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.

Calm Down

Sitting quietly in class all day is a very difficult thing to do! Being 9 years old and adding ADHD on top of it makes it almost impossible but somehow my son manages with the help of DAYTRANA patch, self-control and lots of concentration. He really deserves a medal as far as I’m concerned!

There’s no wonder why he bounces off the wall when he gets home. We try to get his energy out by playing basketball, throwing the football or going to a near by indoor trampoline place but even after all the activity he still has a difficult time to slow down for his evening routine. This has caused me to start doing some research on calming supplements, herbs and techniques that I wanted to share.
Lemon Balm – Lemon Balm has several benefits, including reducing stress and calming effect.

Lavender Oil – Scent has calming effect to help promote relaxation and reduction of stress.

Magnesium – A mineral that’s non-existent with my son’s intake due to being a picky eater. Having anxiety and being under stress actually depletes your magnesium level, I actually might need some of this too. Magnesium helps you sleep better, gets rid of stress and helps your brain work better.

Calming Techniques – Deep Breathing, stretching, listening to music, walking (in case of my son running), squeezing a stress ball, drawing and/or writing. The calming techniques are a work in progress for us since my son has a hard time slowing down to recognize that he needs to implement them.

We are now starting my son on magnesium supplements and applying lavender oil to his temples to help him slow down in the evening, hopefully, one of them or both will help him slow down. It hurts to see my son struggling with all the obstacles that accompany his ADHD but I know we will be stronger and more educated with our hands on experiences. I will keep you posted on our new path to calmness!

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

ADHD Awareness Month

The many faces of ADHD Awareness Month

Today, I got several email blasts announcing October as ADHD Awareness Month! It would be so nice if everyone became more knowledgeable and understand the children that struggle each day with ADD/ADHD.

Celebrities are teaming up with CHADD to raise more awareness, generate positive messages about ADHD and raise funds for ADHD Awareness Month.

Having a child with ADHD you can feel alone, singled out and often discouraged about home, school, organized sports and social gatherings. Finally, something positive about ADHD, it’s about time!

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 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

Back to the Grind

Back to RealitySummer is over, school is in full swing and it’s time for me snap out of vacation mode and Back to Reality. I had a hard time writing this summer, don’t know why so here’s my first go at it!

My son is now in 4th grade and after attending Back to School Night and meeting his teacher, I know it’s going to be a difficult year with lots of homework, getting organized and being responsible and held accountable. I’m trying to nip things in the bud though, and meeting with the school’s inclusion team and his teacher this coming week, making sure his accommodations are being met and his teacher has read his report and to put some strategies into place.

The first week of school my son got 3 ‘Homework Infraction’ slips sent home due to incomplete homework, homework done on incorrect paper and/or not done at all! My feeling are these slips are an insult to any child and sure to lower self-esteem and confidence, especially a child with ADHD and dyslexia, who is already struggling with self-esteem and self-confidence.  His weekly homework is 2-3 hours of homework over the weekend then 1 1/2 hours of homework every night, this might work for a some of your kids but not mine! He needs to be able to be a kid too, playing sports and with friends, therefore homework will be on the top of my list in my upcoming school meeting, will keep you posted.

Have a great weekend!

Healthy Mom


(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles and

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 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.

Happy July 4th

July 4th

Here’s to a happy and safe July 4th from our families to yours!

Some Patriotic-Sounding Names Fun Fact

Fifty-nine places contain the word “liberty” in the name. Pennsylvania, with 11, has more of these places than any other state. Of the 59 places nationwide containing “liberty” in the name, four are counties: Liberty County, Ga. (65,471), Liberty County, Fla. (8,276), Liberty County, Mont. (2,392) and Liberty County, Texas (76,571).
One place has “patriot” in its name. Patriot, Ind., has an estimated population of 209.

The most common patriotic-sounding word used within place names is “union” with 136. Pennsylvania, with 33, has more of these places than any other state. Other words most commonly used in place names are Washington (127), Franklin (118), Jackson (96) and Lincoln (95).

Fun Facts from United States Census Bureau


anxietySince it’s summer time I’m able to spend more time with my son and seeing that two of his largest battles are anxiety and perfectionism.  He’s constantly has his guard up, worrying about anything and everything, always questioning, trying to predict an outcome (what if?) of every daily event. If things do not have his envisioned outcome he gets very oppositional. He always needs to know details about everything, i.e. what we are getting at the store, what is he doing next, why are we going to the bank, etc…He also worries that he’s not good at school, he does not have enough of play dates, he’s not good enough in sports or other activities. To be honest with you, he did great in school this year, he’s an exceptional athlete and has lots of friends but not according to him.

This summer he’s spent two weeks at basketball camp but every day complained of a stomach and headache before going and always asked to be late so he did not have to do the warm-up drills. Basketball camp is now over and after a short conversation about “it’s not good to arrive late”, I now know that he did not want to do the warm-up drills in fear of not performing up to his standards (better than others). His recent stomach and headache complaints bring back memories from the school year and how many times he complained, now I know he was scared of failure in school too. And then his anxiety over not being perfect in soccer, basketball and baseball this last year and seeing himself as a failure if he did not pitch a strike, make a goal and/or basket. Wow, it’s absolutely heart breaking and I can’t even imaging how hard he works every day just going through life!

He already has anxiety over the next school year, saying it’s will be too hard. I keep on talking to him about keeping up with his math and reading skills during summer so he will not loose his current skills, but he refuses to read or do any math with me. He sees an educational therapist (same one he’s been seeing for two years now) every week to keep practicing math and reading but last week he shut down and would not do anything with her. I guess I’m kind of at a loss.

Nothing is a guaranteed cure for my son’s perfectionism and anxiety I hope creating more stress free environment at home (a challenge), find a more suitable school (working on), medication & therapy (already doing), and teching him to relax are just a few things we will continue to work on!