Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stop "Sharing" Ignorance about ADHD, Depression & Bipolar: One Mother's Plea

I made a mistake this morning. I woke up early, too early, and thought I would check out Facebook while I waited to drift back off to sleep. Instead of sleep I ended up with my blood boiling. My mother bear was awakened. My heart was pounding as my fingers madly typed. I tried, politely, to let a longtime friend of mine know that a meme she was sharing was shortsighted and diminished the experience of those that really do have ADHD, Bipolar, and depression. 

While normally I just let memes and comments like this go, pass them quickly, ignoring them. Every once in a while one just hits the wrong nerve and I can't help but slap it down. Today this was the culprit. I considered putting the image in here so you could see it but to be honest - I don't want to give it any air time. But I will describe it to you. T the top it says in bold print: CHILDHOOD IS NOT A DISEASE. Followed by a split screen showing the 1980 and 2014 with the same set of pictures for three scenarios. It indicated that what was called daydreaming in the 80's is now called ADHD. What was called moodiness in the 80s is called Bipolar and what was a loner in the 80s is now called depression. That was pretty much it.

My attempt at a kind rebuke as answered. Really, she said, she does believe in these disorders, it's just the evil drug companies are to blame and over diagnosis and bad parenting that she's worried about and that's why she shared this particular meme. I went back and looked it again. Was there any mention of drug companies? No. Parenting addressed? No. Over diagnosis? Just in asking the question in subtext: "Do you think they over diagnose our children?" 

What I held back in my first response came flying out in my second. Why? Because I am tired of holding my tongue and watching ignorance passed around and perpetuated! I fight that same ignorance, those same stereotypes, and myths at the forefront of the battle here on this blog and on my EverydayHealth.com blog shoulder to shoulder with other parents, teachers, friends, and family that know and understand.

I said to her...

"A young lady in our church committed suicide a couple months ago - while this meme would say there is no depression in youth - they're just loners. She battled depression every day for years. As for being a loner, she had many friends, truly everybody loved her, and was constantly surrounded by them. She was a student athlete, a straight A student, an active beautiful girl with a huge giving heart. She was about as far away from being a loner as you could possibly be. She didn't share her battle with depression with anyone but her parents. Her friends had no idea - why? Because of stupid stereotypes like this one. 

You may feel that pharmaceutical companies are behind the increased diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar, and depression but those numbers are negligible compared to those that aren't. This meme does not address what you say is the issue at all. Maybe you would like to talk to this young girl’s mother, post this on her wall so she can see it or come spend a day with my kids - I'll hide the meds and you can see what their life is like without them. Maybe you would like to spend an hour or two talking to Rachel (our oldest daughter) about her feelings of inadequacy and failure from the years she went through school without a diagnosis or medication. Memes like this don't help - they don't correct wrongful diagnosis. They do, however, keep people from seeking help by perpetuating stereotypes and myths that these very real disorders are nothing. 

As for these kids needing parenting not meds - I am a bad ass when it comes to parenting and guess what all the bad ass moves I have made, all the coping mechanisms I have taught and teach every day, all the nights I have sat up with a child that couldn't sleep because of insomnia or was fighting depression or anxiety have not once changed how their brains are wired and function. I can guarantee that I am not the exception to the rule in parenting - there are thousands of parents just like me that go way above and beyond to help their children with disabilities succeed. I know, I talk to them from all corners of the world, every day. 

You can reason it however you want - this kind of crap that is passed around without any forethought perpetuates ignorance. Maybe you are fortunate enough to not have children with these issues in your life or maybe your're in denial - I don't know but regardless this meme is ignorant and shortsighted, it perpetuates outdated stereotypes and myths and it is harmful whether you believe in ADHD or not."

Here is the deal. While I am positive that there are kids that are diagnosed incorrectly I am also positive there are kids that aren't diagnosed at all that do have these disorders. I also believe that much of what we see as over diagnosis because of large increase in the numbers over the last several decades has to do with our increased understanding of the disorders and better diagnostic tools. For example, my husband wasn't diagnosed until he was an adult. He and many like him had ADHD but were never diagnosed. In that era only very extreme cases were. As for over medicating. I am sure it happens as well, but, there are also many kids that could benefit from medication but don't have it because of the stigma associated with it. Their parents are afraid to have them diagnosed, to medicate them, to get them help because of the stigma associated with these disorders.

We parents of kids with these disorders and others like them fight a daily battle of decision. We work hard to do the best for our kids often, like in our home, by combining as many therapies and treatments as we can find that will work. We fight that stigma, those stereotypes, that ignorance, every day and so do our kids. Why? Because other people, adults, and kids, are influenced by these kinds of ignorant memes that gets passed around the internet.

