Get a formal diagnosis. Don’t let your pediatrician diagnose and dispense meds. And, don’t allow the school to drive your decision making regarding meds, therapy, and accommodations. Read all you on the subject– get educated. Be sure that you, your family and friends make accommodations for the child’s challenges.
Get help right away
Get help right away! Get them tested right away! Start the meds as soon as “you” feel it is necessary. Read everything you can about it, choose carefully who you tell about it and respect the child’s needs and feelings about it.
Ease their anxiety
I think that, for kids that have emotional issues, any time you can ease their anxiety, you help them to be able to focus on controlling their issues. We ask them to focus on controlling themselves so much, so if we can ease their anxiety in other areas, I think we help them tremendously. Things like enabling them to wear what they want to wear, or feeling comfortable in that way, I think helps them tremendously.
I always tell Jason a million times before an event or trip what is going to happen. If we are going somewhere that day, and we will be home late, I will tell him that he will be going to bed shortly after we get home. If we go to a store for a birthday present, I will tell him ahead of time that he will only be looking for his friend today. Whatever I know that will trigger a problem, I let him know ahead of time what to expect. He has to hear it several times and I make him look at me and tell me he understands. It works. Yelling does not work. Trying to make them do it the way you want does not work. Sometimes you have to give them the choice. My oldest son, Scott, will give himself a time table. He will finish what he is doing in 10 minutes and at a certain time he will start his homework. He will do certain things right after school and then certain after dinner. He will choose what day of the week he wants to mow the lawn, as long as he gets it done that week.
I read all the information I can get, and go to as many seminars or speakers I can. I take bits and pieces of each that work for us and incorporate them into our routine. That is really important, to have a good routine. They know what to expect. That was hard for us at first. We found that the more organized we were and the more of a routine the boys had, the smoother things went.
Educating the extended family
Understand what the problem is, know that there is a lot of education of extended family that might have to take place, and that you need to protect the child from negative judgment of others. Of course that comes with educating yourself so that you are not judging your child unfairly. And then, the medications can only augment all those other things, but I really feel like they both have to be in place.
Pick your battles
Alex refused to get dressed or brush his teeth for a while. You had to physically brush his teeth; you had to physically put his clothes on. Some days, you could do that, and other days, you couldn’t do that. Other days, you had to chase him around the house, and some days for your own sanity you just didn’t brush his teeth. And that’s okay. You just try to pick your battles for the things that are more important.
Gum and drawing
Alex is hyper, very hyper. He has these ADHD symptoms where he’s just kind of, bouncing off the walls. Gum is an incredible stress reliever, we’ve found. We actually worked with the school to allow him to chew gum, because it was a great stress reliever for him, and something to do. He’s allowed to draw in his classes, they actually let him doodle.
Using a “body scan”
If I thought that Stephanie’s body was too active for a situation, or if she was tapping or something that was possibly aggravating for other people in a group, then our little code word was “You need to do a body scan.” A body scan is she needs to look from her head to her toes, like look within, and try to modulate whatever was out of whack. So you could say it across the room, “Body scan!” and nobody else would know what we were talking about, but she’d know that there was something that she was doing that she needed to address. As a younger child, when she was still very hyper, she would start her fidgeting or bumping around and it might aggravate somebody else who was a really quiet child sitting still, so I could just catch her eye and whisper to her, “Body Scan” and it would be like a game. And she liked that; it made sense to her. She could do it, and it was an internal adjustment, and it wasn’t anything that could be observed externally by anyone else. So that helped a lot.
We’ve tried so many different things, with so many different behavior modifications: time outs, sitting, quiet times for the homework, breaking up homework time, not having television on, not having computer or television before bedtime. Some of it is helpful. It does help to give Lindsay breaks in the homework time; it really does help if she does homework for a certain amount of time and then has a ten minute break that she can have on the computer or on television, but we keep it within a certain limit. The break helps her to unwind a little bit, and defuse all her energy. I don’t leave the TV on before bedtime, because she’d never go to sleep. She’s not a kid that could fall asleep with the television on or something. She just would not be able to go to bed.
With Andrew the one thing that I picked up on that I just thought was helpful to both him and to me and taking medicine is saying, “You know, you are not on this medicine to make you behave differently you are on the medicine so you can behave differently if you want to.” So I must have heard that from someone somewhere and that seemed to make some sense.
We started to have him write stuff down
We put a whiteboard in his room. I would write on the whiteboard, “Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, put the clean clothes in the dryer,” and he would write underneath it, “band practice, blah, blah, blah.” He’s not as interested in being organized as we are in having him be organized. So we kind of have to reach a happy medium. You know, some things aren’t worth struggling over, and we kind of had to give up the things that weren’t terribly important. If he wants to have a disgusting room, it’s his choice. Close the door. It was about compromising.
We told Nick, “You are not going to take your tutors to college with you, and we have to see that you are getting your assignments done.” So, if he’s not doing as well in school as he could be, because he’s not getting stuff in on time, we tell him “You’re not being responsible, so we have to help you do that. We need to look at your assignment book every week until you’re back on track.” And he hates that. But, too bad, essentially. We tell him, “You do what you’re supposed to do, and we’ll let you be grown up. And if you don’t, then we’ll hold back.” And that’s worked with him, because it’s not a punishment. It’s to help him, you know?
Talk to somebody
When you raise children who have a special need, who need more of you, or who need to rely on you more either because they are physically ill or they are disorganized. It becomes a rather complicated situation and it changes every year. It changes at every developmental level. I encourage parents to talk with somebody, as I have, and try to get as many views as possible on how to manage the ADD and when to move in and when to step back. Of course there is no one way to do it. Kids at 17 don’t want to think about that kind of thing. I just encourage parents to talk to friends, family and professional people and not just think that throwing a pill at it is the whole deal because it really is not.
Just be real patient. Cause it can be real hard sometimes.
Finding the right therapist
If you aren’t comfortable with a therapist, don’t stay with the therapist longer than you need to. I think that was one piece that would have helped us if someone had let us know. At the time there were very few child clinicians; it’s really grown since then. There was great pressure to stay with one therapist because there were so few to choose from. I wish we had been more assertive earlier on that it wasn’t the right fit for us. So, that would have made a big difference if we had been more assertive at the time.