You Want To Use Alternative Treatments, but You Don’t Know Where to Start

There are a lot of parents who are rightfully hesitant about using prescription medications on their young child. I understand that, because I don’t particularly like it myself. Many of these parents look to more holistic approaches. This can range from using supplements to give your child a break from the meds, which we do, or using them as a method of completely managing your child’s concerns. This also includes specific diets, using essential oils, meditation and many other ideas.

As I have said before we do use medication, but we also use supplements. If you do an internet search about ADHD you will find many, many suggestions about which supplements are effective to help treat the disorder. If you search long enough a few consistently pop up, they are Omega 3, B vitamins, Magnesium and Zinc. If you do a search for sleep problems, which are common with kids with ADHD, you find melatonin which has saved many an ADHD parent some sleepless nights. There are more, but these are the ones that come up the most. It would seem to be a simple process give the kids the supplement and no need for meds, but as you have learned by following this blog nothing when dealing with mental health and learning differences is simple. If you are going to choose this road there are a few things to consider.

  1. This can be expensive.
  2. It takes time to work so you must be patient.
  3. You must be prepared to be painfully consistent with the supplements.

If those three things do not deter you then the first thing you should do is talk to your child’s treating physician regarding the use of supplements. It is safer if the doctor is on board. If you are just choosing a Psychiatrist try to find one that supports supplementation. They do exist. The doctor can give some guidance, but you are also going to need to do research on your own. I have books on how to naturally treat disease, I have done many internet searches, and I have read books specifically for managing ADHD including one for treating ADHD without medication.

I want to take a moment to talk about safety. Many people look at a supplement and assume because it is “natural” it cannot hurt. Well a rattlesnake is natural, but its bite will kill you. (Extreme I know, but you get the point) As you start taking the time to learn about this you will find, some of these supplements do not play well together or with others ie prescription meds. This is why it is important all treating physicians are aware of everything you are giving your child. You don’t want to deal with an adverse reaction unnecessarily. Additionally, like any other substance there is a risk of allergy.

What if the doctor is not on board with helping with the supplementation? There are many parents that do this without a doctor’s assistance successfully, but do not hide that you are giving them to your child from the physician. If the physician is truly against it, you may want to find a more supportive physician.

It is also important you know what a supplement is supposed to do. It will help you decide if that is a supplement you want to try.  I give my kids magnesium. It has a calming effect on them. That in conjunction with some physical activity can make my day easier. It is not enough to get them through a stressful day of school, but it is enough to get through homework or a Saturday cleaning the house. This saves me from having to give my kids a booster dose of the stimulant medication or stimulants on the weekend.

Let’s say you have done your research. The doctor is on board. You know what supplements you want to try and you have set a weekend start date. The day arrives you proudly wake up that morning to give your child this wonderful alternative to the medication and your kid gags on the supplement, refuses to take it, or has an all-out meltdown. So here is where the rubber meets the road per se and this is also where this gets expensive. I intentionally failed to mention before this many supplements are disgusting. I would suggest before you give your child anything taste it, smell it, and look at it first. If it makes you gag odds are it will make your kid gag.  Also, if your child has issues with sensory processing, texture and taste may be an issue which may further hinder your goals. You may go through a lot of trial and error and a lot of wasted supplement just to get to something they will take consistently, without world war three erupting to make it happen. Then you have wait and see if it works. If it doesn’t work you start over.

If the thought of giving your child a supplement still unsettles you look into making smoothies or juicing to treat ADHD as well. I have a few smoothie and juicing books and many have recipes to help with ADHD. They include fruits, vegetables, and seeds rich in the previously mentioned nutrients. That does not work for us, because my kids do not like smoothies or fresh juice, but I did try it.

I have seen information about parents having some success with a gluten free diet for their ADHD kid. We cannot do that, because many of the gluten free products are nut based and my middle child has a peanut/treenut allergy. However, if it is an option for you it may be worth looking into.

In addition to everything else aroma therapy is an effective and relatively safe way to help with ADHD. There are many oils that help with sleep and even concentration. Lavender oil in a warm bath can do wonders to help relax a tense child. I have also put it in an oil burner to scent the room before bed.

The last and best natural treatment for ADHD is…………EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE. I have eluded to it before, but physical activity is the single most effective natural treatment of ADHD I have ever seen. When my kids come home from track or gymnastics you would think they took a second dose of their ADHD medication. They are calm and easier to deal with. When they are not going to practice they can take bike rides, and walks and maybe even jumping jacks and push-ups in the house if they cannot get out. Physical activity along with a balanced healthy diet will make a difference.

There are so many methods I have not tried and I have not listed here. I hope this can give you a jumping off point for you to learn about supplements and other alternative treatments that may work in your home.

