Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daydreamers & Lollygaggers

Parenting a boy with ADHD is tough.



 I have learned that parenting a daughter with ADD has it's own challenges.
Boys with ADD usually have the "H" for hyperactivity and therefore stand out from the crowd. They are practically begging for special help.

Not so for the girls.


My daughter can sit down for longer periods of time than my Alpha Delta Delta son. Her teachers used to say she was continually distracted with whatever else was going on and not paying attention. She didn't jump around or make noises or climb under desks, so the teachers didn't think she had ADD like the "boys." She was just a "daydreamer," and if she'd just pay attention in class she'd do fine.

They were half right.


Her symptoms, like most other girls with ADD are more subtle, but just as difficult for her to cope with. I am reminded how difficult things are with her every time we watch tv together, which we do on friday nights. Everyone in the family takes turns picking the movie (PG13 or better) and we make popcorn, eat dessert, etc. Almost every 5 minutes she has a question about what we just watched. "What does "pooped" mean? Many times her questions are frustratingly simple and it's incredible to think she is serious. Often I think she just wants to be the focal point of conversation, but I am not inside her head. She could not get it, even when it's incredibly silly sounding. ("What does, 'going to the store altogether mean?'")

I can only imagine what the teachers at school are dealing with. She has special classes and tutors and her grades are great, but I know they are just giving her the grades so she can feel good about herself and flow through the system. She is getting help, and she likes school, so this is better than my son's experience.

All in all, we are happy. I just fear for when she graduates. The teachers have told me she won't be at the same level as the others. We all know she is different. We love her and we'll get buy just fine. Somehow she will find her place in the world. We all eventually do.

It's really all about quality of life.

I don't focus on grades as much as I did with my son. He was bright, read well, and often displayed high levels of thinking. My daughter loves hugs and her teachers call her "sweet." She won't be a doctor or scientist, but I'm sure she will find something to do to earn a living. I'm sure I'll be there when she needs me and so will her brothers and sister. She can have a good life as long as we don't compare her to everyone else and pressure her to do better than she is capable. I have no doubt she has more going on than ADD, and that's the problem with mental health today. 

With ADD used to be a part of the "autism spectrum," and comorbidity confuses the issue, finding a consistent diagnosis is difficult. Every doctor has their own idea of what is going on with her depending on where they went to school and where and what they specialized in, and what tools they have to work with.

My job is to get my daughter the best chances for the best possible life she can have, and then get out of the way and let her live it. My job is not to control the outcomes. I can't. Trying to do so will not make her better and only frustrate us all.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teachers apparent lack of interest.


When I first learned about ADD I was surprised that I never heard of it before. Nobody talked about it, and yet I was impressed by the numbers of people currently diagnosed at the time and wondered, "Why doesn't everybody know about this?" 
After a couple of years I saw many prime candidates for ADHD come running out of the classrooms, and I visited my son's class to discover he was not the only one, and all the students in the class were disrupted by their behavior. I later learned that because of their behavior, they didn't have many friends either. I went to a few CHADD meetings in a town close by and noticed that only parents attended them. This gave me a great idea: let's bring these meetings to the school and get the teachers involved. 

I soon began a parents help group at my son's elementary school in an effort to get everyone educated about ADD so we could all work together on creating strategies to help the kids learn to deal with ADD, and to lessen their effects on the other students in the class. Parents and Teachers spend the most time with the Alpha Delta Delta, and if they talk together using the same language and with a joint understanding of the problem, I thought that everyone would benefit from these one hour meetings. Having it at the school should have given the teachers little excuse not to make it. 

I invited all the teachers to come and I brought a huge box of articles and materials that both parents and teachers could use inside and outside the classroom. Nobody came. I tried for months. I stuffed the teachers in boxes with brightly colored invitations.  I promoted free snacks and beverages, thinking that after school they may be hungry. I thought for sure I could help these hard working people gain a little more control of the classroom and they would all be so grateful. Instead of thanks, all I saw were apologies from an already tired and disillusioned staff. They needed the information I could have given them to make their jobs and their lives easier, but they were too tired and discouraged to try.

They were already coming to a once a quarter IEP for my son to discuss progress and make any suggestions for future strategies. They were already dealing with ADHD every day as well as extra sessions for IEP's, so why did they not come to get some help from people who had the resources they needed?
I think it was because I was not a doctor, and I think the fact they weren't mandated to come probably helped too. They already have to go to outside classes and attend special Teacher meetings once a month where kids get out of school early so they can participate in training. That's it. If even the schools know that a teachers life is hectic, then why shouldn't I follow their lead?

