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.

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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:

read more
When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

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Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

This month’s blog is for all the moms who’ve ever felt like the world’s worst mother at one time or another. And, it’s especially for those of you struggling to parent a young child with ADHD or any other difficult challenges. Balancing your needs with those of your...

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When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

I stood on the edge of an indoor YMCA pool, every muscle tense, waiting for the whistle. It came shrill and loud, and I crossed my fingers. My daughter, Lee, was hanging on to the edge with one hand at the end of the pool. She glanced up at the clouds rolling overhead.

“Go, Lee, go!” the coach barked through his bullhorn. And my child went, seconds late, causing her team to come in last.

Trying not to let my disappointment show, I reached out an arm and helped her out of the pool. She peeled off her goggles and pointed up.

“Rainclouds!”

By now, Lee was in third grade and had taken occupational therapy, with sensory exercises, along with medication for ADHD. She had better focus and could sit still longer in a classroom. But it didn’t mean she wouldn’t get distracted. After a few months of swim team, she wanted out.

“I just want to swim by myself, without that stupid whistle.”

Frustrated, I dug into articles on the Internet about children with ADHD participating in a sport. Most experts said individual sports were the best way to lower hyperactivity, help with self-discipline, and make friends. So, I turned to karate, which was also reputed to build self-confidence. Thanks to keeping her body in motion with the kicks, yells, and race to get belts, Lee hung in there for nine months. But the last month, I found myself chasing her before practice around the parking lot and into the bushes that held lizards outside the karate studio.

“Lee, we’re going to be late!” 

“This is more fun!” 

First swim, then karate was fitting a pattern of initial enthusiasm, followed by boredom and distraction. Not only was I wasting money, but her complaints were wearing me down. Her impulsivity, difficulty with following directions, and paying attention was making it impossible for her to take part in a sport.

Much to my surprise when Lee was in sixth grade, she showed an interest in the surf team. The coach gave directions, and the kids took their boards into the ocean. They all sat in a group waiting for a wave, except Lee who drifted away, headed down the coast. I took off running, doing my best to keep up and waving my arms. Lee spotted me and paddled in.

“It’s taking too long to find a wave,” she said, ditching her board. She plopped down on the wet sand and dug a gigantic hole, looking for sand crabs.

As I look back now, I realize the signs were already there. Whether she was watching the clouds roll by, or chasing lizards into bushes, or digging for sand crabs, Lee was already choosing her own form of activity. She was happy playing at her own pace without any rules or directions. It wasn’t until she went to nature camp, a summer month spent exploring the Santa Monica Mountains, that Lee found her favorite activity.

If you, too, have a child with ADHD who is having trouble fitting into sports or activities, take note of what she loves to do. What distracts her, causes her to hyperfocus with intensity, and brings a smile to her face? Lee is now a young adult with a job outdoors, surrounded by plants, butterflies, and plenty of lizards. Some things never change.

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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:

read more
When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

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Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

This month’s blog is for all the moms who’ve ever felt like the world’s worst mother at one time or another. And, it’s especially for those of you struggling to parent a young child with ADHD or any other difficult challenges. Balancing your needs with those of your...

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Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

This month’s blog is for all the moms who’ve ever felt like the world’s worst mother at one time or another. And, it’s especially for those of you struggling to parent a young child with ADHD or any other difficult challenges. Balancing your needs with those of your child takes extraordinary strength and confidence. In this blog, I give into my guilt, only to realize how little it matters.

I was running late, really late this time. The traffic light ahead was yellow, and I decided to run it even though I could see the scary blue video light attached. I pushed the pedal to the floorboard and gritted my teeth, barely making it through the intersection before the light turned red. Exhaling, I tried to reassure myself. My daughter, Lee, was happier in preschool, she had friends to play with. It was an extended playdate, I told myself, better than a harried mother. I’d never done it before, but the school offered extra care at four dollars an hour and I’d traded our afternoon together for a pedicure. I felt like the world’s worst mother.

I tailgated the elderly man in front of me. “Go, go, go!” I urged, knowing he wouldn’t. This was ridiculous, I told myself. Lee was supervised, I didn’t have to worry. But an image of Lee from last week filled my mind. There she stood on her little stool in the bathroom, orange cough syrup in one hand, a spoon in the other, triumph written all over her face. “Mommy, I drank my medicine all by myself!” 

