PATIENCE

Forgive me, it has been a while since I wrote a Blog and this one may ramble a little. I have spent the last year and half in the trenches with my 3rd child. His first year and second year of pre-k have been a nightmare. We have finally gotten a diagnosis of ADHD. He also seems to have some audio and visual processing concerns as well. The mommy in me senses that there may be some sensory thrown in just to make things interesting. If you are familiar with all of these you know there is a lot of yelling, screaming and all-around insanity going on in my house. This is in addition to the other two ADHD kids making middle school “So much fun.” Needless to say, I have not had the focus to write a Blog. I have thought about writing a Blog about all the steps I am taking to help my son, but I have done that before. Although, a real time play by play may be more accurate. I came up with many topics that ultimately seemed depressing at best. I was at a loss until last week.

Last week I met with my 3’s play therapist for the first time. We talked about expectations. She asked me all the nice filtering questions to make sure I am not a crazy unrealistic parent. Around the second or third rephrasing of what do you expect I stopped her. It may have sounded cocky but I started with this is not my first time at the rodeo. I described my older son, she was familiar with him, and then I said something that seemed to visibly surprise her. I said “I do not expect to see results in 6 weeks or even 3 months. I realize this is a long process. As long as he continues to want to work with you and I can see some progress I am fine.” I indicated to her that we did not see progress from #2 until he was in 5th grade. (What I didn’t say was we are also on his fourth therapist.) She appeared to be a little stunned. I waited for her to find her words, it took a few seconds, and then she reiterated what I said. We then called my youngest in and she proceeded to have a short “getting to know you” session, and we went about our merry way.

To give some context, my kids are all seen by therapists within the same practice. Child #2 sees the owner of the practice, which is why Child #3’s therapist was familiar with his brother. I met with 2’s therapist later in the week. I mentioned I liked the new therapist and recounted some of our conversation. At which point she says to me you were very patient with 2’s progress in therapy. This shocked me just a little. I DO NOT consider myself a patient person. As a matter of fact, the older I get, I am more likely to walk away then to wait patiently anywhere. This prompted me to think, why was I so patient with him or better yet with her? What was different? The answer is what prompted this Blog.

I do not consider continuing to take my child to therapy year after to year to be an act of patience. I considered it my job as his mother. When he was diagnosed with ADHD I took it upon myself to learn about it. I took the time to learn what is the best treatment and how different treatments can be effective. What I found is play therapy is integral in helping children develop appropriate social skills and manage emotional challenges. Over the years I watched as my son little by little began to incorporate the different techniques he learned in therapy to help him maneuver through the world. Therapy made him accountable for himself in a way nothing else can. It challenged him to take responsibility for his behavior. It also gave him an outlet for his negative emotions. I have watched my child walk into therapy a sulking mess and come out smiling with a new stress bottle or something he made while talking to her. Also, keeping all my kids in therapy keeps me sane. These therapists know my kids and they support me in raising them to be accountable, self-sufficient human beings. I see play therapy like I see treating my son’s asthma or my daughter’s allergies. This is part of keeping them healthy. Mental health is more important than anything else. If your mental health is out of whack you cannot tend to your physical heath. As a matter of fact, you may not even care about your physical health. All of my kids have brains that work differently from the norm. They are not neurotypical and that is OK. With that being said their non-neurotypical brains must function in a world structured for the neurotypical brain. Medication alone will not allow that to happen. They must have the skill set to handle life with or without a pill to assist. Play therapy helps them to develop that skill set.

Contrary to what the title of this Blog may imply, I am not asking you to be patient. Patience is not always appropriate. I am asking you to shift how you see ADHD and other neurological differences. Behaviors that develop naturally for the neurotypical child are not natural or intuitive to non-neurotypical children. As parents we can help some, but the day to day and stress related to just getting out the door sometimes hinders our effectiveness, and unless you are trained psychologist your knowledge base is going to be limited. Consistently taking your child to a therapist is a way to support your child’s development and to obtain effective tools to help your child at home. It also has the additional bonus of confirming you are not crazy and this child is a difficult human being at times.

