ADHD Finding the Gift Journey

September 22, 2013 in ADHD, Guest Blogger, Kids

 
Finding the Gift Journey

I want to introduce you to one amazing woman.  Michele Weeks and I have known each other for a few years now 

and she always has amazed me.  She is smart, beautiful, charitable, and fun!  Lately her life has gotten a lot more 

exciting.  She was voted Mrs. Utah and as such has decided to devote her time in this position to helping kids who 

have been diagnosed ADHD.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about this (for one because I have a son who is ADHD) 

but also because her plans are amazing.  Take a moment to read about how she finally found the road to success 

with her son who is also diagnosed ADHD.  It’s inspiring and it goes to show that every child has something amazing 

in them.  And we can help them find what it is.  A big thanks to Michelle for sharing this with the blog.  I hope you 

find inspiration and hope from it, like I did.  I give you, Mrs. Utah Michele Weeks.

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I would love to tell you I’m a well put together mom who has everything under control. That I never lose my temper

and forever patient. Somedays, I feel that way, but others I’m hanging on by a thread. On those off days, I just

give up and take everyone to the movies. My youngest boy Christian has ADHD and from this, I would have to

say that every day is a different adventure. Here is the good news, as time goes on, our ability to stay on top of

things more and more are becoming a reality. Both of us feel we are doing good and arein control of our lives as we

as a team perseveres. Christian is more independent and happier then he ever has been. Why? He found his gift of

music; writing songs and singing them has brought great joy to his life. As Ishare a little of our story, try to see if

you can relate to it at all. It’s my hope that our story will help many more who have children with ADHD. When my

little boy was in his 2nd year of Kindergarten, because he went twice, I was optimistic that an extra year of 

kindergarten was going to solve all his problems. Then half way through the school year, I saw my son starting to

slip in his academics. It sometimes would take him an hour and a half to do his homework that should just take

15 minutes. He would come home in tears from school, because someone said something to him that was mean.

When he got home he just wanted my attention all the time, interrupting my conversations with other family

members, or wanting a hug. I was continually putting out fires trying to keep people and family members from

losing their patience with him. His problems increased from not pronouncing his words with clarity. Driving him

to speech therapy twice a week was adding to my frustrating. There were days that it seems like my son can’t

remember 8+1 or the spelling words we have worked on all week long. I tried to be patient and give him the

time he needed to have his brain click on. The problem I was facing was I had a family that also needed some

of my time. Icould see signs that Christian was smart, intuitive and creative. He has a sweet disposition and

literally won’t hurt a fly.My son already had an IEP for his speech issues. So I tried to talk the school into testing

him for ADHD. They told me to arrange it through my own doctor. My doctor told me it would cost a lot

of money and the school will do it if I persisted. I knew I had to go at it a different way than before. Clearly the

school didn’t want to spend the money testing my son for ADHD. So I worked with the Utah Parents Center to

findout my son’s rights. I had to put a request in writing that was the first step. The second step was to get his

teachers to recommend he get tested for ADHD and then it usually happens quicker. So I went in and started

talking with his teachers. A month later, the special services lady saw me in the hall and said,“I think we should

test your son for ADHD.” I said to her, “What a great idea!”What I was really thinking was something else. I have

learned when it comes to working with my son’s school; gentle persistence works better then a slug hammer.Of

course he had ADHD; I would love to tell you that just knowing he had ADHD fixed everything. It didn’t! What it

did do was point me in the correct directionto start working on finding special help. There is no quick solution for

my son, no pill that solved all his problems. It was a beginning and we started down the path.

9% of Children in America have ADHD. That is about 5.2 million. Many kids that have ADHD suffer 

from lowself-esteem, because of their academics, and social problems that come from having ADHD.

The next question was, should I or shouldn’t I put him on medication. At first I was against it, I didn’t want

my son taking medication every day of his life. That just can’t be healthy. As my son and I sat at the dinner

table trying to get through his 1st grade homework listening to other kids play outside, I knew I needed

to take the next step. Christian was wondering why he wasn’t playing with the children. My frustration level

was going off the charts, because he couldn’t focus. I started thinking this is not healthy for him either. I am

frustrated, he is not learning, he is sad, trying to stay focus, trying to learn, crying because he is still doing

homework and everyone else is playing. So I started the trial and error of medication. We first tried Concerda 18.