I am a strong willed person and heaven knows my kids are the same. They have an understanding far above their peers about these disorders, their disorders. They know what's entailed in them, how their brain functions differently. They understand not just from living it but they understand the biology of it. They stand up for themselves when peers or adults make ignorant statements like, "ADHD isn't real." As my son told one such naysayer, "Just because youdon't believe in the Sun doesn't mean it doesn't shine."

As his parent I really wish such ignorance would go away. I wish it wouldn't be "shared," "liked," or "retweeted." Enough already. Think before you post, STOP sharing ignorance.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Don't Give Up: Hope and Work Will Pay Off For Your ADHD Child

My husband and three of our six children had already been diagnosed with ADHD when my son's First Grade teacher chased me down after school. She was quick to point out that he would surely need to be held back. He couldn't write legibly at all, couldn't remember his alphabet, much less read. I told her to just give it a little more time. We were positive he had ADHD and were just waiting for our doctors appointment to confirm it and start him on medication.

He had the appointment, he started medication and he was reading at a sixth grade level by the end of the first grade. But, there were still lots of inexplicable academic behaviors. While his ideas were grand he couldn't put them on paper. His writing was completely illegible. He would write half way across the page with his left hand then switch to his right to finish off a line. He often started writing a word in the middle and added to both ends. He worked all math problems in his head and wrote them out on the math sheet left to right. At one point his Third Grade teacher told me he does his best writing when he has two sheets of paper and is writing the same thing with both hands at the same time. The very thought ties my brain in knots.

Time went on and his writing was still painfully minimalistic. Anytime an assignment required writing we'd both fall apart from the anxiety and frustration. It would take hours and in the end he might have a sentence or two. He was nowhere near writing a paragraph at the appropriate age and an essay was completely out of the question.

It all sounds pretty dismal doesn't it? It certainly felt that way.

One thing I've learned and wish I could instill in every parent with a child that struggles is a solid belief that the efforts that you put into today will pay off in the long run.

When my son stopped me in the middle of the hall and frantically demanded I listen to something he'd just written I listened in awe. What he once struggled with he is well on his way to mastering. As he read me what he had just written all the different remediation we tried over the years, all the frustrations, all the pushing, even tears, came flying back to my memory.

I couldn't help but remember all the uncertainty that I felt wondering if I was doing the right thing for him. Whether it's dealing with learning disabilities or ADHD or anxiety and depression, OCD or any of the many other disorders out there we parents wonder and worry that we are making the right choices for our kids.

What I've realized, having finally gotten farther down the parenting road, is that all that worry and work pays off. That first grader that couldn't remember his alphabet, the second grader whose writing was illegible, that third grader writing with both hands at the same time, as a 15 year old wrote this.

"Fire, an element of nature that can be seen on two spectrums. When controlled fire is a provider of warmth, light, and comfort. To a weary traveler fire can signify a warm meal and a comfy bed. Although fire is beautiful it is also deadly. When uncontrolled fire becomes a source of fear and despair. He becomes the almighty devourer consuming and destroying all things within his path. All fire does is hate and kill. He feigns the sense of comfort and the feeling of a warm embrace. He pretends to care and once close enough he strikes out his hand savoring the sound of every scream, the smell of every burn. He feeds off the pain and suffering that his fiery hatred causes all humanity."

Now he writes stories, this is for a new story he's working on. Back then he could barely get out a sentence or two. What made the difference? Hard persistent work over a long period of time. As well as some unconventional tactics to help him unwind what was already in his head.

We started by getting him on the computer using a writing program instead of having to hand write out assignments. The more he was on the computer the faster he typed the better tool it became.

He was still having a hard time organizing thoughts into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. With lots of older siblings Power Points had become a huge thing in our house. One day out of sheer desperation I told him to use Power Point to write a paragraph he needed written for school. One complete sentence per slide, five to six slides.

It worked.

It gave him the structure he needed to get his thoughts out. Pretty soon we moved up to a couple sentences a slide forming several paragraphs. He would write it in Power Point then copy and paste it into a regular document. Next came a paragraph per slide translating easily to a five paragraph essay.  Finally, he started writing by hand more and more and left behind the need for the Power Point altogether. Every once in awhile he'll come to me overwhelmed and frustrated by an assignment in Honors English and I'll direct him back to the computer, back to Power Point. It's a structure that works for him.

