May 12

Repost: The Critic

contemplationAs much as I think I have “accepted” my children’s learning challenges, I forget that I still have The Critic living in me as well. The voice of acceptance is calm and even soothing at times. It has been cultivated and reflects flexibility and surrender to what is in me and my children, rather than rigid ideas of what “should” be true. “The Critic”, on the other hand, is loud and harsh and, at vulnerable times, unrelenting. Three kids with ADD? Yeah, right! You’re just a bad mother. ADD? Not! Rather, it must be LMS (lazy mother syndrome). Maybe you are imagining all this because you are in the mental health field. Maybe you jumped the gun in terms of assessment and intervention and maybe all this HELP has actually created the problem. Maybe it is your hyper-vigilance with the oldest, the Sudafed you took for a bad sinus infection when pregnant with the second child, or the way the youngest baby turned blue as she left the birth canal and needed oxygen… Or, most benignly, maybe it is just your screwed up DNA.

It does not matter that we have consulted with experts in the field many times over the years to see if the ADD and related learning problems are our imagination, the validation we desperately need to avoid self blame. It doesn’t matter that we have been told that this is genetic or simply how they are wired. I still find myself living with chronic doubt. I don’t like to admit that The Critic is always nearby, but it is. Continue reading

Nov 12

Looking for joy! Sometimes us mommas of kids with NB special needs have to look pretty hard…

"Overwhelmed" by Ursula Vernon.

“Overwhelmed” by Ursula Vernon.

So y’all –

I have about a million blog posts in my head. I’ve been teaching a webinar on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) based on the teachings of Diane Malbin, a FASD guru, my mentor, and my trainer, and there is so, so much I can share about the experience. It has been very humbling to present research-based approaches to parenting and helping a person with FASD and at the same time be parenting a person with FASD who is intensely complicated and putting all that I know/learned/am teaching to the test.

At the same time that I’m humbled and want to share what I have learned with you, since I believe it applies to all people with neuro-behavioral special needs, not just people with FASD, I am also feeling overwhelmed. Here’s why:

  • Each week I’m doing 2 webinars about FASD/other NB Special needs
  • Each day I parent my child with FASD
  • Each day I struggle with outside institutions (e.g. school) that don’t “get” my child, who read his behavior as a way to manipulate the system and get what he wants. In reality, his behavior is a clue to getting what he needs – which is not what they provide. So hard decisions are ahead for us.
  • Each day I work towards creating a non-profit to help families impacted by FASD: FAFASD
  • Each day I try to find more training opportunities so I can teach people what I know. You would think this would be easy, but people don’t know what they need to know automatically. It’s proven difficult to find training opportunities – even if I offer to do it for free. I’m available, by the way. Just email me:
  • Each day I work on writing projects about NB special needs, which is what my publishing company publishes. Our next book is called The Resilient Parent, by Mantu Joshi, a dad to 2 children with special needs, a pastor, and a very wise guy.
  • And each day I log onto Facebook and read posts from parents of kids with NB disorders that occasionally make me laugh, but mostly make me worried and scared because of their desperation. I know we have a great community in the Easy to Love but Hard to Raise Facebook page, the FAFASD Facebook page, and the Mom’s View of ADHD Facebook page, but sometimes it gets to be too much for me. Adding to that the 300 of 500 “friends” I have on Facebook who are parents of kids with special needs and you can only imagine what happens when I log in with my morning coffee.

Overwhelm. I am overwhelmed.

So what’s the remedy to overwhelm? I can take a cue from my child, who routinely gets overwhelmed, which amps him up and makes him wild and uncontrollable. For me it’s the opposite: overwhelm makes me shut down.

I cannot afford to shut down.

When J. gets overwhelmed we remove him from the situation, we distract him, we make sure he has eaten good food, had enough sleep, and let him chill for a while. We try to think of things that will give him joy – but calm joy – not the joy that comes from jumping on a trampoline after eating 5 donuts until 10 p.m. (True story, don’t ask).

I need to do the same. Can’t really remove myself from the situation (although I have been spending less time on Facebook), but I can look for joy. Calm joy.

Now to figure out what that means!

Do you have any ideas?

Sep 18

Shocking the carpool moms…

scribbleThis morning was rough.

J, my 11-year old with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) has recently started school after being homeschooled for 2 1/2 years, and while it’s probably our best option out there it is not perfect. He’d be the first to tell you that. I’d be a close second.

We are now in week 4. Weeks 1 + 2 were blissful, week 3 was rough, and now, finishing up the first month it looks like rough is here to stay.

He got up at 4 this morning, then 5, then 7. “You are a f*cking bitch!” he yelled me at 4 a.m. when told to get back in bed.

At 5, “You don’t care about me, you asshole!” He pulled a framed picture off the stairway wall and hurled it at my husband, who was explaining he had to wait until 6 to come downstairs.

At 7: “I hate that fucking school. It is so fucking boring! Get me the fucking salt!” He threw the kitchen chair to the floor. Continue reading

May 19

Eyes Open

So your ETL, forgets his homework – more than a few times.  Should you help him organize his locker?  Email  teachers and ask for assignments to be sent to you?  Check agenda for fourth time?

Or, there’s  problems with  friends.  Should you check Face Book to see what’s going on?  Should you call parents?