Which helped, he still had anxiety, and sensitivity issues. He still wasn’t concentrating as well as we all had

hoped and some days he cried a lot. He still spoke out of turn and had other social issues that were still present.

So we tried other medications and finally settled on Concerda 27. Finally, I decide that itwas the best of

all of them. It didn’t solve all his concentration issues, but it helped. Most importantly Christian was still Christian.

The medication did not change his personality. With that now behind us, I found he got through his homework

faster and I had more patience. He was starting to learn at a far faster pace than before. That gave me hope

that my son would be okay. That he would be able to get through school and go to college one day.

With this new found hope and strength we were finally progressing along. Christian was doing four days of

speech therapy a week. And one day on the way home from school, he asked me,“mom is there something wrong

with me?” Why I asked him? “Well, I go to speech therapy all the time, I have an extra class at school and I don’t

have any time for friends.” I’d have to say my heart suddenly broke. What can I do to help my child feel normal?

That is when Finding Their Gift in ADHD” kicks in. As a parent with an ADHD child, I’m looking for ways to think

outside the box. The normal academic approach is very different and far less creative in solving the problems

attached to ADHD. Instead of after school speech therapy for Christian, I put him in singing lessons. He loved it!

It was not therapy, it was fun for him and he was enjoying it.

I made a list of things that would help him become more mainstream in school. When he accomplished one, I

would set a goal for another one.

When it comes to your own child, make a list of the deficiencies you see and what your goals are to improve them.

Limit them to a workable number. Here are mine and Christian’s that we set.

Sitting close enough to read numbers and sentences off the black board at school so he can concentrate better.

Body coordination and concentration at the same time

Learn to concentrate on the subject at hand.

Make friends

Have goals in speech therapy- Speak with better sentence structure and cognitive thought.

That was enough to start with. I could have written a list four pages long, but that was not realistic. Look at your

list and get creative. I would have loved to get an expert to help me with all his issues, but I couldn’t afford a

therapist with my crappy insurance.

1st – Read things off the black board and understand what he was looking at. Improve physicalcoordination and

finger strength. As I was helping my older son practice the piano, I began thinking. Piano lessons will teach

Christian how to follow the music with his eyes and improve his finger strength. It was similar to writing

down what he saw on the blackboard. It was something his brother was doing, so Christian would think that was cool.

2nd -Body coordination and concentration. Christian with his kind heart and being picked on at school needed

to protect himself. What can I find that will do all this for him? Karate! I had to find a really nice Karate Teacher

that was patient with Christian. I did and we were off and running with this new thought.

3rd – Friends. He needed Friends. I made time whether he finishes his homework or not he needed to have

play time. I would haveplay-dates and tried to have people from school come over to the house. As those

friendships got stronger less kids picked on him at school. He had someone to hang out with and to play with,

to protect him. It took effort and time but it worked.

4th Speech therapy. He was getting speech therapy at school. So I supplemented after school speech therapy

with singing lessons.

Between homework, singing lessons, karate lessons and friends. My plate was full and I was out of money.

Plus, I still had my older son to pay attention to and addressing his reading issues he was dealing with. Life

did get better and Christian began improving. My son was learning. He was doing better in school. His anxiety

began to go down. His friendships developed and his school friendship became stronger and more protective.

Every year I made a new list. Some get carried on from year to year and others get replaced withnew goals.

Then Christian’s life changing event happened. With his limited piano ability, his love for singing and incredibly

imagination he wrote his first song, “Space Bear”. This simple song changed Christian’s life. We brought it to

his singing coach who added some instrumentals to Christian’s tune. We entered it in the school art contest

and it won 1st place. He was asked to sing live at the awards ceremony. Little did I know, Christian loves

the stage, loved performing and has calmness in the spot-light. He told me mommy, I found my gift. When we

were going back east to visit family, Christian wanted to wear his space suit on the airplane. I brought my video

camera and filmed a little footage of what I thought a cute music video would be,“Space Bear” materialized.

Our first music video was born that summer.Christian loves dressing up in costumes, so he went to his singing

lesson one day as a ninja. “Trevor” Christian said, “I want to write a song about Ninja’s.” For the next hour

Christian and Trevor figure out this Ninja song. After they recorded that song, Christian and I made a video for

it and put on YouTube. We would record about 4 to 5 songs a year. Christian’s self-esteem went through the roof.

