Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

… To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community…

In my recent interview on Building Blocks Parenting, Carlee Krichmar asked me if there was one take away, a piece of advice I could give other parents raising children with ADHD.  Three words popped into my head that had given me the way forward and taught me how to believe in myself again. 

 “Knowledge is Power.” 

I’d been so scared.  When my child’s diagnoses started piling up on top of each other, like a stack of teetering stones, I kept trying to hide them, deny them out of existence, and pretend everything was normal.  It felt as if I was hanging onto the side of a steep mountain, too afraid to take the next step.  If I didn’t hold tight to my old beliefs, sheltered by my worst fears, then I’d tumble blindly into space. 

         

But the day came when my child, spinning out of control, said, “Mommy, my body moves too fast and my brain can’t stop it.”

Hearing her words broke through my wall of doubt and shame.  To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors, to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community.        

The knowledge I gained gave me the power to come back and give my daughter’s teachers new ways for her to keep up in class.  I found activities she could do outside of school to build her self-esteem.  And I was honest with other parents, asking for their understanding.  Armed with knowledge, I now had the key to help my daughter with strategies and tools to succeed.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a mother who had given up hope in her child.  Her worries of having her child labeled and the stigma of being judged had left her hanging on the side of that same mountain.  What she didn’t realize, I thought, is what she would feel if she reached out for help.  A solid foothold.  The kind that only comes when you give yourself the gift of navigating a new way ahead.

 

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A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

…It’s exhausting, right?   Poor impulse control was, for me, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child.  Instead of disciplining Lee for urges her brain couldn’t avoid, I learned over time to talk to her about the feelings that led to the impulse.  We discussed ways she could gain better control by looking at the consequences before an overwhelming desire took her down. 

On a Saturday morning, I tiptoed into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.  Maybe I’d have a few moments to myself before Lee, my high voltage nine-year-old daughter, woke up.  Just when I took my first sip, her door banged open like a gunshot.  Little feet raced down the hall.  I sunk into my chair at the table moments before she hurled herself into my arms.     

“Mommy!” 

My cheek pressed into her soft flannel kitty pajamas, and she snuggled her head against my chest.  Just as my pulse started to slow down, she bounced up and ran to the refrigerator. 

“I want scrambled eggs!” 

I grabbed my coffee and followed, catching an egg carton as it sailed toward me through mid-air.  “Jeez, Lee, slow down.”  Throwing open a cupboard door, she got out the mixing bowl and snatched the egg carton out of my hands.

“Careful honey…” 

Lee cracked eggs, then flung them into the bowl.  As she moved back toward the pantry, I fished eggshells out of the bowl and dropped them into the sink.  Lee came back with a tin of cinnamon and dumped half of it into the bowl. 

“French toast!”

I steadied my hands on the kitchen sink, then took a long gulp of coffee.  Yelling would have felt really good right now, but I heard the occupational therapist’s voice, “Breathe before you react, breathe…”  Hyperventilate felt more like what I was doing, but I tried to stay calm as I scooped cinnamon back out of the bowl.   “OK, Lee, we’ll have French toast.”  

A little while later, we took our first bites.  Lee glanced out the window and jumped out of her chair.  “Mommy, a hawk just flew by!”  She threw open the sliding glass door and ran outside.

It’s exhausting, right?   Poor impulse control was, for me, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child.  Instead of disciplining Lee for urges her brain couldn’t avoid, I learned over time to talk to her about the feelings that led to the impulse.  We discussed ways she could gain better control by looking at the consequences before an overwhelming desire took her down. 

            In the meantime, I tried to reach deep inside myself and find a way to be patient, even when life was spinning out of control.  Although, I do admit to getting through the mornings on many cups of good old joe.

Here’s a great article from ADDitude magazine to help you find some control:

https://www.additudemag.com/impulse-control-strategies-adhd-students/

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Tips for Living With an ADHD Child

Tips for Living With an ADHD Child

Tips for Living With an ADHD Child

If you’re just starting down the path yourself, tape them to your bathroom mirror and remember, you are never alone. 

Photo Credit: AbMoriarty Designs

When Lee was diagnosed with ADHD at seven years old, I had no idea what to do.  It felt like someone knocked the wind out of me, and I was flat on my butt.  But when I picked myself up to face the challenges that lay ahead, I found a lot of hope on my road of discovery.  Here are some of the tips that helped me cope through the years Lee grew from child to teenager.  If you’re just starting down the path yourself, tape them to your bathroom mirror and remember, you are never alone.  There is always a way to get up off the ground.

 

 

Go slow:  Don’t overload.  Bits and pieces.  One thing at a time.

Reflect back:  Your emotional reaction can increase your child’s anxiety.  Step back and listen, then respond.

Don’t compare:  Life with an ADHD child will be anything but typical…don’t compare to other peoples’ lives. 

Praise what your child can do, offer help with what she can’t.  Celebrate the things she did well that day.

Educate others so they understand your child.  Knowledge is power; ignorance fuels judgement. 

Remember?  How many times can you ask your child this question?  Instead, give your child a tip to remember or ask what tip he wants.

No one is perfect:  Mop up the mess or turn it into a game.  Reassure your child that life can get sloppy.  There’s no shame.

Acceptance:  Don’t be afraid to ask a teacher for changes.  Help them see your child’s brain is wired in a different way.

Go with the flow:  Life is a rollercoaster.  You will be caught off guard more times than not.  Enjoy the ride.

