Navigating ADHD

Writing this post isn't something I'm excited to do, but my goal is to help any parent out there who might be experiencing this with their own children. I'm not going to claim my way is the right way, because I'm still figuring it out daily and I have no idea half the time what I'm doing. All I know is I want the best for my child, and I will do everything I can to make them feel safe and loved.

Photos courtesy of Angela Doran 

I have two children that have ADHD. Turner my oldest has Dyslexia and ADHD, however he does not have the hyperactivity portion. I will refer to my other child with ADHD as them/they in this post. I wrote a post about Turner's journey here, and this post will be more focused towards my child who was most recently diagnosed. 

After learning quite a bit about ADHD from Turner's diagnosis I was much more prepared with my second child and their diagnosis. A few things that seemed off from normal child behavior included excessive physical movement, sensory issues, extreme anger, inability to regulate emotions, and poor self esteem. Because I have three children I was able to observe all three in school and at home and knew there was a major difference. I started noticing these signs around 4/5 years old. If only had one child, I might just think I was going crazy and it was my terrible parenting that got me into this situation. Don't get me wrong I have experienced immense guilt and still feel like I'm losing my mind daily. 

If you are concerned with your child's behavior I would FIRST talk to your pediatrician. They will talk you through the process. 

School is a very important place to begin as well because teachers have so much experience observing children. I thought my child had ADHD before they started school, but as soon as they started kindergarten I asked the teacher to observe their behavior. I did this through first grade and both teachers advised that they saw ADHD behaviors. I went through the same process I did with Turner and first voiced my concerns to our pediatrician. I was provided forms that my child's teachers and I had to fill out regarding their behavior then we reviewed with the pediatrician and they made the diagnosis. Now, I know there are some parents who might see a psychiatrist, and in full transparency we are on a waitlist to see a child psychiatrist to learn more and see if there is something else going on. We also have a neurology appointment which I've heard mixed reviews about if it's actually helpful. All I know is I want to turn over every rock and learn as much as I can. Reading about how children with ADHD have extreme risk for suicide and other issues later in life I am determined to find out exactly what is going on with my child and how I can provide the best care. 

Once my child was officially diagnosed by their pediatrician I sent the paperwork to the school and we started the 504/IEP (Individual Education Plan) process. ADHD is now under special education programming in Texas including dyslexia. Check out this blog post by Childhood Collective that goes deeper into explaining IEPs and 504 Plans. Why is this important? My child already has major issues with Texas' structured education system that feels like it's working against them, so having accommodations and modifications to their learning plan can help. 

Examples of accommodations: Changes to how a child learns the material while meeting standard expecations.
- Preferred seating 
- Audiobooks
- Sensory tools 
- Extra work time
- Planner use support

Examples of modifications: Changes to how a child learns the material while meeting standard expectations.
- Specialized instruction (e.g., reading or writing with a special education teacher)
- Different homework
- Alternate tests
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy

To be honest I haven't looked into seeking occupational therapy through the school, but it's on my list of questions to ask. I think overall with school it's extremely important I have a close relationship with their teacher, and they understand my concerns. 

When I put Turner on medication at 9 years old we saw immediate results. We started him on 5mg of Dexmethylphenidate, a stimulant, which is a long-acting formula taken once per day in the morning lasting 8-10 hours. He was able to focus and for the first time he enjoyed school and learning. It felt like a miracle. He doesn't take it on the weekends or during the summer. 
With my other child medication has been completely different. I was hoping the same medication would help with the emotional regulation, but unfortunately it has been unsuccessful. To be honest this is why I want to see a few doctors that focus in this area (Nuerologist/Psychiatrist) to make sure we choose the right medications. It breaks my heart to see my child struggle daily, and the last thing I want to do is put them on a bunch of medication. However, I do believe medicine can help, but I'm not a doctor and I feel helpless trying to understand what is best for them. 

When it comes to supplements there are many recommended. We are currently trying a pill in the morning called Ultra Social formulated by a sought after Pediatric Neurologist and recommended by a fellow ADHD mom. I do think supplements can be helpful and plan on looking into more such as magnesium.

There are a few types of therapy that people consider with an ADHD child including occupational therapy, play therapy, talk therapy (such as a child psychologist), and executive function therapy. We shave started with occupational therapy once a week.

What does occupational therapy do? An occupational therapist helps children to learn and practice coping mechanisms and learn valuable skills that don't naturally arise due to ADHD. They work with children to improve their fine and gross motor skills and motor planning, and help those who struggle with self regulation and sensory processing. 

