Mom Shark blog

Special Education Does Not Mean Less Education

Create More, Panic Less — March 29, 2020

Create More, Panic Less

“To create is to live twice.”
― Albert Camus

Today it was announced that in my state, Massachusetts schools will be closed till at least May 4th. My personal thought is that my son along with so many will not go back to school until the fall and I am not filled with panic or worry that he will regress in anyway. I in no way minimize how important academics and the social interactions they are, but I choose to take this time to incorporate other things in my sons day as well. Clinton’s outlet right now is creating a comic book with one of his teachers that he meets with thru google classroom and I think its beautiful. I firmly believe that that process is helping him process the pandemic or “hibernation” as I call it.

I acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, how important physical distancing is and why so many feel afraid, but I choose hope. I choose to believe that on the other side of this we will be better to each other, kinder to each other and maybe even appreciate one another a little. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hysteria, the fear, panic and posts that flood our feed. It is so easy to forget that these moments as scary as they are can be life changing for so many.

We are all held back by some sort of fear whether it be fear of failure, fear of success, fear of criticism, fear of being noticed, fear of fading away or a fear we cant define and that is OK but do not let it paralyze you. In this time of uncertainty, helplessness, fear, panic, frustration, unemployment, sickness, sadness, political agendas and toxicity I urge to take all that ugliness and make something beautiful. That book you want to write? start it. That business you want to start? research it. Those health goals you want to reach? do it.

Do not let this shutdown be your cage, dedicate a little bit of time everyday to something you want to learn, something you want to do do not just sit in fear and more importantly do not let your children sit in fear. They will not remember the academics they learned during the pandemic, but they will remember your resiliency, they will remember the laughter, they will remember you did not just stay stuck.

Trying to replicate a school day or even a work day while trying to do everything else in the middle of this pandemic is recipe for not succeeding at any of it. I knew as soon as the school closures started that if I attempted to try and replicate a school day not only was it not going to be successful, but I would cause unneeded stress, so I backed off. We spend roughly about 2.5 – 3 hours a day with academics which isn’t consecutive and then we spend time together and apart working on creative projects.

I firmly believe everyone is creative in their own way, that everyone can needs a creative outlet and I also believe it does take time to find that outlet. Being creative does not just mean paper, pencils, markers, crayons or even writing – it can be refinishing furniture, decorating, planting a garden, making clothes, sewing, knitting, cooking, having fun with legos etc. Use that excess energy and create you just might surprise yourself and you just never know who you might inspire.

Get Inspired.

Home Based Educational Resources — March 14, 2020

Home Based Educational Resources

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
Robert Frost

If you have a child chances are they are out of school and you out of work for at least the next two weeks possibly more depending on where you live and how things unfold. Different schools and states are approaching this unique situation differently some are using google classroom, some are mailing work home, some are emailing and some may still be figuring out the next step. I decided to make a post about the resources available to parents/guardians/teachers while school is not in session.

Please note: I have tried out some, not all the sites/programs listed below therefore I have limited experience to draw from and do not endorse or condemn any, but considering the current situation I found it important to share . I will put an asterik (*) next to ones I have tried and share my thoughts and experience.

Resources

I have not separated teacher from parent resources because right now we are all both those titles. Please feel free to comment with any experience you have had or sites you think might help others.

  • www.ixl.com – Individualized math, science and language arts curriculum*
  • teacherspayteachers.com – Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.*
  • learningally.com – high-quality, human-read audiobooks, Affordable and Educator-Friendly. Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is compatible with PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, Android and iOS devices*
  • mysteryscience.com – K-5 science curriculum.
  • BrainPOP.com – lesson planning, school to home connection, professional development.
  • Kahoot!.com – read-to-play games, play live in class or share student-paced challenges, and dive into game reports to assess learning. Create, play and share fun games with your family and friends for parties, trivia nights and other occasions.
  • bookcreator.com – Book Creator can be used in any subject, with any grade level. Book creator helps you focus on assignments that allow the student to get creative and demonstrate their understanding. *
  • Bookshare.com – Bookshare makes reading easier. People with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers can customize their experience to suit their learning style and find virtually any book they need for school, work, or the joy of reading.*
  • WeVideo.com – Empower students to collaborate and easily create videos, podcasts, slideshows and more.
  • MobyMax.com – MobyMax helps struggling learners quickly catch up to grade level and closes learning gaps for all your students.
  • Seterra.com – Seterra will challenge you with quizzes about countries, capitals, flags, oceans, lakes and more!
  • Typesy.com – The same comprehensive keyboarding curriculum used by top schools nationwide. Very Affordable.*
  • Pinterest – A little bit of everything for when you want a break from school stuff.