Her rosy mouth was ringed in orange and crumpled when I grabbed the medicine away, the liquid shooting out of the bottle high in the air and staining the carpet. My pulse hammered as I stared at the contents in the bottle. I must have left it on the bathroom counter the night before, after I’d given her a dose. How could I have been so forgetful? How much had she drunk?  She stomped her little foot, “Give it back to me. I like medicine!”

There was no time. I hoisted her up in the air and pressed her into my chest, gave her Ipecac to vomit, and raced to the nearest hospital. And boy did she vomit, all the way to the hospital and right into the emergency room. Instead of pumping her stomach, they decided to monitor her vital signs over the next few hours.

When a doctor examined her, she reported that Lee hadn’t ingested enough to do any damage, probably only a teaspoon or two. Then her voice grew stern. “From now on, you must make sure all medicine is out of a child’s reach.” I nodded, a deep red blush spreading across my face. Picking up Lee, I slunk out of the hospital and took her home to sleep it off.

My car’s clock read five minutes after five, and I cursed my pretty, pink toenails. I gunned the pedal to the floor, whizzing past the elderly man. The playground came into view when I made a right into the preschool’s curvy driveway.

Lee was carefully building an enormous sandcastle, stopping to lick the sand off her fingers. I parked, jumped out of the car and dashed toward her. She looked up, her eyes locking on mine. “Mommy!” she screamed. “My mommy is here!”  She ran to the chain link fence that separated us, and we shared a sandy kiss through the opening.

            “I’m sorry I’m late, honey.”

            “That’s OK, you’re the best mommy in the whole wide world.”

My guilt dissipated into the evening breeze. Maybe I wasn’t such a bad mother after all, at least in her eyes, which were the only eyes that really mattered.

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Routine for Success

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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:

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When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

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Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

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Speak Up!

Speak Up!

Speak Up!

For many children with ADHD, one of the most difficult skills to learn is how to self-advocate. But, it becomes critical when they go to high school and into adult life. In today’s world, where so many kids struggle with anxiety or depression, learning to advocate is a skill not to be underestimated.

As a person with disabilities starting a first job, there are many challenges my twenty-two year-old is confronting.  But I also know Lee has the knowledge and skills to speak up.

“Mom, I can’t handle the walkie-talkie they want me to carry around.”

“Too loud?”

“It’s a shriek that freaks out my sensory.”

“So…”

“I know, I know.  I have to tell my manager.”

When Lee was in grade school, there were no classes to teach children how to self-advocate.  I was her mouthpiece, often dismissed as a troublesome, helicopter mom who just wanted to make up excuses.  But, when Lee’s diagnoses started to mount, I encouraged my child to stand up and use her voice.

“You know, if I do something while you talk, I can hear you better,” she told her second-grade teacher.  And, “Mom says a squeeze toy in my pocket would calm me down.”  Fortunately, the second-grade teacher was open to new ideas and let my child draw during lectures, and bring a squishy ball in her sweatshirt to class.  

Then middle school rolled around, hormones kicked in and social anxiety ratcheted up. Lee’s self-confidence took a bad tumble.  Shy and struggling with learning disabilities, she kept her mouth shut in the classroom.  But at home, she had no problem telling me what she needed. 

“Don’t ask me what I’m going to do after school. We ADHD’ers can’t focus on what to do now, let alone later!”  And, “Mom, I forgot to turn in my homework again.  I need the teacher to remind me, more than one time.  Can you put that accommodation in the IEP?”   

In the classroom, it was a different story.  When she needed to tell her math teacher that staring over her shoulder was triggering her anxiety, or she needed more time to process questions on a test, she lost her voice.

I stayed the spokesperson in middle school, but in high school, I handed over the baton.  Teachers made it clear that I could be there for support, but Lee would have to speak up.  It made sense for her to practice.  In college or working a job, she’d be on her own.

Lee was slow to start, but in eleventh grade, she realized she had power in her voice and gained more self-confidence.  Even then, I wasn’t prepared when I listened to her ask her counselor for another teacher. 

“I have a bad anxiety disorder, and Mr. Peter’s classroom environment and expectations cause my sensory processing to go crazy which makes me nauseous and dizzy.  When I was in his class before, I missed a lot of school.”

The counselor’s eyes grew wide.  A grin split my face.  Not too many kids, I guessed, could self-advocate like that.      

Too many kids go through the school system mute, unable to stand up for themselves.  With anxiety and depression so pervasive in our schools, it seems more important than ever for our children to develop the skills to ask for help.  Then, they will have a shot at finding success in their adult lives. 

