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

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?

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.

School is Starting Soon. STRESSED!!!!!

A fellow Blogger, a teaching parent, posted a Blog regarding building a good parent/teacher relationship. I appreciated this a lot, because many times the beginning of the year is that awkward getting to know you period. It is really hard to build a relationship with a teacher when you are dealing with the growing pains of your kid’s adjustment to his or her class. The most important quality I have developed is patience with the process, and it is a process. With that I think teachers need to understand that not all teachers are as well meaning. I think parents need to understand not every teacher is out to get your child. Body language, tone of voice and volume all communicate just as much your words. If a parent is tired and overwhelmed tell the teacher, so they know you are not a disinterested parent. If a teacher is at a loss tell the parent, so you can work together to find a solution. I have found the best parent/teacher relationships I have had included open communication and mutual respect. I have linked the Blog below. It is very informative and does a better job than I can to explain how to interact with each other.

http://ateachingparent.com/2015/07/16/2%c2%a2-worth-how-teachers-can-build-positive-parent-teacher-relationships-survey-results-2/

Why I love my, oops, my kid’s therapist

I have said in previous post I do not believe medication is the only technique to manage ADHD, frankly I secretly hate it, but for my kids it is a necessary evil until their brains catch up. One of the things we do to help my son is play therapy. Huh!? Yeah, play therapy. Therapy through play. My son goes to a great one, who can see who he is. She has more positive than negative to tell me, and she helps me see him. What? You mean I need help seeing who my child really is. Yes, I do. Sometimes I am so caught up in the emotions of the week, month, or school year I don’t see the person my little boy is. He is sweet, loving, caring, and adoring of me. She also helps me with my daughter too. Giving me slight guidance when I mention concerns or frustrations dealing with ADHD and puberty. Can you say fun?!!! NOT!!!!!!!! Yeah, that’s old and so am I, get over it. My daughter is sweet and loving too, but way more confrontational.

My son’s therapist meets with him once a week and helps him process his week. The good, the bad, the ugly. She helps him develop social skills, and to process how to better deal with challenges he faced during the week. She also helps him set goals in therapy. I don’t know what his current goals are now, but I know she guides him through them.

She also meets with me before his therapy regularly  to get my perspective and give me hers. This second set of eyes on his development is invaluable. I get an experts understanding of my child’s disorders, from a woman who is a mother and get this, is also Black. I know to the world that may seem small, but there are some cultural norms and beliefs I just don’t have to explain. While explaining them may be fine it just saves time and energy. This therapist is a good fit for my son and for me. If you are struggling with helping your child manage his or her ADHD or any other developmental disorder, play therapy may be worth a try.

What kinds of things do you do to help your child manage with ADHD?