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?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Glad Summer's Here...I Think

Boys' Summer Handbook: When bored, start a fight. Hand-to-hand combat is great, but almost anything can be turned into a weapon. For instance, see towels in the above photo.

Our kids have attended three different schools because of family moves. Up to this point, we haven’t really had any conflicts with our schools about accommodations for our kids. I feel like we’ve dealt with people who really loved our kids despite their sometimes difficult behaviors. I feel like people have tried to help our kids deal with their shortcomings and offered support. But our present school has been a struggle. It’s hard to know who’s driving decisions--principals, other administrators, teachers, other parents--but from what I can tell, the principal does not want Luke at her school. It’s a great school for many reasons: test scores, extra activities, tons of parent involvement, but it is a little too perfectly, perfect, and they don’t seem to have room for coloring outside the lines.

We survived last year at this school because Luke’s teacher was so patient and kind. He did have some meltdowns and a suspension or two (I lose track!). But his teacher was so positive and helpful. The special ed teacher was awesome last year too. This year his teacher wanted him to do things her way, and she did not take kindly to when Luke resisted. She didn’t really seem to accept that he was struggling with his own difficulties, but saw it as a struggle against her. I guess I don’t know really what was going on in her mind, but she seemed to see her relationship with Luke as a battle of wills.

I’ve talked about this before, but Luke’s intelligence plays against him sometimes. Academically, he is so smart that teachers and administrators can’t or don’t believe he has social, organizational, and focus difficulties. I told his teacher at the beginning of the year that it is difficult to not take his disobedience or rebuffs personally. He’s smart. He knows what he’s doing, so it seems he must be doing it with malice. But he’s not. He’s impulsive, he’s slow on emotional control, he’s easily frustrated. When he’s done something wrong, in hindsight, he knows it’s wrong, but that doesn’t stop him from doing it at the moment. His teacher and principal dislike him and don’t have a disability mindset. That can’t see the struggles he goes through. They just think he’s naughty. Insolent. A pain in the butt.  Extra work. They don’t have time for him. They want to move him to a “learning center,” which is the district’s euphemism for a behavioral unit. I don’t have anything against behavioral units, but they are usually reserved for kids whose disabilities are much more severe than Luke’s.

This year Luke got an in-school suspension for tearing up a leaf and saying, “This is what I would do to Jill’s* head if I could.” A mean, naughty, threatening thing to say. It makes me sad to hear that he says things like that. No mom wants their kid to say things like that. But to get suspended for it? No other student in the school would be suspended for that, and how is that accommodating for his poor emotional control if they suspend him for stuff like that? It’s comparable to punishing a child with dyslexia for making a spelling mistake. And now that I’m getting in to my rant mode a little, let me just add that he gets picked on and talked down to and bossed around and treated like he’s intellectually disabled much of the time. The principal’s solution is to tell everyone to keep away from him. Kids have told him that they’re “not allowed to play with him.”

On the other hand, the very fabulous, accepting, smart, kind, and all-round amazing school psychologist, has tried to counteract some of these very uncreative solutions. She went in to the classroom and taught the kids social skills and how to interact with one another. She’s trying to help them understand one another, and that they all have weaknesses—some people’s are just a little more obvious (wink). We need to help all kids fit in and get along with various types of people NOT ostracize them. That’s an appeal to the heart, but the appeal to the mind is just as strong. Our families and communities are only as happy, healthy, and thriving as each individual is.

I got a little ranty there. But we did find some solutions and are making some progress in making life better for Luke and our family. More to come.

*Names have been changed.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peter the Apostle Had ADHD

Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St. Peter

Happy Easter and Passover (or whatever you may be celebrating this weekend).

With all the news about the new pope and with Easter coming up, I have a spiritual/religious/ADHD message for today:

Peter the Apostle had ADHD.

In church the other day, someone was retelling the story of Christ walking on water. The apostles were in a boat during a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Christ walked out to them. When Peter saw him, he hopped out onto the roiling waters and tried to walk toward Christ. He took a few steps, got scared, and started to sink. Jesus rescued Peter and calmed the waters. “Pretty impulsive,” I thought. “Sounds like Peter had ADHD.”

