Posted in Family, Homeschooling

All Things Are Possible… With ADHD

This is blog 3 of 3 on the subject.  If you’ve just joined me, you can check out post 1 and post 2 first at these links!

Confession: I am realizing now that my apprehension against Ritalin is kind of like judging a diabetic for using insulin instead of dieting and exercising regularly.

But after a lot of research I’ve realized where my negative stereotype came from:

  • Seeing so many kids diagnosed early: What kind of four year old ISN’T a wiggle butt?
  • Reports of “zombie like” side effects on the medication.
  • The stereotypical “welfare mom” who takes advantage of the diagnosis to dump the kid from dawn to dusk at day care.
  • The ease of the diagnosis in the first place: even teachers and social workers can diagnose a child and refer him to get medications!

There’s always a little bit of truth to these stereotypes after all, or they wouldn’t stick.  Really difficult kids drive referrals, which is why boys are diagnosed in day care and most girls fall through the cracks.  That “zombie” kid may have been over-medicated because there isn’t an exact science to the amount of medication each individual kid needs – and as I’ve learned full well through  my RA journey, sometimes it takes months (in my case, a year and 2 months) to get the balance of medication right!  Lower income parents have a more difficult time with ADHD children and less support, having to work more and not necessarily having the child’s needs be any cheaper…

I’m no expert, but I have read enough on the subject to understand that the medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants to help an underactive part of the brain – the part that helps with slowing down and thinking things through.  It’s not easy to dial it down!  But it makes sense to me because after Anakin would stand in the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, for 15 minutes, I would have him drink a cup of coffee with me in the mornings.

Cafe con leche, also known as cafe au lait.  Half brewed coffee, half milk, and some sugar.  It saved my life on more than one school morning myself… But I digress.  I did this every so often, specially on challenging school days.

I tackled all these concerns with his pediatrician too.  I came to understand that for most public school kids, they get put on longer-lasting medication.  Many schools are not exactly tolerant of a daily trip to the nurse’s office for another dose.  So when the aim is to help a child get through an 8-12 hour day, it’s not inconceivable that the dosage can be largely over-shot.

We decided to try a small dose that a) works immediately (side effects and all) and b) lasts only 3-4 hours.  If it was going to be too much, and negatively affect him, I wanted to know pretty immediately and call it good.  I also homeschool, and have been doing so the past 2 school years successfully without any medication.  In this time:

  • He learned to swim.
  • He published a book on Amazon.
  • He is a Cub Scout
  • He reads high school level fiction and even Kathy Reichs (we’re all a fan of the television show Bones)
  • He designs video games and learned coding
  • He’s an excellent chef – with the best mac and cheese in Alaska, I’m sure!
  • He’s made and kept a few good friends
  • Shot a .22 with outstanding accuracy
  • Premiered in a Christmas production with a local theater company
  • Performed in a choir, singing middle school level pieces of music with at least two part harmonies.

Needless to say, all things ARE possible.  Even with ADHD.

anakin-naan

The particular issue in this season of our lives is that the distractions and noise are constant and at times chaotic.  Not only was he having a difficult time focusing but the stress of trying to concentrate with the odds against him were also giving him headaches, depression, and an upset stomach.

So far, I’ve tried a dose of Ritalin twice – and always with his consent.  I’ve asked him, “Do you want to take your medication for XYZ this morning? Or do you think you can handle without?”  He’s asked me to do cub scouts and church without meds.  But on meds, he tackled a lot of chores and a lot of school work – might I add in an impressive amount of time.  DRASTICALLY less fussing with the sibling over every. single. chore.

Rabbit trail: How do I know this kid is a math genious? Because he’ll tell me, “Caleb only vacuumed 1/3 of the surface area upstairs.  Mean while, I have swept and mopped the entire floor down stairs, which is about twice the surface area Caleb has to vacuum upstairs in the first place! Therefore, it stands to reason that I should get on the computer first and not do any more chores – not even his chores!”  For the record, Caleb is 7.

He has complained it bugs his stomach but not enough to slow him down.  No change in personality either, just more task efficient; seeing the problem as “what needs to get done?” and then doing just that without complaining, fussing, or bullying his siblings into taking his place.

I don’t doubt that with or without medication Anakin, along many other kids, will accomplish things that will surpass anything his father and I could’ve hoped for!  While we read through the literature and learn better skills, we can certainly use treatment as our ally.

anakin-and-me

And we will probably BOTH need treatment.  All my research shows me that ADHD is hereditary, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Anakin probably inherited it from me.  If I braved this process for him, I owe it to him to brave it for myself too because I can only parent as far as I know.  If you want to know how this saga progresses, you’ll have to follow my blog.  Only time will tell!

Do you face medication concerns when it comes to your loved ones? How do you handle that conversation? Share below!

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

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!

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

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!

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