The group disbanded after about six months of having very  lonely meetings, although we did help each other quite a bit. So what did I do about this lack of interest or support from the teachers? I used their time too. Whenever we had a scheduled Parent-Teacher conference, or IEP, or whatever reason we had a meeting about my son, I brought along some support materials surrounding some of the issues they had mentioned the meeting before. They were going to take this stuff home if it killed them. Maybe they might even read it. Slowly but surely something was going to change and the word is going to get out. ADHD is real, the Kids are not bad, and there is something they can do about it.
Hopefully ADHD has been brought to the public eye enough that there is some education going on in the school system. Teachers have a very difficult and time-consuming job, and they get little credit for all the work they  do. If your Alpha Delta Delta is still in school, tell their teacher how much you appreciate all their extra effort and support. One thing I ALWAYS did after the IEP's and any other meeting was to thank each and every participant from the bottom of my heart and let them know that I really appreciated all the extra effort they were putting into helping my son, and I thanked them for being on OUR team. I am sure that these final two minutes of the meeting were probably some of the most productive.

So much for my Parent/Teacher support group, but that didn't mean they don't work. Parent Support groups are incredibly helpful. Next week I'll talk more about support groups, how they work, and where to find them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Well, next week is ADD awareness week. I didn't even know there was such a thing, but here it comes. I think that this is a great thing and hope that somehow the message gets out that ADD is a real malady and it not just an excuse for poor parenting skills. Nothing gets my goat more than someone telling me how I should be disciplining my child when they themselves have no idea what the heck they are talking about. Sure most of their ideas sound great-- for normal kids with normal responses to boundaries. The problem is, I was not dealing with a normal child. As far as my son was concerned, boundaries were made to be tested, and future penalties made little connection to today's actual behavior.
I just read an article by a Dr. Lawrence Diller M.D. about the over use of stimulants on the children of today. At first I was very offended. Then I wondered what his credentials were, so I looked them up. Seems he makes a lot of money telling parents the sky is falling and Ritalin, adderall and the like are to be blamed.
His recommendations for a remedy for most things ADD are for the most part, "pie in the sky." His resume speaks of years of counseling and prescribing these medications himself, but I have to wonder about that due to some of the suggestions he wrote down.
Take the first one, "Involve fathers in all evaluations and treatment plans for ADHD/ADD..." while I would agree that this is highly recommended that BOTH parents attend all evaluations and treatment plans and even school IEPs, if he really did treat lots of children with ADD he would have noticed that the reason most of the kids came to these appointments with their mothers was two-fold: 1) Counselors business hours are the same as Dad's working hours. Dad had to work. It takes two incomes for many families to subsist these days and Mom's job probably paid less or was more flexible with her PTO, so she was chosen to attend. and 2) A huge portion of parents with kids with ADD are divorced and the kids live with Mom. 
Combine these two  populations and you make up the majority of why only mom makes it to most counseling, doctor and IEP meetings. This is what I meant about "Pie in the sky." recommendations. 
I have spent too many days in Group meetings and online in chat groups with these incredibly hard working parents. In families with both parents living in the home, it is always best that both parents sign off on the programs and are participating as much as possible so the child knows the rules are consistent and everybody is on his/her side and trying to understand and help, but that is just not always possible. Let's get off the "Blame Dad" bus right now.
Another suggestion that made me wonder about this doctors credentials was, "Mental health professionals (especially child psychiatrists and behavioral-developmental pediatricians) should be more involved in coordinating approaches between family, school and doctor."  Like what?  All doctors, school and counselors have a meeting to discuss a coordinated approach amongst the list of possible interventions? Did this guy actually have the time to do this himself when he was practicing medicine? Probably not. Doctors alone have the most difficult schedules to work around, let alone finding the day, and hour where all of them can schedule to come to a meeting. I have also yet to see a pediatrician or child behavior therapist or counselor or psychologist  or county mental health worker have the luxury of having the time to coordinate parents, teachers and doctors to work together on a consistent and well thought out plan of action to help the child calm down enough to develop some coping strategies that they can call upon to help themselves succeed in school, and later, in life. The job of coordinating all three approaches into a workable solution is the job of the parent that goes to these separate meetings. They are familiar with what resources are available and communicate between these disparate professionals and they are the ones coordinating everything. As far as my experience has seen, this is the only real world way this is ever going to get done. I have to wonder where he thought that could actually happen in order to even mention it. He may have well just suggested that their doctors prescribe a magic pill that will make the whole situation better; It just won't happen.
Sorry for the rant, but when such a credible source as a doctor tries to discredit a therapy which has been proven effective in countless real world situations, I have to stand up and say this is pure B.S. Parenting an Alpha Delta Delta is one of the most challenging tasks a parent can have, and they are going to need to draw from as large a selection of tools as they can in order to find what works for them. If something doesn't work for one person, it may for another, so let's not go around bashing therapies that have proven to work.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Alpha Delta Delta's and school

