messy. crazy. amazing. joyful.

We're not all officially ADHD. Dad's unofficial. Our ten-year-old twins have ADHD. Our seven-year old wants to have it because everyone is always talking about it. Our three year old has ADHD--just because she's three. And me, Mom, I think it's contagious. Who can remain untouched in a house where shoes seem to be lost every morning, instructions are routinely thrown aside, and fights erupt over which continent capybaras come from?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Interesting Autism Research--May Relate to ADHD

Here's one of Izzy's illustrations for a school report on fairy bluebirds. She loves to do 3-D illustrations with paper. I love to see what she comes up with. What she's lacking in social skills, she makes up with creative skills!! 

My friend has a son with autism and she is super active in finding new treatments and alternative treatments, researching, and doing all that it takes to help her son. ADHD is not an autism spectrum disorder but has many similar symptoms and perhaps similar causes. I thought I'd post this article that she sent me. It's really interesting. I'm always fascinated by anything twin-related, too.

Study: Environmental Factors May Be Just as Important as Genes in Autism

By Alice Park Tuesday, July 5, 2011 

Autism is undeniably influenced by genes, but a new study suggests that environmental factors may also contribute significantly — more than researchers previously thought — to the developmental disorder. In fact, environmental factors may play at least as big a role as genes in causing autism.

Dr. Joachim Hallmayer, a psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and his team report online in the Archives of General Psychiatry that shared environmental influences may account for as much as 55% of autism risk, while less than 40% can be attributed to genes.

The study modeled risk, but did not specify which environmental factors were at play. But other research has implicated increasing maternal and paternal age, low birth weight, multiple pregnancies and any medications or infections to which an expectant mom is exposed during pregnancy.

Autism, which affects at least 1% of children, is a complex disorder, so it's no surprise that both environmental and genetic factors contribute to its development. But in recent years, experts have focused intensively on the genetic components of autism; with the availability of more sophisticated tools to analyze genetic changes and development of disease, researchers have identified important clues about autism's roots in DNA.

But the rise in autism spectrum disorders has occurred too quickly to be explained fully by genes. And scientists know that genetic changes don't occur in a vacuum. Such aberrations, combined with non-genetic factors, may offer a fuller picture of what causes the disorder.

To determine how much either factor may contribute to autism, Hallmayer's group analyzed identical and fraternal twins, in which either one or both were diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder. Identical twins share identical genetic makeup, while fraternal twins are only as genetically similar as any two siblings. So by comparing the prevalence of autism between the two groups, the scientists were able to determine with relative assurance how much genes and shared environment contributed to the twins' conditions.

The study found that the likelihood of both twins being affected by autism was higher among identical than fraternal twins. That suggests that genetics plays a key role in the disorder. But importantly, the chance of both twins being affected by autism was not low among fraternal twins, which is counter to what would be expected if genetics were the dominant factor.

The study also found that autism rates among both identical and fraternal twins were higher than in the general population. That further suggests that environmental factors, probably shared by the twins as early as in the womb, contribute significantly to causing the disorder. "The fact that both groups have elevated rates suggests that something is making the two groups of twins similar to each other," says Neil Risch, director of the Institute for Human Genetics at University of California San Francisco and senior author on the paper. "Whether it occurs in utero, during childbirth or soon thereafter, we can't differentiate. But it suggests that something environmental is causing the twins to be alike."

Risch notes that the results do not discount genetic factors by any means. "It's not either-or in terms of genetics or environment," he says. "We're not saying autism isn't genetic, because the huge majority of twins don't have autism. Obviously something is priming the risk, and it looks like that may be a genetic predisposition. So a genetic base and environmental factors together may explain autism better."

The risk in twins with a genetic vulnerability may be triggered by being a multiple, for instance; something about the more crowded uterine environment may contribute to a greater chance of developing the disorder, Risch notes.

The good news is that as researchers better understand the environmental factors that are responsible for autism, the more some of these factors may be modified to help lower the risk of the disorder. A fuller picture of the spectrum of both genetic and non-genetic contributors to autism may also help lead to more effective ways to treat it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Fun of Moving

He fell asleep with the fish still biting his fingers.

