Relationship Between Anxiety and ADHD

What is ADHD?


ADHD Definition

ADHD Definition

To clarify the relationship between anxiety and ADHD, lets first define each.  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that begins in early childhood, usually between ages 3 and 6, and may continue into adulthood.  It affects a child’s ability to focus or concentrate and may affect their ability to be still.  The most common symptoms of ADHD are:

  • hyperactivity
  • inattention
  • impulsiveness
  • fidgeting or inability to sit still
  • difficulty completing tasks
  • disorganization
  • forgetfulness
  • careless mistakes

The cause of ADHD is still unknown but research suggest some possible causes include genetics, premature birth, and environmental toxins.  Anxiety does not cause ADHD.  Let me say that again, anxiety does not cause ADHD.  In other words, children do not develop ADHD due to anxiety in their life.  One common misconception about ADHD that I’ve heard time and time again is that it is an anxiety disorder.  This is absolutely false.

 

What is an Anxiety Disorder?


Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a form of mental illness where people feel stressed, panicked, uneasy, or scared when those feelings are unwarranted.  They may experience shortness of breath, panic attacks, nightmares, tremors, sweating, insomnia, etc.  The symptoms can get so severe that it impacts their daily activities, relationships, school, or work.  The most common symptoms of Anxiety Disorder are:

  • fear with no apparent cause
  • inability to control worry
  • irritability
  • trouble sleeping
  • headaches
  • stomach aches

Relationship Between Anxiety and ADHD


Relationship Between Anxiety and ADHD

Relationship Between Anxiety and ADHD

ADHD and Anxiety Disorders are two very different types of medical conditions.  ADHD is a neurological disorder, things are wired differently in the brain while Anxiety is purely mental.  Anxiety does not cause ADHD, nor does ADHD cause Anxiety Disorders.  However, the conditions can coexist and ADHD can cause some anxiety.

In fact, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America estimates that almost 50% of people with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.  This may present in the form of “obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety, or panic disorder,” according to clinical psychologist and clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D.

ADHD can be highly intrusive and cause many more negative situations than normal.  For example, children are often judged for being fidgety or impulsive.  They may forget their homework frequently and therefore get into trouble more often.  They find that adults are frequently angry with them or disappointed in them.  These negative situations often cause some overwhelming stress and anxiety, especially for those sensitive children that hate to disappoint.  Children with anxiety may have trouble concentrating when they’re feeling anxious.  But children with ADHD have trouble concentrating almost always, no matter how they feel.  Children that avoid situations that cause them fear typically feel anxiety.  Children with ADHD are typically impulsive and act without thinking about it so much.

 

Anxiety vs. ADHD

Anxiety vs. ADHD

Accurate Diagnoses


Another thing to consider with the relationship between anxiety and ADHD is that both show similar symptoms that can be mistaken for another underlying condition.  For example, when my son was 3 he was afraid of airplanes flying by.  We lived in a third floor apartment just blocks from the airport.  This fear seemed to be anxiety related and we questioned a possible anxiety disorder, we called them irrational fears.

What we later found out was that my son had Sensory Processing Disorder, he was sensory defensive toward sound and it was the loud noise of the jets flying by that bothered him and caused the fear.  Another example, my son would often twitch or jerk randomly.  Suddenly his leg would kick out while sitting on the couch watching TV and he didn’t know why that happened.  His pediatrician associated that with ADHD fidgeting.  ADHD was his first diagnosis.  However, after more testing and more specialists, we found that my son actually has Epilepsy.  What we were seeing was seizure activity.  Epilepsy is his primary diagnosis.  According to his neuropsychologist, the ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, chronic tics, Narcolepsy, etc. are all secondary conditions that are exacerbated by the Epilepsy.

 

How Can You Help?


The problem with these disorders, like the relationship between anxiety and ADHD, is that they all share similar symptoms and mimic each other.  Common people and pediatricians alike have trouble distinguishing which symptoms belong to what medical condition without extensive testing.  We see the smoke and try to put out the fire before determining what is causing the fire in the first place.  While Anxiety and ADHD can share symptoms and can co-exist, they are two very different disorders and treating them incorrectly can make the problem even worse.

Educate Yourself

Educate Yourself

Concluding that ADHD is a made up label for children that are simply experiencing anxiety can cause many problems.  Being misunderstood, children experience many more negative situations and without teaching them how to understand and address them appropriately, situations can get drastically worse and lead to much more dire situations such as chronic depression and suicidal thoughts.

You can help by raising awareness on these different conditions and being more understanding with both children and parents when you see what appears to be misbehavior in public.  These invisible conditions cause some really harsh judgements that only make situations worse for the children suffering with the condition and the parents trying to help them cope with it.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss the labels we use when we attempt to gain a little understanding.  The conditions are real.  The suffering is real.  Put yourself in their shoes.

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If you’ve experienced similar issues and would like to share, please let us know what you’ve experienced!


Quiz: Do I Have Narcolepsy?

What Is Narcolepsy

What Is Narcolepsy

What is Narcolepsy?

Quiz: Do I have Narcolepsy?  What is it exactly?  Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by the brain failing to regulate sleep-wake cycles.  For most people, it takes about 90 minutes after falling asleep to reach the first stage of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which is when we dream and our muscles are paralyzed.  Throughout the night, people alternate between REM and non-REM sleep.  With narcolepsy, REM sleep happens almost immediately and also occurs involuntarily during waking hours.

A common misperception of Narcolepsy is that people with the disorder are excessively sleepy.  However, Narcolepsy does not affect the amount of sleep the person needs, they sleep a normal amount of time in comparison but are unable to control the timing of their sleep.  This is where there are instances of falling asleep at work or school, or while driving.  That is not to say that all people that fall asleep behind the wheel are narcoleptic.

Narcolepsy affects both sexes and typically begins showing significant symptoms in adolescence or early adulthood.  The symptoms tend to gradually get worse over time.  Researchers recently found that there may be a link between Narcolepsy and a hypocretin production deficiency in the brain.  Do you think you may have Narcolepsy?  Ask yourself the questions in the below quiz: Do I have Narcolepsy, answer honestly.  If you answered yes to multiple questions, you may want to talk to your doctor.

 

Narcolepsy Symptoms

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
    Nap Attack Sitting in Office Chair

    Nap Attack Sitting in Office Chair

    • This is the most common symptom.  A big differentiator between this symptom and those without the disorder is that for Narcolepsy patients, this can occurs even when they’ve gotten a full night’s sleep.
    • They may fall asleep while conversing with others, eating, driving, working, or other inappropriate times.  My son once fell asleep during a conversation sitting at the table in Denny’s while eating meal.
  • Cataplexy
    • Sudden loss of muscle tone (going limp) which can be triggered by emotional stimulation such as laughing, being surprised, or angered.
    • May result in the person collapsing.
    • May only affect certain muscle groups.
    • May cause the knees to buckle.
    • May cause slurred speech.
    • Does not lose consciousness as they sometimes do with seizures.
  • Hypnogogic Hallucinations
    My Son Hiding From Hallucinations

    My Son Hiding From Hallucinations

    • Scary and weird dream-like experiences that happen during the transition from wakefulness to sleep and include the person’s actual environment.
    • My son, when he was in second grade, described this as the items hanging on his walls moving and the family pictures turning into terrifying monster faces.
  • Sleep Paralysis
    • Temporary inability to move while waking up.
    • May last a few seconds to a several minutes.
    • May accompany hallucinations.
  • Disturbed Nocturnal Sleep
    • Inability to sleep through the night, waking up repeatedly.
  • Leg Jerking
  • Nightmares
  • Restlessness

 

Quiz: Do I Have Narcolepsy?

If you suspect you have Narcolepsy, ask yourself the following questions.  Write them down along with your answers.  If you answered yes to multiple questions, start a sleep diary.  In your sleep diary, record the symptoms you experience, when you experienced them, when you slept, how long you slept, what dreams you remember, any hallucinations you experience or paralysis.  Do this for a few weeks and then take it to your doctor.  Your doctor will ask want to know your complete medical history as well as that of your family.  You will likely then be referred to a sleep specialist to begin testing for a sleep disorder.

  1. Do your muscles go limp when you laugh or get excited?
  2. Do you fall asleep in inappropriate places such as work or school?
  3. Are you clumsy or prone to accidents?
  4. Have you had to pull off of the road because you were sleepy?
  5. Have you ever fallen asleep while driving?
  6. Do you have trouble focusing or concentrating?
  7. Do you have vivid dreams as you’re falling asleep?
  8. Do you have vivid dreams as you’re waking up?
  9. Do you fall asleep during movies or at other events such as reunions or parties?
  10. Do you ever feel like you’re paralyzed when in bed?
  11. Do you ever have nap attacks and need to lay down during the day?