And then I thought about some other famous St. Peter stories. He was told three times in a row by Jesus, “Feed my sheep.” (Wonder what he was like getting ready in the morning.) Peter slashed off the ear of a man who was arresting Jesus, but Jesus calmly told Peter to put his sword away and immediately healed the man. Peter fell asleep when he was supposed to be on watch in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter told Christ he was ready to go to prison and death with him, but soon after denied knowing him.

When Christ was washing the feet of the apostles, Peter refused, thinking it was too lowly a task for the Savior. When Christ implied it was critical, Peter said essentially, “Okay, then, wash my head and hands and feet.” I think Peter probably provided Jesus with a lot of good laughs—patient and good-hearted laughs, as in, “Hang in there Peter, it’s all going to be clear to you one day.”

The thing is, Peter was a pretty good guy, an amazing human. If Jesus’ right-hand man had ADHD, it can’t be too bad.

After Christ died, Peter seemed to grow into his responsibility, and his ADHD served him well. He preached the gospel despite threats and arrests. He famously said to his accusers, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” He preached the equality of the Gentiles. He journeyed around the Mediterranean, speaking to all kinds of people. In the end, he was purported to have died a martyr, crucified upside down at his request because he did not feel worthy to die the same way as Jesus. He is a hero of Christianity, who—in my humble opinion—probably had ADHD for a reason.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"No" on the Letter and Buzz, A Must Read

Lots of energy in our house.

Well, the principal and teacher do not want to pass along our letter to parents of children in Luke’s class because they feel it would “add fuel to the fire.” Some parents have actually complained about having Luke in the class and want him out. I’m not sure whether they are saying that Luke is disruptive or aggressive, but I don’t see either one as being an overarching problem in the classroom. Yes, I understand it might take time to deal with Luke, but it takes time to help a child who is struggling with reading or a child who is hearing impaired. Should we kick them all out? We wouldn’t have a class left.

So the principal told me that this letter would just make other parents more concerned that their children were being deprived, and that they wouldn’t care about my son’s rights to appropriate education. I really didn’t know what to say after that, so I just left it. I could find the class parents and deliver the letters on my own, I guess. Not sure what we’ll do next.

Next subject. I am reading the book, Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention by Katherine Ellison. “A hilarious and heartrending account of one mother’s journey to understand and reconnect with her high-spirited preteen son—a true story sure to beguile parents grappling with a child’s bewildering behavior.” –from Amazon

The mother and son are both dealing with ADHD, and I love Ellison’s honest and funny take on their life. And she explores every avenue of ADHD treatment that I’ve ever wanted to look into. I’ll let her visit Dr. Daniel Amen and get a brain scan so I don’t have to—unless she says it was worth it.

The book is fabulous. I read a review of it a while ago that wasn’t particularly glowing, so I didn’t rush out and get it, but I’ll tell you to rush out and get it. It may be that I relate well to their situation, but I think anyone dealing with ADHD can find some gems of wisdom and black comedy in there.

For instance, Ellison has a little epiphany about how her son’s behavior is exacerbated by his own stress and is not just a ploy to destroy her sanity—something I have to remind myself over and over again:

“Suddenly, he’s no longer my persecutor, the rebel lashing out against a weakened foe, the spoiled symbol of everything that’s going wrong with American youth, the painfully public proof of how Jack [her husband] and I have screwed up as parents.
“He’s just nine years old. He’s getting scolded at home, and teased, rejected, and reprimanded every single day at school. His mother is unhappy, her behavior erratic….
“On top of all this, he has just learned that he has something wrong with his brain.
“He’s scared. And he’s calling 9-1-1 for help.”

Do you relate?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Letter to Parents in Our Son's Class

This is how he feels about everything except screen time and ice cream.

Parents have been complaining about the problems Luke is causing in class. So we decided to write a letter and ask the teacher to forward it to the parents. Don't know if she will or not. We'll see. I say that a lot.

Dear Parents,

Hi. Our son Luke is in your child’s class. Some of you are likely aware that Luke has been involved in some problems in class and on the playground recently. We would like to apologize for any hurt or frustration he has caused.