I haven’t written anything for a couple of months. We are moving in 2 weeks and life is hectic. Has it been hard on my kids? Let’s see, Luke was suspended one day for hitting, and the next week I found myself on a conference call with the principal, his teacher, and the teaching director because his behavior is tanking and they don’t know what to do with him. His teacher is amazing. When she can’t deal with him, I know something is wrong. So what did I do? Sent him to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a few days. I’m just lucky he has amazing grandparents.

I have lots of stuff to blog about that I’ve been learning lately, so I hope I’ll get back to it soon. For now, I’m just going to share a Luke quote that Grandma shared with me.

Luke was running around and got all sweaty. He wiped his brow, looked at Grandma, and said, “I’m sweating like a sinner in church.” Where does he get this stuff?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gifted? ADHD? or Both?

She just gives off a "brilliant" vibe.

Disclaimer: One of my children is gifted, maybe two. But I’m not bragging. It has nothing to do with me, and it comes along with a lot of social/emotional baggage. So please don’t think I think I’m cool or that they are geniuses.

Okay, I’ve got a whole new angle to analyze—the gifted thing. I knew Luke was gifted, but I just thought that meant he could read like a demon when he was barely out of diapers. And I knew Izzy was gifted in some areas, but once again, I just enjoyed her intricately made 3-D paper emperor moth creations and tried to ignore the miles of scotch tape stuck to my desk. But my school just started a group for parents of gifted children, and I felt like I should learn a little bit more about gifted education—especially because I always seem to be focusing on the kids’ ADHD struggles. After just one meeting, and reading one chapter of our book, I realized just how misunderstood giftedness is, especially by me.

I didn’t realize the social and emotional implications of giftedness. And I didn’t know that “Twice Exceptional” is an actual term for those who have exceptional talents and learning disabilities at the same time. I just thought it was the name of a blog I had noticed on a mom's view of adhd (and had never taken the time to look at). Well, now I have checked it out. According to the twice-exceptional (2e) web site: “This term refers to the fact that some gifted children are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations. Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning difficulties.” 

So I had a little moment of clarity at my parenting group, thinking, “Ah ha, there’s actually a name for Luke’s condition. He is 2e, gifted and ADHD at the same time, and Izzy may be too.” But then the group leader started talking about how so many gifted children are misdiagnosed as having ADHD and how so many of the characteristics and social/emotional symptoms cross over. And the other parents started talking about how they refused to accept the diagnosis of ADHD for their children, and had taken them to 5 different doctors, and would absolutely not give their children drugs, and had taken them out of regular school and home schooled them, etc. etc. Well, all the old guilt and confusion washed over me for a while. How did I know that the kids had ADHD and were not simply gifted children whose social and emotional needs weren’t met? Are their drugs really working or is it just a placebo for me and their teachers? If the signs are the same, then how can I ever tell if they are gifted, ADHD, or both?

After I got home, my husband talked me off the ledge, and I did some yoga breathing. I realized I didn’t need to make any huge changes in my kids’ lives because things are going fairly well right now. But I will continue my little journey of discovery, and if it turns out that they are gifted and not ADHD, then we’ll change course. Unfortunately, I can’t figure everything out at once, but I’ve just got to accept that with a little Zen patience I think.

Here are some myths and truths about gifted children:

Common Myths About Gifted Students

*Gifted students are a homogeneous group, all high achievers.
*Gifted students do not need help. If they are really gifted, they can manage on their own.
*Gifted students have fewer problems than others because their intelligence and abilities somehow exempt them from the hassles of daily life.
*The future of a gifted student is assured: a world of opportunities lies before the student.
*Gifted students are self-directed; they know where they are heading.
*The social and emotional development of the gifted student is at the same level as his or her intellectual development.
*Gifted students are nerds and social isolates.
*The primary value of the gifted student lies in his or her brain power.
*The gifted student's family always prizes his or her abilities.
*Gifted students need to serve as examples to others and they should always assume extra responsibility.
*Gifted students make everyone else smarter.
*Gifted students can accomplish anything they put their minds to. All they have to do is apply themselves.
*Gifted students are naturally creative and do not need encouragement.
*Gifted children are easy to raise and a welcome addition to any classroom.