Some examples of therapy activities include: 
- Perform activities that help to work out anger and aggression.
- Try techniques to improve your child's focus 
- Practice social skills
- Work on time management
- Establish ways to stay organized in the classroom and at home
- Teach analogies to help your child understand hyperactivity and anger and how to keep it in check 

My child has been in therapy over a month and we're mainly focusing on identifying emotions, identifying the size of problems, and learning coping tools and strategies. From my perspective I think it's been a great way for my child to hear from an unbiased person ways to approach their big emotions. For example playing board games is an absolute nightmare in our home because it always leads to yelling and crying. The therapist has been working on that including sportsmanship and empathy. My child used to NEVER say I'm sorry to their siblings, but now I'm seeing it happen. 

We have started cutting out all artificial dyes from foods we eat. Processed foods, artificial flavoring, sugar and artificial dyes can have very negative impacts on children with ADHD so we are drastically trying to change our diet. We are eating at home much more and our grocery budget has gone up exponentially as we try to choose organic options. I'm also trying to limit gluten. 

I will say changing our diet has been very difficult as a parent who let their kid eat fruity pebbles up until now. I would say in general we don't have a ton of junk food, but now we really have cut out the sweets and my kids have noticed it. My ADHD child craves the sugar more than my other kids. I will find them with a spoon and a Nutella jar behind the couch, or the other day they had eaten FIVE organic rice krispie treats in less than an hour. These snacks were supposed to be a nice treat with their school lunch, but instead they were binging them. We have a Thrive Market membership which has been nice to discover healthier snacks (get 40% off your first order here)...although most items are processed which isn't ideal. It's very hard for me to avoid processed foods all together, but I've got to start somewhere. To be honest I haven't really noticed a major change in my child's behavior but either way I know it's a good change for my family's overall health. 

I have done a lot of reading and listening the past few months, and will list out some resources I've found helpful. I will say all the education and opinions out there can be paralyzing. I try to follow multiple accounts that have different opinions, and ultimately I trust my doctor for major recommendations such as medication. What works for one child might not work for yours. Every child is so unique and their journey is going to be different. I love chatting with my ADHD mom friends on Instagram about their experience to gather multiple views and insights. 

The Childhood Collective - I enjoy their Instagram account, podcast and blog posts.

ADHD Dude - I have a monthly membership to his online courses, and I'm specifically interested in learning about his discipline techniques called scaffolding behavior. He also has a helpful Instagram account

Understood - Understood is a non-profit that it is a great place to start if you have NO idea where to start and are in the early stages of wondering if your child has a learning or thinking difference.

Robyn Gobbel - Robyn is a therapist who was recommended to me by a friend. She has 20 years of experience, and has an amazing podcast and a new book coming out that I can't wait to read. 

Disconnected Kids - I found this book fascinating to really help me learn about my child's brain. This author founded the Brain Balance Method which is a popular treatment. 

Zenimal - We love this screen free guided mediation player. It helps them calm down, focus and practice gratitude and more! If your little one has trouble winding down at night you should definitely give it a try.

Technology is something I monitor closely in our home because even my non ADHD child reacts negatively to too much time watching TV. YouTube and iPads are a HECK NO, but we do pull them out when we travel. When my kids get a hold of an iPad they turn into gremlins and see red. I don't allow my kids to have TVs in their rooms and while we do have a playstation (thanks Alex 🙄) they rarely play it. For my sensory sensitive kids the less TV and technology the better. If you follow me on Instagram you might see my stories about delaying social media and smart cell phone use for as long as possible. Those stories are really to encourage myself to stay strong when so many around are doing the opposite and my oldest son begs me for a phone. I truly believe it's like putting a drug into a child's hand. I wish we could go back to old school landlines, but for now I'm letting my oldest use my cell phone to call friends. 

Children with ADHD thrive off of pattern and a schedule. This is hard for me because I'm spontaneous and am always on the move. In the past few months I've learned that my child needs less nights out, less activities, and for me to be home every night to put them to bed. There are a few exceptions here, but most evenings I'm doing the bedtime routine and kissing my child goodnight whispering into their ear, "I love you. I am proud of you. You are kind. You are going to do amazing things in this world." I was watching a documentary on Tim Tebow and his words struck me, "When your parents tell you every day of your life you are going to do spectacular things, you believe it." Children with ADHD are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and suicide. I never want my child to doubt they are loved, safe, wanted and here on earth for a purpose. That is my sole focus in this stage of parenting. Praying fervently for my children and parenting purposefully every day. 

Thank you for being a part of our journey. If you are experiencing something similar I pray for guidance, strength and peace. I want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

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