Now it wasn’t what is wrong with me, but mommy, I have a gift and people love my music! I am going to be

a rock star! In the winter of 2013 Christian released his 1st album “My Imagination”. He was invited to sing,

I’m a little leprechaunlive on,“Good Things Utah”.

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There are some benefits on having ADHD. These kids have gifts, because they are so creative. So many of our

nation’s heroes were ADHD. The list really goes on and on, but a few notable people were, Walt Disney,

Alexander Graham Bell, Elvis Presley, and Ansel Adams. I love this quote from Albert Einstein, “Intelligence

is not measured by knowledge but imagination”.

Find out what your child has an interest in. Many times the gifts are lying in science, painting or music. My

recommendation is to point the child in a direction and see where it goes. If the interest level is there, let the

child pursue it. Always make time for your child to play with friends. This is very comforting to him or her.

Don’t make your child stay within where you think the lines or boundaries lie or only play the music that has

been written in the song books. Let them have time to experiment with sounds and colors. Let them shoot 100

pictures on the camera without help from you. Then be super positive with what they show you. Listen to

their stories and even write them down. Embrace their creative minds and encourage them to find out what

they are good at. It really changes a kid’sself-image, especially one that feels he just doesn’t fit into certain

groups at school. Remember they are constantly told they are doing it wrong. Give them room to be creative

without judgment.

Join Groups.

At first the thought of joining a group scared me. How will the leaders handle my son? How will the kids in the

group like my son? My first experience with Cub Scouts was not great. I think I could write a hilarious book about

my year as a tiger scout mom. My older son had the best leaders in the world. But Christian’s, Wow! Christian

actually got along better with them than my husband and me. However, I like the premise of Cub Scouts. It

was just what Christian needed to see and be part of. The next year we moved to a Cub Scout group in my

neighborhood. Perfect. It had structure, but not too much, he was learning cool stuff, they had fun awards and

the neighborhood kids where getting to know Christian better. Join some kind of group almost anything will

work, choir or science. Expose your child to a group setting that is not school. They learn so much about social

behavior from them.

With his love of music and new friends Christian was well on his way. But we were not where we needed to be.

The next year after talking with other parents, therapist and reading ADHD websites, I learned what I could ask

for at school. When I walked in to the next IEP meeting I was informed about Christian’s rights. I worked with a

team of specialist to getthe services that my son needed to succeed. For instants, Christian loves getting good

grades, but since he works slower than his peers his spelling word list is less. If he has trouble with a test they

will read the test to him. His tests are not timed. He gets out of school early, so he can go to “Kumon” tutoring

in order to get him on grade level in math and reading. These people have done a marvelous job getting Christian

to focus and be responsible for his work. This helps me to have more patience with him at home and more free time

for my other children.

Having a child with ADHD can be really fun. Christian laughs, sings, dances and tells wonderful stories. He has a

loving and giving heart. Even though some days he and I are still frustrated and overwhelmed with homework,

we get through it easier than before. We have learned to balance our lives better and take time to have fun.

Most Importantly, I feel now that Christian has found many gifts, because of his wonderful imagination that comes

with ADHD.

Michele Weeks

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Mrs. Utah

Click here to visit her at her site, or click one of her pictures.

Click here to visit Christian’s site, it’s amazing!  Or click on his picture above.

Click here to follow her Facebook page “ADHD Finding Their Gifts”

MichelleWeeksADHD

Daily Doable 8/21/13

September 5, 2013 in Daily Doable

Blog Post: 6 Points on Being Your Child’s Advocate in the Classroom!

ADHD-6 Points on Being Your Child's Advocate in the Classroom

ADHD-Being Your Child’s Advocate in the Classroom

August 21, 2013 in ADHD, Family, Kids

ADHD – 6 Points on Being

Your Child’s Advocate

In the Classroom

Meet my oldest son, Davis.  He is now 8 years old, and he is one-of-a-kind.  I mean that, I don’t know another kid like him, and you know what?  That’s a good thing, and it’s also a hard thing.  Some of the good things are that he is bright, sweet, tender-hearted, and adventurous.  Some of the hard things are that he has trouble making and playing with friends, concentrating in school, and controlling his impulses.  I wanted to take a moment to let you get to know him a little, because we have traveled a fairly difficult road with Davis and we have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do to help him.  Matt and I aren’t experts, but we have experience.  By sharing what we have learned we hope that it in turn, helps you.