This is by not a complete list of all the available resources out there and I understand its easy to feel overwhelmed, but if I can offer one piece of advice during this tough time – Have Fun! Laugh with your kids, play games, go outside, cook with your kids, watch movies, create something cool – It doesn’t have to be a full school day at home, do what works for you. This is a learning experience for everyone and no one has it figured out and this is going to be around for a while. Your kids will be ok and so will you.

Like I tell my son every day I drop him off to school – Have fun, learn some stuff, be kind to yourself and those around you.

Sending calming thoughts to everyone.

Fear is Contagious — March 13, 2020

Fear is Contagious

“Hysteria is Only Possible with an Audience” – Chuck Palahniuk

We all have our own thoughts and opinions on the current Coronavirus and I am not here to go into any detail about the virus itself, there is already enough information in all its forms being thrown our way. I am here to talk about how our children look to us in these times and how we respond to situations like these.

I wish that in this situation I could say I have seen kindness, patience and calm but all I have seen an every man for himself mentality full of fear, panic and hysteria which for some reason has cleared all the shelves of toilet paper. Now if it is scary for me to understand as an adult how people can turn on one another so quickly, what is that like for a child? especially one with special needs. Now,I like to have an open dialogue with my son and I asked him if he was afraid or scared in anyway, and not just about getting possibly sick but how the whole situation made him feel. He said the virus doesn’t scare him but seeing how people were acting in stores, being told to wash his hands even more than he does, being told to use hand sanitizer even more than he does made him afraid and anxious, but not the virus.

I believe in all this hysteria, madness, fear, hand washing, hand sanitizing (which has its downfalls too), constant news coverage we have forgotten that we are setting the example of how to respond to situations like these. I do not watch the news I get what I need from the reliable internet sources and I do not spend hours looking at it either. It is important in times like these to try our very best to keep our children’s routine, to keep letting them be kids, to play, to laugh and to not make them “adult” before their time.

In response to overwhelming stress in young children:

  • The brain drives the “fight or flight response” and release of stress hormones.
  • The young child has limited capacity to manage this overwhelming stress and experiences increased arousal — fear and anxiety (physical and emotional sensations).
  • Excessive fear and anxiety and excessive cortisol (stress hormone) can affect the capacity for stress regulation as well as development and higher functions of the brain, and
  • Significant early adversity can lead to lifelong problems (physical and mental health).

(National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2005, 2007, 2010)

A lot of us have not been in this situation before and it is ok to not know what to do. I will say that again IT IS OK TO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. However having our children see us be ugly to each other, being encased in fear and panic, constantly watching the news. It is ok to be aware of the situation and take precautions, it is even ok to worry but don’t let it take over your life. Everything is being postponed, cancelled or shut down including schools and work places for indefinite periods of time. Let us make sure in this difficult time to not cancel being a family or cancel being there for each other, or cancel being a kind human or cancel having fun or laughing or hugging our loved ones. Fear is contagious but so is calm, so is laughter, so is love.

Here are some links below that I hope can help you in this difficult time.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Dalai Lama XIV

Normal is an Illusion — March 9, 2020

Normal is an Illusion

If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
~Maya Angelou~

The dictionary definition in noun form is – The usual, average or typical state or condition.

The dictionary definition in adjective form is – conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected.

My definition is that there is no definition of normal – it is an illusion. It is something made up to keep us reaching for something that doesn’t exist, something to keep us all feeling less than in some way. That word has been something we all have struggled to attain, rebel against, break the standards of or just plain ignore. That word along with others that describe normal such as typical, average in my sons world comes with a weight no child should have to bear. It sets an imaginary, unreachable bar that does only harm, no good.