Without a walkie-talkie.

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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:

read more
When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

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This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

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Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

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Apartment 3C–The Newlyweds’ Dream 

Apartment 3C–The Newlyweds’ Dream 

Apartment 3C–The Newlyweds’ Dream 

In this month’s blog I go back to 1949, when my parents, a couple of young, struggling actors, made their dreams come true, much like Desi and Lucy, in Being the Ricardos. The beginning of television was a time of golden opportunity, when anything could happen.

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching Being the Ricardos, the movie about Lucy and Desi Arnaz’s almost two-decade marriage, set against their show, I Love Lucy. And I marveled that just two years before this show debuted in 1951, my own father and mother had created a similar sitcom.

As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business, “Television was in its infancy.  Mostly seven to twelve-inch black and white images, with no one knowing quite what to do with this new medium.  Maybe I could create a light comedic show for us.  Just the two of us.  Newlyweds, as we soon would be.  I wrote a ten-minute audition sketch and we performed it for advertising agencies, showing how we could include a commercial plug for one of their sponsors.  One producer, Harvey Marlowe, showed some interest.  He said that a new network, WOR-TV, would be going on the air in the fall and he’d try to get them to think about using us.” 

In the meantime, Mom and Dad were married and went on their honeymoon. As soon as they returned, they were contacted.

“Harvey Marlowe, the man who saw our audition in New York, called to say WOR, Channel 9, had signed us to do a domestic comedy in the fall.   They wanted a fifteen-minute show, five nights a week.  ‘Who will write them?’ I asked.

‘You will.’

“Fifteen minutes?  Five nights a week?  All we had was the ten-minute audition sketch.  Impossible.  And I’m not really a writer.  I called Harvey Marlowe immediately.

‘We’re thrilled with the offer.’

“WOR-TV was using the facilities of the shuttered New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street, the old home of the Ziegfeld Follies, as a television studio.  Apartment 3C would be the second show for the fledgling studio, airing October 11, 1949, with Harvey Marlowe as producer and director.  With fingers crossed, we went on the air Monday night and, although we felt pretty good about it, the next morning brought only one review, The New York Times.  Negative. 

“Time to bow out?  WOR still wanted us and why not?  It hadn’t cost them anything but three dollars to make our contract legal. 

“With our savings disappearing, however, it became obvious that we couldn’t go on for lack of life support.  Informed of this, WOR magnanimously came through with an amount that allowed for three meals a day at the venerable nickel and dime emporium, Horn & Hardart.

  “The nightly broadcast meant writing the script the night before, memorizing it the next morning, taking the subway to the theater and, with time and space limited, two run-throughs, a dress rehearsal and…  Showtime!  Five times a week with weekends off to rack the brain for new ideas and scripts. 

“We were given a feature article, “Tea TV for Two” in a new magazine called Telecast.  ‘Light, breezy and sometimes naively ribald, Barbara and John really don’t have to reach too far into the recesses of their minds to come up with authentic, straight from the feedbag material…it sure is a nice happy feeling to know that two youngsters can start on nothing and zoom to the top just by being themselves.’ 

“The fact is, however, that our fifteen-minute script, five times a week, became a formidable task.  The domestic problems of a newly married couple with only two in the cast every night were getting repetitious.  What to do about the heavy daily schedule?  The old saying that dying is easy, comedy is tough proved all too true.  What if we changed the format to mystery?  What if we added three or four to the cast and made it a half-hour format?  To our surprise, WOR was agreeable but only with three or four more.  The schedule would be Friday nights fifty-two weeks a year.  Life would take on a slightly more normal existence.”

And life did take on a more normal existence for my parents the next couple of years. Apartment 3C was no I Love Lucy, but it opened the door to Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, with my father still writing the scripts. And this show would lead him into a long career in television and movies. The early days of television were a time of golden opportunity, not just for Lucy and Desi, but for two unknown newlyweds whose dreams suddenly came true.

 

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Routine for Success

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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:

read more
When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

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Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect

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ADHD Inspirations for the New Year

ADHD Inspirations for the New Year

ADHD Inspirations for the New Year

For my fellow parents who are raising kids with ADHD and other special needs, here is a blog to give you some inspiration for the new year. Long ago, I chose a gift of a little stone with “Love” on it as my talisman to keep me going through the difficult times. In my blog, find yours, and the inspiration for a wonderful year ahead!

