Mar 12

The Other Side of the Schoolyard Gate

Marty the Panther welcomes the children to MES

Marty the Panther welcomes the children to MES

 The Other Side of the Gate

I know how frustrating it can be when dealing with an ETL and the school system. I have seen the process from both sides of the schoolyard gates. I am the Reading Coach at Margate Elementary in Broward County, Fl. I am also an ADHD advocate, parent and teacher who deals with ETL kids on a minute-to-minute basis. All of this experience gives me a bird’s eye view of what’s happening with our kids.
My day is a variety of school activities, from working with small groups of struggling readers, conferencing with parents and helping out with discipline and positive reward systems. I know every ETL child in our school of 900, some very well.
We have a comprehensive program in place for these kids but still have many issues on a day to day basis. School begins at 8:00 and our first behavior code is usually at about 8:05. So we are off and running. We have 5 adults who take turns responding to behavior codes if a child is likely to hurt themselves or others. We retrieve children who have left classrooms without permission. We separate children who need to be separated, we talk to kids about their anger issues, we try to provide a safe yet structured environment for these kids for whom school is so challenging.
Despite ongoing training, we don’t always have the answers. What we have is time, concern, love and empathy for their struggles. I have called parents for advice, asking them, “What do you do?” My office always has 1 or 2 children in it, working, taking time out, talking with me, crying, and occasionally having a tantrum.
Sometimes they just need somewhere to go. Sometimes they have had a remarkable day and get to pick out of the principal’s treasure box, or call home to tell the good news. My office revolves around these kids daily.
There are times when my whole day is spent working with ETL kids, their teachers, and their parents. Paperwork I never finish is lugged home, because let’s face it, it can be done later. Kids are immediate priorities.
I meet every week with the RTI (Response) team. We meet with teachers and parents to discuss current interventions and how they are working. We put new interventions in place and follow up on their success. A coach is assigned to each case to help the teacher with what needs to be done. Some children are tested for learning disabilities if interventions prove to be insufficient.
We also work very hard to promote success. Teachers have been trained to be proactive so as to prevent future problems. Children are placed in classrooms where they will be deemed to be most successful. If their environment is not a good fit, another class is tried and many times this helps a lot.
Our Positive Behavior program is very effective. Selected children (K-5) are put on a contract each school day. Their goal is to earn 10 tickets per day. At 1:00 PM they come down to the Positive Behavior Room with their tickets and a work folder. If they have 10 tickets we celebrate! High five, mark it on their chart and they choose an activity. (reading, board games, legos, handheld video games and video games on the TV. Also air hockey.) If they have less than 10 tickets we talk about their day. They must complete some activities that the teacher has provided before they can play. So if they have 7-9 points it is pretty easy for them to earn points. Once they finish their work they get to play. Children with no points do not get to play that day. At times, we have had to move them to a different class away from the others. At the end of the 45 minutes, dismissal time, children who had 10 tickets get a special reward. They all get a snack for appropriate behavior in the group. There are celebrations for highest number of points in a week and then a monthly award.
We have seen a huge turn around in the kids involved in our program. Teachers report that the point system is working great for them. Of course, we are still struggling with transition times such as during special classes and lunch. But it’s a start!
We feel many of the same frustrations that parents do. What works one day does not work the next and so on. What we hold dear, is the parents who are trying so hard and who show us that we are all on the same page together in trying to provide the very best education for our kids.

Jan 23

Guest Blog: ADHD, Maturity, and Mommy Imaginings…

Megan is a full time supervisor who works from home, with a 13 year old ETL child and a hubby who shares many of their ETL’s traits and struggles with ADHD. I’m the non-ADHD member of their clan. She just finished grad school for an MS in Leadership last month and have worked for over 20 years in the early childhood education field. She has learned so much about ADHD and parenting ETL children from other Moms through things like the ETL forum, FB page postings and other on-line venues.

new yearsWhen one becomes a Mother, she finds herself imagining what the coming years will be like.  No one can imagine the joys, and frustrations parenting an easy to love, but hard to raise child brings – that is until they live it.  The diagnoses we receive from pediatricians and specialists initiate that imagining again, with totally different mental images, and sometimes different endings than those conjured hours after giving birth to a bundle of life and love.