Take care of yourself.  Now that you’re armed with some tips to get through the day, take a deep breath, and look in the mirror. Put yourself first, even if it’s just for these few moments.  Close your eyes and think of something that brings a smile to your face.  Take this thought with you throughout your day.  You’ve got this!

 

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Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

…Lee’s focus on catching a lizard was legendary.  But, in the classroom, she was unable to focus on words or numbers and was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade.  I learned that it is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on her passion…

“Mommy, something happened.”  I turned from my laptop to see Lee, wrapped in her towel, water dripping from her bath in small puddles on the floor.  I held out my arms to her and noticed she was holding a lizard, clutched in her little fists.

I took a deep breath.  “What?” 

“I was training two lizards to ride on my boat in the bathtub and one got away.”  She started to sniffle. 

I groaned.  Lizards have made guest appearances crawling on our couches, hiding in the sliding glass door ruts, and slithering behind the beds.  Our cat padded into my office, licking his lips.  Lee’s eyes grew wide, and she gave a yelp.  The lizard flew out of her fists and in an arcing leap, the cat followed.  “Mommy, help!”    

It was just another day in my household, answering the call of the wild.

It all started in Kindergarten where Lee’s focus on catching a lizard was legendary.  But, in the classroom, she was unable to focus on words or numbers and was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade.  I learned that it is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on her passion.  Unfortunately for this mom, who was squeamish about reptiles, Lee’s passion was lizards.

At first, the boys teased her, then they allowed her to chase with them.  By second grade, their egos were hurt.  They ridiculed her and gave her the sarcastic moniker, Lizard Queen.  But by third grade, the whole class was calling her any time a teacher needed a reptile out of the classroom.  No one could grab a lizard faster than Lee. 

She even trained our dog to spot lizards, and they went out hunting together every day after school.  I went along to keep an eye on them and found myself crawling on my stomach through rosemary bushes, like an army recruit.  Soon, the lizards were taking yoga class on her shirt…five at a time doing finger-flip downward dog and sun salutations.  I knew I had to find a place for her to pursue her passion, one that would keep her and the lizards safe. 

I enrolled her in nature camp up in the nearby mountains.  The first day I picked her up, the leader pulled me aside.  Oh no, I thought, she probably didn’t listen.  Probably wandered off the trail, lost in her endless quest for reptiles. 

The leader said, “Did you know that Lee has an extraordinary gift to notice things in nature?  She helped the other campers find lizards and frogs and identify snake tracks.  She’s a walking reptile encyclopedia!” 

I relaxed and smiled.  All that obsession with lizards had finally paid off. 

It is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on her passion.  Trying to break it can be the worst part of your day.  If hyperfocus comes naturally to your child, like Lee, look for the positive in it and encourage it.  Your child’s hyperfocus can motivate her to pursue her dreams.

If you’re new to hyperfocus with your ADHD child, here are some good links to explore:

https://www.additudemag.com/understanding-adhd-hyperfocus/

https://childmind.org/article/hyperfocus-the-flip-side-of-adhd/

 

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ADHD Teams Up with SPD

ADHD Teams Up with SPD

ADHD Teams Up with SPD

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, we took her to a neurologist.  She told us that Lee had symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.  She explained that SPD occurs due to an imbalance in the central nervous system which causes the senses not to coordinate in unison…

Photo Credit: The Rockin Autism Mom

From the first time I pushed Lee in a stroller, I knew she loved to touch.  My friends’ babies stayed buckled up tight, holding their sippy cups and hugging stuffed animals.  Their little bodies were content for a long ride.  My baby squiggled out of her restraints the minute the wheels started rolling.  Reaching over, her hand skimmed the sidewalk, grabbing for flowers and lizards.  Anything I gave her was good practice to throw.

As her body developed, so did her urge to touch.  One day, when I came to get her in preschool, she’d painted her hair blue, the next, she used the school scissors to cut it off.  Then came the birthday party when she took two boys down to the ground to wrestle.  The three ended up in a tangle of legs, flailing arms, and bruised faces.  When the birthday mom asked us to leave, I dragged my little fighter to the car, wondering why she felt compelled to do such a thing. 

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, we took her to a neurologist.  She told us that Lee had symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.  She explained that SPD occurs due to an imbalance in the central nervous system which causes the senses not to coordinate in unison.  I drove Lee over to a Child Development Center in a nearby town for an evaluation.  She passed the SPD test with flying colors, and I was told she needed occupational therapy.

The occupational therapy classroom looked like a glorified playground, complete with a ball pit, gigantic swings with harnesses, sandpits, and trampolines.  As Lee raced into the ball pit and threw herself around, the occupational therapist explained that Lee craved sensations her body was lacking: a sense of gravity, of feeling her body in space, and an under responsivity to touch.  This made her more restless, impulsive, and hyperactive as she sought to find those sensations. 

Occupational therapy came to the rescue, helping Lee learn how to control her body’s urges and sensory exercises to calm down.  She gained strategies and coping mechanisms for her body’s demands.  From a sensory diet which got her ready to focus in school, to sensory aids which helped her sit still, I had an arsenal of help on my hands.    

If you think your child is struggling with sensory problems, your child’s pediatrician should be able to direct you towards an occupational therapist for a diagnosis. 

Here are some helpful resources:

https://childmind.org/article/how-sensory-processing-issues-affect-kids-in-school/

https://www.additudemag.com/sensory-processing-disorder-or-adhd/

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