Ten years ago, I attended a writer’s conference with the seeds of a book idea. Taking all the essays and articles I’d written about raising a child with ADHD, I’d turn them into a memoir. One of the workshops at the conference was led by a talented memoirist, Diana Raab. With her encouragement, I shared several of my essays and gained the confidence to move forward.

When it came time to leave, Diana gave out small stones, each of them etched with a word that embodied what the writer had shared. Mine was mottled green and salmon with the word, “Love,” etched in gold. It sits on my desk to this day, under a photo of my four-year-old daughter, Lee, on my back, her arms hugging my neck, a huge grin splitting her face.

Lee is and was my inspiration to write my memoir, a labor of love I am only finishing now. The little stone is my talisman, the photo over it a reminder during the more challenging times that the love we share is larger than her ADHD, SPD, anxiety, and learning disabilities.

If I could, I’d hand out a stone to every mom of an ADHD child who’s asked me, “How do I keep going when things are so hard?” Just like “Love,” each stone would carry an inspiration, a reminder for the new year:

Believe” You are brave and wise enough to raise this child.

Strength” Turn your fear into courage, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Faith” Have faith in yourself and don’t compare your child to others. She deserves to be herself.

Peace” In times of conflict, move from reaction to reflection. The hot air will evaporate.

Joy” Give yourself me time without guilt. Then you’ll have something to give back to your child.

Wisdom” Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with ADHD resources to help your child.

Comfort” Find the friends who give support and love, the ones who don’t pass judgment.

Hope” Never give up on your child. Your hope keeps their hopes alive.

If one of these reminders resonates with you, may it be your talisman, as love was mine, to help you through the new year. Look around and appreciate everything in your life that’s good and true and hold tight to it.

Wishing all of you a Happy New Year!

 

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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:

read more
When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

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This month’s blog is for those of you parents who are having trouble finding the right sport for your child with ADHD. Does your child get easily distracted right in the middle of a game? Does she have problems following the coach’s rules? Do you find yourself pleading with her to give the sport just one more chance? Follow me as I set out to find answers, only to miss the one staring me right in the face.

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Less Than Perfect

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Holiday Tips for Children with ADHD

Holiday Tips for Children with ADHD

Holiday Tips for Children with ADHD

Holidays, for an ADHD child, can quickly turn from a celebration of exhilarating joy to an overstimulated meltdown. Here are some tips experience taught me over the last two decades, as I discovered how to help my child cope with the highs and lows of the festive season:

Help your child stick to a routine on vacation. I like to think of routine as the container the ADHD goes into. The same bed schedule, meds on time, keeping the breakfast hour, and monitoring electronics will help your child’s moods stay on a more stable track.

Over the holidays, there are plenty of places to go. From shopping to restaurants to relatives’ houses, your child needs advance notice to know what’s coming next. Give her plenty of time to transition before you load her into the car. Don’t schedule too many things in one day or it can trigger one doozy of a meltdown!

Let others know about your child’s needs and challenges. If you feel that people are judging you as a parent, ask for support. Often, it’s not that people don’t want to help, it’s that they just don’t know what to do. Share tips that will help them help you.

If your child is sensory-challenged, opening presents can lead to overwhelm, causing the ADHD child to become even more hyperactive. Gifts that involve touch or movement will help a sensory-seeking child occupy himself for hours. You can always bring a fidget toy along to help. One of my favorite websites for sensory-seeking children has tons: https://funandfunction.com/

Designate a place, away from all the bustle, for your child to decompress. Whether you’re at home or another person’s house, a quiet spot to retreat and recharge is essential. My child loved to relax with weighted blankets and even now, as a young adult, uses earplugs to soften acute noises. A little peaceful time on a holiday goes a long way with overstimulated children.

A family with an ADHD child needs both parents on board, working together to help their child cope with holiday stressors. But, both parents also deserve some time by themselves. And, finding time to have a meaningful conversation with family or friends can also be difficult if your child demands all of your attention. Make a plan with your spouse ahead of time so no one person shoulders the load.

Your holiday will be more restful if your child has regular exercise breaks. Hyperactive energy without an outlet can cause anxious behavior with unwelcome consequences. Whether you’re at home or not, arrange a safe place for your child to do activities like running, jumping, or spinning in circles. All of these activities can help ground a hyperactive child.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

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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:

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When ADHD and Sports Don’t Mix

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The Show Must Go On!

The Show Must Go On!

The Show Must Go On!

