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!


Chronic Motor Tic Disorder Treatment

Chronic Motor Tic Disorder…What is it?

Chronic Tic Disorder

What is it?
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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
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  • 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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Sensory Processing Disorder – Toddlers

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder

What is it?
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Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) used to be called Sensory Integration (DSI) Dysfunction.  It causes sensory signals to not get organized into appropriate motor responses and behaviors when the sensory messages are received by the nervous system.  In other words, the sensory messages are misinterpreted by the nervous system.

A study done by the SPD Foundation found that 5% to 10% of children without other disabilities experience SPD while it is prevalent in 40% to 88% of children with various other disabilities.  It is believed that there may be a relationship between Sensory Processing Disorder and the atypical behaviors associated with pervasive developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Fragile X Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy.

The study also found that while symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder overlap with other conditions, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in particular, the empirical data in the study proves that the two conditions are completely distinct from each other.

Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) p. 249 – 250 by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR lists ten research-supported statements about SPD:

  1. It is a complex disorder of the brain affecting both adults and developing children.
  2. Tools used to identify children with the disorder include: parent surveys, clinical assessments, and laboratory protocols.
  3. The prevalence of SPD in the general population is at least 1 in 20 people.
  4. The occurrence of SPD in children who are gifted and those with ADHD, Autism, and fragile X syndrome is much higher than that of the rest of the general population.
  5. A significant difference has been found between the physiology of typically developing children and those with SPD.
  6. Likewise, a significant difference has ben found between the physiology of children with ADHD and those with SPD.
  7. The disorder has unique sensory symptoms unexplained by other known disorders.
  8. Heredity could be one cause of the disorder.
  9. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems of children with SPD are not functioning typically, according to laboratory studies.
  10. The theory that Occupational Therapy is an effective intervention for treating SPD symptoms is supported by preliminary research data and decades of anecdotal evidence.

 

Symptoms of SPD

Much like other developmental disabilities, the symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder vary from person to person, as well as age group.  A person may experience only some symptoms and at varying intensities.  Additionally, symptoms tend to vary by age group:

Infants & Toddlers:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Refusal to go to people other than parents
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Discomfort in clothing
  • Lack of toy play
  • Difficulty shifting from one activity to another (Resistance to change)
  • Slow to respond to pain or injury
  • Resistant to physical affection or cuddling
  • Unable to calm self with pacifier, toys, etc.
  • Poor balance or clumsiness
  • Little or no babbling or vocalizing
  • Easily startled
  • Extremely active (constantly moving)
  • Delays crawling, standing, walking or running

Pre-Schoolers:

  • Difficulty potty training
  • Overreacts or overly sensitive to stimulation (touch, nose, smells, tastes, etc.)
  • Unaware of being touched or bumped
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills (fastening buttons, using crayons, eating with utensils, etc.)
  • Clumsy and awkward (unsure how to move body in relation to space)
  • In constant motion
  • Touches everything around them
  • Gets in other people’s personal space
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Overly aggressive or passive and withdrawn
  • Difficulty with transition
  • Difficult to calm, intense
  • Unexpected temper tantrums or mood changes
  • Seems inappropriately weak, slumps or slouches
  • Speech is difficult to understand
  • Difficulty understanding verbal instructions

School Age:

  • Overly sensitive to stimulation (touch, noise, smells, taste, etc.)
  • Easily distracted in the classroom
  • Fidgety or squirmy, in constant motion
  • Easily overwhelmed in social settings (Recess, playground, classroom, etc.)
  • Slow to perform tasks
  • Difficulty with motor tasks (handwriting, tying shoes, etc.)
  • Clumsy, stumbles often, slouches
  • Craves wrestling and rough housing
  • Slow to learn new activities
  • Difficulty making friends (overly aggressive or passive/withdrawn)
  • Hyper-focuses on one task, difficulty transitioning
  • Confuses similar sounding words (misinterprets questions/requests)
  • Difficulty reading (especially out loud)
  • Stumbles with words, speech lacks fluency, hesitant rhythm