Being consistent with therapy can be time consuming and expensive. You will be frustrated and tired. It will seem like little progress is being made if any at all. There will be days you and your kids will want to quit, but don’t. Make sure the therapist you are using is a good fit, and if they are not, find one that is a good fit. Be consistent and persistent with regard to your child’s progress. Listen and learn and stay in frequent communication with the therapist. I find emailing to be a good way to let them know what is going on without taking up my child’s therapy time. Look at therapy as the same type of process as your child learning to read, write or even swim. A child does not typically start reading 500 page novels with small print 3 weeks after starting to learn to read and you would not expect that to happen. The same concept works for therapy, your child is learning skills in therapy that are not natural for them. They are hard concepts that take time, maturity and physical development to master. This is why your severely ADHD kid who is bouncing off the wall and has no verbal filter will not be cool as a cucumber 3 weeks into therapy, and I hate to tell you they may never be cool as a cucumber. 2 is not cool calm and collected without medication and we are 8 years into therapy. That being said, he had a few times in school this year where he did not take his medicine and no one notice. While he got absolutely no work accomplished, he had no real behavior issues either. He said he was “acting” like he did not have ADHD. He can only pull that off because of the years and years of therapy giving him the skills to “act normal”.

I leave you with this, the after-school director stopped me to offer support over the summer with my youngest. Her background is in special education and she noticed he had a hard time this year. I shared with her he is just like his brother and sister. As I said that 1 and 2 come calmly walking down the sidewalk looking like completely neurotypical kids. She could barely form a word she was like why, how….? The shock made me chuckle. I shared with her that we did all the right therapies and we are building the same structure around the youngest. It made me feel good to see how far both of them have come, and it motivates me to make sure I do the same thing for my youngest. This journey is long, hard, and stressful, but in the end, it is worth it.

Black ADHD

Growing Kids Means Teaching Adulting

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I started writing this Blog with the idea that my experience could help other people. I didn’t realize it was what I needed to chronical my personal experiences for myself. Throughout my life people have suggested journaling. I have tried and I have never been consistent. Blogging is different. I am a natural “know it all” so sharing my thoughts with other people always motivates me. The wonderful side effect of this is when I look back on my old Blogs I see how far we have come. When you read my Blogs you see what I wrote, and maybe you can infer some things, but the entire story is not there. When I read my Blogs, I know all the feelings that swirled around the incidents that I am accounting. Reading old Blogs is one of the most therapeutic things I can do, if only to see all this work really is working. My kids are doing better. This is particularly helpful at times like this, when we have already had two homework meltdowns since Friday.
We have just finished week 1 of school, and it was amazingly uneventful. We were even on time everyday. (That is a big deal around here.) I have taken a different approach with my older kids this year. I really want to make sure they master organizing themselves. To achieve this goal we sat down this morning for our first group calendaring session. What is that? It means we sat down and went through the online school assignment site and pulled out all assignments due for the next week. We discussed what was completed already and what the status of everything else is right now. Then they were directed to put it in outlook or on their phones with reminders.( I made sure this was done) I wrote down what was told to me about the status of all assignments and when they left emailed the necessary teachers to verify the work they said was turned in, was actually turned in. I hope to make this process a weekly habit. My older kids are now in 8th and 7th grade. It is important they start taking responsibility for their work, and master scheduling themselves. My mindset is shifting from just teaching self-regulation to teaching them how to Adult. This is step 2, organization. Step 1 was self-care. They are now washing their own clothes, preparing their own lunches and breakfast, and are responsible for making sure they have their medication. They are only 5 and 6 years away from me dropping them off at a college campus. It is important to me that they know the basics of taking care of themselves.

