Monday, December 24, 2012

I want to write a happy post ...

... full of cheerful holiday snark and recounting the Great Flying Menorah Incident of 2012, as well as the Quest for the Purple Bunny, but first I want to say this.

If you haven't yet read this blog post, that is one sturdy rock you've been hiding under. Read it now.

Because I agree with the writer (and my heart goes out to her). I think this country needs to have a serious discussion about mental illness. And about learning disabilities and mental disorders and how to handle kids who have clear issues without A. pretending there is no issue or B. writing the kid off as a loner/geek/nutbar and doing absolutely nothing about it.

Look, my kid is not on the level of the writer's son, or Adam Lanza or Jared Loughner or etc. He is the exact opposite of antisocial -- he loves people and thinks they should all be his friends. Kiddo has trouble with impulsivity and hyperactivity. He can't sit still. He misses social cues. He needs constant reminders about personal space. He's gotten better about not running in parking lots (thankfully). My point is this: He's not a "maybe" case of ADHD. He's a "totally." Every medical or educational professional who evaluates him says the same thing. The school OT, examining him last month, saw all the exact same sensory and impulsivity issues that the private OT saw during their examination in April. He was initially diagnosed in February. And where are we at, 10 months later? He's got a 504 plan that may or may not be enough for him. He's got a behavioral therapist who's dropping our insurance. He's disrupting class activities. He's still under observation by the school social worker, who will present her report to us when next we all meet, whenever that is, though not this calendar year, obviously.

He's got an acknowledged problem, and 10 months later I would not consider that problem even close to solved, or properly dealt with. Now imagine kiddo was more like Adam Lanza. Imagine waiting to deal with the problem when the problem could be fatal.

Learning disabilities, mental disorders, mental illness, do not just go away or get better on their own. Early intervention is crucial. And that intervention needs to be across the board -- school, home, wherever. Everywhere. Parents can't deal with this stuff on their own. They need help. 

There has to be a way to speed up the bureaucracy. There has to be a way to increase federal funding. There has to be something more we can do.

Not just because I want kiddo to be able to reach his full potential. Because I think he should be able to sit in class without fearing for his life.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I don't really know what to say about the Connecticut shootings, other than it's horrible and I don't know why this keeps happening. I can't even imagine being those parents right now. I feel profoundly lucky that our biggest concern today is buying a new tree stand, not planning a funeral.

I don't know why the shooters are always boys. What possesses them? What are they thinking? Are they so unable to process their pain or their anger or their trauma or whatever it is that they need to spread that pain around before ending everything?

How do we stop it from happening?

I will say it concerns me that the suspect was (allegedly) autistic, or had some other sort of disorder (no one seems clear on that yet). Because I would hate to have people leap to conclusions about autistic kids.

Clearly I'm not the only one concerned about that. From

"Autism is not a mental health disorder - it is a neurodevelopmental disorder," said the Autism Research Institute's Autistic Global Initiative Project. "The eyes of the world are on this wrenching tragedy -- with 1 in 88 now diagnosed, misinformation could easily trigger increased prejudice and misunderstanding."

There are a few similarities between autistic (at least Asperger's) kids and ADHD kids -- increased smarts coupled with an inability to read social cues. So I have an interest in these matters.

I spent most of yesterday checking in on the story on my phone, even while DH and I were doing gift shopping, even while we were out at a rare kid-free dinner (thanks to MIL). At one point we were in the car and a rock station played "Jeremy," and while I'm normally happy to hear Pearl Jam this struck me as unbelievably inappropriate and we switched stations. Hey, why not play Boomtown Rats while you're at it? Throw in Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and you can have a whole school shooting playlist. How totally ironic and postmodern. Jerks.


Anyway. Kiddo is doing okay-ish. Still acting up in class, with a little less hitting and pushing. He's already started OT, which is wonderful, and the school agreed to some other accommodations, including a behavior chart with specific rewards he can earn (the school social worker who set it up for him reported he seemed pretty excited about it) and a squishy fidget toy for him to hold during class. I think compression shirts seem to help him, so I'm going to buy a few more. The school is still balking at an IEP but they did say it's the next step if these modifications don't work. So we'll see. Being patient is annoying but no bureaucracy in the history of ever has moved quickly on anything.

I think we could all use the holiday break, frankly. I'm wiped. Kiddo whines every morning, "I don't want to go to school!" Some time away would do us all good.

And again, so grateful that we get to have a normal Christmas vacation.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The up-and-down day

Yesterday morning, we were heading out to buy a dryer. Yes, we are exciting folk. Our current dryer needs a new motor, and a few other things, and since the dryer is probably original to the house (we're the second owners), along with all the other appliances, it just made more sense to replace it. And soon, because hauling wet clothes to the Laundromat is nowhere near as much fun as it sounds.