Adolescence & Adulthood:

  • Over-sensitive to environmental stimulation (not liking to be touched)
  • Avoids visually stimulating environments and/or sensitivity to sounds
  • Slow and/or lethargic starting the day
  • Often begins new tasks at one time and leaves many unfinished
  • Uses inappropriate amount of force handling objects
  • Clumsy, bumps into things, unexplained bruises
  • Difficulty learning new motor tasks or sequencing steps of a task
  • Needs physical activities to help maintain focus throughout the day
  • Difficulty staying focused at work or in meetings
  • Requires more clarification than usual, misinterprets questions and requests
  • Difficulty reading, especially out loud
  • Stumbles over words, speech lacks fluency
  • Must read material multiple times to absorb the content
  • Difficulty forming thoughts and ideas in oral presentations

 

Diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Diagnosis

How is SPD Diagnosed?
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SPD identification typically starts with a screening by an Occupational Therapist.  In my son’s case, his pediatrician referred us to the Occupational Therapist due to his delayed motor skills.  I sat in the lobby and filled out the parent checklist while the therapist evaluated my son.

She was able to tell me that day that he certainly had sensitivities to audio and tactile sensory input.  Of course, she would need to review the results of her evaluation and would be in touch.  Her highly detailed 9 page report on the results confirmed SPD.  We started occupational therapy immediately.

Sometimes the evaluation may warrant additional evaluations.  But often times, the Occupational Therapist is able to make the determination using standardized assessment tools.  These tools often include:

  • Bruinlinks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency – Second Edition
  • Goal Oriented Assessment of Life Skills (GOAL)
  • Miller Assessment for Preschoolers (MAP)
  • Miller Function and Participation Scales (MFUN)
  • Movement Assessment Battery for Children – Second Edition (Movement ABC-2)
  • Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT)

 

SPD Treatment

As with Autism and ADHD, early intervention is important with SPD.  The symptoms of the disorder are not manageable by the child, the parents, the teachers, or anybody else alone.  Children often come across as different, weird, or awkward as a result.

Unfortunately, most children are not taught that everybody is unique and that they shouldn’t judge those that are different.  As a result, children with disabilities such as SPD, Autism, ADHD, etc. tend to be made fun of or negatively labeled as difficult, problem children or badly behaved children.

Sensory Labels

Build a Support System

These negative labels placed on children does cause years of suffering needlessly, exacerbates their already low self-confidence and self-esteem which steers them further and further down the rabbit hole.  Labels such as hyper, weird, aggressive, withdrawn, and different only adds to the child’s feelings of failure from not being able to do what other kids can do effortlessly (such as tying their shoes or riding a bike).

By getting an accurate diagnosis and beginning early intervention, we can provide the correct labeling for their “unusual” behaviors and help to stop the undeserved judging, stereotyping, and punishing of behaviors that they are simply unable to control.

We are able to help these children gain understanding and empathy from people and all around better treatment by giving them a positive label that identifies that the behaviors are due to an undesired and uninvited neurological condition.  It’s not the child’s fault, and it’s not the parent’s fault.

Early intervention also allows treatment to begin early on in life, while the child’s brain is still developing.  This lessons the impact of the disorder on the child later on in life.  It allows both the parents and the child to understand certain behaviors so that they can learn appropriate coping skills and reduce the stress caused by such behaviors.

If you have a child that seems to be displaying one or more of these symptoms, talk to your child’s pediatrician quickly.  Early diagnosis and intervention will help get your baby understand what is happening with them and why they are sensational.  If you have children that don’t have these symptoms, please educate your child on invisible disabilities and teach them to be accepting and understanding of those different than the norm.

Lastly, don’t be so 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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Autism – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Autism

What is Autism?
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What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that typically appears in early childhood.  It is characterized by a certain set of behaviors that affects people in various ways and varying degrees in regards to interaction with others and ability to communicate.

According to the ADDM autism prevalence report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 68 births in the United States is affected by ASD.  Children can be evaluated and diagnosed with the disorder as early as age 2, however most are not diagnosed until after four years of age.

While many disagree with putting labels on children, especially at such a young age, the proper diagnosis and treatment of conditions like Autism and ADHD opens opportunities for the nation to learn how to serve families and children affected by these disabilities.  That is, while you may see it as a label, I see it as another justification for scientists and researchers to continue testing theories and finding ways to help our children live somewhat of a happy, healthy life… in spite of their disabilities.

Autism Awareness

It’s not just a label!
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The Autism Society estimates that the costs for autism in the United States, per year, is almost $90 billion dollars.  That’s ten zeros, folks.  These funds go toward medical research, insurance costs, uncovered medical expenses, Medicaid wavers, educational expenses, counseling and other therapies, housing, caregiver expenses, transportation, and employment.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics found that expenses for people with autism alone range from $1.4 million to $2.4 million for those who may also have intellectual disability.  That is, the lifetime cost of caring for JUST ONE person with autism can top $2.4 million.

These costs include everything from medical treatment, school support, therapies, employment accommodations, and lost wages from the patient’s and caregiver’s struggles to maintain employment.  The biggest contributors to such a high price tag, according to the study, include special education costs, housing during adulthood, and indirect costs such as lost productivity.  It is believed that early interventions that are specifically aimed at helping adults with autism and approaches early on in may help reduce the need for long-term care.

Autism Piece

True Gifts to Humankind
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Like ADHD, there is no cure and people don’t outgrow it, but symptoms are treatable.  Individuals with Autism may exhibit any combination of symptoms while not necessarily all of them.  Some symptoms may be more intense than others.  Early diagnosis (labeling) and intervention lead to much more improved outcomes as individuals with ASD reach adulthood.  For this reason, the CDC encourages that we know the signs and act early.  The symptoms of autism can worsen without early intervention.

 

Symptoms of Autism

  • No babbling or cooing by 12 months
  • No gesturing by 12 months (e.g., pointing, waving, grasping, etc.)
  • No single words said by 16 months
  • No two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Any loss of language or social skill at any age
  • Difficulty making and/or maintaining eye contact
  • Difficulty maintaining conversation
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Delays in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language mannerisms (e.g., hissing, growling, etc.)
  • Repetitive use of motor mannerisms (e.g., rocking, tapping, twirling objects, flapping hands, etc.)
  • Difficulty with executive functioning
  • Difficulty with reasoning and planning
  • Intense interests
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Poor motor skills
  • Persistent fixation on specific parts of objects

 

Autism Treatment

ASD is very complex and treatment options for the condition are not equal.  There is no “one size fits all” approach to treating Autism, just like there isn’t for ADHD.  The symptoms vary from person to person and in varying degrees of intensity, so the treatment plan must be aimed at the strengths and weaknesses of each individual person.  It is important to remember that there is no cure, the treatments are aimed at addressing many of the challenges and symptoms associated with the condition.  The overall goal of any treatment option for Autism is to improve the quality of life for that individual.

Autism Help

It Takes a Village
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In order to select the appropriate treatment approach, the family should first consult with the child’s medical team.  This may include a developmental pediatrician, neurologist, psychologist, speech therapist, learning consultant, occupational therapist, and any other professional knowledgeable on ASD.  The family and medical team can then try a combination of approaches in regards to education, vocational training, community living options, and support systems until they find what works most effectively for that individual.

 

Cause of Autism

While a single known cause of ASD has not been identified, it has been commonly accepted that abnormalities in brain structure or function are the cause of the disorder.  Differences in the brain’s shape or function have been identified in brain scans of patients with Autism.  Researchers are investigating links to heredity, medical problems, and genetics.

Autism Causes

Quit Trying to Blame Parents!
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Some theories being researched hypothesize that problems during pregnancy and/or delivery or other environmental factors may be related.  These might include exposure to chemicals, viral infections, or metabolic imbalances.  In fact, a new epidemiological study from Sweden came out in December 2015 finding that “exposure to sex hormones early in life may be important to the development of autism in both sexes” which means that there is a higher risk of developing ASD for children born to mothers with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  I’m thinking this debunks the myths about anxiety levels and bad parenting cause these “behavioral” problems in children.

