House Rules

House RulesMy son has ADHD and is  very stubborn, controlling and thinks he rules the world, and if he does not get his way he gets very oppositional and defiant, slamming doors, flipping over furniture and uses hurtful words.

This morning was one of those mornings where he did not get his way and the house turned upside down. You see, he woke up at 7:30 am and got dressed, and I caught him sneaking out the door to go our next door neighbors without asking. Not only was it too early to go and knock on someones door, at 7:30 am, but he did not ask for permission, one of our house rules.

Our ‘House Rules’ are simple and we only have a few of them to make things easier.
1. Say please and thank you
2. Respect each other
3. Ask before you do
4. Use kind words
5. Love each other

In addition to our ‘House Rules’, my son has a routine of what is expected of him in his day to day routine, for example; brushing his teeth, getting dressed, showering daily, coming his hair, going to school, etc…If he meets the expectations he will get a specified amount of time for TV, ipad, playing with dad, playing with mom and play dates. If not, certain privileges will be taken away!

Back to this morning’s event! After catching him sneaking out the door I had to ask him nicely 25 or more times (I lost count) to come back inside, with a response of “Shut Up” or some other non-acceptable words every time. I finally got him back in the house and tried to explain to him that he can’t just walk out the door without asking plus on top of that, he cannot go knocking on someone’s door at 7:30 am. OMG, doors slammed and things went flying and the threats of he’s going to hit me started. This is where I usually lose it but today I tried to remain calm, choosing my words carefully and then re-direct. This took 30 minutes to do but we were finally able to get dressed, walk out the door, get in the car and go and get some breakfast before I dropped him off at camp.

Sitting at breakfast we were able to talk a little about what happened, how he did not follow several of our house rules, the consequence he will get for not asking to go next door and how disappointed I was. I am now on my way next door to explain what happened and to have them help me enforce the consequence of my son not being allowed to visit them today and if he tries, ask them to send him home.

In addition of letting him know of his consequence for today’s behavior, I also informed him of his schedule after I pick him up from camp so I will not experience any more opposition. He will be spending an hour with his educational therapist reading and reviewing math facts and then we are going to his behaviorist.

Needless to say I am exhausted and frustrated from this morning and having a hard time sinking my teeth into work and doing my daily chores. I need to get some food in me and run to the grocery store but instead I decided to put everything in writing hoping it will make me feel better. My son is the most sensitive, loving and caring child but sometimes he just snaps and this is where our family really struggles!

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.

Summer Cold

A Cold

Summer is here and guess who has a cold? Both my son and I! I guess the first week without any stress of school, homework, sports and appointments let our guard down and wham, it got us!

Now trying to get a child with ADHD to take it easy, and not go swimming in warm, sunny Southern California is rather challenging, so I gave up! But for myself, a daily “Immune Shot” (fresh squeezed ginger shot) and “I am Strong” juice from Juicy Ladies is a must! It could all be in my head but I’ve visited them three days in a row now and I’m already feeling better.

For my son I will need to sneak in healthy foods (a smoothie), vitamins and get him to bed early in order for him to get well, a little bit of a challenge but I will manage.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and fun summer!

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.

 

Dyslexia, ADHD or Both?

Reading

In January I attended a Dyslexia presentation at my son’s school, you see my son is also dyslexic. He struggles with far point (from the board) and near point (from a book) copying, phonics, written expression and reading comprehension.

The speaker was Susan Barton, Founder of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, and wow, what an amazing speaker and how eye opening her presentation was. She spent three and half hours speaking about dyslexia, the warning signs, programs that work and programs that don’t work. Dyslexia is more common then you think, approximately 3-4 out 20 kids in a classroom are dyslexic. Dyslexia is also very common with ADD/ADHD kids, and a dyslexic and ADD/ADHD diagnosis are often confused. I also learned that the saying, “People with dyslexia don’t know how to read”, is a myth, they do know how to read, they just read differently.

Here are a few warning signs of dyslexia she mentioned.