Please note, answering yes to multiple questions here does not necessarily indicate that you have Narcolepsy.  It simply indicates that you may have some sleep issues that should be addressed by a sleep specialist.  For example, I experience many of these myself.  I have Sleep Apnea which is not the same as Narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy Treatment

Narcolepsy does not have a known cure.  It can be treated to help the symptoms, though.  Typically, doctors will prescribe stimulant or anti-depressant medications to help treat this disorder.  Behavior Therapy may also be prescribed.  If you’ve taken the above quiz: Do I Have Narcolepsy, and determined that you might, rest assured that there are treatment options that can help your symptoms.  But do talk to your doctor you need an official diagnosis to gain effective treatment options.

Narcolepsy Diagnosis

Narcolepsy Diagnosis

Changes in lifestyle can help reduce some of the symptoms.  Behavior Therapy will help to set the appropriate changes such as taking scheduled naps during the day and not eating heavy meals.  They may also work with you to set a sleep schedule and advise you to strictly adhere to it.  You’ll want to be on a routine exercise and meal schedule free of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.  While not always effective, these practices may help with some of the symptoms of the disorder.

Counseling may also be recommended to help you cope with the disorder.  The general public has many misconceptions of this disorder and it is not widely understood.  I can’t tell you how many times I was told to “make” my son go to sleep.  How do you do that?  I made him go to bed at a certain time each night but I had no way to make him go to sleep without drugging him and I don’t believe in that, in fact, I believe…last I checked…it was a felony to drug people?  Maybe I missed a memo.

Where medications are concerned, there are several different types of medications that may help reduce Narcolepsy symptoms.  Stimulants are used to help eliminate the excessive daytime sleepiness and improve alertness.  Antidepressants can help with the cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.  Sodium oxybate may be prescribed to help induce sleep, reduce daytime sleepiness, reduce cataplexy, and improve disturbed nocturnal sleep.  As with any other medications, the goal is to improve symptoms without significant side effects.  However, before agreeing to and implementing these treatments, be sure that all appropriate testing was done and you feel in your gut that the doctor is correct.  Especially when it comes to your children.  Narcolepsy is yet another medical condition that mimics ADHD symptoms and other neurological conditions.  In my son’s case, he can’t be treated with Narcolepsy medications because that would make his Epilepsy worse.  Therefore, we treat his Narcolepsy with Behavior Therapy only.

Conclusion

Narcolepsy is one of a very long list of medical conditions that has symptoms which mimic ADHD.  The big problem with this is that children with Narcolepsy may go undetected because ADHD medications help some of the symptoms.  This can lead to injury from accidents and heightened fears in your child from the paralysis and hallucinations.

With an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, many narcoleptic people grow up to be very successful individuals.  There have been many:

  • Aaron Flahavan (Soccer Player)
  • Arthur Lowe (Actor)
  • Dr. Claire Allen (Research Scientist with the British Antarctic Survey)
  • Franck Bouyer (French Cyclist)
  • Gabe Barham (Drummer, Percussionist)
  • George Church (Harvard Professor and Molecular Geneticist)
  • Harold M. Ickes (Politician, Lawyer, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton)
  • Harriet Tubman (Abolitionist, Activist, Humanitarian, Union Spy, Writer)
  • Jimmy Kimmel (Comedian, TV Producer, Film Producer, Screenwriter, etc.)
  • Jinkx Monsoon (Stage Performer)
  • Kurt Cobain (Guitarist, Songwriter, Musician, Lead Singer of Nirvana)
  • Lenny Bruce (Comedian, Screenwriter, Actor)
  • Louis Braille (Inventor of Braille)
  • Nastassja Kinski (Model, Actor)
  • Nicole Jeray (Pro Golfer LPGA)
  • Teresa Nielsen Hayden (Editor, Essayist, Teacher, Author nominated for 5 Hugo Awards)
  • Thomas Edison (Entrepreneur, Film Producer, Scientist, Inventor of the Light Bulb, etc.)
  • Winston Churchill (Statesman, Painter, Politician, Journalist, Oretor, etc.)

As always, with accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, narcoleptic individuals can bring an abundance of creativity, compassion, and brilliance to society.  While it’s easy to get caught up in blaming parents, vaccines, or poor decisions for their child’s disabilities, criticizing labels and other methods of raising awareness, and theorizing about healthcare conspiracies, these people are part of our everyday lives and we owe them understanding at the very least.  They give us the same in the best ways they know how.

Raise Awareness

Raise Awareness

Yes, there is an epidemic of misdiagnoses that causes annoyance and frustration surrounding children with ADHD, Narcolepsy, and many other conditions and disabilities.  The problem is that the very labels that society criticizes us for using are the ones that lead to our children getting the help that they desperately need.  Ignorance is bliss.  It’s easy to judge when it’s not your problem.  How about we educate ourselves and raise some awareness instead?  Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Talk soon,

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Epilepsy Symptoms in Children

Epilepsy Symptoms in Children

Epilepsy Symptoms in Children
Copyright: radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is commonly known as a condition where a person has unprovoked seizures more than 24 hours apart.  However, a task force of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) redefined epilepsy in 2005 as “a disease characterized by an enduring predisposition to generate epileptic seizures and by the neurobiological, cognitive, psychological, and social consequences of this condition.”  The emphasis here is that a seizure, by itself, is an event whereas epilepsy is a disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.

Epilepsy is diagnosed when they have multiple seizures that were not caused by some known and reversible medical condition like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.  While typically the cause is completely unknown, epileptic seizures may come from a brain injury or a family history of epilepsy.

People with epilepsy may have one or many different types of seizures and may demonstrate other neurological problems.  Many of the epilepsy symptoms in children mimic that of ADHD, Autism, Tourette Syndrome, and many other neurological disorders.  With epilepsy, though, one’s safety can be significantly impacted so it is vital that an accurate diagnosis be obtained so that the most effective treatment can be implemented.

Types of Seizures

Different Types of Seizures Copyright: rob3000 / 123RF Stock Photo

The Epilepsy Foundation reports that the human brain is the source of all epilepsy.  While the condition may impact several different parts of the body, the electrical events causing the seizure occur in the brain.

A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain caused by complex chemical changes occurring in the nerve cells.  Usually there’s a balance of brain cells that either excite or stop other brain cells from sending messages.  Seizures cause an imbalance between the exciting and stopping activities which causes an imbalance and triggers electrical activity.  How a person’s seizure presents itself is dependent upon which messages were impacted by the seizure activity.

 

Epilepsy Symptoms in Children

Like most other medical conditions, seizures affect different people in different ways.  Not all seizures are noticeable or stereotypic, meaning they don’t all do what people expect them to do based on historical cases.  Different things can happen during the different phases of a seizure, but again, symptoms vary from person to person.

Also, epilepsy symptoms in children come in a wide variety that closely mimic ADHD and other neurological conditions.  The ADHD type symptoms that parents see may be side effects of other conditions, such as epilepsy.  For example, my son would not sleep through the night for many years and would often come to my bed at night and then would fall asleep in class each day.  A sleep specialist determined he was having hallucinations at night causing fears.  A sleep study found that he was having seizure activity and not reaching REM sleep at all.

Beginning:

Some people can feel a seizure is coming.  They may feel it days or hours before it happens which gives them some opportunity to prepare for it.  Not all epilepsy patients can feel it coming though.  Prodome is considered the beginning of a seizure but it isn’t actually part of the seizure.  This is where a person may experience feelings, sensations, or changes in behavior that may indicate a seizure is coming in the days or hours ahead.  It gives the person an opportunity to find safety, take their medication, or use a rescue treatment to try and prevent the seizure.  An aura is considered the very beginning of the seizure as it is actually part of the seizure.  Not everybody gets auras.  Like prodome, an aura is a feeling, sensation, or change in behavior that is similar each time a seizure occurs.  Auras can often occur without a seizure following and are considered to be a partial seizure.

