world began to shrink. Not only did he refuse to go to school, he also shrank from taking part in activities he had previously enjoyed — things like Legos and Boy Scouts and piano and karate and sometimes even church. Even when he went to school, he had a hard time staying all day due to his anxieties.

And as his anxieties increased, his self-confidence declined and his inner anger built.

The medications prescribed for him didn’t seem to have any effect at all.

It was not a happy time, although there were still many days, especially on weekends, when he was just like other boys his age and full of fun.

We cycled through two psychiatrists and two therapists over two years to little avail before my wife’s chance meeting with a friend of a friend whose daughter had triumphed over similar challenges led to a recommendation to a psychologist (Chuck Jenkins, Ph.D.) in Sandy Springs and Healthy Steps Pediatrics in West Cobb.

It took some difficult sessions with Jenkins and further tinkering with medications and doses, but we now have our boy “back” — and he’s better than he’s ever been. Miles also points to a week-long retreat with Due West United Methodist Church’s youth group this spring as a turning point in his struggles.

In addition we enrolled him in a six-month program at Learning Rx in Kennesaw where “brain-training” has improved not only his memory but his grades and self-confidence as well. He earned all A’s and perfect attendance for the first time in a nine-week period this fall and likely is going to do the same for the current nine weeks. Wife Fran and I also can’t say enough good things about the teachers and staff at Durham Middle School, who have taken Miles under their wing.

Meanwhile, Miles is back in the mainstream at piano, karate, Scouts and church. And Miles, who formerly could barely concentrate long enough to read more than a page or two of any book that didn’t have plenty of pictures, now can sit and read continuously for more than an hour. He’s also announced he plans to be a jazz musician (he plays sax) and an engineer at Lockheed!

If you’re wondering if we have anything to be thankful for this week at the Kirby house, the answer is a loud “yes!”

So a Happy Thanksgiving to all — and an especially Happy 13th Birthday, Miles!

Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal.

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