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

Aug 09

Children Seen But Not Heard? Promote Self-Advocacy

It is next to impossible to ask ADHD children to wait a moment.  They need to say what’s on their minds right at that instant or they’ll forget what they were going to say.  I know that this can become tedious at times, but it is important to allow ADHD children this privilege because it will help them to speak up and advocate for their academic needs in the classroom.  Parents are pivotal in developing this self-advocacy skill in their children.

 

ADHD and/or learning disabled children need to be able to ask for academic assistance in the classroom.  And they need to have their questions addressed as soon as possible so that connections can be made to the information delivered.  By allowing your ADHD and/or learning disabled child to form and ask pertinent questions about whatever is going on at home, in a movie, etc., and expect answers in a timely fashion fosters the ability for him or her to do so in the classroom with the same expectations.

 

Usually classes with special needs students have aides to assist the teachers as well as the students.  It is important that your child feel comfortable enough to approach either the teacher or the assistant with academic questions whenever necessary to be able to perform well in class and therefore obtain the most knowledge.

 

If our special needs children can develop this skill in their formative classroom years, they will be ready to advocate for themselves in college and out in the workforce.

Mar 28

No Long-Term Benefit Of ADHD Meds?

ADHD meds no good, ADHD meds useless, avoid ADHD meds

wikimedia commons

Want to cause a ruckus? Criticize attention-deficit meds.

Over three million U.S. kids take these drugs to help them stay calm and attentive. Parents may not be thrilled to dose their children but they are following expert advice to improve behavior and school performance.  They tend to see results. And they don’t need to be judged.

But it helps to pay attention to what works for parents who don’t put or keep their kids on meds. My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was in first grade.  There was a great deal of pressure from his teacher to put him on medication. As many parents do, I struggled to find ways to alleviate the problem without drugs. We found significant improvement when we changed his diet but that wasn’t enough to make the school setting truly work for him. The way he learned best and the way he flourished simply didn’t fit in the strictures of the school environment. He wasn’t wired to sit still and pay attention for hours. Once we began homeschooling we discovered that without classroom and homework pressure, what appeared to be ADD symptoms largely disappeared.

The newest studies of attention-deficit disorder medications now indicate that the calming effect of these drugs don’t necessarily indicate that those who take them have any sort of “brain deficit.”  As L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of psychology at the Universityof Minnesota’s Instituteof Child Development explains,  such medications have a similar effect on all children as well as adults. “They enhance the ability to concentrate, especially on tasks that are not inherently interesting or when one is fatigued or bored, but they don’t improve broader learning abilities.”

Research shows the effect wanes in a few years without conferring any lasting benefit. Dr. Sroufe writes,

To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve.

This isn’t to say that drugs such as Ritalin are useless. It’s important to remember that studies cited by Dr. Sroufe are limited to children with ADHD, not concomitant diagnoses such as oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar disorder, or autism where such meds may be invaluable. Even when facing ADHD itself, parents need support that extends beyond what the mental health system, insurance company, or school district willingly offers. Some states provide advocates who help parents stand up for the child’s right to appropriate education, including extra time to complete assignments, smaller class sizes, and the kind of counseling that helps ADHD children internalize behavioral standards and respond appropriately to social cues. Parents also turn online for support. The blogosphere is full of information and empathy from others raising ADHD children, including the following:

Easy to Love, Hard to Raise

ADDitude Magazine ADHD parenting blog and education blog

ADHD Awareness

Edge Foundation

A Mom’s & Dad’s View of ADHD

Life with ADHD

While Dr. Sroute looks for a mental health answer, I think it’s a much bigger issue. It asks us to look at how today’s children are restricted in movement, have less time for free play, and are exposed to unnecessarily early academics.  It asks us to look at the quality of the air, water, and food in the lives of today’s children. It asks us to support all families as they are, recognizing that one-size-fits-all guidelines don’t embrace diverse ways of being. To me, particular hope lies in research showing that free time spent playing in natural settings significantly improved the behavior and focus of ADHD children. The more natural and wilderness-like the area, the greater the improvement.

Are our wonderfully distractible, messy, impulsive children trying to tell us something?

 

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

Mar 12

Diagnosis: Bane or Blessing?

In the Huffington Post article, Is Sensory Processing Disorder the New Black?, the story of mom Samantha and how she handled identification, diagnosis, and treatment of her daughter Lucy’s neurobehavioral disorder matches closely my own experience with my twins who struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and pyroluria, and echoes the voices of many of the parents whose essays appear in Easy to Love But Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories.

Like Lucy, my boys presented with a wide variety of symptoms, each of which could be connected with a handful of potential diagnoses including Aspergers, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but no disorder on the books described our children completely. Also like Lucy, when we turned to our naturopathic physician and modified their diet and nutritional supplements, we began to see dramatic improvements. Those around us said, “Perhaps they’re growing out of it,” but we knew that behind the improvement were desperate, hard-working parents searching for a solution, unsatisfied by a band-aid.

Next year, my 8-year-old boys will likely test out of their public school special education status. Our lives look drastically different than when we entered preschool three years ago. We wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t found our SPD diagnosis and opened our minds and homes to changes in diet and supplements with help from our naturopathic physician, Jean McFadden Layton, nor would we have maintained our sanity in the process without the supportive community here at Easy to Love….