My son is diagnosed with Dyslexia is considered Atypical Autistic and struggles with something called Dysgraphia. I do not use these words to put my son in a box to say that he is those things only because he is not, they are part of him, part of what makes him special, unique, creative, kind and so many other awesome non-normal words. I have attended dozens of IEP meetings all of which tell you a whole lot of what your child isn’t doing, cant do and will never do. I have sat across from teachers, support staff of all kinds, therapists, administration and so many with so many letters after their names and none of them can tell you who Clinton really is. They will highlight his deficits, his struggles, his challenges, label him lazy, distracted, disruptive completely omitting his diagnosis and proceed to teach him in the “normal” way, change nothing about their teaching styles and continue to blame him for not learning their way.

I, myself was diagnosed as a teenager with Bi-Polar 2 disorder. The dictionary definition of disorder as a noun is – a state of confusion. The dictionary definition of disorder as a verb is – disrupt the systematic functioning or neat arrangement of. Folks my mind has never been in neat arrangement and nor would I want it to be, but I am far crazy, psychotic, violent, aggressive or unstable. Yet, when you are diagnosed with this disorder these are the hurtful, ignorant words you are called. I was placed on high doses of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, hospitalized, given intensive therapy and not once did anyone ever ask me how I was doing, how I felt or what I thought might help. I was told what to do, what to take, how to be and if I strayed for the normal track everyone was trying to put me on I was called crazy, imbalanced, manic, unstable, mad or told I didn’t know what I was talking out because I was all those things. I remember feeling and still feel at times like my voice has been ripped from my throat as though my words even if they could get out fall on truly deaf ears.

I never want my son to feel as though his voice does not matter or that he gets no vote in how he is taught. I want him to self-advocate to the best of his ability and know I will listen. I want that for every child. I want to strip down theses “normal” barriers that society has constructed and tear them down. I do not want children to feel less than because they learn in a different way, I want teachers to teach according to the student not standardized tests or scores that in the grand scheme of things mean nothing. I want us all to lose the word Normal. Normal is an illusion. The dictionary definition of illusion is – a false idea or belief; a deceptive appearance or impression.

Think of how many children sit in a classroom everyday thinking that something is wrong with them because they don’t fit “normal” standards or have “normal” testing scores. Think of how these children struggle to sit still because their brilliance cant be given a number, their creativity has no chance to shine so they dull that shine to fit in with a “normal” system that is failing them. Their bullied in the classroom, at lunch, at recess, on the bus, by their classmates, teachers and adults and they are told if they cant learn this way then there is no may for them. We wonder why we so many children are plagued with depression, anxiety, drop out, act out or give up? because we are asking them to fit into a box that doesn’t even exist. We are asking to reach for something that shouldn’t define them in anyway. We are asking them to not be who they are.

Isn’t it about time we remove the “normal” from our vocabulary? I think it is.

Live Your Dreams — March 7, 2020

Live Your Dreams

How often do we hear phrases such as the one pictured above? All too often, while heart warming and motivational it doesn’t really tell you how to live your dream, follow your heart, be your best self etc. There’s no instructions just a pretty quote followed but a pretty graphic which may brighten your day but gets you no closer to living the life you dream for yourself. While I cannot give you big complete answers to big incomplete questions I can tell you how I have chosen to live my dream and follow my heart.

On August 29th 2019 on Clintons first day of school I started my new job, not a career but a job at local University bookstore and I was excited. You see even though it was a part time/temporary position I didn’t care I was just happy to work to feel productive again. Let me explain, you see 2019 for me was about fighting school districts, advocating for my son, tests with more numbers than I can remember, meetings, meetings about meetings, doctors upon doctors, phone calls, emails, stacks of paperwork, no sleep, constant worry and doing this all mostly one handed because I was recovering from rotator cuff surgery – 2019 was and wasn’t my year in a lot of ways friends.

I liked the job and they liked me so they hired me as a part time employee and I felt even more excited, but the excitement was short lived. It was a nice place to work with nice people to work with on a really nice college campus but I wasn’t happy, I kept telling myself I was but I really wasn’t. Sure, it felt great to work, earn a paycheck, meet new people, learn some stuff and it worked great with Clintons schedule but it wasn’t enough for me. I started to feel frustrated, I started to not want to go in more than I wanted to, I started to not feel productive, useful and worse – that my presence made no impact and really served no purpose. I tried branching out and talking to my manager/supervisor about learning more, doing more but it was clear that was not going to happen. Still I told myself that I NEEDED this job this job that paid minimum wage, provided no benefits, no growth, no promotions, no opportunity, no future, no security, no creativity a job that wouldn’t notice me if I was gone. After a series of events not related to me took place hours got cut across the board for everyone, not management but everyone else and that was it for me.