Common Auras:
  • Headache

    Epilepsy Symptoms

    Epilepsy Symptoms
    Copyright: ralwel / 123RF Stock Photo

  • Smells
  • Sounds
  • Tastes
  • Nausea
  • Dizzy or Lightheaded
  • Fear/Panic
  • Racing Thoughts
  • Strange or Pleasant Feelings/Sensations
  • Numbness or Tingling
  • Visual Loss or Blurring
  • Loss of Ability to Speak
  • Deja Vu (a feeling of being there before)
  • Jamais Vu (a feeling that something is very familiar)

Middle:

The ictal phase, or middle of the seizure, correlates with the electrical activity in the brain.  It begins with the first symptom experienced, including the aura, and lasts until the end of the seizure activity.  The visible symptoms of the seizure may actually last longer than the seizure itself.  These may be aftereffects of the seizure or may be unrelated entirely.

Common Seizure Symptoms:
  • Any symptoms listed for Auras
  • Confusion
  • Memory Lapses or Forgetfulness
  • Daydreaming/Zoning
  • Blackouts/Loss of Awareness
  • Pass outs/Loss of Consciousness
  • Distorted Sounds/Loss of Hearing
  • Unusual Smells (i.e. Burning Rubber)
  • Unusual Tastes
  • Loss of Vision/Blurriness
  • Flashing Lights
  • Visual Hallucinations
  • Feeling Detached/Out of Body Sensations
Common Physical Symptoms:
  • Automatisms
    • Repeated Non-Purposeful Movements
      • Chewing
      • Dressing
      • Lip Smacking
      • Running
      • Undressing
      • Walking
      • Waving
  • Convulsions
    • Loss of Consciousness
    • Body Becomes Rigid/Tense
    • Fast Jerking Movements
  • Loss of Movement or Muscle Tone
    Epilepsy Symptoms in Children

    Epilepsy Symptoms
    Copyright: AlienCat / 123RF Stock Photo

    • Head may fall forward
    • Body may slump or fall
  • Rapid Blinking or Staring
    • Eyes may roll, look sideways, or look upward
  • Speech Difficulties
    • Garbled Speech
    • Nonsense Talk
    • Abrupt Stop to Talking
  • Tremors
    • Twitching or Jerking Movements
      • Arms
      • Legs
      • One/Both Sides of Face
      • Whole Body
      • May start in one place and spread
      • May stay in one place
  • Rigid Muscles
    • May fall suddenly
  • Drooling/Unable to Swallow
  • Sudden Loss of Urine/Stool
  • Sweating
  • Loss of Skin Tone
    • Looks Pale or Flushed
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Clenched Teeth
  • Biting Tongue
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Breathing Difficulty

End:

The postictal phase, or end of the seizure, consists of the recovery period.  How long this period lasts and what symptoms occur depend on the type of seizure and which part of the brain it impacted.  This varies from person to person.

Common Post-Seizure Symptoms:
  • Anxiousness
  • Confusion
  • Delayed Response
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion

  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Headache
  • Injury from Falling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Memory Lapses
  • Nausea
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Sleepiness
  • Thirst
  • Weakness

Epilepsy Treatment

Often, the first step to treating epilepsy is through medication.  This is the most common method of treatment to control or prevent seizures.  Many different anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs) help control seizures and you and the doctor will discuss types of seizures and other factors in order to pick the most beneficial for you and your circumstances.  Be sure to always talk to your doctor before starting a stopping a medicine as this can cause very severe seizures that can lead to death.

You will also want to learn about seizure first aid.  Basic seizure first aid will help you determine what actions to take when you or someone you know is having a seizure in order to be safe and comfortable.  Knowing these steps could save a life.

Epilepsy Diagnosis

Epilepsy Diagnosis
Copyright: designer491 / 123RF Stock Photo

When medication does not effectively control seizures, and more than one medication has been tried, doctors may consider surgery as the next treatment option.  Like AEDs, there is no guarantee that the surgery will control the seizures so the doctors will work with you to weigh the benefits against the risks of doing surgery.

Dietary Therapy may also be considered to try to help control seizures.  Specifically, a Ketogenic diet or the modified Atkins diet have been shown to be effective.

There are new devices being developed to help control and prevent seizures, such as Responsive Neurostimulation and Vagus Nerve Stimulation.  There are also seizure alerting devices to help detect seizures for those that don’t have the more obvious symptoms during seizures.

Herbal Therapy and Medical Marijuana are currently being investigated for treatment of epilepsy.

Cause of Epilepsy

In many cases, a cause for epilepsy cannot be found.  There are two primary types of seizures: generalized seizures and partial seizures.

Generalized Seizures: These types of seizures affect both sides of the brain at the same time.  Doctors believe hereditary factors play a role in these types of seizures.

Partial Seizures:  These types of seizures affect only a limited area of the brain.  For example, my son’s seizures affect only his left frontal lobe.  There are many causes for partial seizures, though may not always be identified.  Genetic factors may play a role in these types of seizures.

Epilepsy Conclusion

Epilepsy Conclusion
Copyright: tashatuvango / 123RF Stock Photo

Common Causes:
  • Brain Infection
  • Brain Injury
  • Cortical Displasias
  • Stroke
  • Tumor

 

Conclusion

It is so easy to get ADHD diagnosed, that children are often receiving the incorrect diagnosis and being ineffectively treated and/or medicated without further evaluation.

Epilepsy is one of a very long list of medical conditions that has symptoms which mimic ADHD.  The big problem with this is that children with ADHD are treated with medications that tend to make seizure disorders worse.  Stimulant medications are a definite no-no with Epilepsy as they tend to cause seizures.

With an accurate diagnosis and effective seizure control, many epileptic people grow up to be very successful individuals.  There have been many:

  • Agatha Christie (Writer)
  • Alexander the Great (Ancient Greek King)
  • Alfred the Great (Anglo-Saxon King)
  • Alfred Nobel (Swedish Chemist, Engineer, Innovator, Manufacturer, and Inventor)
  • Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)
  • Bud Abbott (Producer, Comedian, Actor)
  • Chanda Gunn (Ice Hockey Player)
  • Charles Dickens (Novelist)
  • Charles V of Spain (Ruler of Holy Roman Empire)
  • Danny Glover (Actor)
  • DJ Hapa (Executive Director)
  • Edgar Allen Poe (Author and Literary Critic)
  • Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (Russian Writer and Essayist)
  • George Frederick Handel (Composer)
  • Hannibal (Military Commander and Tactician)
  • Hector Berliouz (French Romantic Composer)
  • Hugo Weaving (Film, Stage, and Voice actor)
  • Isaac Newton (Scientist)
  • James Madison (POTUS)
  • Julius Caesar
  • Leonardo Da Vinci (Architect, Botanist, Musician, Scientist, Mathematician, Engineer, Inventor, Painter, Writer, etc.)
  • Lewis Carrol (English Author, Photographer, Mathematician, Anglican Clergyman, Logician)
  • Lord Byron
  • Louis XIII of France (King)
  • Margaux Hemmingway (Model and Film Actress)
  • Martin Luther (German Monk, Theologian, and Church Reformer)
  • Michelangelo (Sculptor)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte (French Military and Political Leader)
  • Neil Young (Musician)
  • Nicolo Paganini (Italian Violinist, Violist, Guitarist, and Composer)
  • Paul I of Russia (Emperor)
  • Peter Tchaikovsky (Russian Composer)
  • Peter the Great
  • Pythagoras (Greek Philosopher)
  • Richard Burton (Actor)
  • Robert Schumann (German Composer)
  • Sir Walter Scott (Scottish Historical Novelist and Poet)
  • Socrates (Greek Philosopher)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (Soldier, Historian, Explorer, Naturalist, Author, Governor, POTUS)
  • Truman Capote (Writer)
  • Vincent van Gogh (Artist)

Clearly, with accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, epileptic individuals can bring an abundance of creativity, compassion, and brilliance to society.  While it’s easy to get caught up in blaming parents, vaccines, or poor decisions for their child’s disabilities, criticizing labels and other methods of raising awareness, and theorizing about healthcare conspiracies, these people are part of our everyday lives and we owe them understanding at the very least.  They give us the same in the best ways they know how.

Epilepsy Awareness

Epilepsy Awareness
Copyright: tzeyrek / 123RF Stock Photo

Yes, there is an epidemic of misdiagnoses that causes annoyance and frustration surrounding children with ADHD, Epilepsy, and many other conditions and disabilities.  The problem is that the very labels that society criticizes us for using are the ones that lead to our children getting the help that they desperately need.  Ignorance is bliss.  It’s easy to judge when it’s not your problem.  How about we educate ourselves and raise some awareness instead?  Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Talk soon,

Signature


Chronic Motor Tic Disorder Treatment

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder…What is it?

