Why Isn’t Anything Working?

I want to share a story with you. My son’s 4th grade year was hell on wheels. It was so bad the sound of the phone ringing made my heart race and if I saw the number of the school pop up my heart sank. I would answer the phone and instead of hello I wanted to say “what’s wrong”. My son lived under the table and remained in a state of I hate the world mode. We were on the brink of my son getting put out of this school. It took a lot of commitment on my part to keep him in school and to get him on the right track. We worked hard and by the end of the year he was doing better. Then we hit 5th grade and it was like I had a different child. I kept waiting for the phone to ring with a problem and it didn’t. No, the year has not been perfect. We have had some stumbles, but nothing like previous years. In early February I received a call from the guidance counselor. She tells me my son walked to the back of the class while working on a lesson and the teacher called her to get him. The guidance counselor pulled him from class to the library. She said she was allowing him to sit for a minute and she would try to talk to him, but she just wanted me to know what was going on. The counselor called again maybe 10 minutes later and indicated my son was working on his work with no problem. The counselor said she talked to my son and asked what was wrong. He indicated he became overwhelmed and needed to take a break from the work, but was ready to start working again. This is a huge success for him. He used the coping skills he was taught. We have spent the last 5 years teaching him if he gets overwhelmed he must go to the designated place in the class to calm down; he needs to let the teacher or another responsible adult know the problem if asked, and recover as fast as possible so he can get back on track with his day. He did all of this and was able to return to his class within a reasonable time with the designated assignment completed.

All of the work, setbacks, bad days, temper tantrums, feelings of helplessness, advocating, and even blood sweat and tears culminated into this one incident which showed me I am on the right track. I know we will still have bad days, but now we have far more good than bad. We have far more success stories than disappointments.

I guess the million dollar question is “What got us to this point?” I don’t think it is one thing. I think every kid requires a different formula. This kid’s formula seems to be prayer+ supportive parents + therapy+ the right meds+ supportive school + maturity + time = progress. My daughter’s is different from her brother’s. I will talk about her progress next time.

It is so easy to get discouraged. In the beginning the bad days far outweigh the good. Many days you are doing a lot of running. Whether it is back and forth to school, different therapists, or doctors you are constantly running. With all this running your mindset in the beginning is this will help, but month one and two go by and there is little improvement. Then year one and two go by and you see new problems crop up to address. It feels like you are playing a constant game of whack-a-mole. It is not fun. It is exhausting and many days discouraging. One day you look up and everything has slowed down. You are no longer running 5 days a week to various therapist, schools, and doctors but only one or two. The calls from the school are rare if at all and your evenings, are far less eventful. Then it occurs to you all the running and hard work are working. I want to point out I said “are working” not “have worked”. It is important to remember this is not a once it is better you can stop interventions situation. It is not only your responsibility to get your child on the right track, but to help keep him or her there. Eventually, you hope to get them to a point where any assistance they receive is minimal and they are able to lead generally normal healthy lives. Think about driving a car on the highway. Once you merge into the lane you wish to stay in you don’t straighten the wheel and let go. The whole time you are driving you make minor corrections to keep the car in its lane. The same is true when dealing with learning differences and disabilities you have to help your child stay in their lane. There may come a time when more drastic changes need to be made, but if you have a good team helping you those are not so scary to deal with. This is a process of assessing and re-assessing. We all have our days where we feel like we cannot handle one more setback. If you are in the midst of this process with me, know the work we are putting in for our kids is not in vain. We are giving them the tools to be successful adults.

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

PS: I want to add I realize that my kids are overall healthy kids. They are of normal intelligence. They are verbal, and capable of tending to their day to day needs on an age appropriate level. Not all parents are able to say that. That being said, every child will have successes. Celebrate them. Each child makes progress in their own way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OH DANG!!! THEY SAID MY CHILD HAS ADHD

Now What?!

If you are reading this you probably have a child/children diagnosed with ADHD or some other concern. You may be a veteran Mom or Dad to this world or you may be brand new. Either way you are welcome. In this Blog I am sharing some of my trial by fire experience entering into this world, and my suggestions about how it could have been done better.

