Plastic Bags: Vote Yes on Prop 67, No on Prop 65

Plastic BagsIn the film, American Beauty, Wes Bentley’s character asks Thora Birch’s character, “You wanna see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed?” What we are shown is a plastic bag dancing in the wind amongst some leaves. It is played against a backdrop of melancholy piano music. I don’t remember what I thought or felt watching this for the first time, being that it was nearly two decades ago. But it was supposed to be very artsy-fartsy and evocative. I do, however, have some very strong feelings, now, when I see any single-use plastic bag swirling around outside in the wind. I feel sadness and disgust. Those bags are so bad for so many reasons.

On land, plastic, single-use bags are difficult to recycle. They frequently clog up recycling machines. If the bags end up in landfills, which is what happens to most of the 13 billion distributed each year in California, it takes about a thousand years for them to break down. When they do break down, gases from the petroleum products used to make them are released into the atmosphere. This means more carbon gases to accelerate global warming and subsequent climate change.

Plastic Bags Get Around

If people don’t keep an eye on their plastic bags, they can get into sewers and find their way to the ocean. In the Pacific, all kinds of plastics have formed the Earth’s largest dump know as the Pacific Garbage Patch. It has been collecting for quite a few decades, and its mass is six times that of surface zooplankton. Sea creatures, from jellyfish to whales, will confuse plastic for food and become sick and, sadly, often die because of it. These animals also commonly die of strangulations by plastic bags.

So reducing the use of plastics any way we can should be a no-brainer, and eliminating or greatly reducing single-use plastic bags is one way we can do that. Wee did just that with SB270. Now the plastics industry, under the guise of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, has put forth two propositions on the California ballot, 65 and 67.

Propositions 65 and 67

The argument for prop 65 is that, since consumers are required to pay 10¢ for a sturdy, reusable bags, in case they don’t have their own, the profits made from the purchase of those bags should go to environmental groups. Superficially, prop 65 looks good, but it is misleading. The 10-cent price really only covers the cost of the bags, since they are of higher quality than the one-time use bags. There really would be no profits to give to the environmental groups. The plastics industry is trying to deflect focus away from the serious effects of plastic bags.

As for prop 67, it is asking us to make sure we still want to place a ban on most single-use plastic bags. It is an effort to veto SB270, which Governor Brown signed in 2014. The American Progressive Bag Alliance claims this law is poorly written, but what would you expect from the plastics industry, since SB270 threatens their profits. There are many details to cover, but if you want more information, a good resource is from Heal the Bay.

So, bottom line… I recommend a no vote on 65 and a yes vote on 67.

In Support of Behavioral Therapies

iStock_000010317685LargeMy brother just sent me an article from The Incidental Economist about the relationship between ADHD medications and their benefits for children with ADHD. It focused on a study done two decades ago. The study concluded that behavioral therapies in combination with medication did not have significantly better outcomes than with medication alone.

What is important to note is that this research was done over a period of only 14 months. As an example, if we follow a child, who has just turned eight, until she is nine and a couple of months, that is what we are looking at. It doesn’t even have to be a child with ADHD. How much do we expect that child to mature in 14 months? In my opinion, the answer would be, not much.

SmilingBoyBehavioral development is a process that happens over a long period of time and, as we know, children with ADHD have unique brains. This concept, therefore, leads me to believe we can’t just go about the day-to-day with our atypical children and simply medicate them. Though it’s not always easy to do, including some behavioral guidance or therapy is probably very beneficial in the long run. Also, not giving behavioral therapy a try could actually be a great disservice to our children.

Connection Connection Connection

HoldingHandsOf all the ADD experts my favorite, so far, has to be Edward Hallowell, MD. I love him! His take is that, rather than a disorder, ADD is a trait.

One very important thing I’ve learned from Dr. Hallowell is that the greatest influence on future success, whether a child has ADD or not, is a sense of connection. There are many different types, not just connection with family or friends.

In his book, Super-Parenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child, Dr. Hallowell lists many of the possible ways of connecting, “multiple points that hold a child in place, stabilizing her and giving her joy as well as direction.