Article authors Heidi Brod and Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND seemed to be writing about us all,

“Samantha stopped blaming herself for a child overwhelmed by anxiety and mood issues. She also started to realize the depth of a mother’s guilt. It sapped all of her energy, leaving her tired and depleted. I think of Samantha’s story and I’m reminded as a woman and a mother, that at some point, we need to be detectives, follow our own hearts and instincts. Nobody knows our children better than we do. We also need to give ourselves a break.”

So here’s to all you tired parents reading this blog and the HuffPo article, seeing some part of your life or your children there. Brod and Dorfman are right, you deserve a break, so give and take it freely.

Feb 20

A Long, Long Time to Stay Focused

Eighty minute class periods are a long time for someone with ADHD to stay focused. However, the double length of class time in high school covers the same subject. In theory, with more time in the same subject, the teacher can present the information in several formats; like, visually, auditory, and concretely. Children are already concentrating along the subject line; presenting the material in three ways allows children with disabilities more time to understand as well as different approaches to that understanding.

This line of thinking works well with science and math subjects for Marie. Marie is visual and concrete. Just plain listening doesn’t work for her. Seeing and doing works toward the understanding of material for her. Then we supplement this emerging understanding with repetition. Lots of repetition.

This is where I become a team player assisting at home. I want Marie to get the most out of her education and that requires me to continue re-teaching, when I can, the material at home. There is a difference between doing the work for our children and merely assisting them in their accomplishment of it. Assisting our students takes longer…much longer or at least it does for Marie. And I need to stay with her. If I walk away to try and accomplish something else, she walks away from the table and the difficult problems or questions. Patience is a virtue I wish God had given me more of.

However, with fewer subjects to concentrate on throughout the school day, longer periods of time to allow for understanding and different teaching methods offered, it does help students with disabilities. At least Marie is holding her own in high school so far. She is in special education, though, allowing for re-testing when necessary.

Feb 08

More Facebook Support for Sensory Processing Disorder

Bless the Internet. When I’m having a hard time coping with my twin’s Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or anxiety, I search for two things: books with new tips and other parents who understand. I’ve found the Easy to Love… Facebook page to be so vital to my day, I’m thankful that more and more resources are available to parents through literature and the Web.

Yesterday I stumbled across this little article by Occupational Therapist Bob Trapani at auburnpub.com, a Cayuga County, NY newspaper that explains Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in a way that most anyone can understand. I’m going to send it to the relatives in hopes that they might be able to really comprehend our “invisible” disorder.

The article also mentions new Facebook support pages for parents of children with SPD and for occupational therapists. The pages are NY-based, including advertising local support meetings, but relevant articles and commiseration are also posted there.

Where are you finding support as parents of children with SPD? We’d love to hear from you.

 

Dec 05

Half Empty Or Half Full?

 

we are what we perceive, attitude is everything, what you see in others,

Take a moment to describe three people you know. Perhaps your kid’s coach, your neighbor, and a close friend.

Tally up the negatives and positives. What do they indicate?

Actually, they say a lot more about you than the people you’re describing.

Research indicates what we perceive in others has a lot to do with who we are. According to a study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the tendency to positively assess people in our social networks is linked to our own enthusiasm, happiness, kind-heartedness, politeness, emotional stability, life satisfaction, even how much others like us.

A lead researcher says, “Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits.”

Continue reading

Nov 01

Educating Too Early

damage of early academics, direct instruction limits learning, free play,

CC BY-SA 3.0 emilygoodstein Flickr

Look at promotional material for preschool and daycare in your area. Chances are, there’s an emphasis on math, pre-reading, and other academics. And why not? We’ve been told for years that our little ones should play with educational toys and attend enrichment programs designed to boost learning. Well-intentioned parents follow this advice. We do this because we believe that learning flows from instruction. Logically then, early instruction will help maximize a child’s potential.

But learning in young children (and perhaps at all ages) has much more to do with curiosity and exploration. Recent studies with four-year-olds showed, “Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning.” It also limits a child’s creativity, problem solving, and openness to ideas beyond the situation at hand. This is true when the instruction comes from parents as well as teachers.

Continue reading

Sep 25

Ever Heard of P.A.N.D.A.S.?

I’d never heard specifically about P.A.N.D.A.S. (an annoyingly cute acronym for Psychiatric and Neurologic Disorders Associated with Strep) until Adrienne Ehlert Bashista posted  this article from Psychology Today on the Easy to Love But Hard to Raise Facebook page.

The article suggests that infections by bacteria of the Streptococcus family may initiate or exacerbate predispositions for many disorders that we currently understand poorly, including Tourette’s syndrome, tic disorders, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, and anorexia nervosa. Possible connections to lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis are also being studied.

As often seems to occur, researchers in other countries have been trying to establish links for over a decade and the information is now trickling in to the U.S. medical community, however slowly.

Continue reading

Sep 19

Block Scheduling a Blessing to the Special Needs Child

Our high school has “block” scheduling.  This was a major consideration in choosing course levels for my Easy to Love student.  In block scheduling, students usually have four classes a semester, or half year, sort of like college, and then a lunch and access period where students can do homework or see other teachers for extra help if that particular teacher is “off” at the same time.

Coming from an eight subject year long load–with eight subjects of homework assignments and test schedules, year long, I thought this would be easier for my Easy to Love child.  Students still have all eight subjects in high school every year.  The subjects are just divided in half and the class periods are doubled, 80 minutes.  This is how students can get a year’s worth of knowledge in half a year.

Continue reading