The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

As a new mom, I felt utterly alone. My husband and I had pulled up stakes and moved to a suburban town away from our friends and family, miles away from the city we’d called home. When our daughter Lee was born, she came into the world with colic, crying day and night.  At three months old, the colic improved, but Lee was still restless. Her body was in perpetual motion. I signed up for a Mommy and Me class, desperate to meet some other moms and be reassured that things would get better. 

At a nearby shopping center, I found the address and walked through the door. A quiet lullaby on a guitar floated down the hall. Following, I saw a filmy, gold curtain that was parted to the side. I stepped past it into the class, but Lee was too fast. Her tiny hand shot out, grabbed the curtain, and gave it a good yank. Heat rose up my cheeks as glossy folds draped over my feet.

Stopped in my tracks, I stood frozen. “I’m so sorry.” Startled moms tried to catch their babies who were now crawling toward the gold.

“Hi, I’m Miss Lily,” the teacher said. She grasped an escapee and plunked him back into his mom’s lap. 

Lee was crying and kicking me, stretching her arm down for the curtain. Gripping her tightly, I pulled Lee up and took her into the circle of moms. They shushed their babies and made room for us on the worn, burnt-orange carpet. All around me they sat, looking well-rested in their clean sweatpants and fresh T-shirts. Looking down at my old leggings, I spotted the remains of Lee’s milky formula on last night’s shirt. I was the interloper, the one who didn’t have any right to ruin their class.

“Sit down, please.” Miss Lily’s polite voice covered up a bubble of impatience that threatened to pop.

My legs quickly folded under me, as Lee’s feet kick-boxed me in the stomach. Miss Lily played a soft chord on her guitar and the other babies quieted down, resting in their mothers’ laps. Murmuring soothing words into Lee’s ears, I tried to ease the kicking legs into a sitting position. Her teeny fists beat on my chest in time to my pounding heart. Whimpers gave way and she let out a piercing scream, encouraging the other babies to follow and drown out the guitar.

It was the longest thirty minutes of my life. Lee refused to sit still, and no amount of music, toys, or fairy tales could capture her attention. She wanted that gold cloth, and she wanted it now. Her cries punctuated every guitar strum and story Miss Lily read.

When class ended, I hopped up, ready to bolt, my squirming bundle under my arm. She just needs time to mature, I told myself, swiping at an angry tear on my cheek. The calm collected redhead who’d been sitting next to me with her cute, blonde baby boy grabbed me by my hand. “Wait.”

I whirled around and said, “Don’t worry, we won’t be back.”

“I hope you’ll change your mind. I’m Lindsey and this is Tommy. You look as though you could use a cup of coffee. May I?” She reached out for Lee, handing her baby to me. I took the docile, cooing boy and held him against my chest. What a difference, I thought. I started to soften.

“Look, we have the same color hair!” Lindsey pulled a strand of her own hair down on top of Lee’s head. “I’m jealous. You have a feisty, wild ginger who would do me proud. I think I have your baby.”

Another mom, with inquisitive eyes and warmth in her smile, walked up to us. She said, “Or you can have mine. Hi, I’m Kate.” She grabbed her car keys from her baby girl’s fingers. “Molly, enough already.” Her eyes grew wide as her baby grabbed the keys back.

Lindsey laughed. “Are you coming with us? Molly can drive.”

That cup of coffee led to many years of playdates with Lindsey, Kate, and their children.  They gave me the gift of friendship, embracing Lee with unconditional support when she was diagnosed with ADHD. Parenting a neurodiverse child comes with many challenges and making friendships can be one of them. But letting go of my insecurity and the fear of being judged gave these two beautiful women a chance to come into my life. It was the best gift I could have received.

Blogs

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The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

As a child, I loved nothing better than going down the street with my best friend to our favorite tall, shady bush. We’d pick out a cozy spot underneath the branches, take out the books we’d brought, and read for hours. In the years to come, books would be my way to understand and gain perspective about the world. They were my solace through difficult times and my favorite form of relaxation.

When my child, Lee, was diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety, I turned to books. My shelves started to fill up with memoirs, books with parenting help, and ones that gave me facts on ADHD, as well as its impact on society.

As you can see from the photo accompanying this blog, I ended up with a full collection and thought I’d share some of my favorites. For a full list of the titles and authors, you can go to my ADDitude page.