In Preschool

  • Delayed speech
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Constant confusion of left versus right
  • Late establishing a dominant hand
  • Difficulty learning to tie shoes
  • Trouble memorizing address, phone number or alphabet
  • A close relative with dyslexia

In Elementary School

  • Dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read)
  • Letter or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
  • Extreme difficulty learning cursive
  • Slow, choppy, inaccurate reading
  • Terrible spelling
  • Difficulty telling time
  • Trouble with math
  • Extremely messy bedroom, backpack and desk
  • Dreads going to school

In High School

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Poor written expression
  • Unable to master a foreign language
  • Poor grades in many classes

I am fortunate that my son’s school has an inclusion program and I was thrilled he qualified for their dyslexic reading program, Barton Reading & Spelling System.  My son gets pulled out of class 2 days a week reading one-on-one with an inclusion specialist. He has a long ways to go but he has made great strides and is a stronger and more confident reader, and has learned reading tactics that he will use for many years to come. We also listen to Audio Books when we travel in the car and I just learned about the Braille and Talking Books Library (check with your state library for details) and I am planning on using this resource for the upcoming school year.

 

Overwhelmed

Juggling

Today I am overwhelmed! Between morning drop off, grocery shopping, working, figuring out what to make for dinner and helping with homework I feel weighed down. I can usually handle my daily load but today I can’t and I’m trying to figure out why?

I think I know why, I have started too many projects and haven’t finished one today! Here are of the projects I am juggling today:

1. Work – working on Facebook, Instagram and Pic Stitch for a client. Meeting work deadlines.

2. Finalizing summer plans and registering my son for summer school and camps.

3. Paying bills (especially do not like this one).

4. Finishing several blog posts I started a week ago but have put aside due to interruptions. There are so many things to share!

5. Figuring out what I should make for dinner??? A huge issue in my house since my son does not eat the same things my husband and I eat.

6. Creating a distract proof homework environment for my son. We are going to try to meet the tutor at the library instead of home today and we’ll see how it works.

Well the list goes on and on! Hopefully I will be able to accomplish most on this list but the day is coming to an end and I have to go and pick up my son from school.

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)

Medication Rollercoaster

roller-coaster

We’ve been on a medication roller coaster for the last 2 years and still not sure we are on the right track! My son was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and Dyslexia in March, 2011.

In May, 2011 we started on the traditional, Ritalin, amphetamine based stimulant, resulting in high anxiety, tension and agitation we decided to try non-stimulants. In addition to Ritalin he was put on Prozac for depression and anxiety. Instead of taking care of my son’s depression and anxiety, Prozac did the opposite, made his mood, anxiety and depression worse. His mood swings got so bad we took him off Prozac immediately and put him on a low dosage of Abilify to stabilize his mood.

December, 2011 we started Strattera and Intuniv, non-stimulants, for focus, still resulting in extreme moods and drowsiness, even on Abilify (who wouldn’t be moody when you are tired all the time). In August, 2012 to go off Strattera and Intuniv and try Vyvanse, a dexamphetamine based stimulant instead. It worked well for 9 months (I thought) but he always had a difficult time coming off them in the evening (we called it the bewitching hour), high anxiety and easily irritated.

This April our son’s teacher told us our son is having a hard time focusing in class and not learning, therefore, decided to change medication again. In order to move on to the next choice of medication, we had to go two weeks without anything for focus but remained on Abilify, it was amazing how happy and calm our son became when he was off the stimulants but ‘O MY’ did I have complaints from his teachers. One of his teachers actually asked us to put him back on Vyvanse for focus, and I just learned that her request is against the law since she is not a doctor, imagine that!

After meeting with our pharmacologist/psychiatrist in April we came up with a new strategy. Since the Abilify has stabilized his mood, we can now try Strattera again but starting at a very low dosage and increasing the dosage slowly for four weeks instead of starting at the max dosage from the start. Tonight we will increase the dosage and so far so good at home, in sports, social activities but at school he’s become more defiant with his teachers.

Remember medication does not work alone! My husband and I try very hard to have a nurturing and stress free home environment (not reality though), my son attends a weekly social skills group, sees a child psychotherapist weekly and has tutors to help him with homework and school projects. Open communication with school and teachers are very important too. I touch base with his teachers 2-3 times a week. Our goal is to eventually be free of medication and if not, lower dosage he’s currently on.