In our family’s case, finding out that our ETL son has ADHD and is gifted came at the end of a rough first grade year.   His private kindergarten year had ended on a high note – academically he was more than ready for first grade we were told, and although a bit younger than most of the children in his class they felt he could hold his own socially.  He was always a handful – but in a good way.  Transitions could be a struggle, and cleaning up his toys was well, as a Mom with a background in education, I had lots of guilt that I could not gain his cooperation, and most frequently ended up doing it myself.  Continue reading

Sep 03

Summer’s End

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

      

The summer has come to an end, and it’s back to the classroom for me.  While I’ll miss the time I spent with my daughter, and in the flower garden and the extra time I devoted to our animals, I’m looking forward to putting some “forced” structure back into my day.  The summer gives me time work on so many projects, especially cleaning up and creative things that I just don’t get the chance to do during the school year, but for a person with ADHD having each summer day to just get things done is completely exhausting.

            I don’t set good limits for myself about what projects are possible and get myself involved with too many things.  By the end of the night, I’m so tired, I can’t see straight.  When I’m working, I have an evening schedule with a routine and a bedtime.  And, I justify keeping it so I can feel good the next day.  With the summer schedule, I just go and go and tell myself, “Well, I don’t have to work at school tomorrow so I can just finish this up.”

            When you have kids, animals, an old farmhouse and consignment shop – the list of things to do never ends.  This is a full-time job in itself.  A couple times I tried to make lists or write down a schedule, which did help but I still let myself get carried away.  Further, I’m guilty of not consistently taking my medication over the summer.  Again, with the change of schedule and routine – I’d say, “I’ll do that in a minute.”  And, the minute never came.  With that, decreased attention caused me to make numerous mistakes and become angry with myself.  So, why don’t I just do what I’m supposed to do?

             Good question.  One I can’t answer.  I guess I just become very overwhelmed.  To add insult to injury, bees attacked me while I was mowing and the mower got stuck on while I was trying to escape, and the venom caused a severe reaction.  While weeding the flowers, I got poison ivy that went inside needing medication to calm it down. 

            Then, the most terrible, terrible thing happened.  My best friend, my cattle dog, Zane and I came up from the barn after chores.  That dog’s only goal in life was to be by my side.  Lately, a stranger had been waiting for the local bus on my property.  Zane wasn’t a natural guard dog, but I hadn’t introduced him to the guy, and he didn’t like him on our property all the time.  One day, he’d had enough and went after him.  I called, yelled and chased.   A truck came around the corner.  I then ran for the truck – waving and yelling.  I was only a few feet away, but the guy in the truck wouldn’t look at me and hit Zane – hard.  Zane ran back to me, confused.  Sad, knowing he was in trouble.  He ran up to the house and died 5 minutes later.  Just like that, my best friend was gone from my life. 

            The house was so empty.  I didn’t have little feet following my every move.  I still can’t believe he’s gone or that I couldn’t get his attention to stop.  He was such a good boy – so smart and obedient.  He was 2 ½ years old.  He was my therapy. 

            I still had other animals to take care of and my Dwarf Nigerian Goat, Albert, was acting funny.  When I came down the hill to feed him, he didn’t run out to me like usual.  He hid, sometimes with his face in the corner like he was in time-out.  He began standing funny with his legs stretched out.  I went back to the breeder to ask questions, but he didn’t have any ideas.  I called a vet, but apparently the goat world in veterinary medicine isn’t so big.  The vet thought maybe he hurt his neck and gave him an anti-inflammatory, but a week later he began to get worse.  I called a different vet; she guessed bladder stones.  The bladder fills with stones, and the goat is unable to urinate.  Eventually, the bladder will explode.  We did blood tests and Albert’s kidneys were nearly shut down.  We made a decision to put him to sleep.   It was over so quickly.