My middle son was diagnosed with ADHD first. I wish I could say I did all the things I have suggested in my Blog to begin with, but I didn’t. Trial and error teaches a lot, but it also results in a lot of mistakes. My son’s ADHD diagnosis was by chance. He was not being tested for that specifically, we were testing for his academic ability. Through the test he was so distracted, energetic, and inattentive the ADHD diagnosis came along with the other test results. I was not surprised by the diagnosis of ADHD, but I also felt at a loss. I had the advantage of my son being in play therapy to help with sensory problems and overall behavioral concerns, but I honestly did not know what to do. The therapist was helpful, but I did not know what questions to ask to take full advantage of her assistance. I was walking in completely new territory and I had no idea how to navigate it. Getting the diagnosis is a relief on one hand and a punch in the gut on the other. No one wants to be told there is something wrong with their kid. So what did I do? I stumbled blindly. I was kindly guided by teachers, therapists, the guidance counselor, physicians, and the principle through the beginning of a very hard journey. Once I got over being overwhelmed, the intellectual in me kicked in and I started buying book after book. I started searching the web. I started teaching myself about my kid’s disorder. I recognized the symptoms of ADHD in my oldest as well, but we delayed testing to make sure it was not a developmental delay. I am still comfortable with that decision. It was right for her. She was not diagnosed until the end of her 2nd grade year.

By the time my son was in 4th grade I thought we were going fairly well. He was having some trouble at the end of his third grade year, but he made a lot of improvements from the beginning of the year. I did not realize things would get much worse before they got better. Although, I think I handled the first few years of school as well as I could there are some things I would do differently. If I were given the option of changing only one thing I would choose to ask more questions about what it meant for my child to be ADHD. I had questions, but I don’t think they were very good ones. Instead of asking questions I took on the mantle of teaching myself about the disorder, which is important and I encourage any parent or person newly diagnosed to do the same. The problem with only relying on you is you begin to isolate yourself. You don’t reach out to other parents and professionals to get the support you NEED to be the best parent for your child. Yes, you NEED the support. It is not ancillary or icing on the cake. Support is a big deal. There are parents who do not have that, I have been there, and it is hard. It weighs on you like a ton of bricks. You need support so you can be a healthy happy parent and able to give 100% to your child. Hindsight is 20/20 so I know there are things I could have done better in the beginning. There are many things I can do better now. ( I am working on those.) The following are some questions I wish I asked when I received the diagnosis and took notes when I was given the answers. This would have made my own research easier and more directed and would have help to reduce my overall anxiety level when dealing with this.

  1. What type of ADHD does my kid have? This makes a big difference. The types in general are called inattentive type, hyperactive type, and combination type. Have the diagnosing therapist explain the types and what they mean. Knowing which type of ADHD your child has will effect what support he or she needs to have in place to help them succeed. My two diagnosed kids are two different types and require different interventions at times.
  2. What does this mean for my kid’s development? I am going to warn you the therapist may start with that is a really broad question and there are a lot of possibilities. Ask them to give you the cliff notes version and based upon the assessment of your kid what are the most likely challenges they would expect.
  3. What can I do at home to help my child with this? You may need to change how you function at home. ADHD kids need more structure than average and they need clear guidelines.
  4. What are the approaches to treatment and what in the therapist opinion is the best approach? Many parents already have some idea how they feel about medication and/or therapy. I would suggest throwing all you have heard aside, listen and learn about it. If you are still pro or con to the medication or therapy I understand, but make that a well informed decision.

If you ask these questions in the initial meeting you will probably be overwhelmed with information. It is OK to be overwhelmed. Go home and talk to your fellow parent about it. If you do not have a fellow parent get someone with a listening ear, a closed mouth (no gossips), and capable of helping you work out the problem. It is OK to be mad, sad, relieved or whatever else you may feel. It is not OK to do nothing.

These questions are not exhaustive. If you are reading this, but dealing with a different disorder I am sure they can be changed to apply. Bottom line to this is start building a positive relationship with as many people as possible who are involved with caring for your child. Educate yourself about what is going so you can educate your child and others. Don’t let others make you feel like you are doing too much. Every time you lay a brick to serve as support for your child you are reinforcing his or her foundation, and you will see the results. I am interested to learn what you would do differently and why when dealing with your child’s ADHD or other developmental disorders?