Part of me feels like I should have done this when my oldest hit 6th grade, but I was not in the mindset to do it myself. I just got myself back on track with keeping 3 calendars and making sure I write everything down. Step 1 for me was getting myself mentally organized. I used the entire summer to do that. Making sure I had the necessary supplies and reminders to get where I needed to be in a timely manner. We missed a few steps here and there, but overall it worked. Once I got myself back on track, I was able to sit down and devise a plan of action for my kids. First and foremost I am flexible, being too rigid will guarantee everything I plan goes to hell. Additionally, for this to be successful, it is heavily dependent on me being consistent and insisting we create this habit. In the long run it will relieve stress in our household and make sure we take some the responsibility off of me. In the short term it is one more thing to plan.
What are you doing to teach your kids how to Adult?

Kindergarten Will Have to Wait

My 5 ½ year old is repeating Pre-K this year. We decided to wait, because he was not ready to move forward. I am not talking about academically. If it were only academic needs I would have pushed to send him to Kindergarten. We can do tutoring and school work modification to handle academic shortfall. We cannot force a child to mature any faster. This can be an agonizing decision, because as a parent you feel like you are holding your child back. This is not the first time we have done this. My oldest repeated pre-k, she is now in 8th grade and I am very happy with the decision. She is mature in her grade. We have problems related to her ADHD, but her behavior has generally been fine. This experience has made it easier this time around, but starting the school year seeing his friends have moved on and he is staying behind does pull at the heart strings.

The upside is his teacher has already said she expects him to be a leader. He has the same teacher so he already knows the routine and is helping his younger classmates learn it. This year is all about establishing independence and mastering following a routine, plus making sure he is academically sound to move forward. Repeating Pre-K or Kindergarten is not the end of the world. Many parents will tell you that extra year to mature was good for their child. I want to be clear this decision is not the right one for every kid, but I firmly believe it is the right one for my kid.

I was not surprised when the teacher made the recommendation. I had worked closely with the teacher all year, discussing his progress in different programs. He had never been in daycare before and certain things were foreign to him. Additionally, his speech was still lagging and he had a really hard time writing. He started speech in April of 2016, but the other issues I did not know about. I knew he didn’t like writing at home, but I thought he just didn’t want to sit. Not wanting to sit also became an issue. Over the year he participated in several programs to get him ready for Kindergarten and they didn’t work as expected. When the teacher made the recommendation to repeat Pre-k, I discussed it with my husband and the defining point was he is not mature enough. Although it does not seem like it, kindergarten encourages a lot of independence. I had to honestly assess whether or not my child could handle it, and at the time he could not. As a parent with older kids, I have learned maturity is a big deal. It sets the stage for social interactions, following directions and even understanding some lessons being taught. If your child’s brain development is not ready to perform at the required level, the school year can be hell.

To get him ready to excel this year, over this summer we have done two different occupational therapies for two different reasons. One is just for handwriting and the other is to help him with attention and impulse control. He has improved greatly, and will continue his therapy throughout the school year. I am confident he will be ready for Kindergarten when the time comes. When you add the additional support with the additional maturity, hopefully Kindergarten year will be enjoyable for him.

If you are faced with this decision with your child consider the reason for the delay. Listen to the teacher and consult with a mental health professional or pediatrician. Talking it out with a teacher friend will help too. Do what you need to do, so you are comfortable with the decision being made. In the long run, it can give your child much needed room to grow at their own pace. It also means you get one more year with your child at home. The closer I get to my oldest leaving the nest, the more grateful I am for that extra year.

Pray About It!

I have learned two truths about mental health as a mom. 1. Good mental health is essential to being the best parent you can be, and 2. Most of us feel guilty when we make sure that happens. I spend a lot of time talking about the mental health of my kids, but the parenting process has been emotionally taxing for me as a parent. If I were to make a recommendation to a mom planning a pregnancy, I would tell them while you are getting the physical check-up make a stop by a psychologist too. Mothering under the best of conditions is a hard job. When you add on depression or other mental health disorders, what is hard becomes monumental.