Chronic Tic Disorder

What is it?
Copyright: radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder, much like Tourette Syndrome, is a condition in which people experience fast, unvoluntary movements in various places on their body or sudden vocal outbursts.  Unlike Tourette Syndrome, they will experience either motor tics or vocal tics, but not both.  When more than one motor tic AND a verbal tics are present, the condition is referred to as Tourette Syndrome.  Transient or Provisional Tic Disorder is when the person experiences the tics for a year or less.  When the tics  breach a full year, it then becomes chronic tic disorder and can be referred to either chronic motor tic disorder or chronic vocal tic disorder, dependent upon which type of tic the person is experiencing.

It is believed that this disorder is caused by physical or chemical abnormalities in the brain such as neurotransmitters misfiring.  Though doctors are not entirely sure what causes this condition as of yet.  Previously, doctors thought that chronic motor tic disorder was being triggered as a side affect of medications that were used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Though recently, studies have shown that this is not the case.  It seems to be more common in boys and typically lasts 4 to 6 years.

Tics usually start around 5 years old and typically don’t start to improve until the child reaches the age of 12, sometimes carrying on into adulthood.  Chronic tics may be a form of Tourette’s Syndrome, although Chronic Motor Tic Disorder is more common.

People are usually aware of the tics they are experiencing but may not associate them with being tics.  Children especially do not understand why they are happening, they just sort of feel the need to do it.  Tics are unvoluntary, so the person doesn’t have much control over it.  They can sometimes postpone the tic for several moments but will not feel relief until the tic is carried out.  Sometimes people experience abnormal sensations in the area where the tic occurs until it is carried out.

One of the most heartbreaking stories for me to recall for my son is related to his tic disorder.  My son was sitting in church one Sunday and just could not stop clearing his throat.  His tics were worse at the time because he was visiting family out of state and so was out of his normal routine.  My son was told several times during church to stop clearing his throat and when he couldn’t, he was told that he was disturbing everybody.  He was only about 5 years old at the time and could not yet verbalize his feelings to the extent that he could explain a tic.  The family member that told him that did not understand that he couldn’t help it so it left him feeling embarrassed and hurt.

 

Symptoms of Tic Disorder

Much like other developmental conditions, the symptoms of Chronic Motor Tic Disorder vary from person to person.  The type and intensity of tics varies from person to person and each person may experience varying levels of intensity.

Motor Tics:

chronic tic disorder

Another Tic Disorder
Copyright: radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo

  • Facial grimacing
  • Lip smacking
  • Rapid blinking
  • Jaw popping
  • Nose twitching
  • Head jerking
  • Shrugging
  • Sudden jerking or stretching of the limbs
  • Contractions of the abdomen or diaphragm

Vocal Tics:

  • Throat clearing
  • Groaning
  • Grunting
  • Sudden verbal outbursts

Triggers:

While triggers are not always present, tics may get worse with:
  • Stress
  • Heat
  • Excitement
  • Fatigue
Tics may also occur during various levels of sleep.

Diagnosis of Chronic Motor Tic Disorder

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder Diagnosis

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder Diagnosis
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Doctors and Pediatricians usually diagnose Tic Disorder during a regular examination without the need for any specific tests.  The disorder is diagnosed when the tics have been present for a year or more and when the periods of time where tics haven’t occurred do not last more than 3 months at a time.  They also must have started before the child turned 18.

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder Treatment

Much of the time, tics do not need to be treated as they will eventually be outgrown and don’t have too much of a negative impact on the person.  But sometimes the tics are more severe and can affect daily activities such as social life, work and/or school.  In these cases, doctors may prescribe medications, such as dopamine blockers, to help reduce or prevent tics.  But these medications can have negative side affects like movement problems or stunted thinking, such as confusion or paranoia.

Children may also be referred to a psychotherapist or behavior therapist for treatment.  Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) has been shown to improve the symptoms in children, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  This approach teaches children to recognize the internal urges of tics and replace the tic with a more acceptable response.

Children who develop this disorder between ages 5 and 8 typically recover on their own within 4 to 6 years.  However, if the disorder develops when they are older and continue into their 20’s, they may or may not outgrow the condition.

One key aspect for proper chronic motor tic disorder treatment is an accurate diagnosis.  Other disabilities can mimic this disorder, such as Tourette’s Syndrome or Epilepsy.  So getting an accurate diagnosis is vital to treating the disorder most effectively.  Medications often tend to have negative side effects so it is always important to ensure that the most effective prescription is ordered when medicinal intervention is necessary.

Also, don’t be too quick to dismiss labels on children.  Remember that there is a huge difference between negative labels and medical labels.  The medical diagnosis that you might consider a label just might be the exact thing a child needs in order to get the help that they deserve.

If you’d like to help me raise some awareness on these “invisible” conditions that are often largely misunderstood, please hit share and get the word out.

Talk soon,

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The Decision to Homeschool My Child

What Happened?!?


My son is in 6th grade this year, his first year of Middle School.  We knew it was going to be a hard year for him as he will now have to transition to changing classes every hour instead of sitting in one classroom most of the day.  He was approved to stay in the Magnet Program with the school he went to for elementary school which meant he got to stay for Middle school as well.  But in order to stay in the Magnet Program, he had to meet certain academic criteria.

At the end of last year, we discussed that in his 504 Plan meeting.  The principal assured me that as long as my son showed effort that he was trying to keep up, then he wouldn’t be kicked out of the program and the school would support him.  While I hadn’t been thrilled with how certain teacher’s had handled my son in the past, overall the school had been better for him than the previous two schools I had him in.  So I was happy to keep him in an environment that he was already familiar with for Middle School.  However, my son and I had discussed this and I made him aware that we’re not going to continue jumping from school to

Shame

Enough is Enough

school.  This was the third school in six years.  If it didn’t work out at this school, I would homeschool him.  He dreaded that though and was absolutely against homeshooling as he did not want to be away from his friends.

However, he got halfway through sixth grade with pretty decent grades.  The very first week back from the winter holiday break, my son was called up to the Dean’s office and told that he had 3 days to pull his GPA up from 1.5 to 2.5 or he would be kicked out of the program.  This devastated him.  He came home crying and feeling like a complete failure, yet again.  His tics immediately started back up indicating that he was overly stressed and he cried off and on the entire weekend.  I was fed up and scared to death at the same time.  I’ve never seen my son that upset, that worthless.

 

Communication…or Lack Thereof


The Dean had tried to call me that same Friday, but I was in a business meeting and couldn’t answer her call right away.  I immediately left my meeting because I knew it was the school calling.  I called the school back but the front office had no idea who had called me.  And, as always, there was no message left on my voicemail at either of the numbers she called.  A few hours later, I received an email from her informing me that she had spoken to my son about his grades and she hoped I would work with him over the weekend on making up assignments he was missing.

Since I was upset, I waited until the following Monday to contact her.  I had spoken to my son over the weekend and determined that he had a few missing assignments and had earned a couple of zeros on group projects where other team members hadn’t done their part so the entire group failed.  There were four assignments that he admitted to not turning in.  So I instructed him to get them done and turn them in Monday.  When I emailed the Dean, I explained what my son had told me about some of the zeros and missing assignments.  I asked what would happen next.  Would they kick him out of the school next week or would he be allowed to finish the year?  Why had the teachers not been communicating with me about work not being turned in until there were only 3 days to do anything about it?  I asked very specific, targeted questions.  I copied the principal on the email because she had pulled me aside at the beginning of this year to tell me that the school was going to stand by my son.  “We’ll get him through it,” she said.School

Wednesday, two days later, I finally received a response from the Dean.  She had forwarded the email to the teachers as they could explain the zeros better than she could.  She told me her team would meet to make a decision and she would bring my concerns to the team at that time.  As for what happens next, they could either kick him out of the program altogether and kick him out of the school immediately, they could place him on academic probation for another quarter and reassess then, or they could release him from probation if his grades were high enough.  I never received a response from his teachers.

My son came home from school that day and told me that he had gone to one of his teachers and asked her if he could turn one of the missing assignments in to her the following day.  Her response to him was, “Why would I take it now?”  This made me angrier.  He did exactly what both the Dean and I instructed him to do, and that was her response.  That same day, the Guidance Counselor called him down and told him that she “doesn’t think” he’d be kicked out of the program just yet and that he’d probably be allowed to stay for the 3rd quarter.  So he gets to spend the next nine weeks worried about whether he’ll be kicked out after that quarter?  I don’t think so.  Not on my watch.

 

Homeschool


I called that very night and enrolled him into an Independent Study Homeschooling program.  I will teach him myself.  He has had his spirit broken down at school year after year.  How is he supposed to succeed at anything if he’s constantly being told he’s not good enough?  During the previous weekend, I had told him he was perfect to me.  That resulted in my son bursting into tears and thanking me.  Then he went to his room to sob…again.  At that point, I put my face in my hands and cried too.  I had never felt so helpless.  I can’t let them continue to destroy my son.  They will lead him to suicide, he’s already high risk just due to his disabilities.  I have to take control of his education and stop this nonsense.

I had him officially enrolled in homeschooling by the end of the day on Thursday and withdrew him from public school on Friday.  I needed to start doing damage control right away and get him built back up, his confidence level is at an all time low.  Since the principal had offered reassurance at the beginning of the year, I wanted to give her a personal explanation of what happened and why I pulled him out.  So I wrote her a letter and sent it to her via email.  It is entirely rhetorical and I am quite certain that I will never hear from that school again.  But I held my head high and explained to her my reasoning while getting everything off my chest at the same time.  This allowed me to close that chapter and move right on to the next.

Focused on Success

Focused on Success

Now, my son and I have just finished our first week of homeschooling.  It went pretty well and he is starting to get back to himself again.  He’s much happier now and is excited to learn again.  I think this was the right decision, at the right time.  That said, this may be right for my child and may not be right for everybody.  As parents, we have to understand that our children are unique and we have to find what will work for them.  I fought the public school system real hard for six years before giving up on them.  But I will not give up on my son.

If you are fighting similar battles with your own children and would like to talk or learn about potential options, please feel free to reach out to me.  I’m happy to share what I know and what I’ve tried in hopes that it will help another unique child.

Happy Parenting!

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ADHD Medications for Children – Hindsight is 20:20

To Medicate or Not To Medicate


Medicine

The Be All, End All?

Many parents struggle so hard with this decision when they get the diagnosis of ADHD for their child.  The question is a rather controversial one.  Are ADHD medications good for children?  It’s a big debate.  Here’s the thing, all medications have side effects.  That’s only one factor to consider.  The other factor that really needs to be seriously thought about is that it often takes years to find out exactly what’s wrong with someone based on some symptoms.  This applies to both adults and children but, with kids, you don’t necessarily know all of the symptoms right away.  And you could find yourself in a position where the ADHD meds could make things a whole lot worse.

 

Is It Really ADHD?


Do the doctors and pediatrician’s know for sure that your child suffers from ADHD and that all of their symptoms are solely caused by the ADHD?  No.  I promise you they can’t possibly know that.  They go off of a “safe to assume” type of decision based on parental complaints, surveys, teacher questionnaires, and the list of symptoms presented to them…usually.  We have been managing my son’s ADHD for 5 years now.  Some people tell me, “He couldn’t possibly be ADHD, he’s so well behaved!”  Okay, first, he IS not ADHD.  He has a disorder, but he is my son.  He is who I named him.  Secondly, he’s well behaved because he has a good mom.

Hyper

Teach Control

We started medicating my son at 3 years old.  We did so because he was violent, destructive, and impulsive which is a very dangerous combination.  He could not function in a school setting and was looking at getting expelled from pre-school.  But…hindsight is 20/20.  If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.  Although, had I not done it, I’m not sure we would have figured everything out.  Everything happens for a reason.  My son has epilepsy.  The ADHD is secondary to the epilepsy…meaning the symptoms are caused by the epilepsy.  It just so happens that ADHD medications trigger seizures in people with seizure disorders.

My son quickly went from having ADHD to having ADHD, sensory integration or sensory processing disorder, narcolepsy, to epilepsy.  It got pretty darn scary there for awhile.  He started sleep walking and making funky noises in his sleep which just creeped me out!  I would wake up in the morning and find him asleep on the cold tile floor in the kitchen.  Or I’d find him in the middle of the night sitting on the couch making sound effects while sound asleep sitting straight up.  Scary times.

 

Medication vs. Behavior Therapy


I mentioned my son is well behaved.  This is a touchy subject with me because my son has been mistreated by a few different teacher’s now because his symptoms have been mistaken for behavior issues.  My son has a neurological disorder which causes him to struggle with staying on task and keeping focused.  His inability to do so does not indicate a badly behaved child.  Now…that being said, if he was throwing things, yelling, screaming, hitting, kicking, throwing fits, talking back, being disrespectful, etc., etc. … I would say yeah…my son has behavior problems.  But he doesn’t.  He knows better.  Okay, that was my rant for the day, back on track here…

Symptoms of ADHDIt is important for parents to understand the difference between a symptom and a behavior.  I think that’s where a lot of things get confused.  Bad behaviors should not be tolerated by parents and excused based on the fact that the child has ADHD.  Bad behaviors should be corrected no matter what.  Think about it, as an adult, society does not excuse bad behavior based on an ADHD diagnosis.  If I throw a temper tantrum and punch a cop, I’m going to jail… if I survive.  Children need to be taught to conform to the laws and rules no matter what their disability is.

Symptoms should be worked with but not considered bad behaviors.  Symptoms are things that a child cannot help.  People with Tourette’s Syndrome have tics.  The tics are a symptom, they cannot be helped.  Throwing a temper tantrum is a behavior…a decision is made to do it and it can be stopped and started at will.  This is some of the stuff that behavior therapy works on.  You teach a child ways to behave.  You teach them coping mechanisms for the behaviors that may be influenced by their disabilities as opposed to shoving pills down their throats as an automatic fix.

My son has been off of ADHD meds for a little over a year now and other than being off task, trouble focusing, and sometimes a bit hyper, he’s doing fantastic.  His mom started teaching him when he was young how to cope with symptoms and how to control his behavior.  Now, at 10 years old, he’s able to tell himself to take a deep breath and relax when he starts feeling a little out of control.  And he does so without having to be prompted.  Pills didn’t do that.  Mom’s behavior therapy did.  Mom couldn’t afford all of the therapists and specialists over the years so he never received official behavior therapy.  I’m sure if he did, maybe he’d be a little more organized today or a little better at staying on task.  But it’s alright because he’s off of the drugs and he’s doing wonderful.  Good parenting goes a long way.

 

What Do Studies Show?


Pills

Stop pushing meds!

I read an article today that talks about the old study that was done two decades ago on ADHD medications for children.  As I read it I just sat here shaking my head.  They figured out that you can pop a pill and focus all of a sudden so they started pushing drugs out to all these kids.  Sure, they thought about the consequences such as stunted growth and sleeping problems, but the benefits of the drugs were more important.  Now they’re finding out that behavior therapy is more effective as ADHD drugs.  At the end of the article, you find out why, skill building is taught with behavior therapy and is a whole lot more useful than symptom reduction which is what drugs are for.  It makes perfect sense now.

The reason I’m shaking my head: until I read this article, I didn’t know there was behavior therapy for ADHD children.  Why did I not know this?  He was diagnosed with ADHD 7 years ago.  Never once was behavior therapy mentioned to me. The pediatrician said “stimulants”, the occupational therapist said “meds”, the sleep specialist said “Adderall”.  For 5 years I was led to believe that medications were my only option.  All the while they were exacerbating my son’s epilepsy.  It took a neurologist to tell me stop with the meds.

 

Why Do I Care?


Help

No Funds = No Aid

Because.  Here’s the thing, and the article mentions it, the unintended consequences from that study that pushed meds are that the schools didn’t get the funding to give these kids the proper assistance that they need in a classroom setting.  I was gritting my teeth as I typed that.  My son needs help in the classroom and that’s the one place I can’t be to help him.  But the school’s can’t do it either now.  Just one month ago I asked the school principal if we could get my son a math tutor.  “Our school doesn’t have tutors.”  Really?  My son could use an aid in the classroom to keep him on task and make sure he’s really learning the lessons because we don’t know if he’s listening to the teacher or having an absence seizure while she’s teaching.  All we know is that when it comes time for him to do the work, he gets in trouble because he doesn’t know how to do it.

The result is, a frustrated teacher that has given up and said, “I just can’t teach this kid,” a child that has given up because no matter how hard he tries he just can’t seem to stay on task…or in his words, “I just can’t do anything right this year,” and a highly frustrated parent that has no idea what to do now.  Somehow, some way, we have to find a way to get something changed in the system so that our school can effectively teach our children.