A big fan of memoirs, I loved “Raising Will; Surviving the Brilliance and Blues of ADHD.” Katherine Quie’s journey to help her son reminded me so much of my own and the many challenges Lee and I faced. From Quie’s struggles to help Will at home and in the classroom, to the moments when she sees his extraordinary talent as a musician shine, this book is a must for parents raising a child with ADHD.

Another book that resonated with me was “The Essential Guide to Raising Complex Kids with ADHD, Anxiety, and More,” by Elaine Taylor-Klaus. As an ex-teacher, I appreciated her strategies to help kids in the classroom, stressing individual steps over the outcome. As the mother of a complex child, I welcomed the invitation to step into acceptance and create a new perspective. Elaine not only acknowledged the difficulty parents faced, she empowered them to believe in themselves and see the possibilities, instead of the obstacles.

At a conference that focused on ADHD and autism, I met Stephen P. Hinshaw, one of the authors of “The ADHD Explosion; Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance.” His lecture cited many statistics and facts from the book, written with Richard M. Scheffler, which convinced me it belonged on my bookshelf. “What,” the authors asked, “…is driving the ADHD explosion–parents, doctors, schools, culture, the healthcare system, or Big Pharma?” A compelling question.

These are only a few selections from my collection that turned me into an advocate and changed my life for the better. I hope one of them is just what you need this spring. Knowledge gives us power!

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The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

read more

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

Before my child, Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found myself starting far too many sentences with, “Didn’t you remember…” or “How many times have I told you…” Or “What were you thinking…” Then there were the pleas to “Pay Attention!” or “Remember what I told you…” that my child didn’t seem to hear, only serving to make me feel like a terrible mother.

After the diagnosis, I learned why communicating with Lee was so difficult. The child psychologist explained to me that Lee’s inability to regulate focus and tendency to hyperfocus, plus struggles with hyperactivity, made it very challenging for my child to listen to me. Communication would be a skill we would both need to learn and practice.

I can’t say this was easy, and there were times I fell back on those useless questions when my frustration boiled over. But through the years, I found advice to guide me through the worst of days. Here are my favorites:

PATIENCE: The worst time to have a conversation, especially an important one, is when your child is hyperfocused on whatever has their attention at the time. Wait until your child is focused on you. 

STAY PRESENT: Ask questions and be an attentive listener. This was always tough for me as my brain tends to jump ahead and make assumptions. But slowing down and staying in the present moment brought me new insight into my child’s thoughts and improved my parenting.  

TIMING: If your child is feeling anxiety over something, this is the worst time to press a point. Back off, offer coping mechanisms for the anxiety they’re feeling, and try again when they’re calm.

GO SLOW:  Don’t overload your child with a large expectation. One thing at a time always works better. Instead of “Clean Your Room,” start with “Pick up everything that’s yellow,” and so on through the rainbow.

DROP REMEMBER: Asking the question, “Did you remember?” only made my child feel worse. Like Lee, many children with ADHD have memory attention deficit and need tips to remember. One of Lee’s favorite ways to remember our address was to sing it every day. To this day, both of us still remember the tune!

USE FIDGET TOYS: Lee was able to focus better with the use of fidget toys. They served to ease hyperactivity and allowed my child to stay seated and listen more effectively. Whenever I could get a teacher to allow one, Lee’s favorite was squishy balls in jacket pockets. At home, it was every neon shade of slime.  

RESPOND: If you feel your temperature rising in an explosive moment with your child, stop, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Then, respond, don’t react. Repeating what your child has said, reflecting back their own words and naming their emotion, such as, “You must feel angry,” gives you time to collect yourself.

PRAISE: ADHD kids often receive more criticism than their peers. Praise what your child can do, offer help with what she can’t. Celebrate the things she did well that day. A little praise goes a long way in building their self-esteem.         

(For more resources on communication, visit my website at the ADDitude Blog page)

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The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

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Situational Awareness 

Situational Awareness 

Situational Awareness 

One of the workshops I loved at last year’s CHADD conference was led by Ryan Wexelblatt, the “ADHD Dude.” A popular speaker, he chose to highlight “Situational Awareness,” and it was an eye-opener. Join me in this month’s blog as I figure out how to keep Lee safe in parking lots, only to find it turned around on me many years later. And a big thanks to Ryan for his words of wisdom that motivated this blog!

One of my favorite workshops this year, at the annual ADHD conference, was given by Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW, also known as the “ADHD Dude.” His topic, situational awareness, zinged home to me when he asked if there were any parents in the room who’d had difficulty with their children in parking lots. My hand shot up as my mind transported back in time to taking my child, Lee, to the market. The second I unbuckled Lee’s seat belt, she wriggled out and was off like a bullet, racing in-between cars and paying no attention to my pleas to stop.

