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

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.

Pre-First day of School Jitters

Every year in August I have the pre-first day of school jitters. I worry about how the new school year will go. I worry about how my children will connect with the new teachers. I worry about how they will react to the medication starting again. The start of the new school year is not exciting for me. The start of the new school year is stressful.

This year I am taking things a little at a time. I have already filled out most of the new school year “paperwork”, it was online. I have noted to make my first lunch order on August 17, 2015 in my calendar and I will write the check and put it in my designated folder, yeah I am making a designated folder for back to school. I have already printed out my action plans for asthma and allergies, it goes in the folder. I have already contacted the doctor to get new prescriptions that I need to deliver to the school on day one, inhalers, epi-pens etc.. New uniforms have been ordered and will be here in the next week or so and the ones that fit are washed and put away in the appropriate drawers. The kids are helping to get the house organized, but they do not realize it. With all of this you would think I was an organized person. I am not. I am one of the most disorganized people I know.

It always seems like other moms manage to keep their houses clean, work, handle all school requirements, plan weekly meals, sign up the kids for all extra-curricular activities and build a perfect calendar so it all works together. That or their lying to me. They head some committee, become room parents and still manage to remember all paperwork, money needed for the beginning of the year, and get the kids to school well fed and on time every day. This mom is not me. My goals are much lower. Making it through the first month without a meltdown, too much missing work, or being late every other day. In addition to scheduling beginning of the year accommodation meetings, learning how to be a middle school parent, ordering lunches on time and getting some type of reasonable routine established pretty much sums up my first month goals. Not to mention that whole moving my personal career forward thing also is in the mix.

When I write it down, I realize I manage a lot in addition to all the other things I listed, which are on my responsibility list too. I guess the part I know I am missing is the seamless part. I am a realist. I know what I see is not reality, but the mom that can look perfectly put together while she pushes the baby in the stroller and walks in with her elementary school kid, and I look like crap warmed over, fussing at my kids to move faster and carrying my uncooperative three-year old, makes me feel like I should do more to make my life seamless. Then I realize she may not have to do as much as I do. My mornings are interesting at best. Getting out of the house takes the level of determination, organization (remember I struggle with this), and structure it took me to get out of professional school. Yes, it is that serious. Honestly, it may take more than that, because in professional school I was not married and I did not have any kids. I have to think ahead. If I am one beat behind the whole house of cards falls and I am left starting from the beginning. My next week starts Friday night. Other moms seem so put together and their kids seem so well-behaved while all I see is chaos in my house. It’s not that I care what they think, I care what I think. I would love to feel the calm it appears other mothers have. Yes, I am aware that appearance is really just that, only an appearance. Every person has challenges and difficulties.

I know I am not the only parent who feels this way. I am sharing a few things I am telling myself to keep my expectations realistic:

  1. You are a human being, you require rest, relaxation and self care.
  2. A dropped ball is not a failure, it is a dropped ball pick it up and keep running with it.
  3. Remember why you do what you do. It is for your kids therefore all the stress is worth it.
  4. People cannot help if you do not ask. Communicate what you need so you can apply number 1.
  5. It is perfectly fine to set personal goals outside of what you do for the kids.
  6. It is perfectly fine to be frustrated.
  7. If you manage to get the important stuff on your to do list done, the day was a success.
  8. Make a to do list so you know the day was success.
  9. Your big kids are old enough to take on greater responsibility, make it happen.
  10. Faith and prayer can get you through the toughest of times.

These are things I need to keep in mind for the upcoming school year, and with regard to everything I do. The older I get the more I realize most things are not serious enough to get really upset about. I am trying to relax and enjoy the ride, even though that is not my natural personality. What are you doing to prepare for the upcoming school year?

By: Black ADHD Mom

Yay! You hit the piano key your teacher just told you to push!!!!! (Do we over praise?)