 

Black ADHD Mom

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

I WRITE BECAUSE:

I guess many people may be wondering why I am writing this down. I am sure many parents out there are thinking I am somehow violating my kid’s privacy by sharing all of this information. The truth is what I share isn’t necessarily private. The fact my daughter doesn’t stop talking and cannot organize her way out of a paper bag is public knowledge, because it shows up every day as she tries to function. The fact my son has difficulty with emotional control and gets frustrated easily is public knowledge. What is not public knowledge is why. They have a real medical condition that makes it hard for them to do normal executive functioning activities every day. Lack of sleep, illness, or a change in schedule can be disastrous for them. I don’t believe I should feel ashamed that my kids are different from other kids. No one would tell a parent of a child with a physical disability to hide the fact the child has a problem, but people will post a meme on Facebook with the picture of a belt saying “The original ADHD medicine.” Too often thought processes like this hinder a child trying to cope with ADHD. I am writing so people who do not live with this disorder can see that it is beyond telling a child to sit down and obey. I am writing so parents who live with this disorder realize there is someone else out here who understands. I am also writing, because it helps me step back and see how far we have come.

Black ADHD Mom

LAST WEEK WAS DIFFICULT BUT I AM COUNTING MY BLESSINGS.

Last week starting Monday was difficult. A lot went wrong and by Thursday my stress level was beyond reason. I am a woman of faith, and by Thursday I let go and let God and moved on. If you are not a person of faith, this is not an attempt to convert you or make you believe as I do. This is how I handled things. It is also why I will not go into the details of what went wrong. I trust God will work things out. However, in the midst of all that was wrong I was able to see something was very right.

I have said before I love my kid’s school, but an experience a family member is having with another school made me love it even more, especially the principle. This woman lives the philosophy every child can learn. For the purposes of this I am going to refer to her as Mrs. C. Mrs. C came to the school when my son was in Kindergarten. This was a God send for me, but I did not know it at the time. She is a little Italian woman from New Jersey not a lot older than myself, but a presence when she enters a room. Initially things felt very distant. During this time my son and daughter were both difficult in their own ways, and I was out of sorts. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan and this was our first, and only, deployment so things were out off. Over the course of three years Mrs. C along with some wonderful teachers taught me how to advocate for my son. They offered options to me. They guided me through the process of setting up accommodations. His Pre-k teacher helped me recognize his sensory processing disorder and indirectly guided me to his play therapist. (She was recommended by the coordinator of a program recommended by the Pre-K teacher). When I wanted to homeschool my son for a semester to help him through a rough time Mrs. C helped me with that and had a teacher assigned.

I don’t press for personal information about teachers. It is not my business, but Mrs. C shared information with me regarding her parenting journey which let me know she understood mine. With every teacher change Mrs. C is available to address questions and concerns. She has attended accommodation meetings and made sure they went smoothly. I am not naïve. I know her presence at my son’s accommodation meetings were as much to protect the school should they need to ask him to leave as it was to help, but my point is she didn’t make me feel that way.

It is not often you run into someone who wants to legitimately help you and your children succeed. I have been blessed to have so many good people in my life to give me a leg up and guide me through this journey of parenting my different kids. I am grateful to God for them. Without them I am not sure I could handle this juggling act that is parenthood too well.

BLACK ADHD MOM

WHY IS MEDICATION TABOO?

I have said before we medicate. Have you noticed parents are almost apologetic when they admit to medicating ADHD symptoms? The level of animosity people feel towards medication to treat the symptoms was initially shocking. It would not be socially acceptable to look down on parents who give their kids medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, a broken arm, fever or cold. When it comes to a cold we medicate mostly for comfort. Typically, in regards to treating a cold, parents agree making sure the child can rest comfortably and recover outweighs any risk related to giving medication. Every medication I have seen comes with a side effect list, and therefore carries risk. However, when we talk about mental health and behavior problems everyone becomes a Holistic expert. “I give my kid this and that, because I will not medicate my child.”

I do use supplements. I have taken the time to learn and teach myself what supplements are considered helpful in treating ADHD. My kids are seen by a psychiatrist who supports the use of supplements and guides you in their usage, but who will also help you medicate when necessary. She has taken the time to educate herself as a medical professional, and mother, on how supplements may help with brain function. This is by no means intended to bash the use of natural alternatives to help with ADHD. That being said, ADHD is a very real condition, and just like there are cases where diabetes and other disorders may be treated with diet only there are also times when medication is necessary. The same is true of ADHD, there are times when a Holistic approach works wonders, but there are also times when medication is necessary. I refuse to feel guilty, because medication is necessary for my kids right now. I have had it said to me by other parents, “I will not do that to my child.” As if giving medicine is akin to killing them. Let’s look at it logically. If exercise and dietary changes, supplementation, clear defined structure, and making sure they get enough sleep only has a minimal effect on a child’s ability to control ADHD symptoms during school, doesn’t medication seem warranted? What if the parent is someone who cannot do all of those things? Supplements are expensive, not all parents can afford them. The parent may not have the time or ability to successfully implement all of the aforementioned interventions. Does that mean the parent does not care about their child? No, it doesn’t. It means what works for one family doesn’t work for another, and that is OK.