*Connection to family-This is of the greatest importance, but it doesn’t mean without conflict. There can be arguments, but the important thing is to stay engaged. Make sure to spend time together. Have dinner once in awhile, and make sure to have fun, as well. Converse.

*Connection to friends and neighborhood (I would say community)-Whether an introvert or extrovert, humans are social creatures. Friendships are important for a good quality of life. Set a good example for your children by valuing your own friendships, and support your children’s friendships.

*Connection to school or work (In our case, it would be our homeschool community.)-With respect to this category, making sure your child feels safe here is what is important rather than how well he does academically.

*Connection to activities you love-The more things one can find to enjoy, the more chances there are for one to be happy. Let your child experiment with many things.

*Connection to the past-Have children listen to their grandparents. Research family histories by studying genealogy.

*Connection to nature and special places-In our high-tech world it is easy to experience nature deprivation, but children are inherently connected to nature. Make a point of getting yours outside to experience it. If you live in a big city, simply find a park with some trees and birds.

*Connection to the arts-It doesn’t matter what, music, sculpture, drawing, painting, or poetry. Find something in this category that your child enjoys. It will enrich her life.

*Connection to pets and other animals-I will just quote what Dr. Hallowell writes. “All kids ought to have a pet if possible. Pets provide a special connection, like no other.”

*Connection to information and ideas-The most important thing here is that a child does not feel afraid of learning and connecting to new ideas. According to Hallowell, the greatest learning disability is fear.

*Connection to groups, teams, clubs, institutions-Again, I will quote Dr. Hallowell. “Groups such as these instill a sense of responsibility as well as providing an introduction to the power and joy of a group or team effort.”

*Connection a spiritual practice-Though it can be formal, it does not have to be. It is simply good to be open to discussing the big questions, such as why and how we are here.

*Connection to oneself-This will naturally grow as your child finds connection with other things. Make sure to nurture your child’s unique qualities and gifts. This will allow for his own self-acceptance.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Hallowell, check out his website by clicking here.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Back to Homeschool

GirlwithTabletonBooksWell, we are a few weeks into the new school year. With all the school work and homeschool group kick-off events, it’s like we’ve hit the ground running. Besides the weekly park days, we’ve had afternoon bowling and farewell to the beach day, field trip sign-up night, moms’ craft night (very therapeutic, by-the-way), and tomorrow we are joining our group for a field trip to an historic garden and art collection. Well I guess we’ve got the social interactions covered.

And how are we doing on school work? Over the summer, I worked very hard with my research, and got some advice from other parents about which curriculum I should pick for my son for each subject. I’ve chosen a bit of this and a bit of that, and most of it is computer-based. Here is what I’ve come up with:

*MathTeaching Textbooks: This has been great! The program includes both computer-based as well as written instruction. Students can use either one or the other. My son uses only the CD-ROM lessons that come with the program. Each one takes 10 to 15 minutes and is very interactive. There is a little instruction, followed by a problem or question, follow by a little more instruction, and another question, and so-on. There are a few practice questions after each lesson. My son doesn’t object to doing the teaching textbooks, and it is something he can do while I’m making breakfast. We can check it off our list in the first part of the day. We love it!

*Language ArtsThe Brave Writer Program: This, admittedly, has been slow going, but it is by design. The philosophy is to take a gentle approach and follow the child’s lead. There are a couple of main elements to the program.

For writing we have Partnership Writing for my son’s age-group and abilities. It includes one project per month, as well as some free-writing, and fun activities like poetry tea times.

The literary elements, grammar, and spelling are learned as we read literature in a program called The Arrow. Right now we are reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There are weekly lessons that correspond to the reading. My son is also required to do copywork. It is just copying a chosen passage from the reading. It is a great activity for children who have difficulty writing. I just have my son do as much as he can in one sitting and don’t push him to do more. It is just like exercise. If you do too much, you can get really turned off to it.

Because of the gentle approach, so far Brave Writer is really working for us.

