Homeschooling a Child with ADHD

Are you homeschooling your child that has been diagnosed with ADHD? If so, I would LOVE to hear about your experiences. My son is doing well academically at school. He is in the 2nd grade and in our state’s “gifted” program. However, in the past two years I have developed an interest in homeschooling. I realize this is not something everyone wants to do, nor is it financially possible for everyone.

I have many reasons as to why I do not want to homeschool at least for now, but it doesn’t stop me from reading about it for hours each week. I am not sure why I keep reading about it when right now I mentally could not do it (so beyond sleep deprived with my youngest child, etc). What I find appealing about homeschooling is the flexibility in schedule, being able to not be in a classroom all day, help tailor his education to his needs, give one on one attention, and much more. Why I couldn’t homeschool right now is the aforementioned sleep deprivation, fear of not providing everything my child needs to know, and fear of my child feeling like he “missed out” on the school experience.

With that being said, let’s talk about socialization. I do not buy into the argument that homeschooled children are not socialized. I absolutely believe homeschoolers are socialized assuming the kids actually see other children or other people. I don’t know about you, but I was one of the kids who was bullied by a few select kids every year for years. So my socialization in school had some good memories but many negative moments. Let’s just say I have no desire or interest in ever attending my high school reunions, which is sad. Homeschoolers can participate in groups, co-ops, take classes through university model schools, etc. For example, a school next to us allows homeschoolers to take one or as many classes as they want for their grade level. My point is that homeschoolers can absolutely be socialized too!

I love lurking on Practical Homeschooling’s Facebook page. If you are interested in homeschooling, I would start there as a source of information. I don’t know much else about homeschooling except what I read online, and three friends of mine started homeschooling in the past year. I would love to hear from you if you have homeschooled your child with ADHD. Let us know how it is working for you and your child!

Legos, Minecraft and ADHD: Perfect Christmas Gifts?

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My son is obsessed with Legos. I don’t know if obsessed properly describes his addiction to Legos and Minecraft. He is 7 years old and can easily put together the Legos for older kids, probably like most Lego lovers. If I allowed him, he would probably watch Minecraft videos on YouTube or play Minecraft all day long.

For Christmas, he of course wants yet another Lego set. He actually only plays Minecraft on our first generation Kindle, so he wants to play it on a bigger screen. We own a Wii, and unfortunately there is no Minecraft game for Wii. We do plan to buy him the Minecraft game on the computer. I find it ironic in a way that a child diagnosed with ADHD, can totally sit for hours and play Legos.

Besides a Lego set and Minecraft, I am not sure what else to get him. He mentioned he wanted another Puppy Surprise or Kitty Surprise. Before you say they are “for girls”, well, he loves them. He has one and his sister has one. I had them growing up. I am trying to score the dalmatian Puppy Surprise or the calico Kitty Surprise. At Costco, I saw several awesome toys that I am considering for Christmas. I can’t remember what they were though!

The point of this post was to get gift ideas for Christmas especially for a child who has ADHD and gets distracted easily. What are some ideas that you have for Christmas gifts that will hold a child’s attention? Some may think these toys are only geared towards boys. I do know a few girls who play with Legos and Minecraft also! However, I would love to hear from moms who have girls diagnosed with ADHD also!

And for fun, here is my son’s latest Lego set from his maw maw: Construct-O-Mech from The Lego Movie
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When Your 7 Year Old Says He Wants to Die

This year my son started 2nd grade. Things have been going great academically. However, in September, out of the blue, my son said that he wanted to die because he felt that nobody likes him. Like any parent, that concerned me to no end. He was with my in-laws the day he said it, so I wasn’t present. I did of course talk to him about it when he got home.

The truth is there are many days when he says “wow mommy, everyone seems to like me and know who I am!”. He will come home from school and tell me that when he walked down the hall or in the cafeteria other children will excitedly say hi to him. So it surprised me when he said that he feels like nobody likes him. I was able to link the days he says that nobody likes him to days when something negative happened with another child.

He is a very caring child. He has had some issues with particular kids at school, being taunted on the bus, and the entire class laughing at him before because he couldn’t spell the word “special” on the board. (Yes, true story. Apparently one student in the class was the ring leader and taunted him saying “Look, he can’t even spell special!”. So the class joined in and laughed and pointed at him. My heart aches for any child taunted at school). I have several examples.

