If Y’all Could Make Mental Health Not So Scary… That Would Be Great.

I last shared about the pivoting point that made a potential Ritalin believer for my son, Anakin.  But first, I had to go to his pediatrician and get a diagnosis.

Confession: I wish this process wasn’t so … scary.  There’s so much stigma attached to not having a perfectly wired brain!

… So many of these boys do poorly in High School.  They are also more likely to struggle with depression and as a result, turn to drug addiction.  Or they can be psychopaths, quite literally, with severe defiant disorders… Yikes! This is my ten year old Larry boy we’re talking about! The one who memorized and quizzed on the whole book of Acts, who got baptized at church camp!

Trust me when I say: Don’t google anything.  But take notes of everything about your kid – everything he feels physically, emotionally, and every behavior issue and bring that to a professional.  In my case, my Pediatrician has treated Anakin since he was 3 years old!  He has a history of all of Anakin’s developmental assessments through out the years as well as his vaccines.  He knows how smart Anakin is.

We talked about some physical symptoms that were concerning me; insomnia (I wonder who he gets THAT from?!), upset stomach, and a clumsy impulsivity that is above and beyond a preteen.  We also talked about how Anakin has always been forgetful but it feels that this school year he can’t find the pocket on his own pants.  Anakin himself shared that he’s frustrated because he stutters more often, isn’t getting along well with his friends like he used to, and that he feels worried or anxious all the time.

We didn’t need to talk about how Anakin has a difficult time with negative feelings.  And there’s no mild discomfort; everything on his pain scale is a 12 over 10 or a 0.  He’s been this way since he was two years old…

He sent us home with some questionaires – one for him to complete about himself, and one for parents to complete.  We came in another day with questionnaires filled and Anakin sat through about 45 minutes of testing to assess various neurological responses.

It was after all this that the doctor sat us down and said my suspicions were correct; although Anakin is very smart and has undoubtedly developed some good coping mechanisms thus far, he has ADHD.

He proceeds to explain to Anakin, eye to eye, what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder means, with a drawing of brain neurons, and leaves me with a prescription of Ritalin which is completely optional and the list of a few authors.  He gives Anakin two books on how to slow down his mind to think.

We head over to the library and I leave Anakin happily playing a computer game on army tanks to brave section 616 in the adult floor.

anakin_tank

Dementia… PTSD… Anorexia… Depression… Psychopathy… Autism… 

Lord Jesus, what have I done to my son?!

scary-books

Attention Deficit Disorder… Here it is… A quarter of the shelf.  I’m hoping it’s more because so many books have been checked out and not necessarily because not enough books are written.

adhd-books

This is what makes asking for help so scary!  To venture down a path of needing mental health walks you through all these terrifiying and very real potential problems, much like how I felt walking down aisle 616 at my local library (even the number sounds ominous!).

But none of these things are beyond Jesus’ ability to heal or work through.  Autism, like ADHD, is an inherited different wiring of the brain – nothing more, nothing less.  Nothing God can’t use.  It’s not the nails on the coffin; it’s the nails on the Cross!  They are souls Jesus died for who have a role to play in God’s Kingdom.  While I would ask God to help someone heal from PTSD or Anorexia, I wouldn’t ask God to “heal” someone with autism or ADHD; they are some of the most wonderful geniuses I have ever met.  

PS About the video of Anakin three years ago… we all laugh about it now.  I’m sharing now confident that he isn’t as mortified about the incident as he was then.  He is a good sport and has a good sense of humor.

Do you know and love someone who is “differently abled”?  How has that changed your perspective on people with these different diagnosis? Share below!

This “What Were You Thinking?!” Moment Is Brought To You By…

Confession: I was that mom to whom teachers could not say the word “Ritalin” to.  And when I heard it for the third time, I pulled him out and began to homeschool.

I think there’s a stigma to mental health among Hispanic communities.  We were raised with “Chanclaterapia” = “Flip-flop therapy”, ie: There isn’t any behavior that can’t be fixed by smacking him upside the head with your sandals.  I don’t think it’s cruelty as much as it may be ignorance, but I also know that for many families in third world countries, failure is not an option.  To do poorly in school is to do poorly in life, and unlike the U.S., to do poorly in these countries is to be destined for poverty in it’s most unforgiving forms.  Graduating high school and going to college thus becomes the Holy Grail of the Hispanic community.

But about my son… He’s 10 and a half and in 5th grade.  And I’ve homeschooled him since.  He writes very well – but only one paragraph at a time.  His current major research project has taken him 4 weeks.  Because if I have him sit down and write 5 paragraphs all at once, it’s a disaster of syntax and grammar that I’m sure, if he read it out loud just once, he’d realize how an automated call center machine from India has better English than him…

This “What were you thinking?!” moment is brought to you by…

In Math, we’re doing remedial elementary school coursework.  Because I want to make sure he doesn’t advance to 6th grade still having trouble lining up his place values when he multiplies and divides – although he’s done these operations since 3rd grade, he … still… can’t put his numbers in the right place consistently and … still… makes these mistakes.  But he can do it right in his head!  He just can’t consistently perform well on paper!