            Then came the job of taking care of Albert and deciding where on the property to build a place of rest.  My husband found a dry and quiet area.  The reality of owning animals is a tough thing.  They can get sick or hurt and die.  We’ll make a stone for him and plant some perennials.  We had my pup, Zane, cremated.  Not happy topics, but things we had to work through this summer.

            So, going back to the classroom?  I’m totally good with it.  I look forward to seeing the kids and getting back into the curriculum and schedule.

            My ETL guy?  Well, did I say it’s been quite a summer?  I’ll respect his privacy, but say it’s been a hell of an emotional and difficult summer.  The cycles and patterns continue.  I pray, meditate and try to take care of myself.  The craziness of life can get me off track, but I’m stopping for a few moments to contemplate before moving on to the next season in the year. 

            I wish everyone a happy fall season, and hope as the busy schedules creep up on you; you can stop and take a few moments for yourself.

“New York is strange in the summer. Life goes on as usual but it’s not, it’s like everyone is just pretending, as if everyone has been cast as the star in a movie about their life, so they’re one step removed from it. And then in September it all gets normal again.”
Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
Apr 26

You’re nuts. I’m not. Mixed Feelings About Taking Your Child to Therapy

As I sat across from my new 12 year old patient and her mom, I saw the look of dread in the girl’s eyes and in her body language. Sweatshirt hood was up, looking down into her lap, arms crossed. I am a psychologist and work at a medical center in an eating disorder’s program. I have seen this look of dread many times over the years.

“Oh, she didn’t want to come today,” the mom explained almost apologetically.
“Only crazy people come to places like this” her daughter blurts out, the first words I have heard from her.

“Well, I can totally understand why you would feel that way,” I said. “A lot of people feel that way about coming here, but actually most kids and teens who come here are just like me and you, just normal people with the normal variety of challenges.” The girls shoulders relax a bit. “It takes a lot of courage to ask for help,” I say. A little bit of eye contact now. And we have our starting point. Continue reading

Mar 14

ADHD KO’s Dad Before Parent Night at School

My sixteen-year-old daughter, Coco, who like me has ADHD, has a big “Night Advisement” session at her high school tonight. All the kids and parents meet with counselors and teachers to decide your child’s curriculum and goals for the following year. Driving her to school this morning I asked her about it and she said, “I’m going with mom, it’ll just make you nuts.  We’ll tell you about it when we get home.” I tell her that I’d like to go too, she says that I’ve seemed to be on edge lately.

“No I haven’t,” I said. Coco rolled her eyes and said that I’ve got plenty to do without crowding into an auditorium and filling out forms.

“You hate that kind of stuff,” she says.

She’s right, I do.  And on my way home after dropping her off I realize that she’s also right about me being on edge. Actually, it’s more like over the edge and holding on with my fingernails. I’ve felt it coming on again for a little while and I’ve been doing my best to fight off the dread and stay positive, organized, and cheerful. But sometimes there’s nothing to do but turn and face it head on. No matter what I do – more exercise, breathing, talking to my shrink, filing, cleaning, eating ice cream, or chain sawing dead trees in the back yard – a air-sucking ADHD overwhelm collapse is rolling my way and I can only hope that I can remember what I learned from the last time this happened the week of my birthday a year ago.

In late rounds that week, ADHD hit Dad with a surprise roundhouse right to the head, knocking him flat with panicdespair, and a hopelessly dark world-view. Petrified that his therapist will want to put him on anti-depressants again, Dad took a self-imposed sick-week and hid in the bedroom.

Family said Dad took a dive.

“Now he gets to lie around all day, eat cookies, and read books,” family said. “Who’s going to do the laundry, clean the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuum, mow the lawn, feed the dog and change the light bulbs?”

“Not I,” Dad said from under covers, “My head hurts. Leave me alone. I need quiet.” He was tired of being a slave to these needy, noisy people. He really wished they would all just disappear.