In addition, if you are interested, we would also like to take this opportunity to explain a little bit about Luke’s disabilities. We hesitate to tell others about Luke’s disabilities because we don’t want him to be negatively labeled or teased, but we hope that offering some information may help the situation. 

Luke has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some behaviors of Aspergers Syndrome (this is often referred to as high-functioning autism). Though he often seems like a fairly typical child and does well academically, he has impaired impulse control, social skills, and sensory processing. He also has difficulty handling conflict and changes in his routine or environment and is still adjusting to moving to a new school.

We know that Luke’s behaviors can be antagonistic or immature. His skills have improved over time, but he still struggles to a degree that can sometimes be disruptive. Luke's challenges have helped our family learn a lot about getting along with people who are different or who have disabilities. They often have unique gifts. We hope you will see Luke’s presence as a learning opportunity for your child.  We understand there is a good deal of skepticism and misperception about autism.  We often don’t know what to think ourselves.  Though Luke’s disabilities can’t always be seen, we hope you can try to understand that his challenges are real, and no one feels them more acutely than he does. 

We work with Luke outside of school and receive great support from specialists at the school. The patient Mrs. Jones helps him track his behavior throughout the day. He is making progress, and we will continue to address any problems. If you think this information may be beneficial for your student, please feel free to share a basic explanation of Luke’s challenges. 

Thank you for your understanding. Please fell free to call us if you have any questions or concerns.

Have you ever sent a letter like this?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Focalin, Suspension, Help from the School District

New medication for both kids, so I’ve gotta keep track. It’s sort of unexpected that we changed medication. We have tried the kids on several things, and I felt that they were using what worked best. But then a little catalyst of change came up. In December, Luke was suspended for three days for hitting another boy in his class.

Got that call from the principal, “Mrs. Larson. There’s been an incident with Luke.” The first time I got that call, I was in tears. The second, I was really stressed. The third I just sighed and rolled my eyes. Kind of an "Oh boy, what now?" But it turned out to be worse than an eye roller.

So I met with the principal about the incident and got a lot more info. The kid had teased Luke and tattled on him. Luke had hit him--but he's no boxer. I worry more about his bark than his bite. It seemed that this meeting was really a "we don't know what to do with your kid" meeting. I realized that things were not going as well as I thought at school. Luke has a tracker that his teacher signs and sends home, and he was earning rewards almost every day. He did have some problems with other kids that the teacher had told me about, but things were definitely worse than I perceived. 

My husband and I met with the principal and vice principal again the next day. Things just seemed to get worse. They brought up the option of putting Luke in a Learning Center, which essentially means a smaller classroom for kids with behavior problems at a different school. We were shocked to hear that. DH about lost his mind and brought a law suit after that meeting.

The next day Luke, my husband, and I went to one meeting with the district “Safe Schools” administrator and another with the case management team. The people at the district were very understanding and helpful and reassuring that they wanted to help Luke and not kick him to the curb. But we did get the idea that they had gone a little overboard with Luke's suspension. They termed it an “assault.” And Luke had to sign a general behavior contract that I’d say is usually reserved for tough high school kids. It mentioned arson, theft, vandalism… Luke started to read it and said, “What’s sexting?” The administrator pushed the paper right up to Luke’s chest and said, “Just sign the bottom here.” Luke cuddled a stuffed dog in one hand and signed with the other.

So we were at one of those points of desperation where we felt like we’d do anything to help Luke and make the situation at school better. I asked our pediatrician Dr. Dave about trying different meds, and he suggested Focalin. We had tried it several years ago and decided against it since it made Luke sleepy but thought we’d try again with a super low dose. So we switched both Luke and Izzy and started with a very low 5 mg dose for Luke and 10 mg for Izzy. Izzy obviously needed more, and we gradually increased her dose to 20 mg. We then tried her on 27 mg of Concerta, which is also a methylphenidate, but she seemed to get a little over-the-top crazy on that. So we are sticking with 20 mg Focalin for both of them. I think it might be working better than the Vyvanse. But since this is all so subjective and mixed in with the emotions of a desperate mother and father, it is hard to know. We are also trying to figure out if they need a little short-acting, after-school dose.

More details to come on help from the school district, an in-class aid, school psychologist and special ed teacher changes, and finding an outside psychologist.

A great message for moms who are trying their best.