Situational awareness, as defined on Ryan Wexelblatt’s Facebook page, is understanding what’s happening at a certain place, at a certain time, and to help anticipate what the environment will be like. And children with ADHD, like mine, who struggle with paying attention and curbing impulse, can be completely unaware of their environment which makes parking lots very scary for their parents.

When Lee was young, I’d never heard of situational awareness, but I knew I had to develop strategies for getting through a parking lot. First, I plotted the quickest way from my car into the store. Too many distractions could pop up on our way into the market, from picking up lost pennies to collecting dropped coupons. Even worse, if a bluebelly lizard poked out his head in the little grassy areas between the parking aisles, all bets were off as Lee chased him, myself in breathless pursuit, past honking cars.

Once parked, I turned around to give Lee reminders, grateful for childproof locks. As an ex-teacher, I knew the value of repetition and thought it applied to my child’s challenges as well. If I could drill into her mind the rules of a parking lot, we’d both be better off.

“Mom, let me out!”

“In a minute. Where are we going?”

“Into the market.

“What are you going to do?”

“Hold your hand. Now can I get out?”

“What if you see a lizard?”

Lee groaned.  This was the deal breaker. “Let him stay with his family instead of going home in my pocket.”

Before we left the market, I repeated the reminders. If it was a successful trip back to the car, it was time for a reward. Motivation, I thought, for our next trip. And what better motivation than a promise to delay homework so she could chase blue-bellies? No parking lots to navigate and plenty of bushes at home to crawl around in and catch lizards to her heart’s content.

Back in the conference workshop, I was thinking I’d done a pretty good job of teaching my child situational awareness, even though I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time. Then, I remembered last week when Lee, now a young adult, drove us to the market.

As soon as we stepped away from our car, Lee took my arm, looking both ways for traffic. “We’re safe now.” And gave me a little push. “No dawdling. Let’s get to the crosswalk!”

When Ryan Wexelblatt’s workshop was over, I asked him what he thought. Had I caused Lee’s anxiety to worsen in parking lots by being so strict? He asked, “Would you rather have the opposite?”

Of course not. But who likes being treated like a child? Although there was a moment in that market parking lot when I veered to my right to get a basket, oblivious of a car backing out next to it.

Lee made a grab for me. “Mom! Watch where you’re going! You scared me.”

Maybe my own situational awareness needs a little tune-up.

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The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

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Inspiration through Connection at the 2022 CHADD Conference

Inspiration through Connection at the 2022 CHADD Conference

Inspiration through Connection at the 2022 CHADD Conference

Last November, I attended the CHADD conference, the annual international conference on ADHD.  As promised, here’s a blog with my take-aways from some of 2022’s valuable workshops, along with a heartfelt reminder of why the conference is so important to me. 

As my plane touched down in Dallas, my mind traveled back fifteen years to the moment that started this journey. I’d been a weary mother in desperate need of help for Lee, my child who had recently been diagnosed with ADHD, SPD, (sensory processing disorder) and anxiety. I thought I’d receive helpful tips by going to CHADD’s (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) annual conference on ADHD. What I didn’t expect was the community who embraced me and offered a myriad of coping techniques and support.

This year, I was on a hunt for more information, not only as a mother whose child was now a young adult but as a writer. Over the course of the pandemic, I’d stayed behind my computer, blogging my experiences about raising a child with ADHD, then turning them into a book. It was time for me to crawl out of my writer’s cave and reconnect with the ADHD community.

One of the biggest topics this year at the conference was the deep impact that anxiety was having on the ADHD population. Dr. Sharon Saline, a foremost expert on the subject, led a workshop that included parenting tips for children struggling with anxiety.  She highlighted her five “C’s” for parents: self-control, compassion, collaboration, consistency, and celebration. Tools, as she also terms them in her blog on her website, for parents to “…reduce your stress, create peace in your family, and increase cooperation and love all around.” Tools that I could use with Lee, now a young adult, as we navigate our relationship over time.

Another topic that several workshop leaders addressed was communication. In the first lecture I attended on this subject, Dr. Tamara Rosier called many of our family problems “picadilloes.” These were problems that might seem small but can cause bigger ones. It made me think of how the sound of scraping silverware could trigger Lee’s SPD and cause a meltdown. Dr. Rosier recommended that the family discuss the picadillo and how to problem-solve it. Just putting in the effort might keep the problem from escalating.