Bottom line: stop pushing the meds and start teaching the kids how to cope with the systems and work around their disabilities.  I have ADHD.  I have never been managed by medication.  My physician prescribed it to me one time and I quit it after 3 weeks because I didn’t want to lose my job.  It made me a zombie.  I have learned to work on important tasks when I’m hyper…because I hyper focus and get it done.  I’ve learned to tweak my behaviors so that they are most beneficial to me.  I talked about this a little bit in my article on ADHD symptoms in adults.  Stop pushing the meds.  Do your research and find what will be most beneficial to you and your children.  Remember that medication is not a substitute for good parenting.

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Got your own story to tell?  Did I push a button?  Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.


ADHD Diagnosis – The Difficult Child

The Difficult Child


As recommended, I took my son to the Pediatrician and followed my best friend’s advice to the tee. “Doctor, I’m sooo tired. This kid hardly sleeps at night and, and, and….” I vented all of my frustrations to him and he sat there nodding and smiling and just listened. When I finished, the doctor told me that it sounds like my son may be a little ADHD. He gave me a couple of assessment forms to fill out before our next appointment. One was for the teacher at the preschool to fill out and the other was for me to fill out. He also wrote me a prescription for a book. The book is called The Difficult Child by Stanley Turecki, M.D.  He scheduled an appointment for us to come back the following month and sent us on our way.

ADHD Diagnosis


The next month, I brought back the completed assessments. The doctor reviewed them and now my child gets the ADHD diagnosis. He gave me the Understanding ADHD – Information for Parents About Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder pamphlet. I had already read the book that he had prescribed the month before. It was a good book and it answered some questions for me. It put everything in terms I could understand and relate to. And it gave some advice on how to handle certain situations. It mostly confirmed that I was already doing a good job.

Stimulant Medications


Pills

Medications must be used appropriate…if at all!

So upon being diagnosed with ADHD, my son was prescribed Vyvanse. This is a stimulant medication prescribed for ADHD to help with impulsivity and focus. We were looking at putting my son into Kindergarten the following year so we wanted to get him prepared for school and under control. I went home with the prescription and called my mom as I often do to discuss issues with my son. She was adamantly against putting him on ADHD medications. “I know people who put their kids on that Aderall stuff and it severely stunted their growth. Doctor’s are prescribing ADHD so easily these days and just stuffing drugs down the child’s throat when all they need is better parenting.” Whoa…hold up…ouch Mom! Oh she wasn’t referring to me as a bad parent…just the others she’s known that gave their children Aderall. Okay, whatever.

The bottom line is, my son is about to start school and he is out of control. He’s been expelled from various daycares and I really don’t know what else to do. He’s not going to succeed in school as is and it’s my job to give him the best possible chance for success. So…as much as I don’t like the idea either, we’ll try the meds. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree here. My kid is violent, destructive, and out of control. And I’m exhausted and becoming desperate.

So we start Vyvanse. He calmed down….a lot. It was like day and night. I was kind of worried about him he was so calm. Once I got used to the difference in behavior, it was really nice. He wasn’t bouncing off the walls all the time. Let me throw in a little disclaimer here. Anytime someone starts a new med, it takes time to build up in their system and become fully effective. So every time my son tried a new med, it was for several months at a time so that we could really see the full picture of how he was adjusting to it.

Negative Side Effects


Child running

Fight or Flight Response

As the weeks went by, my son became more and more scared of things. He would start crying and trembling when he heard a strong gust of wind outside. One day, we were at my parents house visiting. Grandpa was watering the garden and often sprayed my son with the water hose. My son would laugh and they’d get in a water fight. It was fun…and funny to watch. But after being on the Vyvanse for awhile, Grandpa sprayed my son with the water hose one day and my son went ballistic!

He started screaming bloody murder and bolted toward the front of the house. Grandpa and my son were in the back yard and my mom and I were sitting on the back porch watching. Grandpa didn’t understand what happened, well, really none of us did. As soon as my son bolted toward the front of the house, I jumped up and chased him. He was running toward the street and if you’ve ever had experience with an ADHD kid, you know they don’t think to look before running out in the road.

My son was four years old. I took off after him, called out to him and he ran faster. He did a full lap around the house and kept on running, screaming all the while. My disabled mom who can barely walk jumps up and runs the other way around the house. Grandpa is running after us now. You would think 3 adults could easily catch a four year old boy. Let me tell you…this kid had invisible jet packs attached to his little feet that day, he was flying! I finally catch him and scoop him up and hold him tight. He’s trembling from head to toe and crying. He was absolutely terrified. Grandpa was close to tears himself and felt horrible because none of us understood what had just happened. Grandma and I were dumbfounded, this was so out of character for my son. It took several hours to recover from that and get my little boy back. Grandma and I looked at each other and said “The Vyvanse isn’t going to work.”

In hindsight, we now understand exactly what happened. The stimulant heightened his senses and the cold water hitting him from the water hose sent him into a sensory overload. His brain said “DANGER DANGER!” and he panicked. But we know this now, after 5 years of doctors, meds, specialists, tests, and research. Once my son was put on medication, he had to have lab work done every 6 months and he saw the Pediatrician every 3 months. I informed the Pediatrician of the recent behaviors and they agreed that the Vyvanse was not a good fit for him. So he was taken off Vyvanse and prescribed Strattera and Concerta. Strattera was to help with the hyperactivity and focus problems. Concerta was to help with the irrational fears and impulsiveness.

Starting School


Televisions

Don’t miss a thing!

It was 2009, my son was five years old, and he started Kindergarten. I explained the issues to his teacher and she fully understood. I told her I was still struggling to understand a lot of it. She told me, “I live with my boyfriend who also has ADHD. Imagine your standing in front of 27 televisions and they’re all on different stations and you’re watching them all and trying not to miss a single thing. That’s how my boyfriend describes ADHD.” I had never heard an analogy like this. It was brilliant! I knew she was the perfect teacher for him to start his journey through grade school. And he totally adored her. He even wanted to marry her…until he met the Pharmacist at Walgreens. Anyway, Kindergarten went well, there were only a few significant events.

There was one day when they were working on arts and crafts and the teacher put a pair of scissors on his table next to him for him to use. He didn’t want them so he picked them up and launched them across the room hitting another student in the leg. Okay…now these are the safest of scissors with the rounded tips and the kid didn’t get cut. But yeah…that was kind of a big deal. He was given a referral to the principals office who warned him and threatened suspension. I had a talk with him when he got home and reasoned with him. How would you have felt if someone did that to you? How would you have felt if you threw those scissors at your friend and they cut him? He understood. It never happened again. The only other incident I remember from Kindergarten was the referral to the principal’s office for starting a food fight in the cafeteria at lunch. I’m not going to talk about that further because I happen to think that’s kind of funny. He started young. My mom didn’t do that until like high school. LOL At any rate, I told him, “That’s against the rules. You have to follow the rules.” He understood. It never happened again.

The Strattera and the Concerta combination seemed to be working really well. He did fantastic in Kindergarten and his behavior was much better. It was this year that I realized I was doing a real good job as a mom and I had a very well mannered, well behaved little boy. He’s a very compassionate kid. He can’t stand to see anybody hurting. Very sweet. It looks like the medical is calming down again….maybe. Ha.

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Strange Behavior…Something Just Isn’t Right

It All Started When He Was 1


Florida

A New Chapter Begins

My son was about a year old when I started noticing the strange behavior.  He had been a sick baby but I hadn’t noticed any truly strange behaviors that weren’t directly related to his illness or medications.  He had obstructive apnea but it took a full year for doctor’s to pinpoint what was causing him to be sick.  So there were various changes of meds with each misdiagnoses.

But at a year old, I noticed he started becoming fearful of things like airplanes flying by overhead and motorcycles driving by.  Fearful is maybe a bit of an understatement, he acted terrified.  By two years old, he wouldn’t sleep at night, he developed some irrational fears, he became destructive and impulsive, the temper tantrums started.  At this point, I started thinking what’s wrong with this child?

Trouble Sleeping


At two years old, he was a bit…hyper.  I quickly started becoming overwhelmed.  Most of the problem during this time was that I could not get my two year old to sleep at night.  I would put him down in bed at 8pm and we’d do the whole temper tantrum thing until about midnight when he’d finally fall asleep.  I would go bed exhausted and finally fall asleep by 1 am.  He would wake up between 3am and 5am ready to start his day.

At first, he would come and wake me up.  But he quickly learned that waking me up meant that I would take him right back to bed and we’d start the bedtime routine all over again, except this time it would last until it was time to leave for work and he’d win anyway.  Once he figured out that I wasn’t just going to let him stay up, he stopped waking me up and just started climbing into my bed at night.  He would play with my hair or turn on the TV muted and entertain himself until I woke up, then he’s pretend to be asleep next to me.  Okay, so now a decade later, it was kind of cute.  But oh so frustrating.