Of all the stories my father loved to share from his long career as a screenwriter, it was the early days of live television that were my favorite.  In 1949, he and my mother, Bobbie, pitched a humorous show about a newly-married couple, as they were, to a fledging studio, WOR.  To their surprise and delight, they were given a golden opportunity.  In addition to my father writing the fifteen minute sketches, he and my mother would star in them.  After a few months, their show changed from one of the earliest sit-coms to a detective format, called Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, and expanded to a half-hour.

Live television, in its infancy, was often chaotic where anything and everything could happen, from humorous to deadly.  In his memoir, Any Way I Can, 50 Years in Show Business, Dad shares the ones that were the most memorable:“The usual live TV mishaps occurred, of course, but in our case, budget limitations made us prone to them.  Many a dead body would rise before the camera was off.  It was usually our floor manager who had to get back to his cues.  With three run-throughs now and a dress on the day of the broadcast, the actors were inclined to go up with more frequency than they might in a well-rehearsed play.  It was necessary for Bobbie and me to learn everyone’s lines. I’m proud to say no detected pause lasted longer than five seconds during the show. One night, we were able to persuade Bobbie’s father, Ozzie, to play a telephone linesman.  Just one line which he forgot, I covered, and he refused to appear again. 

“In one rehearsal, an actor struck me on the back of the head, as scripted, but it landed with such force that I almost passed out.  He repeated it on the second rehearsal and I told him to lighten up.  That night during the show, however, I staggered from another heavy blow.  Bobbie ad-libbed and we carried on.  We never used him again.

“One memorable night, I suffered a deep cut on my hand in an opening scene as I picked up a prop diamond made of glass.  The cut was deep, and I thought for a few scary moments that I might have severed a major artery.  I kept my hand in my pocket the entire scene, trying not to look obvious about it while also trying to hide the crimson tide on my white summer suit.  Incidents like that make you grateful for the years you spent onstage prepared to cover any situation.    

“We were now beginning to see people staring at us in the subways.  Could that be?  With the recognition, additional money came to us now from advertisers who wanted us to promote their product live just before and after the show.  A recorded tune, “Miller – High Life! – Miller High Life! The champagne of bottled beer!” would play as I spoke and it still jangles in my ear to this day.  I also had to drink warm Miller beer on camera which would later produce inescapable belching during the action…Another WOR show, Twenty Questions, used us live on their program for commercials extolling the virtues of Ronson cigarette lighters which I always feared would mistakenly come tripping out as “Ronson fiogerette lilters.”

Chaotic, yes, but live television was also thrilling in its spontaneity and the challenge that the show goes on, no matter what happens.  Dad is no longer with us, but if he were, I’d bet my bottom dollar he’d say that those were his favorite years.

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As ADHD Awareness Month comes to a close, I wanted to share with you a blog that tackles one of a parent’s hardest challenges. Homework was the evil demon my child and I struggled with, especially after she spent a long day tolerating a classroom environment. If you feel the same way or know someone who is raising a child with ADHD, join me as I share our story with the homework tips that helped us!

On the hunt for my favorite pens, I turned a corner at Staples and nearly collided with another shopper. She whipped around and yelled after her child who was edging towards the end of the aisle. “Let’s go.  It’s homework time.” The little boy frowned and disappeared out of view.

That would have been my kid, I thought. All it took was the mention of homework and Lee disappeared, stealthy like a cat when you wanted to take it to the vet. Not that I blamed her, homework was the evil demon Lee and I wrestled with together, every day after school. It took a diagnosis of ADHD to help me understand that homework was a mountain for my child to climb, especially after a long day of tolerating a classroom environment.

Lee’s struggles with homework started as far back as preschool.  Even though it was optional, I tried to encourage her to keep up with the rest of the class who was turning the homework in. One night, I pushed Lee too far on a worksheet, and she ran out of steam. Screaming, she flew from the kitchen table to the couch. Bang! I cringed as she hit her head on the pillows. “I’m dumb!” Bang! She hit her head again. I threw the optional preschool homework out the window.  

By third grade, homework was a well-established landmine. Lee’s teacher was giving problems in division, but Lee still couldn’t multiply. The IEP stipulated only thirty minutes of homework, but she could barely do math, let alone reading. One night, Lee banged her head on the couch pillows for fifteen minutes. Nothing I said could make her stop.

“I’m stupid.  Stay away!”