I reached out to my supervisor expressing my concerns only to be told 12 hours (not 30 like I was used to) at minimum wage was going to be the new normal. I tried like hell to go in on my next scheduled day, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to give my all to this job for even for 1 hour a week, I wasn’t go to fight for hours, I wasn’t going to lose sleep over this, I wasn’t going to wait till they let me go so I did something I don’t like to do and I let the job go, I quit. I wish I could tell you I have this fantastic plan to earn a living that all my financial worries will be over and I will be living my purpose, but I cant tell you that. All I can you is that I know I will be alright.

How do I know this? I know this because after many years of scrambling trying on all these shoes in the form of jobs that don’t fit I am taking the message the universe is sending me and trying something different. I realize to some this might sound ridiculous, but I truly believe we all have a purpose on this earth and a responsibility to make a difference. I couldn’t stay stuck behind that counter anymore counting the minutes and hours down – I couldn’t do it because I wouldn’t want Clinton to do it. As my son gets older and finds his purpose I want my him to always feel like he is living his best life doing what he loves. I do not want him to feel stuck or stifled, I want him to feel fulfilled. Honestly,I do not know what the future holds but I know I will be ok. Until next time.

Love and Gratitude,

Cathie

Assistive Technology — January 31, 2020

Assistive Technology

Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought or an event. – Heidi Hayes Jacobs

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

  • AT can be low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
  • AT can be high-tech: special-purpose computers.
  • AT can be hardware: prosthetics, mounting systems, and positioning devices.
  • AT can be computer hardware: special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
  • AT can be computer software: screen readers and communication programs.
  • AT can be inclusive or specialized learning materials and curriculum aids.
  • AT can be specialized curricular software.
  • AT can be much more—electronic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers, and much more.

Assistive Technology is much like a spectrum itself and I say that because it can help so many with so many different disabilities or challenges that they are facing. Since assistive technology is such a broad spectrum I can only talk about my experience with it and how it has helped and impacted my son in terms of academics. I hope to provide helpful information to you so that you may dig deeper if it is a topic that interests you.

I have always viewed Assistive Technology as a life jacket to help the individual not only function and grow but to be included. I had heard about assistive technology but did not know much about it until my son had his thorough assistive technology evaluation performed by Communicare and my eyes were opened to how much he was been held back and excluded. They evaluation was two parts first observed Clinton in the classroom for about two hours which included obtaining work/handwriting samples from the teacher and also speaking with the teacher. The second part was a three hour one-on-one evaluation in which they not only tried out different software with Clinton but gained further insight into his challenges with one on one testing. The evaluation showed that Clinton could benefit from twenty-two different assistive technology tools/strategies and I have listed below what Clinton currently uses:

  • Chrome Book with touchscreen no external mouse.
  • Head Phones with a Boom Microphone
  • Co: Writer (word prediction software)
  • Speech-to-Text (dictation)
  • Text-to-Speech
  • Graphic Organizer
  • Grammarly
  • Read & Write for Google
  • Word Banks
  • Microsoft Office
  • IXL
  • Bookshare
  • Visual Schedule

Technology is ever evolving which makes it very important to go slowly so as not to overwhelm the student and it is very crucial this is a TEAM effort meaning what is done at school needs to be done at home and vice versa or you will not see the true benefit of assistive technology. In the coming months and years the technology that helps Clinton will need to be modified, it is an evolution of sorts but one that must be done at the students pace not the parents or teachers. It is easy to get excited anticipating all the ways your child will benefit from Assistive Technology but let us remember there it is not just as simple as turning the computer on, it takes time, effort, patience especially when the child is receiving other services such physical, occupational or speech therapy. I never want Clintons learning to be strictly technology/screen based or strictly paper based, I believe in reaching for a balance where he gets a little bit of both.

Below are some books and links I hope can guide you if you believe Assistive Technology is something you or your child needs:

Thank you for reading!

