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 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...

read more
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

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.

Blogs

Related

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...

read more
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
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.

Blogs

Related

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...

read more
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

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.

Blogs

Related

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...

read more
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
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!

 

Blogs

Related

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...

read more
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

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!

 

Blogs

Related

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...

read more
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