Dr. Elaine Taylor-Klaus also stressed the importance of problem-solving within the family in her talk on collaborative communication. Similar to Dr. Sharon Saline, she outlined five steps for parents to commit to calm: stay calm, quit taking it personally, be open and transparent, don’t use the word “should,” and ask permission (“would you be willing?”) One of my favorite quotes from her lecture that day was, “Just because we say it, doesn’t mean they heard it. It’s how we say it. Show you’re listening.”  

At the end of the conference, I slipped into a packed elevator with other conference attendees and punched my hotel floor number. The elevator stopped at its first destination, and I stood, waiting, my brain too exhausted from a marathon of back-to-back lectures to pay attention to the floor number flashing.

The woman standing next to me said, “Did someone want the 5th floor?”

That brought my thoughts around and a blush to my cheeks as I tried to step out of the closing doors. Too late, I jumped back and said, “Wake up, Jennifer!” with an embarrassed laugh.

“That’s OK, honey,” the same woman said. “We’ve all got ADHD. You’re in the right elevator.” The other people smiled, and I could feel their warmth and understanding.

I don’t have ADHD, but that didn’t matter. This community has had my back through every misstep or challenge. If your child or you have been recently diagnosed with ADHD, reach out to CHADD for resources and guidance. If you can, go to their annual conference. Their support can be your best ally.

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The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

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The CHADD Conference, a Lifeline!

The CHADD Conference, a Lifeline!

The CHADD Conference, a Lifeline!

The Annual International Conference on ADHD, sponsored by CHADD, takes place this month, from November 17th-19th in Dallas, Texas. If you or someone you know is affected by ADHD, this is the place to find resources, support, and community. In this month’s blog, I share how going to the conference was an invaluable help for my child with ADHD, changing our lives for the better.

It’s fitting that the annual CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) Conference takes place in November, a time of gratitude. I will always give thanks for the support, knowledge, and education I gained from attending throughout the years. 

I first heard about the conference just after my daughter, Lee, was diagnosed with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and anxiety. At the time, I needed help on how to raise a very hyperactive child who was struggling in school, unable to do her homework. Even though I could Google for advice, it didn’t come close to seeking it in person.

At that first conference, the keynote speaker welcomed us, and the man in front of me stretched out his legs on the empty chair to his right, lying back on the chair to his left. Wow, I mused, he must be tired. Two minutes later, he sat up again, and did the same thing on the other side. His body, like Lee’s, was in perpetual motion. I pulled out my notebook and scribbled, “Lee could use a few chairs in class to stretch for hyperactivity, a good way to cope with sitting through a lecture.”

That was just the beginning of a weekend crammed with researchers, educators, and leading doctors and psychologists. By the end of the morning, I’d found another mom who’d also adopted a child with ADHD. The two of us spent lunch getting to know each other and sharing notes from different lectures. She had the answer to the homework problem. “You’re lucky Lee has an IEP. You can hold an addendum meeting. You have every right to bring up why you think she’s falling behind. It sounds to me like she needs extra time to do homework in the resource room.”

Then our conversation moved from school to home. No matter how many times I asked Lee, my direction to “Clean your room,” was ignored, despite the consequences. My new friend offered a solution she’d just heard from an ADHD parent coach. She explained that Lee’s executive functions were affected by ADHD, making it hard to organize. Instead of saying, “Clean your room,” the workshop leader had given a tip to make it more manageable and fun. Have your child pick up all the red things, then the orange, and so on through the rainbow.

I came home from the conference loaded down with tips, strategies, and information for myself and Lee’s educators. It was knowledge that would turn me into my child’s advocate, or “warrior mom,” as Lee liked to call me. Best of all, I found community and a way to give back. In the exhibit hall, I ran into the representative for ADDitude magazine. It was not long after that I established a running blog for them, bringing together my love for writing with my passion to help my child.

Every November when the CHADD conference rolls around, I feel grateful for the wonderful ADHD community that changed my life. Now that the conference is both in-person and virtual, I hope many other struggling parents can take advantage of this lifeline!