Black ADHD MOM

We Need to Talk More

I learned yesterday, my first cousin has a son who is also ADHD. I discovered this when I posted something on Facebook about it and she shared it with a comment. To be honest she may have mentioned it before, but I don’t remember. (still bad I know) It struck me that someone who I know and love could be sharing a similar life experience and I am completely unaware. Actually, we do not keep in touch by phone or see each other as much as we should. Our contact is primarily through Facebook, but I know she cares about me and I care about her. However, the thought crossed my mind, we could probably support each other a lot if we shared our experiences with each other. Living with a kid with differences it not always fun. It can be isolating at times. I know there are other parents out there dealing with this, but it is not something that comes up in casual conversation. When your kid is bouncing off the walls, saying he or she has ADHD sounds much more like an excuse than an explanation.

I find being around moms who have similar kids is almost relaxing. If your kid runs down the hall screaming for no apparent reason, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, those moms understand. If your kid crawls under the table to get away from the overwhelming presence of the five humans in the room, fellow special moms do not react. If your kid talks so fast it seems to take an interpreter to understand what she says, they get that too. The problem is you cannot find these fellow “warrior moms” for ADHD kids too often. Unlike Autism or other developmental disorders ADHD is not obvious as a problem. To the average person it just looks like a child with no boundaries or discipline. It took me a while to see myself in the category of “warrior mom” per se. ( I stole that term. It is not mine.) I look at moms of kids with Autism, ODD, and other behavior and developmental problems and I think my world is not like theirs, so what am I complaining about? Then I joined a Facebook group of Warrior Moms from my college. The group has such an array of women dealing with so many different diagnosis with their kids, but I saw many of the problems and concerns I was dealing with, they were too. I saw that although my kids do not have problems to the same extent as some other kids they are enough and I need to acknowledge them and how it effects our family. ADHD is not a cop out disease it is real with real consequences.

So how does this relate to not talking more about it in the Black community? In many Black families talking about a problem causing poor behavior is simply not done. If you do say something is wrong someone has a response somewhere along the lines of you just need to discipline them more, to put it nicely. It is important for many Black people to get over this notion that we do not talk about something being “wrong” with our kids or accept its effects on behavior, particularly when it is regarding mental health. I know that statement is a clear stereotype and I am sticking to it. Not all Black people are silent clearly, you are reading this Blog, but too many of us are. We act like the world is going to explode if we tell people our kids are different. I think the culture within our community is such that we never think to step back and say do not call my kid bad. He is not bad. He is different. (BTW I have a personal issue with calling a kid bad anyway, but that is totally off topic.) He or she is high energy. They think fast. Why does the description of my kid have to be negative? I find when other moms, particularly Black moms, realize how open I am they start talking too, but it always feels like some secret society meeting at first. Many moms whisper my son or daughter has ADHD too. Thinking about it makes me want to say they have ADHD they are not serial killers. I am not saying I yell it from the rafters, but let’s just say if you know my kids the realization is not shocking.

So what is my solution? I don’t have one. As far my cousin, I am sending her this Blog and a few others I have done. If she wants to touch base and share experiences great. If not I am good with that too, but at least she will know she is not alone in this journey.

 

Black ADHD Mom

When Chronic Conditions Collide

I have not done a BLOG since October or November 2015. I didn’t have much to write about. Things are going well and other than being stuck in the house with 3 kids due to snow we are good. Since not much beyond the day to day complaints of parenting kids with ADHD has gone on I have struggled with what to talk about. Then my middle child had a severe Asthma episode. The thought occurred to me that there has to be more parents other than myself who are not only dealing with ADHD and other mental health concerns but physical problems like Asthma, Allergies and anything else you may name.

It is a frustrating balancing act. Sometimes dealing with the illness itself and the medicine to treat the illness it can conflict with the treatment of ADHD or anything else along those lines. Let’s use Asthma, because that is what I know. I and all three of my kids are asthmatic. My older kids and I have all taken either prednisone or prednisolone which is a steroid mediation used to treat severe Asthma attacks in adults and children. (I am not a medical professional, just a lifelong asthmatic.) One of the side effects is that it can be mood altering, causing severe irritability as well as other symptoms.