A couple of days went by. The house was peaceful, not a sound. Well, sure the family’s out doing things in the world, growing, making a positive contribution to society and all that crap. Dad got out of bed to get a sandwich and maybe a few more Kroger oatmeal-raisin cookies. The kitchen was empty – but really empty. The whole house was deserted. Dashing around in a panic, he can find no dishes, no clothes, no furniture, no dog, no people. His wish had been granted. His family has packed up and moved away. “No, no, I didn’t mean it!” he screams, “Come back, I like changing light bulbs!”

And then – wham – I fell flat on my back in a tangle of sheets. I opened my eyes to our dog looking down at me. He tilted his head, raised an eyebrow and said, “Woof?” Okay, good, my family hadn’t deserted me.  But I did get laid out by that ADHD punch to the head and heart. And a good-sized part of me was convinced that the only reason my family didn’t pack up and leave is because I stayed on my feet and kept up with the household chores, part-time jobs, and all the other people-pleasing behaviors that cover the dark, frustrated fury and self-loathing burning at my rotten core.

My crusty old corner-man in the boxing ring sits me on the stool — squirts water in my face. “How many times I gotta tell you to keep your head down. No wonder ADHD caught you with that right. Now, he’s got you throwing around wild-ass mixed metaphors. Stay focused, kid. Fight your fight.”

Okay, okay. But see, it’s not that I think that my family is mean and shallow or really treats me like a slave. It’s that I know how difficult it can be to be around me when I get overwhelmed, frantic, and short-tempered. I can barely tolerate myself when ADHD hits me with a wave of burning synapses that gets so huge that I’m sure I’ll tumble over and over, and stay lost in confusion and uncertainty forever. And then, trying to keep from drowning, I lash out — desperate to grab anything that makes sense — and say or do something scary or hurtful.

So why on earth would my family stay around for this lunacy?

Before, it was probably because I was a mammoth provider when I worked in television. Today — not so much. So I become a mammoth homemaker. And in a snap, I turn into my mother — the 50’s housewife putting aside her desires, her writing — to take care of her spouse and kids. And you have to be real tough to pull that off.

My corner-man towels me off, shaking his head. “You’re not hard enough for that, kid. I seen some of the toughest ladies in the universe fight that fight and get flattened by a bitter madness that’s meaner than anything you can handle,” he says. “If you can’t stay focused, for crissake stay honest — fight with what you got.”

I tell him I don’t know what I’ve got to fight with. ADHD is dancing around in the ring looking bigger and stronger all the time. He can’t wait to pound me into screaming mush.

My corner-man slaps me. “It’s love, kid. That’s what you got — a whole family full of it. You fight with that, you can’t lose. Now get out there and show that bum who you are.”

So I do. And the old corner-man is right. The fight may never end, but ADHD or not, it’s the love we have for each other that gives all of us the reason and power to stay in the ring and prevail.

But keep an eye out for that nasty roundhouse right.

Besides Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, Frank South, a writer and performer, also contributes to {a mom’s view of ADHD}, writes articles for ADDitude Magazine, and writes the ADHD Dad blog for additudemag.com.

Earlier version published in additudemag.com

Feb 27

Veggie Eater’s Anthem

We’ve talked about the ways food can affect health and behavior. But talking doesn’t necessarily make those veggies seem any more appealing to our kids.

Maybe they just need a power tune to croon, making a carrot snap and a celery crunch seem downright hip. Look no further. Check out “I Like Vegetables” by Parry Gripp. With lyrics like, “My enemies cower when they feel the power that I gain when I devour a cauliflower” you can’t go wrong. Veggie fueled dancing optional.

 

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at www.lauragraceweldon.com

Feb 22

Letting Go of Normal

Many times while writing for this blog, I’ve shared my worries, my sadness, my frazzled feelings as a mother of twins who need more. Some parents seem to have so much figured out while I feel like I’ve been floundering, searching, hoping for six years that I’d find the magic solution to fix it all. I hoped that if I just kept looking and worked hard enough, we might eventually attain a “normal” life. Hearing others say, “Hang in there, it will all work out,” was encouraging but it didn’t bring me the peace of mind I was seeking.