 

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As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
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Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
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Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

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Turning Judgement into Support

Turning Judgement into Support

Turning Judgement into Support

Recently, ADDitude magazine posted on social media one of my blogs: https://www.additudemag.com/girls-with-adhd-anxiety-spd/.  In the comments, there were angry responses from people saying they’d have walked out on the conversation I had with a friend regarding my daughter’s anxiety. Here’s my response in a blog as to why anger doesn’t work for me, including five steps on how to handle other people’s judgement:

My teenager, Lee, was suffering from anxiety and having trouble making it to her high school classes. Reaching out for support, I met for coffee with a friend Lynn, a teacher whom I thought would understand. Much to my surprise, she told me parents should go tougher, even when their kids had anxiety, and make them go to school.

When ADDitude magazine published my blog about our encounter, several people said they’d have walked out on this conversation. Believe me, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to. But if there’s any lesson I’ve learned over the years after raising a child with ADHD, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and other disabilities, it always worked out better for me to keep my butt in my seat and try to educate.

It’s hard to change people’s minds, especially when your child looks “normal.” But mental disabilities have a way of making themselves seen, and we parents can often get the worst of people’s judgment. I contacted a therapist and asked how to deal with uneducated comments, like my friend’s at the coffee shop, and she encouraged me to try these five steps:

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  1. Breathe. When you hear judgment barreling your way, take a moment before you respond. You might feel your heart racing, your palms sweating, your breathing coming fast. You want to give the person a piece of your mind and stalk away. Instead, make a conscious effort to take three deep breaths.
  2. &nbsp
  3. Respond. This is the moment when you are most reactive. Someone has criticized your parenting or your child. But reacting will only make you angrier and take you into a negative mindset. Once you get your breath under control, respond in as calm of a manner as you can muster.
  4. &nbsp
  5. Keep in Mind. In my experience, most people who make uneducated judgments parent typical kids and don’t have much knowledge of how to raise a child with special needs. There’s a much different skill set that goes with parenting both types of children. You have a chance here to educate and give that person a window into your world—fostering understanding and support—something our kids desperately need.
  6. &nbsp
  7. Educate. This is your goal. If you can enlighten the other person with information about your child’s struggles, you have a chance of changing a mind. When I gave my friend in the coffee shop a new perspective on parenting a child with anxiety, she agreed to use a more compassionate approach the next time she encountered this situation.
  8. &nbsp
  9. Don’t judge. After it’s over, especially if you can’t change someone else’s opinion, it’s so tempting to think of that person as ignorant, dumb, or a jerk. Instead, the only way we can come together as an inclusive society is to give people a chance to change. They might think over what you said, surprise you, and become your biggest support!
  10. &nbsp

    Your child needs you to be his advocate, rooting for him even when it feels like you’ve just been slapped down. If you leave the table, that’s one more uneducated person who will drink her coffee and never change her mind.

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read more
The Power of Books

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read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

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My Blog Makes an Appearance on Trauma Informed Classroom

My Blog Makes an Appearance on Trauma Informed Classroom

My Blog Makes an Appearance on Trauma Informed Classroom

Thrilled to see one of my blogs posted on Roger Flowers’s website, Trauma Informed Classroom. His mission, that students deserve a flourishing, safe, and consistent classroom, free of triggers, is so important for students, especially the ones suffering from mental disabilities.

My blog, “When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix,” takes place outside of the classroom where I try to find the right sport for my child, creating all kinds of trauma for both of us along the way. I finally give up, only to discover the perfect activity was there from the beginning.

Blogs

Related

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

read more
The Moment I Became my Child’s Advocate 

The Moment I Became my Child’s Advocate 

The Moment I Became my Child’s Advocate 

This month’s blog might sound familiar to parents of a child with ADHD. It was the moment in time I was spurred to advocacy, thanks to a teacher who didn’t believe ADHD was real. His disbelief was my wake-up call, a true gift for the years ahead.

For many parents raising a child with ADHD, I imagine there is a moment when they are spurred to advocacy. I can still remember mine. It came during an IEP meeting with Lee’s third grade teacher who didn’t believe ADHD was real. As I laid out the accommodations my child would need in the coming year, starting with more time on tests, the teacher shifted around in his chair before he spoke.

“Lee doesn’t need more time on tests, she could just use some more self-discipline.”

My cheeks grew hot as thoughts raced through my mind. How could a child who lacked impulse control magically pluck self-discipline out of the air to manage herself? Or soothe her hyperactive body into submission? Or change a deficit of attention to precise focus? Was he mad?

The accommodations I wanted for Lee included: more time on tests, study materials in advance, and dictating homework responses. When Lee took a test, she’d barely make it through a few problems before time was called, her mind wandering out the window to the clouds. Any distraction in the classroom took her attention away from her paper, as did that feeling of failure when she knew how far behind she’d lapsed.