I am telling you this from experience. I struggled with depression long before I had a child. I never sought help for it, even at its worst. I believed the mantra pray about it. You know what the answer to my prayers was, “Get help”. To say the least when I became pregnant with my daughter I was not where I needed to be emotionally. When she was born it got worse. I did go to a therapist. I got the diagnosis, but the treatment was just therapy only and that really did not work for me. By the time I was pregnant with my son it was bad. My OB looked at me and immediately put me on medication. We have had ups and downs for many reasons, but I can say parenting kids with their own mental health concerns put mine on the back burner. This is not the right thing, but it is true. We need to do better.

Writing this, admitting this has been a struggle in my life, is hard. If you think greater society looks at mental illness badly, then black people treat it like it is the plague. Depression is a sign of weakness for us. It means you don’t trust God. You are not a strong Black woman. You are choosing to be unhappy. The truth is depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not only emotionally painful, but for many of us it causes physical pain. We often live with joint pain, headaches, and fatigue. Depressed people are also masterful at hiding when they are depressed. An inherent part of the disease is a feeling that no one cares anyway, so why talk about it? I am not saying a chatty person talking to you about being depressed isn’t. They may very well be, but many depressed people hold it in. Which is when depression is dangerous. Those negative thoughts get worse over time.

You have probably read other articles about depression so you know depression is not a fleeting experience. It stays with you. Being sad about something bad happening in your life for a few weeks is not depression. Sadness is an important and good emotion to feel and express. Sadness is a component of being depressed, but it isn’t everything. My suggestion is if you think you are depressed go get an assessment from a psychologist. Not only can they confirm whether or not you are depressed, but help you develop good coping mechanisms to relieve your depression and help prevent future episodes. Any information I am giving here is all from personal experience, not a medical explanation. I know the right terms, because I have learned about the disease. It is important that you seek professional help if you are having a hard time coping emotionally.

Right about now, you would expect some suggestions about how to deal with depression and parent. My only suggestion is seek professional help. You can google all kinds of articles and suggestions on how to deal with depression. I have, and I have found a wonderful natural way to deal with it. I am not sharing. I think the most important thing I did was talk to a therapist. I didn’t do it for long. I don’t like interacting with people in general, and I am picky about who I talk to. I had a therapist I loved, but she left and I didn’t replace her. I think any person dealing with depression should have a some therapy sessions, if only to find out a better way to deal with what is triggering your depression. Remember your ADHD kid is watching you. How you deal with your mental heath sets the stage for how they will deal with theirs as Adults.

At 41 years old I have learned I am not always strong. I am sometimes weak and vulnerable and sometimes I am unstoppable. It depends on the day. I am a human being and all human beings have a weakness. All of us feel emotions. The healthiest thing I have ever done for myself is reject the concept that I have to always be strong, and bear the world on my shoulders. My shoulders are not that broad. I carry my family and I will hold up some friends, but I need to be held up too. I wake up everyday with the idea I am going to do the best I can and if it doesn’t go right, tomorrow is a new day.

I want you know I am a woman of faith. I believe in God and the power of prayer. I believe God sends help in many ways and that includes psychologist and psychiatrist. Many of us think it is ridiculous to just sit and pray for healing of a physical disorder without seeking medical assistance, the same is true of a mental health disorder. You can pray for healing, but also pray for guidance to the right medical professional that God wants to use as a conduit to bless you.

Black ADHD Mom

My Kids Make Me Laugh

Realizing that all my Blogs are complaining about what is wrong with my kids, I decided to do a Blog on what is right. Kids with ADHD are difficult, but there are good things about having a kids with ADHD. They are creative, intelligent, funny, independent, driven, and talented to name a few attributes. As much as kids with ADHD can be the thorn in your side they can also make you hold your sides with laughter. Here is a sample of the comedy my kids bring to my life regularly.

My Daughter, “Chatty Cathy” talks so fast  there are times you cannot understand what she is saying. Oh did I mention she mumbles too. I amuse her more than she amuses me. She finds my absolute frustration with deciphering what she is saying when she is excited to be hilarious. This child somehow manages to be the messiest person in the house and a germaphobe (not a word I know). I am not sure how those go together, but they exist within her. She is also deathly afraid of needles and bugs. So, most of her comedy is around these various irrational fears she has obtained over the years. Yes, I know phobias are not funny, but the foolishness has to be laughed at, to keep from despairing.