Just when you think you are done doing the ADD parenting thing. . . You find out you're not. I got married again a few years ago, and when the kids came up from Mexico, they had forgotten all their english and had to start all over again. They were all in elementary school, so it wasn't too bad. All three of them stayed back a year to help with the language problems and academic shortcomings, and so far the oldest was able to return to her normal school grade. The younger ones are still working on it. The middle daughter has been struggling to even maintain her reduced grade work, and so we initiated an IEP and got extra support for her. She is doing quite well with her school work and in junior high she has special classes and resource assistance and is doing really well.
I think.
I am worried that things are going too well.  I have never heard of a situation where a child  had problems, and after two IEP's everything that needed to be done was working and nothing more needed to be said or done. Call me jaded-- but it just sounds strange.
I fear that there may be another issue with her education. The school could be just saying great things and not bothering to go into any further detail or extra work or expend any further resources regarding her special education needs. We have also not even begun any discussion about  additional study interventions at home.
Another problem I have is our new county's method of ADD diagnosis. I am used to using the Connor forms and having both parents, and the teacher filling one out, but then we needed to make an appointment to go to an office a hundred miles away for an initial appointment and then possible future group sessions as well. What? There is nothing short of taking an entire day off of work and school for every session my daughter needs with an ADD group program located in a pretty distant city. I don't think so. I will make further inquiries and see what else is possible. Surely this can't be the only way to get to the bottom of my daughter's problem.

That being said, I just saw an article on CNN about parents and teachers fighting over who carries the most blame in the education problems with the child. Do the parents have to take the teacher's word for what is happening in the class, or are the parents to blame for the problems themselves? I have worked with some teachers that knew squat about ADD, nor were they interested in learning anything about it. I also worked with teachers that knew a lot about ADD and reached out to me for help. I also saw their pleas for help to other parents fall on deaf and uninterested ears. Clearly anything is possible with regards to the educational well being of your child, so really there is only one true way to find out what kind of help your child is getting; assume they are on your child's team and try to work together to find solutions that will help with the success of your ADD child. If there is lots of feedback, suggestions and just plain support, then there is a team at work and your child has a better chance of success. If either you or the teacher find that there is no effort or sincerity coming from the other, then there is a team of one at work, and the chances of success have just been halved.
For a parent, if you find yourself  struggling to get any help for your struggling child, all you have to do is make noise, and you will need to make it loud enough for someone high enough to do something. Once you get there, be gracious and thankful. An arrogant, "finally!" never got anyone even more cooperation than was minimally necessary, but thank-yous and compliments get wonderful extra efforts.
For Teachers, there is little you can do to get a parent off the couch and into the team, so my sympathies go out to you. Negative expressions of discontent have never gotten wonderful results either, so try to keep it positive, and perhaps your principal or school counselor may have suggestions as to how to initiate a parents participation, or possibly ideas on what else can be done without it.
Hopefully I am not getting a third and extremely difficult scenario- A school that acts like it is a team player, but really is disinterested. "Tacit" team players are the worst. They tell you what they think you want to hear, and then just go about business as usual, even when things are anything but. You can tell this is happening when you are the only one on the team that is hustling, or if the grades do not actually reflect what you see at home. (great at math? she can't even count by fives yet. . . ) When this happens, let the results speak for themselves, and ask for specific explanations as to why there is such a chasm between your child's grades and their performance. The parents of children in Georgia could have seen this coming if they would have been paying attention to their child's grades, and performance on homework.
So, if you are a parent of an Alpha Delta Delta,  it shouldn't be easy. If it is-- whose fault is it, and what are you going to do about it? After all, when this school year ends, the teacher gets a vacation, but they are still your child.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Not the road less traveled

Ever since this mind boggling realization that ADD was real and it was not my son's fault but a real malady, I have been on the search for a cure. I want my son to live a long and happy life free of any disability that would diminish his enjoyment of this gift we call life. We have seen many doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, therapists, educational specialists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, read books, gone to seminars, joined CHADD and gone to meetings, and even started a parents help group for the local area not served by CHADD, gone to AA and alanon meetings to try to stem a natural desire to self medicate and control the symptoms that the doctors are failing to alieve. I even came up with some cute T-shirts designed to show my son it was okay to have ADD and start accepting it rather that fight it and deny it because the books and tapes available to do this just were not getting the message accross. It is through more than a decade of this windy often rocky road that I have come to beleive some key fundamental things regarding ADD. ADD is an umbrella term that encompasses many different maladies, and to top it off, the list of comorbid diseases that often accompany ADD are enough to confuse all but the most knowledgable and highly specialized doctors around. In some uncomplicated cases people respond quite well to medicines and psychotherapy. Some just need a diet change or allergies addressed properly. For more difficult cases brain scans seem to be the only hope for an effective solution to the various aggrevious symptoms. In the future we will not so much address these problems as ADD som much as we will more specifically diagnose the problems to various specific parts of the brain through brain scans. This is fast becoming a more effective solution for such a confusing problem. This personally has been the most miraculous breakthrough in our entire ordeal. Finally we got answers to our most perplexing dilemmas. The tools are now becoming available and the experts in the field are earning more credibility from the medical community all the time. (no small feat at that!) Soon even the medical insurance companies will cover these proceedures and we all will feel like it has become commonplace to deal with mental infirmities just like we deal with the physical ones, which by the way we are far from conquering. Psychology is exiting the stone age, and we are now looking at the organ involved and understanding so much more. I am glad this was available for my son.

