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My kids were usually well behaved.
For the most part.

We’d go out to eat and they’d sit at the table the whole time.

We’d go out to watch a game and they’d sit by me and play with their toys.

When they would start to misbehave – I’d redirect them.
And they would listen.

Teachers and other adults agreed.
My children were well-behaved kids.

Until the one day, when it all seemed to fall apart.
It was like somebody flipped a switch.
I remember the moment so clearly.

We were shopping at Target.
We were in the cereal aisle.

My daughter is standing in front of a box of cereal.
Just standing quietly.

Staring at a box of cereal.

We were at the end of the aisle ready to turn to the next one.
I look back at her standing there.
“Come on.”
“Come on, let’s go.”
“What are you doing? Let’s go.”

She stays there.
She is just staring at the box of cereal.

I walk back towards her.
And there – in the middle of the cereal aisle at Target –
There stands my little first grader with a look of panic on her face

And tears rolling down her cheeks.

I get down on my knees next to her.
I put my hands on her shoulders.

“What’s wrong?  Why are you crying?”

Silence.

I turn her body towards me.
Her eyes are still glued to the cereal box.

“What’s wrong?  Look at me?”

Her eyes, swollen from crying, turn to me.

“I don’t know.”
“I have to read it all.”

“I have to read all the words on the box.”

That one sentence changed everything.

In that moment, I knew something happened.
There was something causing my daughter to feel this way.
She wasn’t trying to ignore me.
She wasn’t trying to misbehave.

Between the tears, the look of panic on her face and the anguish in her voice, I knew something was wrong.

Google to the Rescue

After grabbing the box of cereal to let her finishing reading, I quickly checked out.
I came home and immediately turned to Google.

Usually, Google is the least reliable option for medical advice.
All too often Google suggests I have every illness ranging from a headache to cancer.

But for this situation, Google was my first place to turn.
I didn’t know what this was.
I didn’t even know how to explain it to even ask for help.

Do I say, “My daughter was crying because she needs to read?”

Through my Google search, I found what turned out to be the reason for this.

PANDAS

What is PANDAS?

PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections.

Basically, it is OCD that appears suddenly in children following a strep infection.

She met all the criteria.

  • I had recently had strep so it’s very possible she was also infected.
  • She had some previous OCD tendencies.
  • The onset was sudden.
  • She was also moody, irritable, clingy which I thought were tied to being sick.

Asking For Help When I Didn’t Know What To Do

Assuming my daughter had PANDAS, I still didn’t know what to do or how to help her.

When I had a chance, I made an appointment to speak with the therapist/counselor at her school.

The counselor didn’t have experience with PANDAS, but she did refer me to a psychologist who specializes in working with children in this area.

The psychologist saw our daughter a few times.
She was incredibly helpful.
PANDAS does gradually improve.
As it started to improve and our daughter now had tools to help with her OCD and anxiety, we didn’t continue the therapy.

Why Asking For Help Was The Best Thing to Do

OCD and anxiety does not get fixed.
My daughter will have to deal with both for the rest of her life.

But by asking for help I accomplished a few important things.

  1. I showed my children it is okay to ask for help.
    There is no shame in saying, “I can’t do this all by myself.  I need help.”
  2. I received professional confirmation of the problem.
    It was just me taking Google’s word.
    I had an educated professional diagnose what was wrong.
    There wasn’t any second guessing.
  3. My daughter was armed with tools for her success.
    She was given various suggestions to help her out.
    She was able to take back some control in a situation where she felt out of control.
  4. We were made aware of possible struggles.
    This one was big for me.
    The therapist informed us of what to look for in the future.
    How to help lessen her anxiety.
    We know to look out for high-stress situations which might trigger OCD tendencies.
    We are also prepared that as she goes through hormonal changes, she may see her OCD or anxiety exacerbated.

I will never regret reaching out for help.
It was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve ever made.

For more information on PANDAS

Here are some helpful links to information regarding PANDAS: