25 March 2014

ADHD is Very Real: Stop Shaming Our Families

          Recently many so called professionals have started on the ADHD is not real bandwagon. This has been debated many times and the outcome is always the same. Some quack will say ADHD is just a hype to make pharmaceutical companies wealthy. Families dealing with ADHD will continue to hang their heads in shame wondering where they went wrong. Their family members will begin to question their parenting abilities. They will hear that maybe they just need to use more discipline and everything will be sunshine and rainbows. We will feel we are failing our children with some made up condition.

           I am here to tell you ADHD is very real. I am tired of feeling ashamed when I have to tell someone my daughter has ADHD. I see the looks shaming me when I mention she is on medication to help control the ADHD. I question my parenting skills and feel shame. Is it possible I was duped into the ADHD scam? I did so much researching. Was it all wrong?

           Then I look at how far my daughter has come. She is making straight A's. She has made the honor roll every semester. She is able to sit down and focus for ten minutes to complete her work. She is no longer crying and arguing when homework is mentioned. Sure she still fidgets and squirms, but I know she is learning. She is able to retain what she learns.

            A few years ago she couldn't focus for two seconds. She was up and down in her seat. She would tell us her mind was too busy to do her work. We tried every reward chart system known to man. We disciplined her, because surely this was just her acting out. Except, things didn't change. No matter how much positive reinforcement/ discipline we gave her, nothing changed. 

              We first were approached about my daughter having ADHD from her teacher in second grade. What she was saying was nothing new to us. We had known since birth our daughter had the energy of fifty energizer bunnies rolled into one. I knew before she was born we were in for long nights when she was bouncing off my ribs at two in the morning. We knew when I tried to teach her the ABC's and 123's and she was running off to look out the window that she was having a hard time focusing. We knew there were problems when the preschool said she could only attend one hour a day because she wasn't interacting with the kids or sitting still to read. Had this all been wrong? Were they just trying to trick us?

                Then I started thinking maybe I wasn't the one who is wrong. I did everything I could to research and try different parenting methods. Maybe these quacks that keep insisting ADHD isn't real are the ones who are wrong. They are most likely the ones who think if we just spank our kids some more they will miraculously turn into the model child. 

           The fact is ADHD is very real. These children can't stop the commotion that happens in their brains. They can't deal with the impulsiveness that is constantly telling them to move on their own. They need someone that believes ADHD is real and believes in them. Quacks telling people that ADHD is some made up condition is only going to hurt these kids and their families. We are going to continue to feel shame each time we mention are child has ADHD. We may pretend it isn't real to fit in with the other moms. Who will benefit from pretending? I can tell you who will suffer, our children.

    The next time someone tries to tell you that ADHD is not real, don't feel shame. Be proud of who your child is and stand strong. We have to fight for our children and be their voice. We as parents of children with ADHD, know all too well, how real it is.

27 February 2014

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22 December 2013

Children with Autism need Rewards and Consequences

           First off let me remind my readers I am a parent of a child with Autism. That being said, why do some parents of children with Autism think their child does not need consequences? I hear over and over that so and so is autistic that's why they act that way. No, your child is misbehaving as any child could do,and they need to know there is consequences for their behaviors.

           Having a rewards and consequence system in place is crucial for any child. This includes children on the Autism spectrum. If there are no consequences for their behavior the child will continue to learn that they can do whatever they want and nothing will come of it. How is this preparing them for the real world. If they break a law, there will be consequences.

          All children need to learn there is always an outcome for everything they do in life. Some good and some not so good. The choice is up to them by their actions. Using a diagnosis of Autism to answer for all of their bad behaviors is setting them up for failure later in life. Not to mention, it's going to make your life as a parent, difficult.

         I have seen children with Autism spit, yell, hit, and defy their parents and nothing is done. If anyone questions the behavior the answer is "oh, their medication is messed up", or "they have Autism, they can't help it." Some behaviors I know cannot be helped. But just being defiant and disrespectful are not those behaviors.

          All children can learn respect. They can learn about manners. They must learn that the answer is not always yes. Having a reward and consequence system in place will make your life, your child's life, and everyone's life that will deal with your child in the future, much more enjoyable.

            In the coming days I will discuss some different types of reward and consequence systems you can try. Letting your child get away with their bad behaviors is one of the reasons children on the Autism spectrum get judged unfairly when they do have a behavior that they cannot help.