*ScienceScience Fusion: I’m not so sure about this one, yet. As with the Teaching Textbooks, there are both written and computer-based lessons. The student can do either or both. Some of the computer-based lessons have virtual labs so you don’t have to gather materials in order to complete them. I thought this would be something my son would enjoy, but it turns out they are kind of boring to him. He would rather perform actual experiments. We have also found the virtual labs to be a bit glitchy, as well. For this reason, they are sometimes difficult to use. Because the virtual lessons that don’t have labs are relatively engaging, I will continue to have my son do these. The corresponding labs will no longer be done on the computer. So that is the plan for science. We’ll see how it goes.

*Social Studies-Primarily Chester Comix: This program includes a series of history books in comic book format. This appeals to my visual kid. So, so far, so good. Teaching guides in pdf can be found on the website for most of the lessons. These include activities and review questions. One of the activities we’ve done is make paper after we learned about life on the Nile and how Egyptians made paper out of papyrus reeds. This coming week we will be making dye from red cabbage and dying some shirts. These are the types of things that are fun and enriching, and my son actually likes to do them. They reinforce information he is learning.

Supplementally, for social studies, we are also using BrainPop and various educational software like Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?. We also have fun with Stack the States, which is an app for the iPad.

*Foreign Language-Swedish (that’s what he wanted to learn): We are using Rosetta Stone. It’s great! I just have him do a few minutes a few days a week. It works for him.

*Typing: We use Type to Learn 4. Again, I just have him do a few minutes a few days a week. It is basically a game. The student gets to be a secret agent who needs to use typing accuracy in order to unlock levels.

*ArtCreativity Express by Mapcap Logic: We really like this. My son does about one lesson a week, which includes videos with engaging, animated characters, online activities, and a choice of two possible projects. My son really likes art, and he enjoys the videos. This program is a hit!

*EnrichmentBrainware Safari: This is software that has games that, supposedly, train your brain. I’ve actually purchased this for my husband and me, as well. It’s supposed to help with focus, memory, and such. The games are fun, if nothing else. I like my son to use Brainware Safari at least 15 minutes, three days a week.

I know all of this sounds really expensive, but I am a member of Homeschool Buyers Co-op. As a member, I get major discounts on curriculum. Some educational materials are just a fraction of the original price. Homeschool Buyers Co-op has been a great resource for me and other homeschoolers I know.

(Image provide by FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stockimages)

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil

StressedSchoolBoyThis is a somewhat ranting response to my friend, Erika’s, recent post. There is a book, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, that shares the research showing the clear ineffectiveness of homework.

I have a pretty decent memory. When I was in 4th grade, I don’t remember having more than about a half-hour’s worth of homework. It was intended as a little bit of reinforcement rather than a pummeling of busywork. I didn’t get burned out until high school (though junior high had it’s own problems and was possibly worse for me).

Kids are burned out in first grade, typical kids, and it is much worse for children who don’t have conventional learning styles, as is the sad case with my friend Erika’s son. Yet there are parents who actually want the schools to give lots of homework; led to believe lots of extra work makes for smarter kids.

Looking at the current schedule of many children, they aren’t given much time for free play. After school, there is soccer (which is, to be fair, a physical activity and beneficial for kids) and violin lessons and dance class or some other school function. After that, there is dinner, healthy or not, depending how much time can be budgeted for cooking and eating. After that there is homework. Forget about there being a break on the weekends. There are more scheduled activities sprinkled among the schoolwork required for Monday morning. Then the whole cycles starts all over again.

In addition to the aforementioned book, I would recommend viewing the film, Race to Nowhere. It’s about schools turning kids into basket cases with the carrot of a college education held in front of their noses. Many kids in high school are spending hours and hours a night doing homework in order to be competitive, believing that is the only way they will get into college. They are overworked and sleep-deprived. Further, the situation is producing adults that are limited in their ability to be creative. But, hey, at least they’re really good at taking tests! In case you’re interested, click here if you would like to download a pdf of Race to Nowhere’s healthy homework guidelines.