Even worse, your ETL is an adolescent and finds himself in trouble with the law.  Should you help him get a lawyer?  Should you help navigate the consequences or help with fines? Continue reading

Apr 22

Testing Daze

testThought I might share some experiences with FCAT testing. I am the reading coach at my elementary school and I hate the formalized testing that we put the kids through. Even with modifications, it is a torturous time for kids. It is difficult for us adults, so I can imagine how they feel. Today I was the test administrator for a class of fifth grade students. They all know the importance of these tests and their behavior and demeanor reflected it during the testing time. They were focused.

To add some more difficulty to the stressful time, it was the first time that the kids have taken the test online, a fact that made me as nervous as they were. I was afraid I might mess up the whole computer system.

Continue reading

Jan 07

Reader post: Lockdown

Melissa is the thirty-something mom to 9 adopted, Easy-to-Love children all between the ages of 11 and 4. One of her children is in public school and the rest are all homeschooled while she work on her Master’s in mental health counseling. Life can get a little crazy sometimes, but it is always interesting!

school lockdownTwo days before Christmas break, my 8-year-old easy-to-love son put the local elementary school and high school on total lockdown. This was only six days after the horrible school shooting in Newtown, CT, one day before the December 21, 2012 “End of the World” was supposed to happen, and on the same day that (unknown to us) students in various towns around our state took guns to school and put other school systems in other cities on lockdown. To say that the local police and sheriff’s departments were edgy, and that the school administration were nervous would, I’m sure, be an understatement.

My son has been diagnosed as ODD, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. One counselor suspects FASD as well and another says that’s “hooey,” but regardless of this Ds, my son certainly has some issues with impulse control alone with his other challenges in life. He’s an amazingly talented kid who is very bright, can be very sweet and loving, but also has a stubborn, defiant streak a mile wide that we have been working on since he was placed in our home four years ago through foster care. Continue reading

Dec 27

Life & Times of a Caregiver

The saying between a rock and a hard place couldn’t be truer than when you’re trying to help someone with mental illness, addiction and/or another condition.  You’ve got your loved one’s irrationals thoughts and need for help and on the other side the bureaucratic red tape of agencies and HIPPA rules alongside of that.  The situation can become so muddled you can feel like you’re watching an episode of “The Three Stooges”, but no, this is your life – the reality of it all.      

A mental health agency’s recorded message states to make an appointment call between 8:00 AM and 10:30 on Wednesdays.  The future client calls – and then calls.  After a time, a new message tells the client appointments have been filled – have to try again next Wednesday.  On the third Wednesday, the client gets through to a person, a real live one, who tells him to make an appointment, he first has to have a referral from a doctor and a physical (because it’s been some time since he’s been seen by a doctor).

The client then tries to find a doctor.  He begins calling a local clinic.  I try to help by calling them first to see if they accept the type of insurance and if they’re accepting patients.  They are taking new patients, and the receptionists says the future client can call the office.  He calls the office; The receptionist says the persons who takes new appointments isn’t there and to call back at 11:00 the next day.  The future client tries for two more days with the same result.  I call the office back and the receptionist explains that appointments for that day have been filled and the future client just has to try back each day. Continue reading

Nov 26

Sometimes My Child Needs A Different Mother

I’m frustrated and sad because I don’t know how to help you with this. I don’t like to see you in pain, but I don’t know what to do.”

Have you ever wondered if your child would do better in life if they had a different mother? Perhaps we all have. I have often had the thought that I am too soft to be good enough as a mother, that I have too much empathy that has gotten in the way of me giving my three children what they need. But having this thought as it applies to my oldest two children has been occasional and minor, where as this thought has, at times, been overwhelming when it comes to mothering my youngest daughter, Sarah.

Sarah is now in the seventh grade, her second year of middle school, the hardest year of middle school for most girls, and almost every school day over the past three months has been a challenge. My girl has had major mood issues her whole life, anxiety that manifests as angry outbursts, and ADHD. She has had many interventions over the years, but the most effective, it seems, has been riding horses. With horses she is able to relax, to be accepted, to learn about communication, among many other things. But medication has also been necessary and something she fights every day. Continue reading

Nov 23

Driver’s Education

Test taking is difficult for Marie, but there can be no modifications on a state driving test.  Nor should there be.  It just wouldn’t seem right—even for special needs students.  Marie is on her own.

I was all excited about Marie learning to drive.  Yes!  One less person to chauffeur around.  Who knows?  Eventually, she could help me chauffeur her siblings to sports practices, dance lessons, or music events.  I was psyched!

I’d ask Marie daily how Driver’s Ed was going—to the exclusion of her other courses.  She’d answer as she always does, “Fine.”  But I was in my dream world.  My first daughter is going to drive, I repeatedly told myself.  In fact, I bragged to my entire family.  My dad even bought Marie a bumper sticker:

“If you don’t like my driving, stay off the sidewalk!”

I laughed.  I praised her.  My first daughter won’t be bugging me to take her places anymore.  She, in fact, will be able to help me take others.  I was in Heaven.

And then I woke up.  Class test grades filtered in for this 23-day course, and reality clouded my days.  Marie wasn’t going to pass the state test unless I studied nonstop with her.  And even then we are never sure.  My excitement about having assistance with chauffeuring children started to fade.

I hammered away at the notes, reading to Marie, having her actually look at the terms to be able to recognize them when she saw them on a test.  Each night we would both end a session of studying with tears.

This is NOT the way to study with a special needs child.  No matter what YOU want, some things are not to be.  Marie failed the test by 4 points, which is pretty good for her.  I told her we could study again and she could retake the written test in the summer.  She didn’t look interested.  At all.  My husband tried to get me to see.  At this time, Marie is not interested in driving.  I realized he was correct.  And then I cried myself to sleep.