Today I received and email from my son’s teacher and he’s staying on task, focusing and not interrupting in class. I am so excited could this be the right medication regimen for him? We could only hope!

This will be an ongoing subject…to be continued…

27 Times a Charm

BroccoliWhen my son was not quite two, a friend told me it can take up to 27 times of trying a particular food before you like it. This might be daunting to people who think they have to feed full portions of “yucky” spinach to their picky four-year-olds 27 times. When I heard this amazing fact, however, it was heartening to me. I thought, “You mean I can train my child to like healthy foods?” Instead of trying to feed full portions of a new food to my son, I would just have him take a tiny bite of it. That is all I required. Over time, some of these foods he would eat a little more until he eventually ate full portions of the stuff.

Fortunately, it has not taken 27 times of eating most foods for my son to like them. Though I haven’t yet gotten him to like sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, beets, and acorn squash, there are lots of other foods he does like. He happily eats broccoli, Greek olives, various greens, including spinach, carrots, sweet peppers, and fish.

So what about the healthy things my son won’t eat? Possibly the reason he doesn’t yet like some of them is because he hasn’t tried them the full 27 times. I’m going to continue having him try just one little bite each time I prepare the food. As with everything, it is a process. I will not give up, and I encourage you to not give up either. Be heartened by the fact that it didn’t take nearly 27 times of trying for my son to like most of the foods he eats. I would love to hear how it goes with you, and I will keep you posted about the Brussels sprouts.

(Image courtesy of Toa55 and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

When Mom Has a Meltdown

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-woman-pulling-her-hair-screaming-image29010810

Whenever my son has a meltdown or a tough time with a lesson, I tell myself, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” When he was a newborn, I didn’t expect him to walk or talk. When he was a toddler, I didn’t expect him to read. Now that he is 10, though he can walk and talk and read, I don’t expect him to have the abilities a 15 year old would. Definitely I would not expect him to have the maturity and communication skills of an adult. All learning is a process, and because my son has that unique ADHD brain, some things will take even longer to learn.

At the moment, I am focusing on teaching my son what I feel are some of the most important qualities. These are empathy and kindness. Things which can be difficult at times. I keep reading and hearing that I have to model good behavior so my child will understand how to behave, but I don’t always do this. Sometimes I lose my temper. Often it’s me yelling at other drivers who do (what I think are) crazy things. Sometimes it is me yelling at my son out of frustration. Intellectually, I know this doesn’t do anyone any good.

So what do I do? Well, I’ve certainly done plenty of beating myself up verbally (and not out loud, so you know). But just like with yelling at my son, being angry with myself doesn’t do any good except to feed the guilt monster. I know I’ve been trained to react in certain ways, and not in good ways. What I’ve been slowly attempting to do is some very difficult deprogramming. Before I explode with angry emotion, here are some of the things I try to do:

*Self talk, like “I know he can’t help having a difficult time focusing on this boring lesson,” and such

*Count to 10

*Have a glass of water

*Give myself a time out in my room

*Deep breathing–Breath in to a count of 7, and breath out to a count of 11 while in a comfortable position with my eyes closed. I do this several times until my breathing becomes less shaky, more fluid.

My outbursts have slowly become fewer and farther between as I’ve worked on dealing with frustration. It’s not easy, but I am learning. And when all my good intentions break down and I do have an outburst, I provide a heartfelt apology. I’m very good at saying I’m sorry. I also try to figure out ways of avoiding such situations in the future, often including my son in the conversation once everyone has calmed down.  Conflict is a two-way street, after all.

Seams in Socks

I’m on my way to my sons’ baseball game and wanted to mention tactile sensitivities!

My son is extremely sensitive to seams in socks! We just got through a 15 minute battle with lining up the seams properly, with his bulky baseball socks in his baseball cleats, phew! Luckily, he transitioned well and got right into the car to go down to the field but sometimes the seams in the socks issue can turn into tantrums that are difficult to recover from.

We found Socks without Seams here.