(Image provided by David Castillo Dominici and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Healthy Mom

healthcheck

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I haven’t written in a very long time. It is a combination of us being busy with summer activities (I actually thought I would have more time to write) and me being very tired. The tiredness comes from me not really taking good care of myself, which I really should, especially due to the fact that I have what is called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is basically an autoimmune disorder where my body makes things to attack my thyroid causing me to have low thyroid hormone levels.

Recently, I have started working with a medical specialist, an endocrinologist, experimenting with different medications and different levels of medications. I found out my body had not been using the common thyroid medication effectively, and I was really feeling it. In addition to thyroid, the doctor also has me on megadoses of B12 and D3. (Note to self: Pick up more B12.) He also gave me a book about stress and how to reduce it. I do tend to worry more than your average person. I have read from more than one source claiming that stress is a big factor in causing or exacerbating thyroid problems.

Right now my endocrinologist has me trying a medication called Nature-Throid. I really don’t like the fact that it comes from piggies, but my thyroid has not been effectively regulated, which causes me to be depressed, have lots of hair fall out and dry, itchy skin, and I’m tired a lot. At this point, I’m willing to take the Nature-Throid. It has all the different variations of thyroid the body makes, and they are in a balanced ratio. What I’m dealing with, though, is the fact that the doctor put me on a low dosage because it is a new medication. He wanted to make sure I didn’t experience any negative side-effects. So I’m going to get a thyroid test to see where I’m at and schedule my next appointment. This doctor also wants me to cut out the sugar. He is very anti-sugar.

My primary care physician, on-the-other-hand, is not really opposed to sugar intake. She feels that my thyroid issues are the result of an inflammation response to certain foods I’m eating and things in the environment. (See Food Sensitivies and ADHD.) She had me do an allergy skin test in which it was determined that I am sensitive to quite a few foods, including, no surprise, cow’s milk. This doctor has prescribed two months without any of the offending foods and for me to ingest a detox drink that includes lots of fiber.

Then I get the idea from on-line experts that I should include supplementation with vitamin A and all the B vitamins, selenium, zinc, and iodine, among others, and I should do my best to cut the flouride, something my son’s pediatrician also suggested for him. Some also suggest cutting out all grains. Both the endocrinologist and primary care physician say we don’t need them. Then, of course, everyone suggests exercise of some sort. Ayayay! It’s pretty overwhelming.

So who is right, the endocrinologist, my regular doc, or the on-line experts? Probably there is some validity to it all. I’ve been doing lots of research, lately, to see how I can incorporate all the ideas into a temporary eating plan and then a subsequent, on-going lifestyle that will also work for the family. As I’ve stated, I’ve been doing lots of research, but I’ve not come to any conclusions. The plan is still a bit fuzzy.

So why have I written a post about me and my health on a blog about ADHD? First of all, as the main caregiver in the house, if I don’t feel well it is difficult to actually do my job. Mostly, though, I feel it’s important to set a good example for my child. If I want him to be a healthy individual, I am being a hypocrite if I am not working toward good health myself. Since I’m the one doing the cooking it will, hopefully, benefit everyone in the family, anyway, and help alleviate some of the less positive ADHD behaviors in my son (and me). I will be occasionally writing on this specific topic as I am able to filter all the information, make out my menu plans, and schedule my exercise and doctors appointments. I will also tell you how I’m feeling as I make the various changes, and hopefully we can all find greater health with new habits. I think I will go take a nap now.

Why We Homeschool

MomTeachingDaughterThere are lots of things we think we would never do, until…

Before having a child, and even when my son was young, I believed I would never homeschool. In fact, I used to be critical about parents who did. But then my son went to school, and the dread of sending him to school every day greatly overpowered any fear I had of homeschooling.

Looking back on it now, it makes me sad about how wrong it went, because my son was so excited to start school. I have a couple of photos of my adorable, bespectacled and smiling son, standing outside the school where he’d be attending kindergarten. On that first day, we had orientation to learn about the school and the teacher to which my son was assigned. It turned out this teacher used a discipline technique that included a poster that looked like a big traffic light and clothespins with each child’s name on one of the clothespins.