Everyone is Unique — January 25, 2020

Everyone is Unique

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious” Albert Einstein

When I first began to notice Clintons challenges at the age of 15 months I did not know what lay ahead for him or us. I was scared, for him, his future, how society would treat him, if he would be able to live on his own, if he would be picked on or even if I was the mom for the job. When I was pregnant with Clinton I made a promise to him that no matter what I would be there and that he would never be alone, but what I did not account for was how hard it was going to actually get or how cruel the world could actually be.

From employers who fired me because Clinton had too many appointments, to health insurance who fought me on all those appointments, to the doctors at the appointments who left me with me more questions than answers and to the teachers who just wouldnt answer questions. There are thousands of books and websites and organizations out there on every learning disabilty you can imagine, but not one of them is written on your child and none of them really prepare you for the journey your on or the road blocks you will hit.

It never bothered me that Clinton flaps his hands out of excitement or that he is a little uncoorniated or that he is Dyslexic or that he is Autistic. I love how Clinton sees the world, I love how excited he is about life and learning, I love all his unique little quirks and I love how his brain works. What I do not always love is how cruel the world can be, how even grown adults can be cruel to a child, how ugly the public school system can be, how my best was always judged not good enough by someone, how many nights I just dont sleep or how many times I just felt alone.

“Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg” – Paul Collins

I know a lot of parents who focus solely on the academic part of their childs life, the benchmarks, the scores, grade level standards just words and numbers on paper and while I do not judge – that isnt me. I never want Clinton to feel like he is only the sum of his academic perfomance or lack there of. I never want him to sit in a classroom thinking about how hard it is for him and internalizing that to shame or low self-esteem. I always want him to feel complete as he is. I always want him to embrace who he is inside and out and use that to find his purpose in life whatever that may be. I always want him to celebrate himself realizing his differences make him unique and so valuable to this world even when the world may not celebrate him.

To all the parents who struggle, I see you and I send you strength and so much love. Please remember we did not choose this battle but our little ones chose us because they knew we could handle it, they trusted us so lets trust ourselves.

Dyscalculia — December 27, 2019

Dyscalculia

Clinton has never been formally diagnosed with Dyscalculia, but it has been something that has been talked about over the years and pondered. What makes it hard to disagnose is the fact that Clinton has overlapping challenges in the forms of Dyslexia and Dysgraphia and it would make sense that he could possibly have Dyscalculia. I chose to not put him through further intense testing because he is getting adequate supports in math and most likely the results would be borderline because of his other challenges.

“Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.” —William Paul Thurst

Dyscalculia is a condition that makes it hard to do math and tasks that involve math. It’s not as well known or as understood as dyslexia. But some experts believe it’s just as common. That means an estimated 5 to 10 percent of people might have dyscalculia. It’s not clear whether dyscalculia is as common in girls as in boys. Most experts think there’s no difference. (It’s also a myth that boys are better at math than girls.)

People don’t outgrow dyscalculia. Kids who have a hard time with math may continue to struggle with it as adults. But there are strategies that can help them improve math skills and manage the challenges. Difficulty with math happens at all levels. It can be as hard to learn addition as it is to learn algebra. Basic concepts like quantities can also be a challenge.

Common signs of dyscalculia include trouble:

  1. Number sense, counting, and numbers
    • Starting to count at a later age than siblings/classmates
    • Taking more time to memorize and learn to write the numerals
    • Counting on fingers instead of using math facts from memory
    • Using a number line is difficult, no representation in their memory
    • Larger numbers are often copied in the wrong order by children with dyscalculia
  2. Operations and procedures
    • Confusion over math concepts
    • Difficulty memorizing math facts, in particular multiplication tables
    • Repeated mistakes with Math vocabulary
    • ‘Misreading’ a number sentence: add instead of multiply etc.
    • Difficulty selecting essential information and choosing the operation in a word problem
  3. Measurement
    • Difficulty selecting the larger of two small quantities without counting
    • Issues with perception of shapes and relative sizes
    • Difficulty with changing to another unit (days – weeks, pints – gallons)
    • Confusion over telling time on a digital and an analog clock
    • Children with dyscalculia have difficulty making a rough guesstimate
  4. Behavioral characteristics
    • Uncomfortable with activities involving counting or numbers
    • Making wild guesses or just jotting down random numbers
    • Working slowly and inconsistently
    • Seems to ‘get it’ one day, ‘forgets’ it the next
    • Deliberately avoiding math tasks, while being OK with other subjects

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes dyscalculia. But they believe it’s at least partly due to differences in how the brain is structured and how it functions.

