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

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

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

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

VALIDATION NOT NEEDED BUT HELPFUL

I have struggled over the last week to find something to write about and one of my really good friends called me last night to say keep doing what you are doing. She conveys the following story:

There was a ten year old boy who has a diagnosis of ADHD, he is going to fifth grade. He does not know letter sounds, which means he could not read. The teacher from the previous year realized he could not read, and told him if he is not a behavior problem he will move to the next grade. The child is being brought to a tutor to assist him academically, by a church member. The parents have not shown-up for any tutoring sessions for this child. The only treatment they are aware the child is receiving is daily cod liver oil.

I am not saying the parents of this child are not involved, but from the state of the child that is what it appears. There are so many reasons why this child may be in the state he is in, but it does boil down to someone missing the boat.

This is a snap shot into what things could be like for my son if I did not do what I do. I am not a perfect parent. I miss things. I forget things. We don’t do work every day. I don’t live a perfectly organized life. What we do is try to do better. We try to master necessary life skills, and I bring people on board to help me do the things I need to do for my children. This snap shot is motivation to keep working. Many times I look at my son, and I feel like nothing I do makes a difference. There are days, where meltdowns and over-reactions are just a way of life. I worry about social interaction, self-regulation, medication side effects, and who his new teacher will be in the fall.

I am so focused on how far he has to go, I have forgotten how far he has come. I have forgotten my first grader had a terrible time learning to read and write. Math seemed impossible and he spent most of the day under a desk. My Kindergartener who was so introverted the teacher could not assess what he had learned for the year, and my Pre-K child who had to be carried in the door in a football hold. I now have my rising fifth grader whose only modified subject is Math. He passed all of his classes and many with an A or B. He had emotional problems at the beginning of the year, but he ended the year on a high note. He has come a long way. We have a long way to go, but I feel blessed we can see significant progress.

No, I did not ask for validation, but maybe it was needed. It changed my perspective on my child and maybe I see more good than bad because of it.