My boy’s improvement has become my obsession. Some days I feel like I make no headway, crossing one thing off the list and adding two more. Even when their teachers praise how far they’ve come, I keep going back to my list of things undone thinking, “but we’re not there yet.” But lately I’m coming to realize there is no “there” to get to.

Last week I began reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. At first, I wasn’t reading it with my boys in mind, and yet, the pages seem full of advice for parents who are struggling—struggling to cope, struggling to accept, struggling to see the light in their child that gets overshadowed by exhausting undesirable behavior.

Chödrön says,

“…abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put ‘Abandon hope’ on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like ‘Every day in every way I’m getting better and better’….We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.”

Today I put a note on my fridge that says ‘Abandon Hope.’ Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll cancel therapies or wallow in despair. Instead, it will remind me to transition out of my obsession with what we are not, and to appreciate right now, even when it’s pushing me to the edge.

Sep 03

Is It Perspective?

Time Out for Perspective!

Maintaining my perspective as a mom is the most important and challenging job assigned to me. You have to realize that being a mom and maintaining perspective are really major oxymorons.

It’s like someone is telling you, “Forget all that you did to care for him as an infant. Forget the sleepless nights, and the vomited-on dress you were going to wear to the office Christmas party. And, by all means, forget that cute little toothless smile and the knowledge that your child is the most wonderful, brightest, cutest kid on the planet.

It's not easy to focus on the here and now. The what if's can drive you crazy.

Maintain your perspective.   Ha. Easier said than done.

My perspective was first tested when Cory was diagnosed as AD/HD at 6 years old.   Immediately my Mom Guilt went into overdrive.

What did I do wrong during pregnancy?

Why my child?

How come lots of other kids look active but mine gets the label?

And of course the genetic link: Why did I marry this man? It’s his fault.

Continue reading

Aug 31

Lessons from Training Dogs

Rachel Penn Hannah

Six years ago we got our first family dog. I knew instinctively that if the dog was not well trained I would not like the dog. As the weeks got closer to our puppy arriving from Yamhill, Oregon, I spent hours doing internet research about crate training. I learned that our newly remodeled house would be overwhelming to a puppy and that she needed to have her boundaries confined to the kitchen/dining room where we spent most of our time as a family unless we were playing with her in other areas of the house. I provided her with chewing toys to satisfy her oral needs and inspected her ears and body daily to get her used to cooperating with us and the vet. Our dog was also always fed after us at dinner. She learned to watch us eat, without begging, waiting patiently for her turn so as to better understand the order of dominance.

Omi was one of a liter of 12 puppies and had always slept in a pile of puppies until the day she arrived to us in California, having flown in a plane. Even though I felt sorry for her, I did not let her sleep with us like I wanted to ( an adorable soft nine pound goldendoodle). Instead, I insisted on her sleeping in her crate beside my side of the bed. She cried and cried until I put a sleeping bag on the floor and stuck my fingers through the door of the crate so she could lick them. She quickly fell asleep. We did this for about three nights before I realized that she just needed to see me, so I put the crate on a chair next to my bed, at eye level. She dutifully went to bed every night about 8:30 and soon slept through the night. She also learned “sit”, “down”, “shake”, and “come” all before she was 12 weeks old. I have never been so proud.

Continue reading

Aug 23

Lost and Found: ADHD Memories

Poor working memory is a signature trait of those with ADHD. Although I realize this makes daily tasks overwhelming for some, it is particularly heartbreaking for me when the end of summer hits and others start asking my child: “So, what did you do this summer? … What was your favorite thing you did this summer?” and he responds with barely a shrug and says, “I don’t know, nothin’.”

We put a lot of effort in planning a summer vacation. Some are more memorable than others, but this year’s — or so I thought — was one for the record books. Our ETL son, Hurricane Kid, glanced through the pocket-sized Frommer’s 100 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up (a handy little tool, by the way, www.Frommers.com) and asked if we could go to Mount Rushmore. My husband and I have always wanted to take the family there and added Yellowstone National Park to our itinerary, ‘cause we’d be in the vicinity anyway. This lengthy road trip was among several “to do” items we had planned for the summer. Here are my memories of how we fared:

Continue reading