Since ADHD affected Lee’s ability to process information in a timely way, study materials, like notes, outlines, or charts, would give her more understanding before a lesson was taught. Then, she would be better prepared for a quiz or test. And, dictating homework responses to me was a crucial way to survive dysgraphia, her writing disability which made her fingers cramp. Dictating would help ease the strain of gripping a pencil and bring hours of work down to a reasonable time.

This all seemed so logical to me, but I had been educated about ADHD, and given strategies and coping mechanisms to help my child. Her third grade teacher had none of these, just an old-fashioned belief that ADHD, somehow, didn’t exist. And, he seemed to think, if children who had problems keeping up with schoolwork were more self-disciplined, they could perform well on tests, study, and do homework with ease.

Fortunately for Lee, no one in the room that day was on this teacher’s side. His comment about self-discipline fell on deaf ears. But he did give me a gift. I knew in that moment, the fallacy of his thinking could have led to my child’s loss of precious accommodations. From now on, I would be my daughter’s advocate and stand up for her rights in school.

At the end of the IEP meeting, all of the accommodations I requested were granted. It was as if the words, “self-discipline” had disappeared with the teacher when he returned to his classroom. But I knew I would come across other people, in the years to come, who might have similar misguided beliefs. It was my role now to educate and give my child a chance to succeed.

Blogs

Related

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

read more
Routine for Success

Routine for Success

Routine for Success

As Father’s Day approaches, I think of my father and how much he inspired me. An artist captured this picture of him many years ago, living the Hollywood dream. What people didn’t know was his key to success wasn’t just talent or luck, it was adhering to a strict routine. Here’s a link to my blog this month if you feel like some motivation:

As long as I could remember, an old illustration of my father from the ‘70’s hung on his office wall. The artist depicted him with martini in hand, floating in a cloud over his desk chair, broad smile on his face, fingers typing with ease. The quintessential picture of the successful screenwriter “living the Hollywood dream.”

The irony was a martini was the last thing my father would ever use to write a script, and every time I poked my head into his office, fierce concentration, not a smile, lit his face. Success came, not from on high, but from sitting his butt in that solid black chair. Over the years, many people asked my father the key to his success.

“Luck,” was what he always said.

But I knew different, even when I was a child. Yes, luck played into his career, but it was also determination, perseverance, and a solid routine. In this excerpt from my upcoming memoir, I remember what it felt like watching him work when I was a child:

“I tiptoed barefoot down the hall to my father’s office and peeked through the door. I knew the rule: Don’t bother Dad when he’s working!  His fingers flew across the typewriter keys.  Then, he jumped up and began to pace back and forth, speaking each character’s lines out loud. I held my breath, unsure if he knew I was there, if he could see the edge of my pink flannel robe on the carpet.” 

During Dad’s workhours, I left him alone. Mom made it clear. Our livelihood depended on his routine. Every day, come rain or shine, he knocked out pages for anywhere from one to three scripts at a time. Over the course of his life, he would write an astounding 14 feature films, 39 films and mini-series for television, and three plays. He woke early, was at his computer by 9:00 a.m. At 11:30 a.m. sharp, he went on a jog. Lunch at 12:15 p.m., followed by a shower, then a nap. Back on the typewriter by 1:30 p.m., no exceptions, except a business or doctor’s appointment. At 5:00 p.m., he was done and, unless we caught him at lunch, that’s when he was available to us. Routine powered his fingers, sharpened his talent, and paved his way to the Hollywood dream.   

Many years later, I would move through his doorway, walk down the steps into his office and sit on his director’s black, leather chair, looking at the wall that showcased his framed TV Guide covers. Together, we would write his memoir, over the course of ten years. I never doubted we would finish. Even if all we had were Saturdays, we kept to his routine. He had taught me that our success as writers depended on showing up, again and again.

When Dad passed away, “living the Hollywood dream” found a place on my office wall. For the most part, I’m exactly like my father and stick to my writing routine. But on those days I need some inspiration, I look up at Dad’s picture. Yes, he was talented, had golden opportunities that would open some doors, but he knew the key to his fortune wasn’t floating in the clouds. For 50 years, it was keeping his feet on the ground.

Blogs

Related

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

The Gift of Mommy Friendships

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.

read more
The Power of Books

The Power of Books

Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.

read more
Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Communicating With Your ADHD Child

Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!

read more