At the end of the day how I deal with my child’s concerns is my decision. I am not a big fan of the side effects and issues that arise from the use of medication, however at this time, that it is the most effective way to ensure my children’s academic success. We continue to seek and try new methods and pray maturity will help with management. Bottom line, I think parents should see medication as tool to use in your arsenal to help their child achieve success, and they should not feel a need to explain why they have chosen that tool over a more natural approach. This is a complex process that requires more than one approach to ensure success.

I want to leave you with a question raised in the book “Raising Boys with ADHD” by: James W. Forgan Ph.D and Mary Anne Richey. The Book is quoting a physician who indicates he is often asked what is the risk of medicating my child? (Not an exact quote) The doctor turns the question around and ask what are the risks if you do not medicate your child? (not an exact quote) This one question and how the doctor elaborated on the answer made me see medicating my child differently.

BLACK ADHD MOM

HAVE YOU EVERY HAD A ROOT CANAL? (OR SOMETHING ELSE DONE YOU REALLY WOULD RATHER AVOID)

You know the dread you feel before a root canal? That underlying fear of just how bad you think it is going to be, but then there is this sense of urgency to get it over with. That I how I feel about the next two weeks. My kids start school on Thursday. I love their school. I have already had our accommodations meeting for the beginning of the year. I am generally comfortable with what we have in place, and what I am not comfortable with just have to play out, and I have already put my game plan in place. Let me anticipate the next question. “Why are you dreading the next two weeks? I read your last Blog and you seem to be on top of things.”

I am dreading that point when all my careful well thought out planning falls through and everything goes straight to hell; while I figure out how to deal with the reality of having a middle schooler, 5th grader and a 3 year old. Experience has taught me this usually occurs after the first two weeks of school. So let me break down how my years tend to go.

Phase 1: The Honeymoon phase

This is where the kids love their teacher, no new work yet, and they still like their classmates. The kids have not seen most of these individuals all summer and they are planning to do all sorts of fun things together. Including year long extracurricular activities, which will inevitably result in them hating each other by May, because they never get a break from each other. This is also the time when you have very few behavior troubles or difficulty getting homework done. You also manage to get out of the door on time during this phase of the school year. This last OOOOOOH about a week. This is usually the phase we do the accommodation meetings in this phase.

Phase 2: The Happy to Be Back to School

   This is different from the Honeymoon phase. They still like the teacher, but homework and real school work has started. If we are going to see behavior problems the signs start right about here. Now, if your kid is as over achiever, like my oldest son, he or she will try to see just what the teacher is made of very quickly. If you have a more passive aggressive child, my daughter, we see such behavior as excessive bathroom breaks, and completely zoning out during teaching time. Since I have learned the hard way how they approach things the teachers get warnings at the beginning of the year. The problem I am running into, and dreading, is the teacher often times does not listen. Don’t get me wrong. They listen to me when I am saying it, but usually they are in the middle of the honeymoon phase and child 1 and child 2 are still so sweet. This occurs more often with my daughter than my son, because she is not technically a behavior problem. (My son practically has a warning label. Generally teachers heed warning labels.) With my daughter the issue that arises is her behaviors are a problem for her academic progression just as my son’s are. This phase usually ends around October, which is also when I have meeting number 2 for the year.

Phase 3: Is it time for Christmas Break yet?

 By the end of October, I am in need of  a break from getting up and so do my kids. They are tired of their teachers, and honestly their teachers are tired of them. We need the break and this is where I see missing work, we end up being late. We are usually in full swing with extra-curricular activities. Honestly, we are all feeling a little over stretched once we hit November. By Thanksgiving and Christmas we are ready to stop going to school.

Phase 4: Refreshed and ready to go.

If I had to pick my favorite time of the school year it is January to May. The teachers are re-energized. The kids are re-energized. There are usually a lot of fun activities in the second semester. My kids do testing at the top of the school year so the end of the year is all about learning new things. My kids have adjusted to their teachers and classmates. The school weeks go a lot smoother and frankly are much more enjoyable. It would be perfect if the weather were better in January and February. I would say this is the most tiring part of the year, many summer sports start training in March or April, but it seems to be when everything comes together for my kids.

Phase 5: May and early June we are sick of Y’all!!!!!!

I have said before I have 1 extroverted child, 1 introverted child, and 1 somewhere in between (not in school). The extrovert has usually annoyed her introvert friends so bad they are sick of her, and she is sick of her extrovert friends. That fighting for the lime light thing has gotten old. There are few exceptions. My introverted child is simply sick of everyone. I mean everyone. Classmates, teachers, me, siblings, therapist. He is just a pill for about a month and a half until he is completely off his stimulate meds. I am also sick of everyone and ready to cocoon in my house for the summer until I emerge again in August. This is the end of the year. I have finally gotten to the point where the end of the year is a relief and I don’t dread it, because we pretty much shut down for the summer. I give myself and my kids a running break. We do some enrichment work and we zone out. Why? Because the circus starts back soon enough.