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When Davis was 15 months old, our pediatrician was concerned that he was developing slower than normal.  At that age he made almost no attempt to speak or even communicate except for screams and a small amount of sign language that he learned from Signing Time.  He didn’t walk, and almost never crawled.  He made no attempt to even stand or reach something he wanted.  After I weaned him from nursing he lost weight due to being a picky eater.  Basically, he loved to be held and he loved watching T.V.  No, T.V. was not the cause of any of his problems, it’s just one of the few things he actually cared about.

So, we began our journey to help him.  We did some testing through the state for Downs Syndrome, Autism, hearing impairments, low IQ, Aspergers, as well as any other diagnosable issue a kid that age might face.  What we came up with is that he was simply developmentally delayed.  There was no specific cause for it.  It’s the same as being born with an extroverted or introverted personality.  It’s just how he is.  The thing about being developmentally delayed is that most kids grow out of it, but can do so at a faster rate with proper therapy.  So, therapy is what we did.  Mostly it was speaking and understanding language as well as working on fine motor skills.  By the time he entered Kindergarten he was cured! It was a miracle!  No.  By the time he entered kindergarten he had made some substantial improvements, but had a long way to go to catch up to his age group.  In that three and a half-year period, from the time he was diagnosed to the time her started kindergarten, he had come from being in the 1% of kids his age to 7% as far as verbal, motor and cognitive skills.  Improvement is good, but he still needed a lot of help.  Unfortunately, in the great state of Utah, 7% is good enough.  All of our rights as far as state funded therapy and help ended.  

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Well, we weren’t ready to walk away from him and say he was all better.  Starting school only opened a whole new door to issues that we had never dealt with like helping him cope in large group situations, being tested on his fine motor skills (as in coloring and writing), and especially controlling outburst and relationships with peers (I know, this is long-winded, but hang on, I’m getting to the advice part).  As his parents we were frustrated for him and with him.  We were at a loss as to what to do to help him.  We went many different avenues, some worked, others didn’t.  

Then came Mrs. Beck, and 1st grade.  She was the pivotal point in our lives concerning Davis and academics.  She was a very seasoned teacher with a heart of gold.  She had her frustrations with Davis but it became clear from the start that she was invested as much as Matt and I in his success.  We communicated regularly about how to help him, what she was doing to help him, and what we could do.  Finally, after a foundation of trust was laid, she suggested we test him for ADHD or other issues that may hinder his ability to overcome his struggles.  How could I argue with a woman who sat in a meeting with the school therapist and I and shed tears of frustration and sorrow for my son.  It was obvious, she wanted him to succeed as much as we did.  So we did the testing.  It was eye-opening to say the least. He tested above normal to extremely above normal in every single academic category.  The test was administered over several days, in short stints, in a quiet room with no other students and one adult near by.  In other words, distraction free.  The test was similar to the ones he was given that diagnosed his developmental delay.  It covered all the issues that might hinder his success.  The diagnosis was clear.  He has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Since that time we have continued to work and find ways to help Davis do better and better.  But, now that we have a diagnosis that is right for him, we also have tools and knowledge about where to start.  

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Ok, advice time…

1.  Do not rule out any issues your child may have.  Believe me, we were sensitive to the judgments others made about Davis and about our parenting.  It hurt when people assumed they knew what was “wrong” with him.  When he was 3 years old a woman in our church told people she thought he was Autistic.  The first day he met his kindergarten teacher she asked if he was ADHD.  We were angry, not because there is something wrong with any of those diagnosis’, but because he was judged before anyone even knew him.  So many people wanted a pigeon-hole to shove him in.  We were not ok with that.  Having said that, arguing with the world, and yourself, about what your child DOESN’T have is not doing your child any favors.  You might overlook an issue that is real because of pride.  We did!  I finally looked at my son and thought, “I am failing you.  You are still having the same struggles you have had for months or even years.  I am angry with you very often.  I can see you are frequently frustrated and unhappy.”  That’s when Matt and I knew we had to look at every single option out there, because what we were doing wasn’t working.  Mrs. Beck helped that process because we trusted her and she genuinely cared about our son, but don’t wait.  If your child is having problems that routinely interfere with school, relationships with peers, or family, it’s time to start asking.  All of our testing started with a trip to our pediatrician, and he guided the process.  

