Having a Teenager With ADHD Is “Interesting”

 

When you have a kids the first thing you are warned about are the newborn weeks. Sleepless nights, stressful days, and difficulty starting breastfeeding are some of the nightmare scenarios fellow parents warn you about. I found the newborns weeks to be fine. My babies were good sleepers and were generally easy to nurse. The second period they warn you about are the teen years. As of late 2016 my oldest child started her journey into the teen years and well we have had a rough start.

What new challenges am I facing that I wasn’t before? Well, to be honest, not much changed initially. My daughter has always been resistant to taking her medicine and she has always done things her way. The biggest issue is her growing independence is in conflict with her need for additional support. She recognizes being thirteen comes with additional responsibilities and she consciously wants to attack them, but that damn executive functioning deficit is kicking her butt. Add on the fact her natural personality is to be a strong, independent, “over” confident human being, and you have a recipe for academic disaster.

How am I attacking this? Well, ummm, you see…. I can only put out one fire at a time. I am demanding accountability while trying to provided “unwanted” support. Helping her is like trying to treat an injured animal. She knows she is struggling, but she thinks she will be locked in a cage if I or her teachers realize she needs help, and telling her otherwise falls on deaf ears. All of these additional concerns are accompanied by the general teenage mindset that being different is bad.

This is very different from when I started this ADHD journey. At the beginning I had no clue how to deal with ADHD at all. I did not know how to help my kids cope and I had a steep learning curve and a lot of help getting there. I still have help, but how do you support someone who does not let you know they need support, or when you give support they shut down?

This Blog is not full of solutions as I have just really started addressing the problem. We will come to a solution that will work for her, but if you are finding that all the support systems that were in place in 5th grade seem to be useless moving forward, you are not alone.

 

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

There’s  A Pill For That

This Blog is a little bit of a vent. I hate the fact that when faced with a problem the go to solution for the medical community is adding a pill. Yes, I know that is what they do, but that is not the only solution. I do not consider my stance as a contradiction to my behavior with regard to medicating my children. I do believe ADHD is a true medical condition and it is appropriately treated with medications. That being said, I also believe there are effective non-medicinal alternatives that can work for many people. Where I have a problem is when we start medicating the side effects of the medication they are already taking.

Let me explain where my frustration begins. I took my son to the doctor for a standard medication appointment. During the appointment the doctor inquired about irritability in the afternoon. I indicated, he is very irritable when the medication wears off. The doctor then said she would prescribe X medication which could help with this irritability. We were dealing with a lot of issues and although I was familiar with the medication I am very hesitant to add to my son’s already lengthy medication needs. He is asthmatic, ADHD, and other concerns. We are dealing with a lot. A little shocked an unable to clearly articulate my concerns I accepted the prescription and it was filled. As I thought about it for a few days I decided not to start it. The reason for this is my mommy senses (like Spidey senses) says this is a bad idea, and I have learned over the years to trust those mommy senses more than I trust just about anything else, when it comes to my kids.

Let me be clear I do not think this particular doctor is trying to drug my child into submission. I honestly think she is trying to be helpful. The issues is, we have different philosophies when it comes to how to address these issues. My perspective is dealing with the irritability comes with the territory when my child is taking the stimulant medication. Every medication has risk and side effects. I am looking at this from the perspective of what is the cost/benefit ratio for my kid if I add this new medicine. Benefit, I potentially reduce the side effects of the medication he is already taking. Costs, I risk additional (possibly worse) side effects, I risk potential adverse drug interactions because he takes several medications, I add a medication when he is already resistant to taking medicine, and lastly I am not comfortable with him taking it. I am sure a physician could give me very good explanations for the first three costs I listed, but the last and most important can only be dismissed by me. That one benefit is not enough for me to overlook my uneasiness about the new medication.

I guess the question remains if the side effect is enough to be notable; what am I going to do about it? The answer is I am going to do the same thing I have done in the last five years. I am going to make sure he eats a good breakfast and snack at home, has a break before starting homework, encourage him to go outside an walk, run, or ride his bike, and I remind him that even if he feels cruddy he is in control and responsible for his behavior. ADHD does not absolve a child from responsibility. If anything, it puts a greater responsibility for them to consciously exert self-control whenever possible.

 

How do you deal with medication side effects with your kids?

 

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

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?