My symptoms were so bad on the medicine, when I did work outside of the house, I would warn my supervisor I was sick and irritable. I was snappy and made it a point to minimize contact with other human beings while on the medication. As crappy as the medicine made me feel it was no excuse for unprofessionalism. My daughter’s reaction to it is not as bad, but my oldest son’s is. If it has not occurred to you, in a child who already has intense emotional reactions, sensory processing problems and difficulty with emotional control this medication is a time bomb waiting to happen. I am not a fan of the medicine, because it has other unpleasant side effects in addition to the mood altering problems, but when it is necessary he takes it. This often times results in a sullen melancholy kid.

This time he did very well. He managed to stay out of trouble, get his work done and control his emotions. He had one hiccup and that was with me, but we calmed that down quickly. I am looking at it as a testament to how well he is responding to the measures we are taking to treat his ADHD and other problems. Although, he did well this time, I will always worry every time he has to take the medicine. I guess it is just one more aspect to the balancing act of parenting kids with ADHD.

 

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH STRANGERS

Do you let strangers correct your child’s behavior? If they are doing something wrong does it bother you for someone they do not know to say, politely, be careful, watch out, or stop you may get hurt. In general I don’t mind. If another mother catches something while my head is turned for the most part, if done with respect, I really don’t care. There have been a few exceptions one being in a grocery store where I ended up going off on an older woman, because she crossed the line from be careful to additionally chastising my child and she met “mama bear”. Anyone who knows me knows you don’t want to meet her.

This weekend I had an encounter with a woman without boundaries. She thinks she can pull and chastise any child or step in when a parent is reprimanding and “assist”. In this situation she not only attempted to interfere with my husband and I correcting our son, but she pulled a friends child in my care and chastised him for nothing before I fully realized what she was doing. I had already corrected any problem and the kids were not being disruptive. They were being kids. If I weren’t in church and in a peaceful place she probably would have gotten way more than the silent icy brush off she received. I also made it a point to notify my friend of the incident and clarify her son had done nothing wrong and should not be punished.

I want to make something clear, this is not to start a whole tirade about church “mothers” and their lack of boundaries. To those of you who are not familiar with the term “mother” in the church, it refers to older women, usually very active in the church, who have raised their kids. It is meant to be a term used to show respect for these women.

I cannot say that lack of boundaries is a common problem in my church for me. Many of the woman who you would consider a “mother” in the church are very respectful of the boundaries of parenting. However, this incident started me thinking. How should you let someone know they have crossed the line? My friend went so far as to call the woman in question and notify her she was out of line. She was respectful, but firm. I let her know, when she tried to interfere with us, her “help” was not needed. I do agree with the direct method, but how do you get ahead of the issue? With me personally, I make sure I or someone I trust, with a similar parenting style, is taking care of my kid. I am usually present to catch big problems and as I said before minor corrections do not bother me. Children must learn how to take direction from adults who are not their parents. Where I am often concerned is in situations like this past weekend. This person had no clue about my kids or my friend’s. She had no connection and yet felt comfortable taking a hands on approach with our kids. That is not OK. My friend’s son does not have any diagnosis, but he is a 9 year old boy with his own quirks and a strong introvert. My son is ADHD and a strong introvert. These are not the kids to decide you want a sudden bonded relationship. I know my friend’s son knows me and trusts me, but he said the most he has ever said to me on Sunday. Yes, he talks just fine, because he can’t stop running his mouth with my son. I don’t take it personally, I am a strong introvert myself. He connects in other ways, like choosing to sit next to me when his mom isn’t available.

I don’t have a solution for this problem, but I do think parents with different kids are particularly hesitant to allow strangers to correct their kids in any way. There is so much more to dealing with issues of emotional and impulse control than a good talking to. Also, for our kids their misbehavior is typically triggered by other factors. How do you deal with strangers correcting your kid?

The irony of this weekend is all of my kids did extremely well in church. My older son had faith formation which he participated in without incident. All of my kids plus two of my friend’s kids, and all the kids are friends, sat together without major disruptions. My oldest had her faith formation after church which she did well in. My husband took the boys home right after church. We were there for a long time and other than one problem we were gold. All of this without ADHD medication. To me that is a win.