Bottom line, don't get discouraged. Regardless of the obstacles, trust yourself, keep working, and try different approaches until you find what works for you and your child. Never let a diagnosis create limits in your mind. Think of it more as a jumping off point because it is certainly not the end. Really it's just the beginning.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Difference Between "Normal" Teenage Behavior and a Teen with ADHD

For those of you who have been wondering why there haven't been any new post put up here in awhile let me tell you, life has been a little crazy. I guess that's normal, but, somewhere in the middle of all the craziness a wonderful thing happened. I was asked to blog about ADHD for EverydayHealth.com. I will still be writing here, I promise, it has just taken me a few months to readjust the juggle. I hope you will keep checking here for updates and that you'll follow me on EverdayHealth also. My blog there is called Living A Distracted Life .
In the meantime, I received the best inquiry from a friend of mine today. Jase made me laugh so hard I had to share it. I know those of you that parent ADHD kids will find it as absolutely 100% accurate and as funny as I have.  Thank you, Jase, for guest blogging for me today!
It cracks me up when I tell someone about something Jacob has done related to his ADHD and their response is "Well, that's all teenagers..." No, no... See, if that explanation might fly with someone who has one kid or has never had much experience with kids, but for those of us who have parented multiple children and worked with kids in various settings..trust me, we know the difference. Allow me to illustrate...

Parent: You need to clean your room.

Typical teenage boy: Says "Let me get to where I can save this game." Never gets there. You tell him again with threat of losing game privileges, he whines that you are ruining his life. He goes to his room, shoves everything under the bed and in the closet, returns to video game. He wears dirty clothes to school because he can't find any clean ones. It's your fault.

ADHD/ODD teenage boy: "I can't save here. Hang on." Never gets there. You repeat yourself, trying to be understanding that his attention span is short. Still doesn't get there. You repeat yourself again more forcefully with threat. He looks at you as though he has never been told to do anything in his life. You repeat it, again. He insists he can't save, you insist he cleans. He gets mad and stomps into bedroom, leaving the game running. He picks up 2 articles of clothing, finds item he hasn't seen in 6 months, decides to tinker with it, forgets to clean room, and walks through the house. Sees video game still on, sets down found item on table, returns to game. You walk in, ask "Did you get your room clean?" He looks at you as though its the first time he's ever heard those words. You threaten again, tired of being understanding, he insists he can't save, you say you don't care, he argues with you for 20 minutes about why he can't clean his room all the while the character on the screen is spinning in circles, he stomps into the bedroom angry and mouthing, and starts shoving things into drawers. Finds skateboard. Decides to go skating. Comes back with skateboard. "You need your helmet if you are going to ride that." He looks at you as though he has never heard those words before and complains that he doesn't know where the helmet is. "Did you clean up your room?" He looks at you like you are speaking Swahili. "Did...you...clean...your...room?" He says, "I think so. Maybe." You say, "You don't know if you cleaned your room?" He says, "I'll go check." He leaves skateboard by the front door and returns to room, shoves more clothes into containers, finds helmet, and returns to living room. He sees video game still on, puts helmet on the floor by the skateboard, starts playing again. You walk through, "did you find your helmet?" "What helmet?" "I thought you were going to ride your skateboard? Did you get your room clean?" "I think so." You say, "I'm going to go check. You'd better hope that room is clean." He says, "Wait, I'll go look." Whines, stomps, and complains that you are ruining his life. He finally manages to get the room clean enough that you decide the battle is no longer worth it and that one day you will just set fire to the house. He comes back in, finds previous toy on the counter, picks it up. You say, "Are you finished with your video game?" He says, "Oh yeah, just turn it off." You ask, "Do you need to save?" He says, "No, it has an autosave." You die a little inside, sigh, push the vein in your forehead back into place so you don't have an aneurysm, and turn it off. "If you aren't going to ride your skateboard, you need to put it away." Looks at you as though you have lost your mind and says, "I didn't get it out." You start to believe that you are going crazy, lose your temper, and threaten his life. He realizes your 2 twitches away from serial killer and decides to comply. He takes previous toy, skateboard, and helmet to room. Three hours later he is still in the room. You breathe a sigh of relief and think for a moment that you've broken through and he is actually cleaning. You go check on him and find that he has hot glued the toy to his skateboard for a hood ornament, drawn designs on his helmet, and is using your good sewing scissors to cut decals from aluminum fol. You notice that all the clothes are now back on the floor. "Why are all these clothes on the floor?" He says, "I couldn't find any glue sticks." You say, "Pick this shit up. Put your clothes where they go. Put my scissors back. Right now." You sit down in the kitchen to gather your thoughts, because you can't remember what you were doing. You begin to circle the house looking for your brain. You return to the living room. Skateboard is in the kitchen, scissors are in the fridge, half a glass of milk is on the table, glue gun (still on) is dripping on the floor, and he's...cleaning his room. "Why is the skateboard in the kitchen, and are you planning on drinking this milk?" He says, "I was going to put it all up, but you told me to clean my room. I can't do everything." It's still your fault.

Lisa, am I right?
So, what do you think? Leave a comment, let me know.