In the beginning of the day, the clothespin would be in the green portion of the traffic light. If a child behaved perfectly, his or her clothespin stayed in the green zone all day, a full school day, by the way. If not, it moved into the yellow zone. After a couple of warnings, it moved to the red zone where it stayed the rest of the day without any hope of returning to the green zone.

About 70% of the time, my son would come out of the classroom at the end of the day, hunched over, with a very sad face and his knuckles practically scraping the ground, and he would say to me, “I got another red today!” He also told me the teacher said his behavior was “ridiculous.” This was because he wanted to explore the room during the first couple of days in class and wasn’t able to sit in circle time. Also, he used to be very social and wanted to chat and play with the kids in his math group instead of actually doing the developmentally-inappropriate math they were requiring him to do. My son wanted to have fun in kindergarten. Go figure!

In addition to the traffic light discipline technique, my son was forced to sit on a bench during the short recess because of his difficulty paying attention in class. Obviously this was counterproductive. After finding out about this, I went into research mode. I found information about learning styles. You know, the idea that different kids learn in different ways, kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. Keep in mind my son didn’t have a diagnosis, yet. Though I knew my son was different from most kids, I denied that my son had ADHD, despite my husband’s having taken stimulants as a child.

I tried discussing what I’d discovered with my son’s teacher. Instead of her being open-minded, she became kind of defensive. Granted, the packet of information I presented her with might have been a bit overwhelming. In any case, her response was extreme, in my opinion. She said in an unnecessarily stern voice, “I’ve been teaching for a long time. I know what I’m doing. Your son just needs to learn to sit still, be quiet, pay attention, and follow directions.”

Because I had no luck improving the situation by way of the teacher, I decided to meet with the principal and vice-principle. I told them what our experiences had been so far. Rather than trying to support my son in his education, they defended the teacher’s draconian methods. They told me that other parents would “love” for their child to have my son’s teacher. Okay, so that wasn’t helpful.

The next stop was the school psychologist. Though she was kind and sympathetic, there was no support from the teacher or the administration. In the short, two-and-a-half weeks my son was at the school, he became extremely defiant. Admittedly, he already had a stubborn personality, but it became several times worse. Not only this, he was beginning to have violent outbursts, both at home and at school. Clearly, things were getting out of control.

One day my son awoke with a mild fever and was ill for a few days. Though my son was not feeling well, physically, he actually seemed happier. As for me, I didn’t have that feeling of dread that came with taking him to school every day, wondering what would happen there. It started to occur to me that maybe the people who homeschool weren’t wrong. I knew I could look for an alternative, but we couldn’t afford a private school, and what if the next public school was just as bad, or worse? I couldn’t take that chance.

Since my son was already a good reader, and since school is not a requirement until a child turns six in our state, I figured I could homeschool him through kindergarten, at least. We also found a local charter school that had an independent study program. My son began participating in that, and we also began attending a couple of park days with different homeschool groups. It’s really amazing all the resources that are actually available to homeschoolers, now. Mostly, the academics for that year consisted of reading lots of story books, playing age-appropriate math games, and going on field trips and visits to the library.

It is surprising how quickly so much damage can happen to child in such a short period of time, but it did. After leaving school, it took many months before the violent outbursts stopped. Then it took much longer for the extreme defiance to diminish. We’re still working on the little bit of defiance here and there, but it’s pretty close to that of a typical kid. I’m good with that, for now. I find he tends to show me more respect when I show him respect and speak with him like the person he is. There’s more to this story, of course.

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and David Castillo Dominici)

Food Sensitivities and ADHD

FoodQuestionMarkBeing with my son day in and day out and because of much of the reading I’ve done, I do feel there is some link between food and behavior. Though I don’t believe certain foods cause ADHD, I think certain foods can cause or exacerbate certain negative behaviors in some kids.

Beyond the obvious effects of sugar, which can turn your child into a bouncy, flouncy Tigger, I have also been hearing and reading a lot about food sensitivities, also called intolerances. According to Wikipedia, such intolerances can cause lots of the same symptoms as true allergies. The difference is that the symptoms of true allergies show up within a half hour after eating the offending food, whereas the effects of food intolerances are usually less severe and more chronic. Casein in milk and gluten in grains seem to be two of the biggest culprits. As a result, many parents are cutting the wheat and dairy out of their children’s diets hoping that this regimen will improve their child’s ADHD symptoms.