Black ADHD Mom

Schedule is important

I have said before scheduling is important. In my house this includes having the same person making sure everything gets done that needs to get done. I am the primary caretaker of my kids, I also have to work two evening a month. Well for some reason about two weeks out of October were crazy, meaning schedule was shot in addition to my normal evening work. As such I was not as on top of my son as I should and meds were missed. This resulted in one bad week at school. Basically, it was the perfect storm and Cro-Magnon man made a reappearance. The space cadet also had a strong resurgence. We have settled everything down and we are pretty much back on track, but I am sharing this to say we all have set backs. We struggle with schedule every day. The trick is when you get off track to get back on as fast as possible.

Here some suggestions from a person who has a hard time keeping a schedule how to get back on track:

Don’t spend an hour beating yourself up

Too often I get more off schedule because I waste time being frustrated about getting off schedule. No, I don’t sit down and sulk about it, I just get so frustrated I cannot move with purpose and direction. Let it go. If you hustle you can make-up the time and if you don’t the world will not end.

Build in time to waste

If you have a child or children with ADHD they will get off track. Wake them up early enough to compensate for this lost time. My daughter moves slow as molasses on a cold day and she is easily distracted. I wake her up at 5:40 am most days to compensate for her lack of direction. If it is not an issue of waking up in the morning then plan an extra hour into your preparation time.  If you think it takes two hours to get out of the house start moving in that direction 3 to 4 hours early. Warning, even with this you will be late sometimes because ADHD kids can be hard to get moving in the right direction.  We are often late and I think most people would be surprised how early I started. 

Make your kids get ready for the next day the night before

This sounds like a no brainer, but it sounds much easier than it actually is. With evenings many weeks being very busy with homework and extra-curricular activities it is hard to make sure they prepare for the next day, but this is important for your sanity. This step is often missed when I am not the one making sure they get ready for bed, it is missed on my watch too often as well. However, when it is done my mornings go much smoother.

Prepare for your week the weekend before

This is the best tip I have ever had and I wish I thought of it, but I didn’t. I have seen it suggested before and had it suggested by friends. The weekends I am able to plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner, get laundry done and put away, and clean up make my week go smoothly. I think I have managed to do this twice but when it gets done it is great. That is a lot to do, but if you can get a few meals planned, laundry done and get the lunches planned you will be gold.

Build in time to take a break

If you are like most of us wannabe super moms or super dads you run on fumes most days. This is a bad idea. You need a break. Make time to sit down.

I would like to say I do all of these things and my life goes smoothly, but I can’t because that would be a lie. My life is not smooth. Maintaining a schedule is very hard for me and my children, these are some of the things I have found that help me get back on track when we are off.

Black ADHD Mom

Calm

I have not posted a Blog in a while. I have written several, but they didn’t seem to be right so I did not post them. The first quarter of the school year continues to be generally uneventful and I am a little scared to acknowledge that. Years of constant phone calls from the school, not being able to get anything done, and answering the phone with the phrase “Hello, what is wrong?,” have conditioned me to tense up when the number for the school shows up on my phone. This year has not be a perfect year, my daughter is having some difficulty adjusting to middle school, but not much. My son still fights on some homework, but this does not seem outside of the realm of normal to me. The perfect child does not exist, but things are easier.

Now, I can focus on the little one, and getting him ready for school next year. You don’t have time for baby mommy and me classes when mommy has to run to the school every other day to handle a meltdown. He is ready for his own activities and to go to daycare, so he will be ready to join his brother and sister at their school next year. The school goes from Pre-K to 8th grade.

Throughout this journey people kept telling me things would get better. I can’t say that I believed them. Some part of me thought I would always be dealing with the stress and strain of managing meltdowns at home and at school. I thought I would always struggle to give each child what they needed and pray I find a moment to do what I need for me. Now I understand. It does get better. As with any parenting journey there are stumbling blocks and setbacks, but what I realize is as my children mature and I grow as a parent we handle those problems better. We are starting to achieve a balance in the house that works,. (With great emphasis on starting.)

We are a work in progress, and I am now starting to see the fruits of our labor.

Black ADHD Mom