Here are two possible causes of dyscalculia:

Genes and heredity: Dyscalculia tends to run in families. Research shows that genetics may also play a part in problems with math.

Brain development: Brain imaging studies have shown some differences between people with and without dyscalculia. The differences have to do with how the brain is structured and how it functions in areas that are linked to learning skills. Researchers aren’t just looking into what causes dyscalculia. They’re also trying to learn if there are strategies that can help “rewire” the brain to make math easier. 

Accomodations for Dyscalculia in School:

  • Allow extra time on tests
  • Provide frequent checks during classwork
  • Keep sample problems on the board
  • Give students individual dry-erase boards to use at their desks
  • Use plenty of brightly colored, uncluttered reference charts and diagrams
  • Reduce the number of assigned problems
  • Whenever possible, allow calculator use
  • List the steps for multi-step problems and algorithms
  • www.ixl.com – this is perhaps the most helpful math website we have been given the gift of being set up with. It not only reads the questions and answers but provides pictures and illustrations with both the questions and answers. It provides a completely customizable curriculum for students in grades K-12, provides suggestions based on current performance and sends results to the teacher.

Accomodations for Dyscalculia in the Home:

  • Point out math wherever you can
  • Play math games
  • Work with your child on managing time
  • Help with homework
  • Be understanding
  • Post tables and charts prominently
  • Make use of planning technology

These are suggestions and some, all or none may work for you, but I can only speak on my experience and what has help myself and my son. The more knowledge we have the more we can help our children and students who need it. Math is everywhere there is no escaping it and that can be very overwhelming for those who struggle with Dyscalculia. The best tip I can offer is to be understanding and to be patient, pressure and criticism only increases anxiety and can make the symptoms worse. There is no cure, no magic solution but I have included some links which I hope you find helpful.

Resources

ADHD — November 29, 2019

ADHD

They say a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. What then is an empty desk a sign of? ― Albert Einstein

I believe at times the seriousness of the neurodevelopmental disorder that is Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is often minimized as though everyone has it which just is not true. Yes, we all have our occassional moments where we are scattered, forgetful, disorganized, late for work or absent minded and those moments shouldn’t be confused with actually having the diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD if untreated can and will interfere will daily life and activities of both children and adults. Let us dive a little deeper into the signs and symptoms of ADHD so we can better recognize when we should seek further help and support.

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

A child with ADHD might:

  • daydream a lot
  • forget or lose things a lot
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk too much
  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  • have a hard time resisting temptation
  • have trouble taking turns
  • have difficulty getting along with others

Types

There are three different types of ADHD, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual:

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.

Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

Clinton is predominantly inattentive and I feel as he has gotten older he has gained a certain personal awareness of the inattentive part of himself. While he does struggle staying on task, organizing himself, following instructions and is often easily distracted we continue to strive to find ways to help him and more importantly help him help himself in age appropriate ways. Medication is personal choice between parent, doctor and child that being said Clinton does take medication and I do not feel it is something to be ashamed of or looked down apon. Clinton is not forced, is always included in the discussion about medication and he knows at any time if he does not want to take it he does not have to. I bring up medication because it is something that is used to treat the symptoms of ADHD and I believe it is important to keep an open dialogue about it.

Medication can help children manage their ADHD symptoms in their everyday life and can help them control the behaviors that cause difficulties with family, friends, and at school. Medications can affect children differently and can have side effects such as decreased appetite or sleep problems. One child may respond well to one medication, but not to another. It took us a couple different tries with different medications to find the right fit for my son, but I believe it was worth it as Clinton has voiced how Ritalin LA helps him especially through his school day.

  • Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used ADHD medications. Between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these fast-acting medications.
  • Nonstimulants were approved for the treatment of ADHD in 2003. They do not work as quickly as stimulants, but their effect can last up to 24 hours.