Though this is a good start, what if these aren’t the things a particular child is sensitive to? Or, what if they aren’t the only things? If your child has nutrition-focused pediatrician, like my son’s, then she or he should be willing to work with you. If not, I encourage you to be strong and advocate for trying different things in support of your child’s current therapies.

Working closely with your child’s doctor, according to one Purdue University study, you can both test for food sensitivities and follow an elimination diet. The guidelines for an elimination diet are found in many different books. You can either search for them in your local library, or, if you would like to purchase them, you can look here. Some of the most common foods people have sensitivities to, besides the dairy and wheat, are corn, yeast, soy, citrus, eggs, chocolate, and peanuts. Individuals might also have sensitivities to foods with high salicylates. Foods most-commonly known to contain salicylates are in the nightshade family, which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

Impulsivity in the Park

kids playing outsideFor those who don’t know, I homeschool my son. Part of the experience involves participating in afternoon park days with a couple of homeschool groups every week. Most often my boy seems to have fun as he plays with other kids. This past week, however, was not the greatest experience due to an incident during a game of Red Rover.

Allow me to briefly explain what this game involves. The kids split into two groups. One group forms a line holding hands. They call members of the other group over by saying “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (input child’s name) right over.” The kid who’s called has to run as forcefully as he or she can toward the line of children holding hands. The object is to break the connection between two of these kids. After that, I forget what the rules are. I know, it sounds like an injury waiting to happen, especially for the fact that the age range of kids playing this particular day was 4 to 13. I know it seems obvious that maybe we should have suggested another game, but hindsight is 20/20, and it was a game I played as a kid without injury (at least none I can remember).

Anyway, while a couple of other parents and I were chatting away, I looked over and noticed a small child on the ground. It wasn’t clear if he was injured because he wasn’t crying. As it turns out, he had been hurt by my son who happened to now be facing away from the group several yards away. I called my son to return to the group to have him discuss the situation, but he was, as usual, close-mouth. I knew that this was not a time to be accusatory (not that it ever is), especially since my boy had tears welling up in his eyes. I simply and gently told him that it was just important to apologize when we make a mistake and hurt someone.

Meanwhile, two of my son’s friends gave the details of the story. What happened was apparently a combination of errors. There were only three kids holding hands in a line. Two of the bigger kids in the line had been standing so closely that my kid’s only option was to run between the smaller child and the older kid in the middle. Because he has ADHD, my son doesn’t always think about consequences. He might otherwise have asked the children who were standing shoulder to shoulder to separate.

Normally, when my son unintentionally hurts someone, especially a small child, he demonstrates remorse and apologizes. According to my boy’s storyteller friends, in this situation, he didn’t get a chance. When he tried to run through the line and the small child toppled over, that child’s big brother immediately laid into my son, saying things like, “Thanks a lot for hurting my brother!”

After the incident and after I got the details of the story, my son left the group, teary-eyed, and headed to the bathroom. Fortunately, there was a  dad in the group who was able to follow him to chat and make sure my son was okay.

In my head, a light went on. I had always wondered why my kid wanders off by himself so often. Sometimes I see him sitting on the lawn in the middle of the park or climbing a distant tree. Often, I have gone to him and asked “what’s wrong,” to which I get, “Nothing. Everything’s fine.” Even though my son is so close-mouthed, I now strongly believe he goes off by himself after something bad has happened. To make matters worse, since my son has a reputation for doing things without thinking, other kids feel they have a license to be inappropriately severe with him.

My son’s impulsivity has diminished as he’s gotten older, though it can apparently still cause him problems. I just have to hope the impulsivity will occur less and less often, and I will keep reminding him to consider potential outcomes for any given situation. Maybe this will help. Though this is tough for many people, I think.

