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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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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The Show Must Go On!

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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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ADHD and Finding Balance with Homework

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ADHD and Finding Balance with Homework

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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My Cup of Tea- ADHD Ways to Cope

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When a child is diagnosed with a mental disability, there are solid strategies to help them cope.  And some of these coping mechanisms can also become a way for a young adult to move forward, functioning in a challenging world.

My new blog looks at some of the ways my 22-year-old is coping, although one of them is definitely not my cup of tea.

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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