Truths About Gifted Students

*Gifted students are often perfectionistic and idealistic. They may equate achievement and grades with self-esteem and self-worth, which sometimes leads to fear of failure and interferes with achievement.
*Gifted students may experience heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and those of others, resulting in guilt over achievements or grades perceived to be low.
*Gifted students are asynchronous. Their chronological age, social, physical, emotional, and intellectual development may all be at different levels. For example, a 5-year-old may be able to read and comprehend a third-grade book but may not be able to write legibly.
*Some gifted children are "mappers" (sequential learners), while others are "leapers" (spatial learners). Leapers may not know how they got a "right answer." Mappers may get lost in the steps leading to the right answer.
*Gifted students may be so far ahead of their chronological age mates that they know more than half the curriculum before the school year begins! Their boredom can result in low achievement and grades.
*Gifted children are problem solvers. They benefit from working on open-ended, interdisciplinary problems; for example, how to solve a shortage of community resources. *Gifted students often refuse to work for grades alone.
*Gifted students often think abstractly and with such complexity that they may need help with concrete study- and test-taking skills. They may not be able to select one answer in a multiple choice question because they see how all the answers might be correct.
*Gifted students who do well in school may define success as getting an "A" and failure as any grade less than an "A." By early adolescence they may be unwilling to try anything where they are not certain of guaranteed success.

Adapted from College Planning for Gifted Students, 2nd edition, by Sandra Berger.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Secret of Motherhood

Love this quote I found on
a mom's view of ADHD 

Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It's about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you're lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be. ~T

From a book called The Water Giver. Better read that one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Luke Gets Contacts

At one point I was laughing so hard that I was crying. Then of course, it deteriorated into real crying, for Luke at least, and I had to retreat into “Remain calm, be patient, be stable for him” mode.

Luke got glasses about a year ago, and he’s worn them, um, maybe six or seven times. When he doesn’t forget them, he loses them. When he does remember them, he breaks them. It all adds up to a lot more finding and fixing than actual wearing. So we went to the optometrist and asked him what he thought about contact lenses for a nine-year old. He said, sure, he was old enough.

Before the exam, the doctor asked if Luke was on any medications. I told him that he was on Zoloft and Intuniv. I didn’t mind telling him. I felt like it would probably explain some of the behaviors he would be witness to in the next few minutes. Yes, my hunch was right. As the doctor had him look at the eye charts, Luke began with his questions and observations galore: “I can’t see what that is. Are they letters? I can’t see any of those letters. Is that a P? No an H? Wait, a J? I still can’t see, even though those letters are bigger. They are just blurry blobs to me. These are like wearing my glasses right? Are there any bigger letters? Is that the biggest letter? I’m glad I can see that because we are running out of letters. That is an E. That is very easy to tell that is an E. At least I can see that E. I really do need glasses.”

It got better. The doctor told him that he could try contacts, and he was going to put them in for Luke the first time. To which Luke replied, “No, I don’t think I’m comfortable with that. I don’t want you putting your fingers into my eyes.” I got a surprised look from the doc, but I just smiled and stayed quiet. I’ve learned to let the professionals take care of things until they can’t. Then I step in. I don’t want to step in too early though.

The doctor was great. He said he understood but that it would be much easier for Luke if he did it the first time and showed Luke how to do it. “Alright then,” Luke gave in. What occurred next seemed strangely familiar. Both because I have seen Luke act like this before and because it was like I was watching reruns of Will Farrell skits. Before the doctor even put the contact in Luke’s eye, Luke was saying, “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.” When the plastic hit the cornea: “OOOOOOWWW! Ow! Ow! Ooooh, oh, oh that hurts. That hurts! That’s hurting my eye. Oh it really hurts.”
Doc: “Can you open your eye so that I can’t take a look?”
Luke: “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t open my eye. Wait. I can open my eye. Oh wow. I can see. Oh my gosh. When I came in here I couldn’t see, and now I can see everything and I’m not wearing glasses. I’m wearing contacts. It’s in my eye. I can see everything. Now I can read all the letters on that chart. I can read even the small letters.”
Me (stifling laughter): “Luke, I’m sorry I’m laughing. I know that hurt. It’s just that you sounded like you were being pierced through the heart with a sword.”
Luke: “Mom it really hurt.”
Doc (stifling laughter): “Okay let’s put the contact in the other eye.”
Luke: “We have to do that again?”