While my son was in the bathroom having a heart-to-heart with the homeschool dad, I was talking with the mom whose boys were involved in the Red Rover incident. I was able to explain to her that my son has a diagnosis of ADHD. I also had to kind of explain to her what that means, as much as I know, anyway. She actually thanked me. She said her older boy and mine had had some history of conflict. My explanation for my son’s impulsivity was really helpful, and she would have a talk with her children. I’d like to think that this will help and this will improve my son’s relationship with the other kids. I now feel like I should be talking to more parents about why my son often behaves the way he does, the fact that he has ADHD and what that means.

Disinfecting Wipes and Children’s Health

moleculesYesterday I took a trip to Target to get some cleaning supplies. First I got some Bar Keepers Friend and Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent. Then I went to the aisle that has the disinfecting wipes. I wanted to get the Seventh Generation brand which uses thyme oil as its active ingredient. Unfortunately, Target didn’t have it. Instead, there was nearly an entire aisle devoted to the disinfecting wipes I see all over the place to clean tables in schools and offices.

The company that makes these popular disinfecting wipes is not transparent about the true hazards of the active ingredients. Below I’ve listed the active ingredients along with some potential hazards:

*alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (benzalkonium chloride)-rated as a class 3 toxin, meaning it is less toxic than a class 1 or a class 2. Through what I’ve been able to gather, it is not completely clear what the health effects of this chemical are, but it is used in pesticide formulations. It is also suspected to be a neurotoxin, immunotoxin, gastrointestinal/liver toxin, a skin/sense organ toxin, and a respiratory toxin, according to Scorecard. Also, look here for more information from the PAN Pesticide Datebase.

*alkyl dimethyl ethyl benzyl ammonium chloride-is also a class 3 toxin used in pesticides, though there is less information about this chemical. It is also a rodenticide, so it might be bad for mammals (i.e., humans), in general.

In addition to these two chemicals with barely pronounceable names, there is also fragrance, isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, a mild surfactant called alkyl polyglucoside, and propylene glycol propyl ether, a low-toxicity solvent.

This little bit of information took over an hour to find. It would be nice if we could be sure the things we buy at our local stores are safe, but they may not be. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 only protects the public from “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” This doesn’t mean products we can buy are safe in the long run. Some may be very unhealthy.

If alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride is suspected to be a neurotoxin, what kind of influence might it have on my son’s brain development? I am especially concerned due to the fact that my son has a diagnosis of ADHD. Using the popular disinfecting wipes would be gambling with my child’s health, so I’m not going to use them in my home. I will be using safer alternatives like Seventh Generation products, pure hydrogen peroxide (which breaks down into water and oxygen but may leave a film), or I will make my own.

For those who are interested, here is a recipe for a disinfecting cleaner I’ve used in the past:

2 cups water
3/4 cups hydrogen peroxide
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon pure castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s)
20 drops tea tree essential oil (I used 25)
20 drops lavendar or lemongrass essential oil (I used 25)
The essential oils (EO) are open to experimentation. Since thyme EO is known for its disinfecting properties, I might try that next time. Depending on what essential oils are used, this mixture leaves a pleasant and clean, but not overwhelming, smell. Better still, unless you have sensitivities to them, all the ingredients are safe for you, your kids, your pets, and the planet.

 

ADHD Cured by a Good Night’s Sleep?

KidSleepingThere are many titles we see floating around about how we can “cure” ADHD. Just now I read a blog fromThe Daily Beast entitled “A Cure for ADHD?,” written by Ashley Merryman. It points out that this ADHD brain type and its related behaviors can be the result of a poor night’s sleep due to sleep apnea. The solution, according to this article, is a surgical procedure which would include a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. There was supposedly a study done about it and everything.

Instead of immediately discounting this theory (I will do that later), let’s assume it has some validity, that snoring leads to poor sleep quality, which leads to hyperactivity, which leads to a clinical diagnosis of ADHD. But before we start yanking parts out of our kids unnecessarily, why don’t we look at the things that cause snoring? An article on the Mayo Clinic website lists such things like “alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and…(excessive) weight,” among others as being the causes of snoring. The general idea is that snoring is the result of enlarged tonsils and/or sinus tissue.