We all know how society feels about kids sleeping in bed with their parents.  Let me just throw in this disclaimer, my son slept in his own bed by himself for the first 2 years of his life with no problems whatsoever.  I didn’t bring this on myself.  Once he stopped waking me up, I had lost the battle.  I refuse to lock my son in his room at night where he can’t get out if he needs to.  That’s not safe.  And I refuse to lock my door so my son can’t get to me if he needs to, especially after the apnea issues.  So I had lost the battle.  There was no fighting it.  The silver lining was that I was getting more than 2 or 3 hours of sleep.

 

A New Chapter


FamilyNaturally we go to our parents and our family for support when we’re going through stuff.  My parents are typical parents, they know best.  I needed to make my son stop coming to my bed.  Put him to bed earlier.  Put him to bed later.  Don’t let him nap.  There just had to be something that I was doing wrong, right?

I started thinking my son my have ADHD.  Of course that’s when the family turned away from me doing something wrong to doctors being so quick to diagnose ADHD and the medical industry being a big scam to just get money.  Whatever.  Live 1 day in my shoes, I beg you!  I could use the break.  This is not normal behavior, there’s something wrong with my child and something has to give.

Sensory Defensiveness


We lived in a newly built apartment for 3 years. We were the first residents of that apartment as it was just newly built. It was during this time that I went from “this must be the terrible two’s” to “my kid is a monster and I need help!” I learned that he was pretty finicky with food. I couldn’t figure out what it was but foods that were a certain consistency or a certain color, he wouldn’t touch. I learned that changing our routine was devastating to him. For example, he was about three years old and I was driving home from daycare after work. We took a different route that day because traffic was bad and I was in a hurry. All of a sudden he starts screaming in the back seat. I pull over to the side of the highway quickly and park. I turn to see if something’s biting him or what. He’s screaming and crying. I tell him to stop. I tell him to take a breath. It works! He stopped screaming and took a deep breath. I asked him what was wrong. He said, at three years old, “We’re lost! This isn’t the way home!” I explained to him that we weren’t lost and I knew exactly where we were. He said okay but he was skeptical the rest of the way home.

Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World

 

Not Listening, Routines and Throwing Fits


I had learned that when I was trying to talk to him sometimes, he would be standing in front of me but not listening. One day I really needed him to hear me because it was a safety issue so I told him to open his ears. He put his cute little hands up to his ears and pulled them forward a little

child tantrums

Destructiveness

and tuned in to every word I said. I found a trick! It worked, it made him actually listen to me. I used it from that point on.

Another trick I found was when he was throwing his temper tantrums. He would get to crying and pitching such a fit that I couldn’t get him out of it. Finally one day I was teetering on the edge of insanity and exasperated and he was throwing a fit, I just said to him “Stop.” And he did. I said “Take a breath.” And he did! The fit was over! I later learned from my best friend that this is called the STAR technique. Stop, take a deep breath, and relax. It really works. The fits came primarily when his routine was upset, not when he didn’t get his way.

We had a bedtime routine where I put him to bed ad a specific time after he did specific things like brush his teeth.  As I’m walking out of his room he says “I love you.” I say “I love you too.” He says “Sweet dreams.” I say “Sweet dreams.” He says “Goodnight.” I say “Goodnight.” Then we repeat that series twice more. But we have to say it three times or it messes it up and we have to start all over.  If we don’t start all over and do it right…complete meltdown.  Obsessive much?

 

Pre-School Battles and More Strange Behavior


Every single day was a battle. I would drop him off at daycare/preschool and go to work. I would be lucky to get through the day without a call from the preschool. There are two particular instances that stand out in my memory. I’ll preface them with this – when I enrolled him into that preschool, I told them two key things: that he doesn’t seem to adjust well to change and that to calm down his temper tantrums, just tell him to stop. I told them that he handles change better when he’s prepared for it. Talk to him about it a day a head of time if possible but give him warning that his daily routine is going to change and he’ll handle it better.

One day they call me, “Mom, we need you to come get him. He threw a temper tantrum and now he’s hyperventilating.” I said, “What triggered the fit?” She said, “We told him to go sit at the blue table and he wanted to stay at the green table. We have him breathing into a paper bag now but you need to come up here.” I said, “No. I told you guys to warn him about changes before they happen. This is why. I’m not coming to get him. Put the phone down, walk over to him, get down to his level, look him in the eyes and tell him stop! I’ll wait.” So I listened as she put the phone down and did exactly what I told her to do. He stopped. Immediately.

Impulsiveness


Claw

Impulsiveness

A few weeks after that I showed up to the preschool to pick him up at the end of the day, they met me at the door and pulled me into a little room with a file in their hands. “We need to talk about your son,” she says. Ooookay. Sure. “Today the kids gathered on the rug for circle time. The teacher was reading a story to them and all of a sudden he turns to the kid beside him and claws his face scratching him. It was very concerning because he immediately started crying and apologizing for it. It seemed like he didn’t mean to do it and that it shocked him that he did.” He was four at the time this happened. I said ummm okay.

That’s not something that has ever happened before, he knows I don’t tolerate violence and he’s never really been violent with other kids. She warned me that the daycare doesn’t tolerate children with behavior issues and that this may not be a good fit for him. *Sigh* I asked her to give me time to get him into a doctor to talk about the issues we’ve seen because something just isn’t right and I don’t think these are necessarily behavior issues. She agreed to give me time to figure things out.

Irrational Fears, Night Terrors and Leg Cramps


I also discovered at the apartment that my son was afraid of wind. Really. Looking back, it all makes sense now and I’ll talk more about that later. But a lot of really weird fears started creeping up during this time and the sound of wind blowing was the most prevalent one at this time. We lived in a third floor apartment a few blocks from the airport. It was windy…regularly. Night terrors were bad at this time and I couldn’t figure out where they came from but they seemed to be triggered by the weird fears he had.

Fear

Night Terrors

Another night time issue was leg cramps. He got leg cramps pretty regularly while sleeping at night. I couldn’t figure out what was causing them. I would wake up to him screaming and crying and I’d go in his room and he’d be holding his leg. I’d start massaging his leg and I could feel his calf muscle spasm. I would just massage his leg until he went back to sleep and then I’d drag my own zombie self back to bed. As time went by, it got to the point where I wouldn’t wake up right away when he cried or when he woke up. I was so tired that I would sleep through the noise.

This made for some interesting times. I woke up one morning and there was a mural of handprints on my wall made with peanut butter. Then there was the morning I woke up to find my son in his bed watching TV with a box of cereal and the pitcher of Kool Aid….and the morning that there was a steady stream of pancake syrup, strawberry syrup, and chocolate syrup all the way from my bedroom door down the hallway, in laps around the living room, and dining room. Oh there was also the morning that I woke up and found that his pet shark fish had gotten thirsty during the night so he dumped a gallon of milk into the tank. Unfortunately I was unable to rescue the sharks in time. The few that survived the day died within a week or two. Between punching walls, slamming doors, climbing on blinds, and feeding the carpet…my three to four year old had done $1200 worth of damage to that brand new apartment.

Advice Please


Medical

HELP!!!

Around that same time, I was on the phone with my best friend late one night. She had heard me put my son to bed kind of late that night. But 10pm was the standard time for that. I know that’s late for a four year old, but as I explained to her, if he goes to bed any earlier than he wakes up for the day right around the time that I’m going to bed for the night. This kid sleeps like 4 hours and then he’s ready for the day. I had asked the preschool to cut his naps in half previously but that didn’t seem to help him sleep at night. Almost every day he was going to bed at 10pm and waking up somewhere between 2am and 4am ready to start his day. She told me that’s not normal.

It was normal for me. I didn’t know what to do. I told her I didn’t know what to do. I vented aaaallll of the issues on her and she said, “Okay…here’s what you do…” She told me to take him to the Pediatrician and tell them I’m tired. Explain all the issues to them and see what they say. But above everything, just show how tired you are and ask them for help. Tell them you need a nap. So, I called and scheduled an appointment. And this is where the medical issues begin…again.

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If you’ve experienced similar issues and would like to share, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below.  I welcome all participation!


Punishing Children with ADHD – What is Effective?

To Spank or Not to Spank…

Rules

Effective discipline goes a long way.