Because I am not an expert at dealing with this, I found some resources below that discuss what to do when your child says that he or she wants to die. Although I am a (unemployed) school counselor, I feel like in addition to talking to your child’s school counselor or teacher, you should talk to a pediatrician or psychologist that specializes. I am assuming many of you are here because your child has ADHD. If so, ADHD is usually linked to other disorders like OCD or even depression. If so, you definitely want to mention that your child mentioned “wanting to die”  to your child’s doctor.

Kids will say things that they don’t mean all the time; however, I’m in the camp that in this situation that it is better to be safe and speak to someone about it. Also, monitor and keep talking to your child about it! Let them know that you are a safe person they can talk to!

Chicago Parent

The Guardian

Mamapedia

Could an MRI Scan Detect ADHD?

According to new research by Radiology, researchers identified low brain iron as a way to diagnose ADHD or could be used as a biomarker for ADHD. An MRI is a “non-invasive way to measure iron levels in the brains of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a new study. Researchers said the method could help physicians and parents make better informed decisions about medication” according to Science Daily.

“Brain iron, which functions differently than iron in the blood, is required for dopamine production. Abnormal brain iron levels have been related to abnormal dopamine levels, which may explain its potential as an ADHD biomarker” according to Virtria Adisetiyo.

Why would an MRI be helpful in detecting ADHD? Here are some reasons explained in the articles.

  1. To prevent overdiagnosis of ADHD.
  2. Reduce the amount of kids on medications that might be misdiagnosed with ADHD.
  3. Help make better informed decisions about using medication to treat ADHD.
  4. Psychostimulant medications have been shown to increase the brain’s dopamine levels, therefore reducing ADHD symptoms. However, there is no safe way to measure dopamine levels in the brain, so an MRI would help.

What do you think? Could this be the way to go to diagnose ADHD?

Clonidine for ADHD and Tic Disorder

A few weeks ago I took my son to the neurologist because he was having motor tics and slight verbal tics (specifically throat grunting). She immediately saw his tics, and he was diagnosed with a tic disorder. She told me that many children who have ADHD also have either OCD or a tic disorder. Last year my son was having excessive eye blinking. Apparently, that is also a tic. (If you haven’t already, read my previous post about his tics).

She prescribed him a medication that worked really well at first. But we had to switch because it would have cost several hundred dollars a month due to our health insurance plan. We have a high deductible plan plus the medication was time release. A timed release medication cost more than a non-time release medicine apparently. We eventually settled on prescribing him Clonidine. We found out that Clonidine is also used for ADHD. The medicine is prescribed for his tic disorder, but it happens to be the same medicine for ADHD. The neurologist made it clear she was not treating his ADHD but the medicine might help both issues.

My son has never taken a medication before except over the counter meds like Tylenol and antibiotics for strep throat so I was a little nervous. It turns out that the medicine has helped reduce his tics a lot. His teacher noticed his tics reduce significantly. Now since we have been home for a few weeks for summer break, I decided to experiment and see if he still needed the medicine. I honestly forgot to give him Clonidine for a few days. Unfortunately, the tics came back. I noticed his hands shaking a lot (definitely tic shaking), and he started shaking his head again. I feel like him going to school aggravated his tics more, but outside of school it seems like the tics are still there. He is now taking his meds again.

When it comes to ADHD symptoms, I am not 100% sure how effective the medicine is because he is not in school. This summer we have been doing a lot of swimming and activities, so I am not sure how he would be sitting in a classroom focusing. When he brought home one of his report cards this year, the teacher made a note that he had a hard time focusing. That was prior to him taking the Clonidine.

I am really interested if any of you have a child that has a tic disorder. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know!

Boy Without Instructions by Penny Williams: Book Review

I was lucky to be able to grab a review copy of Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD by Penny Williams (click here for the Kindle version). She is the creator of {a mom’s view of ADHD} and frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine.

Wow, I had a hard time putting this book down! I was hooked after just reading the first few pages because her description of her family reminded me so much of my own. She is also an excellent writer (way better than me!) and she is able to verbalize her thoughts and feelings so clearly. Penny dove right in and discussed the struggles she experienced when deciding to use medication for her son, the ups and downs of finding the right medicine, and her feelings as a mom finding out her son has ADHD.

In Boy Without Instructions, I felt like Penny and I were leading parallel lives at times. Although her son is older than mine, she begins talking about his journey when he starts Kindergarten. Her son’s struggles in Kindergarten sounded too familiar.  She discussed her fight trying to get her son proper accommodations extensively in several chapters, which was helpful and gave me insight on what I could do for my own child in the public school system. I say the word “fight” because unfortunately many educators don’t understand ADHD at all, and I believe her book would be very helpful because many caregivers don’t realize a child with ADHD qualifies for special accommodations. I cringed when reading about the teacher who didn’t want to give her son proper accommodations although it is the law.

Penny’s book was suspenseful to me because I was on the edge of my seat wondering when would they find the most effective medication and when would proper accommodations would be given to her son. Penny describes what her son’s day to day behavior was like, and she dives into the parent’s view of dealing with a child diagnosed with ADHD. I highly recommend Boy Without Instructions to anyone who has a child diagnosed with ADHD or any other disorder. The love for child is clearly shown in this book as she fights to get her son what he needs to be successful in school.

Boy Without Instructions is available on Kindle and paperback!

WatchMinder Review

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I am so excited to share this review with all of you! I was recently contacted to review the WatchMinder. The inventor, Dr. Becker, mailed me a WatchMinder for review. Dr. Becker has experience working with children who have ADHD and created this watch in mind for kids with ADHD.

According to the official WatchMinder webpage:

The WatchMinder is a simple wristwatch that can easily be programmed to set up discreet vibrating reminders throughout one’s day.  Invented by a child psychologist, the WatchMinder was designed to aid children with Attention Deficit Disorder (AD/HD) and others with special needs in staying focused, managing their time, and modifying their thoughts and behaviors.

My son has not owned a watch since he was like 2 years old, so I was excited for the opportunity to review this watch especially one as brilliant as this. Before I dive into the details, I want to say this is definitely a nice looking watch. He wanted the black one and it is very nice.

The first thing that is awesome about this watch is that it is chargeable! When my son opened the box he immediately went to charge it. Somehow he figured out himself how to charge it without me telling him what to do. He’s 6 years old, so it’s pretty simple to figure it out. After the initial charges, it is recommended to charge every month to keep the battery from fully discharging.

According to the manual, there are two basic modes. A training mode and a reminder mode. The training mode allows you to set a self help message that will alert you at a fixed interval throughout the day. There are pre-programmed self help messages but you can also add a customized message. The reminders will be sent by vibrations for 10 seconds.

The reminder mode allows you to create up to 30 reminders a day. My son recently started medicine for his tics, so we decided to set a medicine reminder at 6pm everyday. In the picture below, you can see where I set a homework reminder message for him at 4:20pm everyday. The watch vibrated at exactly 4:20 and looked like this when it went off:

WatchMinder-Review

The WatchMinder also has a countdown timer, which definitely comes in handy.

The WatchMinder is a brilliant tool for children who need extra help staying on task and reminders to get things done. What’s so great about the WatchMinder is that it is easy to use and can be worn. No need for a child to look at a daily to do list when all he has to do it look at his wrist!

Check out some other testimonials below and read more here:

“It’s very effective and to my knowledge, is the only one of its kind.” – ADDitude Magazine

“In no time you will develop the knack of knowing what time it is by feel.” – ADD Resources

“The Watchminder is a great way for asthmatics who take multiple medications to keep track of when to take their medications.” – About.com

If you are interested in ordering a WatchMinder, learn more here.

There are so few products on the market for children who have ADHD in mind. I think this a great invention!

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Motor Tics and ADHD Naysayers

Last Tuesday, my son started jerking his head back and forth. He then began grimacing and twitching his eyes. I was very concerned! After some research, I began to think he was displaying tics.

My husband called the nurse to ask about what we thought were tics. We were surprised when the actual pediatrician called us back. He told us to record the alleged tics and if he continues to display them to make an appointment.

By Friday he was still having the head movements. We were able to get an appointment the same day. The pediatrician confirmed my son was having motor tics.

Surprisingly the excessive eye blinking he has had for months are also tics. I had no idea! He doesn’t take any meds for ADHD, which I realize there is some research that says meds can exacerbate tics.