Recently, I am driving down the street in my minivan. I suddenly hear child 1 scream. She proceeds to lean back and violently kick the air, “while yelling turn down the windows!!!!” All I see is a foot kick the air out the corner of my eye. I stop the car thinking there must be a wasp or bee in the car. You know something that can actually hurt you. No, it was a gnat. She tried to kick a gnat. After reaming her for dangerously distracting me while I was driving, I had to laugh. It was a gnat. What makes it really funny is she felt defiantly justified for risking an accident, because “You never know a gnat could kill you.” It still makes me laugh.

Child 2 only has one major fear and that is heights. Otherwise, he is your typical hyperactive boy. This means the typical boy child aversion to looking before leaping is magnified tenfold. I was on the phone (using a headset) with a friend and we were discussing that male children often do not think things through. They leap before they look more often than not. My older son is sitting next to me and says well that is insulting. My response was, it is true. I park and run into the store leaving my son in the front seat. Upon returning to the car I do not see him in the front seat. Initially, I thought he had jumped into the back of the van. No. As I move closer to the van I see short skinny legs sticking straight up in the front seat. Having been this child’s mother for the last 11 plus years, I already knew what happened. As I move closer I can see my son is upside down and stuck. I open the car door:

Me: “What are you doing?”

Child 2: “I wanted to hang upside down, but I got stuck.”

Me: “ Did you think that through?” ( I have not helped yet, just laughing)

Child 2: “No, I didn’t.”

Me: “Now, you see what mean?”

Child 2: (Goofy Smile) “Yes, I do.”

Yes, it was obvious if he laid down like that he would not be able to get up. He did it anyway without thinking. So after I laughed for thirty seconds to a minute I helped him sit up straight. Yes, I openly continued to laugh at him after helping him up. Stupidity does not garner sympathy from me. He hasn’t done it again, so far.

Last but not least child 3. This one makes me laugh daily. First of all he is very aware he is the smallest and therefore he must defend himself from those giant aggressors. This past Saturday, my middle child was messing with his little brother. Child 3 had a balloon and Child 2 was pretending to take it and pop it. Well, the middle child went a little too far. I hear the child 3 start to cry and I come down stairs. Child 3 is completely unharmed and mad as hell. Child 2 looks like a cat beat the hell out his face. He is all scratched up. I ask what happened and I get the following story:

Child 2: “I was messing with him and I took his balloon and said I was going to pop it. He then jumps and starts attacking me. “

Child 3: “I attacked him and then he threw me on my back.”

Child 2: “I had to flip him on his back to get him off of me.”

Me to Child 2: “Stop messing with your brother.”

Child 3 almost from birth has defended himself against the older two. His first words were “stop it”. He is very clear of his boundaries. That being said he takes great pleasure in torturing his brother. He likes to sing until it gets on his brothers nerves and when asked to stop he says “I am just singing, I am not bothering you.” You can see the mischief in his eyes as Child 2 turns into a raving lunatic, because it is driving his sensory processing disorder crazy. I do stop it, but I wait a while. Child 2 dishes out a lot of torture and annoying behavior. He can get it back every once in a while. Plus, it is a way for me to demand that child 2 use self-control. His brother is only five.

Every day my kids do funny crazy things. They are driving me nuts, but there are some things that you just have to laugh at, even if it is after the fact. Try to spend more time thinking about the joy they bring than the trouble they cause. What did your kids do to make you laugh today?

Black ADHD Mom

 

 

Having a Teenager With ADHD Is “Interesting”

 

When you have a kids the first thing you are warned about are the newborn weeks. Sleepless nights, stressful days, and difficulty starting breastfeeding are some of the nightmare scenarios fellow parents warn you about. I found the newborns weeks to be fine. My babies were good sleepers and were generally easy to nurse. The second period they warn you about are the teen years. As of late 2016 my oldest child started her journey into the teen years and well we have had a rough start.