Now let’s take these common causes, one-by-one, and dissect them, so-to-speak. The first one on the list, alcohol consumption, can be disregarded. We don’t let our children drink alcohol, do we? Colds are temporary. The other two options, allergies and excessive weight, are things over which we can have control. A child’s weight can be modified, and allergies can be alleviated through various methods. I plan to discuss allergies in another blog, soon, particularly food allergies.

Mostly, I feel that the idea that sleep dysfunction causes ADHD is false. If a child can simply get rid of the symptoms with a good night’s sleep, then they didn’t have ADHD in the first place. Here is a quote from an abstract in PubMed.gov: “Recent genetic and neuroimaging studies…provide evidence for separate contributions of altered dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) function in (ADHD).” Once again, here is information validating the link between genetics and the ADHD brain type, and that it can be the result of multiple causes.

If parents and pediatricians want to get together and discuss surgery to alleviate snoring, that is their option. On the other hand, if they think a tonsillectomy is going to cure ADHD, I’m not a believer. Any surgery that would “cure” an ADHD brain would be much more complicated and would actually involve a brain.

(Image courtesy of Feelart and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

To Those Who Would “Fix” My Kid

WomanWithHammerDespite what I or the medical experts know or feel about the ADD-genetic connection, those who have ADD or have children with ADD, deal with our share of judgement. Once, while picking my son up after a sleepover, a friend who knew my son had a diagnosis of ADHD, said, “He’s fine. You just have to give him direct instructions.” This was a person who didn’t live with him every day to see how much difficulty he had in all the various situations and environments we experienced.

I knew from the very beginning (yes, from the very beginning) that there was something not typical about my son. He used to be very active in his crib, had difficulty sleeping, and dealt with mood swings. I once heard a psychologist speaking at a CHADD meeting say, “People will tell you, ‘Just give him to me for a week, and I’ll fix him.’ What they don’t realize is that their kids could probably be raised by wolves and be fine.” I know this is a complete exaggeration, but the idea stuck with me.

Many people will judge your parenting skills based on the fact that their children are inherently typical, mild-mannered, and have an easy time focusing on mundane things. There are also so-called experts who don’t know what they are talking about. Dr. Marilyn Wedge, misguidedly, wrote a blog for Psychology Today, supposedly answering why French kids don’t have ADHD. It basically blames the parents. Thankfully, Dr. Stephanie Sarkis wrote French Kids Do Have ADHD: An Interview, as a response, which shredded many of Dr. Wedge’s ideas.

In answer to all the judgers, I believe there is a strong genetic influence in having the ADD brain type. It is only partly that the medical experts say there is that I believe this. The biggest reason I feel there is strong genetic predisposition to having ADD is that I married into a family that has its own time-zone. They call it Wilson (fake name) Standard Time, or WST, for short. Whenever my nuclear family visits them during one of the various holidays and make plans for a family activity or excursion, it takes so much longer for everyone to get ready than (I feel) is necessary. They get side-tracked and look for lost things.

Though it can be frustrating at the time, contemplating it in hindsight, I find it quite endearing. There are several absent-minded, distracted adults wandering around, trying to get themselves and their children ready, while still being kind, friendly, and brilliant. Additionally, both my husband and my one brother-in-law took stimulant medication when they were children, and this was in the early 70s when such drugs were not so common.

I would say I’m not innocent. I’m sure there is something coming from my side of the familly, too. I believe my father has undiagnosed ADHD, my brother has some auditory processing difficulties, and I don’t have the most optimal executive functioning skills when it comes to household organization. It is difficult for me to prioritize tasks. What we end with is a somewhat cluttered, but liveable, home.

This all being said, I don’t disregard that my son needs to live in society. He needs to be guided in the right direction. Teaching him life and social skills are at the top of my list of priorities. Things that work for typical children do not always work for my son, or it takes much longer to work. It is why I’m happy to be writing this blog. It helps me process and evaluate my plans and practices in a more visual way. It assists me on this journey of helping my son as he gets older, and great strides have been made. His behavior and his focus, though not what you’d expect from a typical 10 year old, have improved dramatically over the last few years, and I am heartened by this.

(image courtesy of Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)