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2.  Become your child’s teacher’s cheerleader!  This is a hard one, especially when you have a teacher you are frustrated with.  But it goes back to the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”  Remember the kindergarten teacher who assumed Davis was ADHD after knowing him for 5 minutes?  Well, that was a hard year.  Even when she was being nice she had a sneer on her face.  And you know what, I showered her with compliments.  I found the more kind, supportive, and friendly I was to her the more patient she was with Davis and open to the suggestions I made to her.  I didn’t make her my enemy, I gave her support and it made it easier for her to return it.  I know families who have kids with special needs who go into classrooms and principal offices with their guns blazing and they call it being their child’s advocate.  All you do when you attack the people who spend 6 hours a day with you kids is create an “us against them” scenario.  The way to succeed in the classroom is to have a collaborative environment that includes parent and teachers.  Like it or not, you’re in it together.  If you have a critique or request, always start with a compliment.  Acknowledge what the teacher is doing to try to help your child.  Discuss openly and non-defensivly the issues your child is having.  When you are on your teacher’s side, that teacher is more likely to be on your child’s.

 

3.  Volunteer in the classroom.  Even if this is something that is out of the ordinary for your teacher, ask anyway.  There are many ways to help a teacher out.  Grading papers, preparing projects, helping kids who need extra attention.  The bottom line is, find a way to be in the classroom helping.  Not only does it foster a feeling of gratitude toward you from the teacher, but it gives you a realistic view of how the class is run, what the teacher is like while dealing with the students, and most importantly, what your child is like in class.  When you go back time after time you can pinpoint areas that need work and in turn you are more effective when working with your teacher on solutions to issues.  

 

4.  Praise your child and use positive reinforcement.  We have tried many different systems to reward Davis, but there is one that has stuck year after year.  We taped a cute picture to the top of some sticks and then wrote each of Davis’ privileges on them.  Then we put all the sticks in a mason jar and placed it in a prominent place in our home.  Some of our ideas were “desert”, “play date”, “play iPhone”, “T.V.”, “play video games”, ect; anything that is a fun thing.  Then, we used it to issue consequences.  If he took too long getting ready for school, he had to pull a stick.  If he got a bad report from his teacher that day, he had to pull a stick.  Once the stick was out, it could not be put back in.  The next day they all went in again and we started over.  This plan was marginally effective.  One day, I had had enough.  I was going to get through to Davis.  I showed Davis the jar in the morning and I took all the sticks out.  I told him when he wakes up in the morning he has no privileges, he has to earn them.  If he gets ready fast, he gets a stick in the jar.  If he is kind to everyone, he gets a stick.  If he gets a good report from his teacher, he gets a stick.  Again, once the stick was in the jar, it could not be taken out.  No more pulling sticks.  If he didn’t live up to our expectations, he simply didn’t have privileges.  I was shocked when a smile spread across his face and he said, “ok, watch this!”  He ran off and got completely ready for school without a single nudge from me.  He then ran back to the jar and chose which stick he wanted (T.V.) put it in the jar and watched T.V. until it was time for school.  EUREKA!  Instead of being punished for everything he did wrong he was suddenly getting rewarded for what he was doing right.  It completely changed my perspective.  Of course all kids need consequences, but try to find ways to praise and reward.  It is true for everyone, positive reinforcement is always more effective.

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5.  Utilize your school’s psychologist/therapist.  Most schools have one, and although you usually need a recommendation from the teacher or other adult in the school to set up appointments with them, you don’t have to “qualify”.  These professionals are there to help any kid, especially those with social struggles.  Davis has visited our school therapist every week since kindergarten, and she is great.  Here is a chance to get one more adult helping my child.  Another person who is invested in him and his success.  It is one more person who is there for him, and the more people that he knows that are on his side, the better.

 

6.  Let your home be a safe place.   A soft spot to land.  Let your home be the place where your child can be himself.  Life for him/her doesn’t have to be difficult all of the time.  Being patient and understanding in the home gives you opportunity to let your child know that outside the home certain behavior is not tolerated.  Your home should be a safe place to fail.  When your child isn’t perfect, you can show them that in your home they always get a second chance.  That way your child can put on a happy face for a few hours rather than feeling that they have to be their best 24/7.  That way your child knows, no matter what, they are loved.

<3, Sharla & Matt

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