Other medical conditions that may create a high risk, based on the frequency of autism development related to these conditions, are:

  • Congenital Rubella Syndrome
  • Fragile X Syndrome
  • Tuberous Sclerosis
  • Untreated Phenylketonuria (PKU)

Genetic theories are based on a pattern of Autism or other related disabilities running in families.  Irregular segments of genetic code are being sought after by researchers, though no single gene has been identified.  Some believe that it is related to an unstable cluster of genes may be interfering with brain development under certain conditions.

 

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.  Autism 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 Autism Spectrum Disorders need early intervention.  Treatment needs to start right away in order to help them function more effectively.  Treating them for ADHD instead may help some of the symptoms, but it hinders medical evaluations that could allow medical professionals to make an accurate diagnosis and delay much needed intervention.

Autism PeopleEarly intervention is key for Autistic children to learn how to thrive in a society that very much misunderstands them, in educational and social environments which don’t naturally accommodate their needs.  With an accurate diagnosis and early intervention, many autistic people grow up to be very successful individuals.  There have been many:

  • 50 Tyson (Rapper and Autism Activist)
  • Albert Einstein
  • Alexis Wineman (Miss Montana)
  • Alonzo Clemons (Clay Sculptor)
  • Amadeus Mozart
  • Amanda Baggs (Autism Advocate)
  • Andy Warholl
  • Bhumi Jensen
  • Birger Sellin (Author)
  • Caiseal Mor (Author, Musician, Artist)
  • Charles Darwin
  • Christopher Knowles (Poet)
  • Courtney Love (Frontwoman of Hole)
  • Daniel Tammet (British Autistic Savant)
  • Daryl Hannah (Actress)
  • Derek Paravicini (Blind Musician)
  • Dylan Scott Pierce (Wildlife Illustrator)
  • Elisabeth Hughes (Author)
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Evgeny Kissin (Russian Pianist)
  • Gary Numan (Singer and Songwriter)
  • Hans Christian Andersen
  • Henriett Seth F. (Autistic Savant, Poet, Writer and Artist)
  • Hikari Oe (Japanese Composer)
  • Isaac Newton
  • James Durbin (American Idol Front-runner)
  • James Hobley (British Dancer)
  • James Henry Pullen (British Carpenter)
  • Jason McElwain (Basketball Player)
  • Jessica-Jane Applegate (Paralympic Swimmer)
  • Jim Sinclair (Autism Rights Activist)
  • Jonathan Jayne (American Idol Contestant)
  • Jonathan Lerman (American Artist)
  • Leslie Lemke (Blind American Musician)
  • Luca Brecel (Belgian Professional Snooker Player)
  • Lucy Blackman (Educated Author)
  • Marty Balin (Singer and Songwriter)
  • Matthew Laborteaux (Actor)
  • Matt Savage (Jazz Prodigy)
  • Michelangelo
  • Michelle Dawson (Autism Researcher and Rights Activist)
  • Peter Tork (Musician)
  • Richard Wawro (Scottish Artist)
  • Stephen Wiltshire (Architectural Artist)
  • Temple Grandin (Systems Designer and Author)
  • Thristan Mendoz (Marimba Prodigy)
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Tito Mukhopadhyay (Author, Poet, Philopher)
  • Todd Hodgetts (Paralympic Shot Putter)
  • Tony DeBlois (Blind American Musician)
  • Vincent Philip D’Onofrio  (Actor, Director, Film Producer, Writer, Singer)

Clearly, with accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, autistic individuals can bring an abundance of creativity, compassion, and brilliance to society.  While it’s easy to get caught up in blaming parents 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.

Autism Awareness

Help Raise Awareness
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Yes, there is an epidemic of misdiagnoses that causes annoyance and frustration surrounding children with ADHD, Autism, 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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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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