What new challenges am I facing that I wasn’t before? Well, to be honest, not much changed initially. My daughter has always been resistant to taking her medicine and she has always done things her way. The biggest issue is her growing independence is in conflict with her need for additional support. She recognizes being thirteen comes with additional responsibilities and she consciously wants to attack them, but that damn executive functioning deficit is kicking her butt. Add on the fact her natural personality is to be a strong, independent, “over” confident human being, and you have a recipe for academic disaster.

How am I attacking this? Well, ummm, you see…. I can only put out one fire at a time. I am demanding accountability while trying to provided “unwanted” support. Helping her is like trying to treat an injured animal. She knows she is struggling, but she thinks she will be locked in a cage if I or her teachers realize she needs help, and telling her otherwise falls on deaf ears. All of these additional concerns are accompanied by the general teenage mindset that being different is bad.

This is very different from when I started this ADHD journey. At the beginning I had no clue how to deal with ADHD at all. I did not know how to help my kids cope and I had a steep learning curve and a lot of help getting there. I still have help, but how do you support someone who does not let you know they need support, or when you give support they shut down?

This Blog is not full of solutions as I have just really started addressing the problem. We will come to a solution that will work for her, but if you are finding that all the support systems that were in place in 5th grade seem to be useless moving forward, you are not alone.

 

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

There’s  A Pill For That

This Blog is a little bit of a vent. I hate the fact that when faced with a problem the go to solution for the medical community is adding a pill. Yes, I know that is what they do, but that is not the only solution. I do not consider my stance as a contradiction to my behavior with regard to medicating my children. I do believe ADHD is a true medical condition and it is appropriately treated with medications. That being said, I also believe there are effective non-medicinal alternatives that can work for many people. Where I have a problem is when we start medicating the side effects of the medication they are already taking.

Let me explain where my frustration begins. I took my son to the doctor for a standard medication appointment. During the appointment the doctor inquired about irritability in the afternoon. I indicated, he is very irritable when the medication wears off. The doctor then said she would prescribe X medication which could help with this irritability. We were dealing with a lot of issues and although I was familiar with the medication I am very hesitant to add to my son’s already lengthy medication needs. He is asthmatic, ADHD, and other concerns. We are dealing with a lot. A little shocked an unable to clearly articulate my concerns I accepted the prescription and it was filled. As I thought about it for a few days I decided not to start it. The reason for this is my mommy senses (like Spidey senses) says this is a bad idea, and I have learned over the years to trust those mommy senses more than I trust just about anything else, when it comes to my kids.

Let me be clear I do not think this particular doctor is trying to drug my child into submission. I honestly think she is trying to be helpful. The issues is, we have different philosophies when it comes to how to address these issues. My perspective is dealing with the irritability comes with the territory when my child is taking the stimulant medication. Every medication has risk and side effects. I am looking at this from the perspective of what is the cost/benefit ratio for my kid if I add this new medicine. Benefit, I potentially reduce the side effects of the medication he is already taking. Costs, I risk additional (possibly worse) side effects, I risk potential adverse drug interactions because he takes several medications, I add a medication when he is already resistant to taking medicine, and lastly I am not comfortable with him taking it. I am sure a physician could give me very good explanations for the first three costs I listed, but the last and most important can only be dismissed by me. That one benefit is not enough for me to overlook my uneasiness about the new medication.

I guess the question remains if the side effect is enough to be notable; what am I going to do about it? The answer is I am going to do the same thing I have done in the last five years. I am going to make sure he eats a good breakfast and snack at home, has a break before starting homework, encourage him to go outside an walk, run, or ride his bike, and I remind him that even if he feels cruddy he is in control and responsible for his behavior. ADHD does not absolve a child from responsibility. If anything, it puts a greater responsibility for them to consciously exert self-control whenever possible.

 

How do you deal with medication side effects with your kids?

 

Black ADHD Mom