Is there such a thing as too much praise? You know when a parent, of a healthy child of fairly normal development, says “Good job Judy you chewed your food.” or “Good Job Matt you took two steps forward.”(Clearly exaggerated) Is there a point where you can praise a child so much it loses its value? I think so. I was asked specifically by a friend, a music teacher, to blog about this. So I started looking at how I praise my kids. To some parents from the outside it may appear I over praise my kids. I do praise things that are not typically praise worthy. You brought your grade up to a C, you passed all your classes, and you made it through a week without having a meltdown are all praise worthy accomplishments in my home.

So do I over-praise? I would say no, but I can see how it is easy to do, or how another parent may think I overdo it. In this day an age where we are told our kids need to have high self-esteem and it is our job to make sure they are happy care-free kids, sometimes we as parents try too hard to make them feel good about things that they just should do. I think there is a difference between nick picking praise with every little thing and giving praise at milestones. You made a passing grade on a report card, you completed the music book, you moved up in whatever sport, are all milestones which, I think, should be acknowledged. However, every step towards that accomplishment does not necessarily need an Atta boy or Atta girl. The exception to this, in my opinion, is when kids are dealing with sever learning and/or developmental disabilities. The most minor progress may in fact be a milestone for that kid.

Personally, I think my kids need to understand there are things you should do, because it is the right thing to do. You should be an honest person. You should help in the house. You should make good grades. This is why every good grade on a paper does not get recognized. Every good week doesn’t get a good job. You should have good weeks, but if we are coming off a hard transition and I see them recover and excel that will earn praise. I want them to see specific praise as a bonus.

How does this connect to my woes and joys as a mom of kids with ADHD? Well it doesn’t just affect me as an ADHD mom. This is a dilemma all parents have to face. When are you being supportive and encouraging and when are you working towards creating a self-absorbed monster?

Random Affection Crew

My three kids are the “Random Affection Crew.” The self-appointed leader is “Ms. Random Hugger”, my daughter. She will not give me a kiss to save her life, but I can count on a random path blocking hug. She will decided she needs to snuggle out of the blue and commit other overall completely unsolicited random acts of minimum affection. Please note I said unsolicited. A requested hug or kiss, from me, is immediately denied. My oldest son is “Mr. Random Compliments.” I can walk downstairs looking a hot mess, yes a smoking hot mess, and he will say you look beautiful today mommy. He is also my daily source of I love you mommy. Lastly, there is “The Kissing Bandit”, my three year old. He will subject me to random serial kisses either prompted or without prompting. He demands his snuggle time and will completely take offense if you do not take the demanded time to hug and kiss when he want’s you to do so.

Focusing on these aspects of my kids’ personalities helps to keep me aware they are human beings not a disorder. The disorder or disorders are something I have to help them live with, but it does not define the kind of person each one will become.

How often do you ask yourself “What can I say positive about my kids?” I know it seems like a simple question. I mean we love our kids so much we automatically assume we think of them in a positive light, but do we? Have you ever said to a friend, my kids are great little people? I am not talking about being that parent. You know that parent who gave birth to, or fathered, kid perfection. This kid is great at everything and is also the sweetest, most obedient child on the planet. You know the parent you want to call BS on when you see their brilliant kid is still eating dirt at 12, they call their parent a jerk for saying it is time to go, and mumbles cuss words while walking out the door (exaggeration intended). This child is also known as “The second coming.”

No, I am talking about meaningful reflections with fellow parents, WHO WANT TO HEAR IT. I am talking about vocalizing the words I admire the fact my kids do _____________. This doesn’t mean you are pouring over your kid and lavishing them with compliments. I don’t do that and I will not do that, because I think that would make any human being a narcissistic prick. I am talking about challenging yourself to think about the good you see and focus less on the bad. Doing this helps me deal with the more difficult aspects of parenting. Doing this is also very new to me. I found when I started writing this Blog I wrote about all the difficulties dealing with parenting children with ADHD. It made me reflect on how I want to portray my kids to world. Do I want them seen as a conglomerate of difficulties or as complete human beings who are working hard to overcome personal challenges.

I am choosing complete human beings. How about you?

Black ADHD Mom