This is a hot topic. Punishing children with ADHD can be very tricky and also very stressful. I won’t get into the debates over whether to spank or not to spank. The experts don’t even agree on this one. I will, however, state my position on the matter. I believe that physical punishment should only be used when the child is doing something unsafe and only if it can be done with parental emotions under control. It should never, ever be done out of anger. Physical punishment done out of anger is more harmful and not effective and tends to precipitate abuse. That’s my position. That being said, I’ve spanked my son three times in his life. He is nine years old now, his last spanking was when he was three years old.

Rules and Consequences

To apply effective punishment, we need to understand why we are punishing. It isn’t because they did something we don’t like. Our job, as parents, is to teach our children to follow the rules. They must conform to society’s laws. They must learn that, whether they agree or not, breaking the rules is not acceptable. This is the reason we punish. This must be considered each time.

We shouldn’t be punishing children for breaking rules that aren’t clear. The rules should be established first and they should be very clear. Do not do this and do not do that. We should be teaching them that for every action there is an equal and appropriate consequence. In other words, the punishment should fit the crime. So spanking them for not cleaning up their toys doesn’t fit.

Consequences

Consequences should fit the crime.

Examples of Appropriate Consequences

Rule                                    Consequence

  1. Pick up your toys before bed.          Toys are taken away for a week.
  2. No hitting your brother.                   No playing together for the rest of the day.
  3. TV off by 8pm.                                    No TV tomorrow.
  4. No throwing food.                             Eat in the kitchen alone.

The consequence should naturally fit with the rule that was broken. You may have to be creative with it but it should always be a natural fit. My son kept slamming his bedroom door in an angry fit, so he lost his door for a week. That was at four years old. It hasn’t happened again. Notice also, we are punishing behaviors. We’re giving consequences for actions. We are not telling them they are bad. We are not destroying their sense of self-worth by putting them down or losing our temper and yelling at them. I know it’s easier said than done, they can really push our buttons. I’ve done my fair share of yelling and I can tell you from experience, it’s not effective. All it does is scare him and it doesn’t make him remember what he’s supposed to do.

Warning

Warning

One simple warning is enough.

When my son breaks a newly established rule, he gets one warning. Honey, you’re late. Remember your curfew is 7pm. If you’re late again without calling, you won’t be allowed to play the next day. “Okay Mom. I forgot, I’m sorry.” Beyond that, he gets the appropriate consequence. Repeated warnings send the message that you don’t mean what you say. You don’t want them to get that message. Things need to stay clear and simple for children. One warning and then take action.

We also don’t want to over explain. Remember, children with ADHD have short attention spans. We want them to know why they shouldn’t do something. So explain that when the rule is set. But when the rule is broken we should be firm and brief. You did this, it’s against the rule, here’s the consequence. No negotiating, no explanations, no giving in. Remember that if you give up your authority to your child, it will be a nightmare trying to get it back. This is the rule, you follow it, or this is the consequence. Period.

Attitude

Attitude

Pick your battles.

This can be one of the most frustrating things. We’re trying to teach them and they get this bad attitude with us. I don’t necessarily have this as a rule in my house. Children have emotions too but the big difference is that they haven’t learned how to properly cope with them. When my son was three, I explained to him, you can get mad at me, that’s perfectly okay. But you cannot hit me. You can tell me you’re mad, but you need to do so respectfully.

Respect is a rule in my house. He’s allowed to pretty much say whatever he wants to as long as he does so respectfully. That means no name calling, no yelling, and no putting down. Respect is very clearly defined. He’s allowed to roll his eyes or roll his neck all he wants, I ignore that. It doesn’t happen often anymore. Rolling his eyes at me really doesn’t hurt anything so I’ve chosen not to fight that battle because there are so many other battles to fight that are much more important. Pick your battles.

A Creative Approach

When my son gets an attitude with me, I give him a warning. I say, “Attitudy.” It stops immediately. I’ve never had an issue with him pushing it beyond that. I’m sure that will change when he becomes a teenager. But for now, the warning works. I taught my son to respect me when he was three years old. It was the hardest lesson ever to teach him. The consequence for being disrespectful was time alone. This was his currency, and still is, because he can’t stand being alone. However, I couldn’t just send him to his room for a time out. He wouldn’t stay in there so things would escalate out of control.

Instead, I would go to my room for an hour…and lock my door. It wasn’t punishing me because I had a TV, stereo, books, and a computer in my room. I could do whatever I wanted, and he couldn’t stop me! The first two or three times, he stood at the door throwing an absolute fit. Screaming, crying, and beating on the door. I ignored him the entire hour and let him throw his fit. Then suddenly the disrespect stopped and hasn’t reappeared since. He figured out I meant it. Now a simple, one word, warning does the trick. Every time.

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Do you have similar methods?  Different methods that work?  Please don’t hesitate to share your own experiences below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome all feedback.


Children with ADHD – How Routines Lead to Success

Setting Routines Leads to Success

One of the first things I learned about having a child with ADHD was that they need structure. My son was highly destructive when he was a toddler and getting him to stop playing in order to eat dinner or brush his teeth or take a bath was like pulling teeth with a spoon. Switching from one task to another was very hard and would cause a total meltdown.  I had never thought of setting routines for children with ADHD. I was just trying to survive one moment to the next.

After reading The Difficult Child, by Stanley Turecki, M.D., I came up with a system that actually worked. And by following the same guidelines, I am still able to get my son functioning in a somewhat routine manner now at 9 years old. The foundation of this system, though, is that you focus on positive reinforcement.

Yes, spankings and groundings worked for most of us adults when we were little. However, having a child with ADHD has taught me that sometimes what worked in the past may not be so effective with every child. When I spanked my child, he laughed at me. When I spanked him harder, he put a hole in my wall. This was not going to be an effective form of punishment. As Stanley Turecki put it:

“Negative attention reinforces negative behavior-which in turn increases negative attention.”

The book suggests using the Star System. This system teaches the child to follow an established routine. It does take consistent effort for the parents as well. As parents, we need to make the rules and routine clear to the child so that they completely understand what is expected of them.

The star system works like this:

  1. Decide on a routine you want to follow.
  2. Establish the order for the routine, let the child help you do this. (Never stray from the sequence)
  3. Allow the child to help you make a chart of the activities within the routine.
  4. Set the expectation that each time the child completes the full routine, they get a star or sticker.
  5. Decide how many stars or stickers need to be earned for a reward.
  6. Be sure the expectations are clear and make it fun.
  7. No punishment for not following the routine aside from not earning the star or sticker.

Keep in mind that a routine is a sequence of events that happens in the same order, every day. Decide what you want the routine to be. It could be something like: pick up your toys, eat dinner, take your dishes to the sink, brush your teeth, take a bath, put your pajamas on, play quietly for an hour, go to bed. Whatever you decide on, help your child pick which order the steps are performed in and then stick to it. Switching up the sequence messes up the routine and you’re trying to teach them to follow a routine.

Work with the child to develop a chart for the routine. It should list each step separately and have something like a checkbox for each day of the week. It should be attractive to look at and draw their attention in. Allowing them to help you make it gives them a small sense of ownership in making sure it is followed and filled out each day. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment. Having a chart up where they have access to it will help prevent them from forgetting a step. This is very important, you want them to succeed.

Clown Fish

By choosing the fish, he had his very own pets as a reward.

Talk to your child and decide how many stars or stickers they need to earn for the week in order to earn a reward. Rewards can be anything you want: a small toy from the grocery store, a book, a coloring book, a movie. For my son, it was a new fish for the aquarium. He really enjoyed going to the pet store and picking out a new fish each week. Most importantly, don’t expect perfection. Reward for 5 out of 7 or something like that. Everybody has a bad day or off day sometimes, give them an actual chance to earn a reward.

Lastly, understand that this is not another reason to punish your child. If they mess up the routine, they don’t earn the sticker for the day. The only consequence should be that they don’t earn the sticker and they shouldn’t get reprimanded. I would say something to the effect of, “No star today Honey, try again tomorrow.” This really is enough. If you’ve found a reward system that they are actually interested in, they will try hard to earn it. Don’t be overly hard on them when they mess up, they already do that to themselves. Just encourage them to try again.

Instead of punishing our kids for doing bad, we want to put more focus on rewarding them for doing good. This will naturally make them want to do it more. By changing my mindset when he was a toddler, I now have a child that aims to please and very rarely gets into trouble. The caveat here is that I started when he was 3 years old. I started young. And there was quite a bit of resistance at first. But I’m persistent and it paid off. This system still works very well with my son. This is not to say it will work perfectly for everybody, but it is a proven system that has worked well for many.

 

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If you have similar experiences to share, or have any questions, please share with us below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome feedback and will be sure to respond to each and every post.