Tips for Parents

The following are suggestions that may help:

  • Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up time to bedtime.
  • Get organizedexternal icon. Encourage your child to put schoolbags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so that they will be less likely to lose them.
  • Manage distractions. Turn off the TV, limit noise, and provide a clean workspace when your child is doing homework. Some children with ADHD learn well if they are moving or listening to background music. Watch your child and see what works.
  • Limit choices. To help your child not feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, offer choices with only a few options. For example, have them choose between this outfit or that one, this meal or that one, or this toy or that one.
  • Be clear and specific when you talk with your child. Let your child know you are listening by describing what you heard them say. Use clear, brief directions when they need to do something.
  • Help your child plan. Break down complicated tasks into simpler, shorter steps. For long tasks, starting early and taking breaks may help limit stress.
  • Use goals and praise or other rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then let your child know they have done well by telling them or by rewarding their efforts in other ways. Be sure the goals are realistic—small steps are important!
  • Create positive opportunities. Children with ADHD may find certain situations stressful. Finding out and encouraging what your child does well—whether it’s school, sports, art, music, or play—can help create positive experiences.
  • Provide a healthy lifestyle. Nutritious food, lots of physical activity, and sufficient sleep are important; they can help keep ADHD symptoms from getting worse.
  • Meditation: At its most basic, meditation gives young children the feeling of being quiet and still. It gives them time to breathe and imagine, and lets them know that it is okay to have feelings. In fact, through meditation children learn that it is okay to be whoever they are and feel whatever they feel. I have found that meditation is very beneficial especially in Clintons sleep routine and not only that its a great time for us to relax and unwind together. There are numerous free childrens meditations on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora or my favorite Insight Timer

Further Resources and Support

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER)

National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)

This is by no means a comprehensive look into ADHD and I am by no means an expert on the issue I am merely a mom hoping to help others and I hope you have read or found something here that helps you.

Letting Go — November 11, 2019

Letting Go

When I started this blog I planned on adding to it at twice a week and that quickly went out the window because life happens. It has been close to a month since I last wrote and I am a little sad about that. The truth is it wasn’t about so much finding the time as it was being focused enough to writing something meaningful and not just bologging for the sake of blogging.

These past two months have brough about a lot of changes and shifts, and the biggest being Clinton starting his new journey at White Oak. I have to admit that this has been an adjustment just as much for me as Clinton with the biggest challenge being knowing when to turn Mom Shark off. It is hard to step in the shoes of parent like myself if you have never stepped foot in the world of Special Education. Without a doubt, White Oak is a fantastic school with amazing supports provided by amazing staff, but here is the thing I am being asked to just blindly trust said staff no questions asked and in all honesty that is a tall order that takes time.

A new school isnt a magical solution, Clinton is still Clinton, he has the same struggles, same obstacles except he has a greater awareness of just how far behind in certain areas he is. His struggles go well past reading and writing, being considered Atypical means self-regulation is a struggle for him, it means he is sensory sensitive in certain ways when it comes to sounds, lights and textures and it also means socially he needs some coaching on how to interact with peers. A new school also does not mean your done dealing with those who wronged your child, you still have IEP meetings, you still have your advocate and you still have to face how far your child has to go despite being in a new school. At Clintons IEP meeting on October 25th thirty-one different classrooms accomodations became available to Clinton, and that doesn’t include his speech therapy, occupational therapy or Assistive Technology. Now, most parents of a child with different learning challenges would rejoice in that and while I am grateful those options are available to him I can promise you to hear that your child needs that much support brings about a lot of mixed emotions.

Yes, Clinton is happier child at White Oak and yes I sleep better at night knowing he goes to a school where all learning styles and personalities are embraced, but there is a life after White Oak that we have to prepare him for. Clinton will always have a unique learning profile which at times he gets frustrated with and I get frustrated with myself because enough never feels like enough, because the same bullies that passed him along in the public school system are out in the world ready to judge him and break him down. To be a parent to child like Clinton takes a balance that I have yet to find. I try everyday to not look back, but to keep moving foward focusing only the good up ahead. I try everyday to not only forgive those who wronged my son but to see their position. I try everyday to trust those who work with my son seven hours a day. I try everyday to trust the process and that everything will work out like its supposed to. I try everyday to be a mom that doesn’t feel like she is getting it all wrong all the time and needs a coffee IV to get through the day. Mostly, I try everyday to believe that Clinton will find his way, his purpose and his tribe in the crazy world.

I hope if your struggling today, in anyway you know that you are not alone and that you are doing a fine job.

“This world needs all kinds of minds” – Temple Grandin