21 December 2013

Planning a vacation when your child has Autism

     Schedules are so important to children on the Autism spectrum. So much so that you may consider not going on vacation. With the right amount of planning you don't have to put the family vacation on hold. It can be a vacation for all to enjoy.

    We didn't go on vacation too often because we didn't know how my daughter would react. She has Autism and ADHD, so schedules are a must in our life. She likes things just so in her room and has a routine she must keep before bed including what channel the TV is on. We didn't think a vacation would work for us.

     We were asked to go to the happiest place on earth a few years ago with family. How could we say no to Disney? They were renting a big vacation home for all of us to stay. My daughter would be able to bring her garbage bag full of stuffed friends. She could have TV on the channel she was used to watching. There was enough space for her to unwind if needed.

     Sensory issues are a common factor with children on the spectrum. My daughter doesn't like loud sounds. She wears earplugs or headphones whenever we know it will be noisy. We were afraid that Disney would be way too much for her to handle. We packed earplugs in all of our bags and kept a few in the car to be safe.

     I read all I could before we went from other parents of autistic children who had visited Disney before. I planned places we could go if she needed a break. We knew we could go back to the house for downtime. I tried to have her prepared for everything we could foresee happening.

    She likes to wander away from us and I was scared to death she would get lost, so I kept giving her lessons and reminders about stranger danger and how important it was to stay with us. So we packed up the car with her bags of stuffed animals an headed to the most wonderful place on earth.

    I have to say the trip went beyond my expectations. My daughter did great at the parks and wasn't overloaded sensory wise. She used her earplugs when she needed them and we went back to the rental house for some downtime each afternoon.

    The staff at Disney was amazing. They all went above and beyond to help. The characters were lots of fun. Stitch stole my daughter's stuffed animal and ate it.
He then pretended to upchuck the animal. My daughter wasn't quite sure what to think.
 Lilo made him stand in time out.

          We had such an amazing trip we made a return a few years later. We now are planning our next trip to Disney. It really is a magical place and children with Autism can have a terrific time too with some planning.

            Vacationing with your autistic child can be done. You just have to consider your families needs and make the plans accordingly.Make plans on what to do should your child need a break during the trip. Know the parks policies on helping children with Autism if visiting a theme park.

        Make sure to take a few items from home that help your child to feel safer and calmer. They can be a huge help when you are in unfamiliar territory. On our first trip my daughter took two big bags full of her stuffed friends. On the next trip she took only one Walmart bag full. This was a major accomplishment in our house.

      Don't skip your family vacation. Take some extra time to plan and go from there. You never know, you may all have the time of your life.

07 December 2013

Gift giving advice for children with Autism

Children on the Autism spectrum can be challenging to buy for if you ask friends and relatives of the child. If you ask the parents, the answer is simple. Buy them what they are interested in. That's right, no big secret, just buy them what they like. Children with Autism usually have limited interests. They may be focused on Legos, cars, stuffed animals, or even electricity. They usually only have one major focus at a time. If you find out what they like you will have  a much easier time buying them presents.

My daughter has gone through various interests in her thirteen years but a constant has been stuffed animals. Even though we are told by others that she is too old for them, she continues to love her plush friends. So when someone asks what to buy for her we have tried coming up with new ideas in the past, but she was never as truly happy as she is when she gets a new stuffed animal.

It took us awhile to learn that we shouldn't listen to others and just get her what she likes. We would waste hundreds of dollars on whatever toy was the big thing and she may look at it for a few minutes and then in the corner it would go. She has had other short lived interests like Littlest Pet Shop. We got her all the houses and cute little animal figurines only to find them being friends for her stuffed animals. These too, are now in the closet collecting dust.

Now, we go by what she asks for and nothing more. We have finally realized there is no sense in wasting money on things she will never play with. If she shows some new interest we buy one or two of the item and see if it goes any further. We don't listen to people and their opinions on what we should be buying for a child her age. After all, she is not any regular child. She is an Autism superstar.

So if you are trying to by a present for a child with Autism, take it from a mother, buy them what they like. Whether you don't agree, or you think it isn't age appropriate, remember you want that child to enjoy their present, right?

05 November 2013

Why we choose to cyber school

           Any parent of a child with special needs will tell you that they worry about their child's education. They worry that the school is meeting their child's needs. They can tell you horror stories about the numerous IEP meetings they have attended. There are far too many tales of bullying. This is just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to a special needs child's education.