This time Luke began yelling before the doctor even had the contact on his finger. The doc and I were trying not to laugh. I know this may sound cruel, like I am a horrible mother, but Luke was actually doing quite well. I think any mother would have been laughing.
Doc: “Luke, I don’t even have the contact on my finger. I just want to help you open your eyelids really wide. You have strong eyelids, and I can’t keep them open all the way.”
Luke: “Okay. Okay, it’s just that this is going to hurt.”
The doc was great again: “This is all mental Luke. If you think you can do this, it will work. If you think you can’t, it will make it much harder. Just try to relax.”
As the doctor put the contact in Luke’s right eye, Luke let out another bamboo-under-the fingernails wail and continued with his Will Farrell monologue, “Ow that really hurts. That hurts this eye too. But I can see. I can see. This is amazing…” Has he been watching too much Curious George (Man with the Yellow Hat) and Megamind?

So we survived that but had to move on to “Contact Training” with the assistant. That’s when things began to deteriorate. He was trying so hard to get his contacts out, but he just kept closing his eyes or sliding them around on the surface until they irritated his eyelids. He tried several times and then started crying, “I just can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” I went and calmed him down. The doctor suggested numbing drops. They put those in and we got some more Will Farrell action: “Oh that stings. I need a tissue. Can I get a tissue? Oh, oh, that stings. Oh, my eye is numb. I can’t feel it when I poke it…”
Assistant: “Don’t poke your eye. Don’t rub too hard with the tissue or you’ll get lint in your eye.”

We tried again, but it still didn’t work and Luke ended up in tears again. At this point, I had switched over to survival mode and wasn’t laughing anymore. I was trying to calm him down, and cheer him on. Finally the doctor suggested we give Luke extended-wear contacts that he could wear over the weekend. Then he can go back in on Monday and try again. We hope he’ll be so excited about being able to see, that he’ll be willing to try some more contact training. He liked the extended-wear idea. And was happy as a clam as we left. I called his Dad to share and tell him he had missed out on a classic Luke day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unlimited Screen Time

Christmas went amazingly well. Maybe because the kids had total screen amnesty. They were allowed to play with the Wii, their new Nintendo DS games, and on the computer for as long as they wanted each day. It was like dying and going to heaven for them, and it was pretty good for me too. Less complaining, fewer tantrums, fewer sibling brawls. And the question of all questions was finally answered. If a tree falls in the forest…no wait, if my children are allowed unlimited screen time, will they ever get bored and quit? And the answer is: absolutely not.

I’ve been curious about this question for quite some time. For one thing, Luke is always whining that he is the only child in the world who has limits on his screen time. “All my other friends can play for as long as they want, blah, blah, blah.” And for another, I’ve had many a mother tell me that if I just let them play as much as they want, they will eventually get bored and do something else. Well, not so for my kiddies. They went from DS to Wii to computer for days on end. The only times they stopped were when we insisted that they go sledding or to a children’s museum or to play a new Christmas game. And in some cases, even that met with resistance! It was a little surreal.

My theory is that kids with ADHD have a greater obsession, even addiction, to video games and related stuff. It is like a stimulant for the frontal cortex, like Diet Coke, yelling, or Vyvanse. Pick your poison. I don’t have any great studies to site for you. This is mainly a family observation.

So we are back to the daily 30-minute quota, despite the ease our amnesty afforded me. It’s really not that difficult to police their time once school and other activities start. And I think they are used to the idea now—after several years of pleading. I’ve promised them they can have amnesty during other holidays, and that has helped to pacify the wild things. And I’ve learned for myself, that there is no amount of video time that will satiate my kids. I will stick with my half-hour rule and hope that they don’t go nutty and play 22 hours a day when they leave home for college. And I also hope that one day soon, I will make it through the day without the Mario Brothers boop boop boop ba boop ba boop song popping into my head.