Monday, January 29, 2007

ADD Exercise #2

ADD activity #2

Spelling- want to see why your ADD child has such illegible handwriting?
(this one helps to have a partner say the spelling words and time them appropriately, like a real spelling test)

1. Sit down on a firm chair and place a pad of paper on your lap with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.
2. Place your name and date on top of the page and then number from 1 to 10 down the left side of the page.
3. Now turn the pad of paper upside down and place your pencil or pen in the other hand.
4. Now (with your partner saying one word, repeated every 10 seconds for a total of 3 times and 30 seconds per word)
spell the following 10 words next to the numbers 1-10. You should be writing upside down with the wrong hand and going from right to left. Also, as you are doing this you need to make circles with your feet- the right foot going clockwise, and your left foot going counter clockwise-
Ready? Begin.

1) pretty, 2)lime, 3) bend, 4) canvas, 5) regular, 6) investment, 7) opportunity, 8) frustration, 9) bartender, 10) individual.

Any of us can spell these words in 10 seconds with much time to spare. Most children can do this easily in 30 seconds. I added larger words for us adults to keep this fair. Adults spelling childrens words and comparing themselves to children is silly. We only start out easy so you can get the hang of it.
It also helps when halfway through as we start to fall behind your partner periodically tells us to "pay attention" and "try harder" When the time is up, turn the paper rightside up and see how many words you actually completed. Does the handwriting look familiar? How do you feel?


I first learned these exercises from attending a seminar on ADD taught by Dr. Barkley if I remember correctly. Many parents ran outside during the break to call their spouses telling them not to spank or punish the children any more. We learned how to see more than just the world through the eyes of our children that day, we learned what we looked like too, and that wasn't very pretty.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Learning to be ADD

ADD activity #1

This activity will show you that having ADD does not mean you are stupid. You know the information, you just don't control the access or distribution of this information very well.

Recite 2 easy nursery rhymes. We all know them backwards and forwards.

1- Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.
2- Jack and Jill ran up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

now for the ADD part- without looking at the above rhymes, recite the first word of Mary had a little lamb, then the first word of Jack and Jill, then the second word of Mary had a little lamb, followed by the second word of Jack and Jill, then the third word of Mary. . . etc. . . all the way through both rhymes.

I couldn't do it either, even though I tried REALLY hard. As you are doing this its nice to have a partner slapping you on the wrist every 30 seconds for "Not trying hard enough" or "Not paying attention" and threatening you with grounding or no dessert, etc. . . Now we are entering the world of our Alpha Delta Deltas.

What is ADD Really?

The journey leads next to discovery. I needed to know what this ADD thing is and what I could do to help my son. What was he going through? When was he capable of doing things and when will he need help? How can I tell the difference between him not being able to achieve and just not wanting to cooperate or participate? Are meds necessary? Can diet and environment affect him? What are some alternative interventions that can help him return his attention to the task on hand? What kind of tools can help? What are behavior mods? Where can I find them? Which ones really work? Who can I talk to about all this? and on and on and on. Just as I get one question answered, ten more pop up. I was sinking fast. This was not going to be easy and all my wonderful HELPFUL friends and relatives were going to have to shut up and keep their opinions to themselves for awhile. Spanking, time outs, no TV, etc. . . did not work. I needed something and we were ALL clueless, except I was the only one who knew it.
My son was getting kicked out of class around 3 times per week and I had to come get him. How could I work? Wasn't school supposed to be able to deal with him? Isn't there more than just my son with ADD in this school? Does everybody who has a child with ADD have to leave work early to deal with their child? More questions and nobody had answers, that is until I found books on the subject. Even the psychologist that we got referred to just sat and talked with my son. That was it. I never got any info or feedback. I was just supposed to understand he was getting help. What kind of help and when it would become apparent was irrelevent I guess. The books helped, and soon the authors would do speaking tours and I got to go to a seminar conducted by a nationally renowned expert. This class by Dr. Barkley was fantastic. It really opened up my eyes as to what my son was going through. He mentioned a group called CHADD and said they had local branches and they could help answer questions.
What was profoundly insightful about the seminar was he actually made us all have ADD for a moment so we could REALLY understand what our children were going through and see the difference between having a disability and being intelligent. You CAN have both, as Alpha Delta Delta's do. Next- becoming ADD.