          We dealt with our local brick and mortar school for four years. My daughter would come home and go on for hours about how terrible the kids were to her. She would talk about how mean the teachers had been that day. She would complain about feeling sick and needing to stay home before we had even had our dinner. Each day I would get a call from the nurse that my daughter had once again thrown up. There were many tears shed from both my daughter and myself.

           I want to share with you why we choose to cyber school. I could list so many reasons but I am going to let you read an essay my daughter had to do recently for school. It says more than I could ever write.

From Very Bad to Very Good: A Tale of Two Schools
Every day I got up and I told my mom I was sick so I wouldn't have to go to that awful place. I wouldn't have to go to a place where the teacher would tie my legs to my desk, or where kids stole my lunch and put it in their socks. These teachers didn't care if I passed or if I failed. I couldn't even add and subtract and I was in third grade. Yep, you guessed it. School was the place I dreaded most. When my mom finally said I wasn't going back, it was one of the best days of my life. That is, until she mentioned I would still be going to school, just a different type of school.
My first day at Agora Cyber Charter School had me very nervous but happy at the same time. I wasn't sure how this whole cyber-thing would work. My materials had not arrived yet so I had to do the lessons online that didn't require any books. I was already a few weeks behind the other students since I started in October. I asked my mom “How in the world am I going to keep up?” My mom was my new teacher. She said “You will be just fine.” Things were definitely confusing at first, but at least I wasn't dealing with bullies every day.
I quickly caught on to my new school. I was getting good grades and learning new things all the time. I didn't have to worry about teachers yelling at me, or having to stand in the front of the class by the teacher's desk. While attending my previous school I would throw up every day. The teacher told me it was my problem and to “deal with it”. I haven't thrown up once since starting Agora.
I remember back at my old school when I was having trouble concentrating, I would swing my legs back and forth. The teacher didn't like this so she took and wrapped a Bungee cord around my legs and the desk so I couldn't swing them. They told me “If you continue we will put you in a cubicle so the other kids are not bothered.” I had enough problems with being bullied; I don't know how they thought that was going to help.
Since being at Agora I am able to concentrate so much better. I can swing my legs or rock in my chair and no one cares. I can't distract anyone else because they can't see me. There is a tremendous difference between my teachers now and the ones I had at my other school. Agora's teachers actually care if I understand the lessons. They go out of their way to help. My previous teachers did not care if I was passing or failing. When I would ask for help they told me get back to work. This was very frustrating and I just gave up on asking them.
Lunch time was horrible at my old school. The room was noisy with kids yelling and screaming to each other. The different aromas made my stomach turn. The kids would take my lunch and one even put it in their stinky sock. They would mix their food and try to make me get sick. They loved mixing applesauce and mayo together. They knew I hated the smell. Then they would all laugh at me. Now, lunchtime is pleasant. I get to pick what I have every day. I don't have to worry that anyone will mess with my food. The atmosphere is much calmer except for the occasional meow from my cat.  The cat is the only source of terrible odors now too.
I will never forget how I was treated at my former school. Whenever I think about the teachers, the bullies, or the noise, my stomach starts to feel sick. Agora was the most amazing thing to happen when it comes to my education. When someone asks about my school I now tell them    “I have numerous teachers that care about my success, I am making good grades, and I am learning.”
            I am so very thankful for the opportunity to cyber school my daughter. She is in the eighth grade and has Autism, ADHD, and a mood disorder.

17 October 2013

Are you smiling or are you in pain?

As you will know if you have been reading my blog for awhile my daughter is on the Autism spectrum. I'm reminding you of this because I am hoping someone can offer some advice about taking pictures of children on the spectrum. Any time I mention pictures my daughter starts giving me attitude. She doesn't want anything to do with having her picture taken. Even when she cooperates it is a struggle. She looks like she is in pain when she smiles. It takes many do overs to get a picture that doesn't look rigid.

This past weekend we took some fall pictures while we were out enjoying the changing leaves. I know we took over 500 pictures and ended up with less than ten that looked natural. I tried to get her to think about things she loves like her cats. I tried catching her off guard. When she spots the camera she gets that rigid, uncomfortable look.
Here are a few examples.

How can I teach her to smile naturally without looking so frigid? I showed her the pictures and tried to get her to see the difference but she doesn't understand what I want. I want to have some pictures to be able to look back upon someday. I only do pictures a few times a year because they are frustrating for everyone. Any advice is gladly appreciated.
Here is one of the pictures that turned out great.