After I coaxed her into my arms, I knew I had to take action.  If Lee felt like a failure at nine years old, how would she ever gain the courage to cope with her challenges?  The next day, I strode into her teacher’s classroom, trying to keep my temper in check and said, “As you know, Lee is on an IEP for her ADHD. She has an accommodation for fewer items on a page. But she still can’t keep up with the homework load you’re assigning.”

The teacher said, “A child who refuses to do homework needs to be disciplined. If I didn’t do my chores, there were consequences.” 

I left the classroom, hot fury traveling in waves up and down my body. As if discipline was going to help my child remember math facts. Maybe the resource teacher would understand the problem.

She studied me for a minute. “Have you ever considered that Lee might be manipulating you to get out of homework? She’s doing all of her work in my classroom without any trouble.”

And she took off, leaving me behind, feeling as if a bomb had just gone off in my head.    What kind of child would willingly bang their head as hard as they could to manipulate their parent?

Now, some thirteen years later, I know that kids with ADHD have short attention spans, distractibility, and problems with executive functions, like time management and organization. The decks are often stacked against them. But there are solutions.

Soon after my failed attempts to get help from Lee’s teachers, I requested an IEP meeting and got an accommodation for extra homework time in the resource room.  Then, I found a tutor, a special education teaching assistant who helped me put a homework structure and routines in place. Here is what worked for us in elementary school:

    • Homework time: Lee always needed a break after school to decompress. Other children might learn better by tackling homework immediately. In either case, it’s best to establish a time that works for your child and stick with it.
    • Homework corner: Lee preferred the kitchen table, big enough for me to join her with snacks and keep her on task. Two separate folders, one for homework she brought home, and one for homework when she completed it, were left at the table to take to school. And, a file box for completed assignments the teacher returned on a nearby bench, in case we needed to refer back to them.
    • Scheduled breaks: Lee needed a five-minute break every 20 minutes due to her hyperactivity. Setting a timer helped bring her back to the kitchen table.
    • Respecting Limits: When Lee grew too frustrated to finish her homework, we stopped and wrote a note to the teacher, explaining the situation. Most teachers worked with us to limit the workload, but if they didn’t, we stopped anyway. Homework, to me, wasn’t worth Lee losing her self-confidence, the most precious gift for a child with ADHD.

 

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Finishing a cup of chamomile tea, I gazed out the window at the rosy sunset, trying to take the edge off a stressful day.  The sun dipped below the horizon, and I glanced at my watch. Time to get dinner started.  Moving to the sink, I rinsed my grandmother’s delicate cup.

 “Honk! Honk! Honk!”   

I jumped, catching the cup at the last second before bone china shattered on porcelain.  My eyes shot daggers at my 22-year-old, relaxing in front of me on a couch.  “Lee!  Can’t you find another sound?”  

“Nope.”  Lee crawled out from under a new, soft-weighted blanket, holding up the offending phone with its equally offending reminder: “Take your pill, fool!”

“Well,” I muttered, still shaken, “…that’s one hell of a way to remember your medication.  Good coping mechanism.”

A weighted blanket and pill alarm are just two of the many coping mechanisms my neurodiverse young adult relies on to function throughout the day.  They are much-needed, as well as other strategies, to relieve the stress of functioning in a neurotypical world.  When Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, SPD, and anxiety, I barely knew about medications, let alone physical ways for her to cope.  But I would learn, through occupational therapy, there were strategies we could use. 

A rubber sensory pillow with spikes grounded Lee in first grade, so she could focus.  She also made friends as everyone begged to try it.  When her therapist encouraged Lee to crash her shoulders and hips from one hallway wall at home into the other, it was painful to watch.  But, it always calmed Lee down.  Using the swings at recess increased the blood flow to her head and created a soothing rhythm which helped when she returned to the classroom. 

Then the teenage years came along, and Lee’s anxiety became more internalized and intense.  Taking a longer walk to school eased her hyperactivity and lowered her heart rate.  In the classroom, she had to sit still for longer periods, and paying attention was the path to success.  Desperately seeking a way to cope, Lee pulled out her pencil during lectures and doodled, finding a way to focus.  If a teacher was amenable, she could also use headphones during independent study to drown out distractions. 

As I dried the teacup, Lee ran into the kitchen and took her ADHD medication.  She moved back to the couch and slid under the weighted blanket, holding up a corner for me.  “Want to give it a try, Mom?”

I stepped over, slipped in, and felt the deep compression of the weights pushing me down.  No wonder this eased Lee’s anxiety, I thought, as my bones relaxed.  She had found a coping mechanism that was exactly my cup of tea.

 

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