This “What were you thinking?!” moment is brought to you by…

He burned his hand twice in one week.  The first time he was making Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwhiches so for the life of me I don’t even know why.  The second time I saw it happen and no one would believe me unless they were there…

… We were at church early one Sunday morning, and I’m in the process of making myself some tea.  He sees me put the tea bag into the disposable cup and says, “There’s hot water right here!” and proceeds to touch it.  Touch the metal hot water dispenser that is plugged in to the wall to keep the water boiling hot.  With the sign that says: “Careful.  Hot Water.”  I’m standing there stunned, he’s shaking his hand and in tears.  He wasn’t even close to it! He had to take two steps toward it to touch it.  He looks at me like he can’t even understand the pain he’s in, and I ask him the question of the day: “Anakin, what were you thinking?”  to which he replies, “I don’t know!” and breaks down into sobs.

So when my 125 IQ’d, published author, high school level reader, amazing artist, self-taught musician son who can do SAT level word analogies like a boss at age 10 can’t explain to me his thought process behind the impulsivity of putting a hand on a known hot object, I knew it was time to seek help.  It’s not a bad behavior modification issue.  It’s not even a discipline issue…

… But if it was a discipline issue, and I addressed it with “chanclaterapia”, how long would I beat him with a flip flop before I realized it just wasn’t working?  Seriously if I used a flip flop every time he forgot something, lost something, spaced out, lied to me on auto pilot, left his shoes in the middle of the dining room floor, or flailed his arms into harm’s way, I’d smack him 9-10 times a day.  That would be the definition of insanity on my part!

So I challenge my readers with difficult children today to stop and think for a moment: If you have been disciplining more than once over the same issue, and the child’s behavior is not improving, maybe it’s because discipline is not the problem!  At one point, we should all as parents be willing to brave the thought that our kids (and us) need professional help.  It was a tough pill for me to swallow, but I’m willing to hold your hand and walk you through it as your friend.

What is your biggest fear in asking your pediatrician or other medical professional for help when it comes to your child?  How have you overcome it? Share below!

And don’t forget to like/subscribe to my blog!  Thank you for your time.

Help! I Don’t Know What Kind of Homeschooler I am!

Confession: Even within the homeschooling community, there can be different “factions” – and some butting heads as a result.

You’d think just the fact that we homeschool would set us apart from what appears to be EVERYONE else, but oh no – from here it’s just a whole new world of soccer-mom style Hunger Games, unless you know how to get along with every one.

Beyond Bible-thumpers (or not), vaccine-haters (or not), special-needers (or not), we also have different schools of thought as to what “homeschooling should look like”.  These go deeper than personal parenting styles or opinion – it’s practically our philosophy for learning!


Don’t let it scare you too much – I will help you understand where these different moms are coming from, using myself as an example of how I fail at these miserably.

1.      The “unschooler”: It’s easy to think of an “unschooler” as a mom who refuses to do school work with her kids.  The end result is this mental image of a kid watching TV all day while mom sips a glass of wine, while other homeschooling moms are like, “Aren’t you going to have little Johnny LEARN SOMETHING!!”  The reality is, unschooling is super successful but super difficult to do.  It’s passing on a textbook in exchange of real-life application of that subject, like when I have my kids prepare a recipe to work on fractions and chemistry INSTEAD of doing them on Khan Academy.  You literally have to make an opportunity out of EVERYTHING and constantly inspire research, trial and error, and curiosity.  As hard as I try, I’m not above throwing a workbook at my kid and having him do a few pages so I can peruse Facebook for fifteen minutes (a.k.a. take a nap).

2.      The Charlotte Mason Schooler: Charlotte Mason was a brilliant educator of her time and I think every homeschooling mom should read a few of her books.  She always held the premise that children could surpass any educational expectation if properly nourished.  She advocated for reading, and read alouds.  Not Dr. Seuss, no, but The Odyssey or Hamlet – she did not believe in “age appropriate” reading, but rather that language development and imagination could have any child comprehend literary classics.  She was also big on imagination, public speaking, and nature.  I have decided I want to be Charlotte Mason when I grow up!  However with three children in different stages I am not as involved as this requires.


3.      The Public School Equivalent Schooler: These are the moms that do public school curriculum at home.  They basically work through workbooks, text books, and pre-set boxed materials from page 1 until it ends.  They feel they have to prove their homeschooling worth by having their children meet or surpass their peers in public school.  I started off this way because I didn’t know any better, and now I continue this way because my OCD does NOT allow me to reach the end of the year and leave a textbook unfinished.  That drives me nuts!

4.      The Pinteresty Schooler: You know the moms who have a craft or a science project for everything? Uuuuugh… I can’t even…

5.      The Unit Study Schooler:  These moms simply their lives by working on one subject at a time – and employing all other learning materials around that subject.  For example, as we are participating in the Idita-READ and learning about the Iditarod, we may read books on the subject, paint Alaska inspired art, trim the dog’s nails, calculate average speed for mushers, and write opinion pieces for our favorite musher.  Thus, for the whole week, we’re doing everything around this theme as long as it captures the kid’s attention; math, writing, reading, science, and history.  This is where I’ve been leaning more lately, mainly because I haven’t planned a lesson in weeks and I’m just running with it.

All this to say, no homeschooling mom is perfect!  We’re all crazy over our kids – there’s no competition!  So the best way to approach these fierce moms as they do homeschooling life (and it seems odd to you) is to appreciate that there is in fact a method to their madness.  It’s a beautiful thing to be able to pick and choose how we’re going to homeschool based on what is best for each kid and for this season, with the flexibility to adjust as we move along.