The pediatrician is referring us to a pediatric neurologist to weed other causes out. I’ll keep you posted. The good news is I’ve noticed that yesterday and today the tics have decreased.

On another note, I have accepted a temporary counseling position. That is why I haven’t posted since January! The job should be ending soon.

I am so amazed by the number of you that have subscribed to my blog. (Although some people forget they subscribe to my blog and send me emails about it). It seems like many caregivers out there know children who are experiencing ADHD symptoms.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the fact there are people who think ADHD isn’t real and that the cause is “bad parenting” (just Google it, there are tons of articles anti ADHD). I have encountered those people who email me on my blog. I don’t have time to debate them. I will say to those people that the symptoms are real and ADHD is the “label” given for those symptoms. My son gets plenty of outdoor exercise, plenty of rest, limits screen time, doesn’t eat much artificial flavoring, etc and still has symptoms. I also understand boys can be more rambunctious. However when there is a focusing issue that even teachers can see and it interferes with schoolwork, and I’ve tried everything as a parent that I know to do to help him, it bothers me when people try to argue that it must be a parenting issue. In fact, I just received his report card and grades were good but focusing is an issue according to the teacher.

What do you do when people tell you ADHD isn’t real? Also, has your child experienced motor tics?

Stressed Out? The Happy Mama Conference and Retreat Might Be For You!

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Hello readers! I just learned about a special conference and retreat for moms just like you!

Are you a stressed-out, overwhelmed, overworked, tired and under-nurtured mother of a child with ADHD, ADD, OCD, SPD, PBD, FASD, Autism, PDD, or any number of other brain-based differences that lead other people to judge your parenting, make you second-guess yourself, challenge your marriage, and keep you up at night worrying incessantly about your child?

On July 25-27, 2014 at the Washington Duke Inn on the beautiful Duke University campus in Durham, NC, moms just like you will be attending The Happy Mama Conference and Retreat. Think of this conference as a spa weekend, educational conference, and moms-only weekend all in one.

The 2014 Happy Mama Conference and Retreat early bird rates are $185 (through March 15), $200 (through May 15), and then $215 after May 15.The retreat fee includes the entire conference schedule, beverages, lunch and dinner Saturday, and the opportunity to relax, rejuvenate, learn new ways of coping, and hang out with a bunch of moms as over-worked and misunderstood as you.

Find out more about The Happy Mama Conference here! There will be speakers, activities, a relaxing atmosphere and more. This will be the 3rd year for this wonderful conference.

Check out the picture below of this beautiful hotel!

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Disorders, Conditions and Symptoms Mistaken for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder presents similar symptoms of other disorders that can sometimes mislead parents into thinking their child has ADHD when in reality it is another disorder. It is also not uncommon for a child to have ADHD along with another condition. Below are some of the conditions/disorders that can mimic ADHD.

Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities can cause children to appear inattentive and restless in the classroom and to stall in their academic development. A child with ADHD is too distracted to focus whereas a child with a learning disability can’t comprehend the material. About 30% of children with ADHD have a learning disability.

According to Andrew Adesman, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital, “Also, children with learning disabilities will often have a history of language problems. They may have been late talkers or had speech problems. And they tend to confuse their prepositions or reverse numbers and letters, like seeing a 6 instead of a 9.”

Vision or hearing problems

If your child can’t see or hear well it can obviously cause some problems. I believe my son’s need for glasses delayed him from learning how to read.

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)

According to KidsHealth: These kids can’t process the information they hear in the same way as others because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. Something adversely affects the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech.

Petit mal epilepsy

Petit mal epilepsy is a form of epilepsy. According to the Epilepsy Foundation: There may be confusion between frequent absence seizures (brief staring spells that interrupt concentration) and the inattentive type of ADHD. During absence seizures, the child will not respond to being called or tapped on the shoulder. Children with ADHD may daydream but they respond as soon as you get their attention.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder and usually doesn’t manifest until after the age of 18. (The majority of people who develop Bipolar Disorder have their first episode after age 18, with a mean age of 26 years at diagnosis according to Additude Magazine). It is rare for children to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. People with this mood disorder experience manic highs of happiness and energy and then lows of depression and sadness.

The best course of action is to have your child evaluated by a doctor.