So we were driving out to the main road and we saw a dog running loose, and a woman and several kids running after him. We watched worriedly as the dog kept dodging them, thisway thatway thisway, and then he ran across the road, with a boy chasing him, and we both gasped a little. The dog came back across and we pulled over. DH called out to the woman, asking if she needed help. Then the dog dodged them again and I hopped out of the car and started running after him myself.

The dog, whose name was Patches and appeared to be some sort of tall pitbull mix, if that's even possible, was fast, and clearly having the time of his life. This was the best game of Keep-Away ever! I got really close a couple of times and reached out to grab his collar, and at the last second he dodged me and ran off again. The woman, flustered, kept explaining that this was the first time he had ever gotten out. Random other people kept pulling over to help too, including a big burly guy in a delivery truck, but he was uncatchable. Finally I just crouched down nearby and started calling him, hand out. "Patches, c'mere! You know you don't belong out here!" Curiously, he came over and sniffed my hand.

"I'll grab his collar!" the owner said behind me, as one of the kids handed me a dog treat to give him.

"I've got it," I said calmly, and once he realized he was about to be leashed, he started trying to jerk away, but I gave him the treat and he calmed down some.

The owner and I introduced ourselves to each other, and she thanked me profusely, saying her biggest worry was all the kids running around after the dog. She couldn't understand why Patches would come to a stranger but not her. "Strangers have more interesting smells," I pointed out.

So that happened. And then this happened.

We went to two stores -- one to order the dryer (yay), one to buy a Hanukkah present for my sister and her husband. It was not kiddo's most shining hour. He kept wandering off, not listening, yanking back on my hand and collapsing on the floor when I tried to make him walk with us. As he does. The second store was the worst, because it was crowded with holiday shoppers and full of pretty lights and sparkly things. He's lousy in crowds and easily overstimulated by bright lights and toys to buy and such. So we were basically just dragging him around, and periodically this sort of thing gets in my head and I think the other shoppers must think he's such a brat and then I start snapping at him, because I get tired of looking like That Mom. So we made it to the register and paid with a minimum of whining and tantruming and then he tried to wander off the other direction afterward, and I yanked on his hand and he stumbled into the counter with a clunk. And then he lost it entirely, and I had to hustle him out of there before he broke the other customers' eardrums. I let him have it outside the store, and DH calmed him down, and the good cop/bad cop routine more or less worked.

Why is it I have more patience for a strange dog than I do for my own son?

Because the dog doesn't know any better? But neither does my son. And even though intellectually I know he can't help himself, that a crowded store is probably the last place on Earth we should be bringing him, it's sometimes impossible to remember in the moment. And I can't help wishing that one time we could bring him somewhere without worrying that he's going to bolt in the opposite direction, just because he feels like it.

On the plus side, we're halfway done with the shopping.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The week in ADHD news

One of the more aggravating things about ADHD is feeling like you have to constantly convince people that it's real. And not some made-up excuse to drug a bratty kid into submission. Or a way of justifying bad parenting. Etc.

Which was why it was sort of heartening to read about this study out of Sweden, which found that teens and adults with ADHD were more likely to commit criminal behavior -- but dramatically less likely to commit criminal behavior if they were still on ADHD medication. Said a professor who's researched ADHD but wasn't involved in this study:
"There definitely is a perception that it's a disease of childhood and you outgrow your need for medicines. We're beginning to understand that ADHD is a condition for many people that really lasts throughout their life."

Probably I should be flipping out about the idea that kiddo is more prone to criminal behavior, but I'm just delighted to see an article based on the idea that ADHD is real. As opposed to wondering whether it is real, or whether it's overdiagnosed, etc.

On the other hand, there was this story, which found that the youngest kids in a class were more likely to have trouble with academics and behavioral issues, and were also 50 percent more likely than the oldest kids in their class to be prescribed ADHD medications by the time they hit seventh grade.

In other words: 1. Maybe meds are overprescribed after all. 2. The parents who obsess about school cutoff dates and holding their kids back an extra year might actually have the right idea. Although the researchers said the study might not be conclusive across the board, and could possibly also mean that ADHD is undertreated in the older kids, not overtreated in the younger kids.

So, a bit of an up-and-down week in news stories.

In more local (ahem) news, kiddo had a couple of good days this week, thus proving that it's possible for him to have good days. We restarted the star chart and that seems to have made an impression. I also, for whatever it's worth, started giving him gluten-free foods. I'm not being completely strict about it -- if I were, I would've banned all gluten from his diet for a few weeks to see if it made a difference -- but I am keeping him gluten-free at school, just to see what happens. Supposedly ADHD kids sometimes have food sensitivities -- not allergies -- to gluten and/or dairy.  If I get the sense that any of his behavior is somehow food-related, I'll modify his diet further.

There is of course the possibility that he'll be this way no matter what he eats, so I'm not being too obsessive about it.

The OT at school finished her assessment so we should have some results this coming week, when we meet with the school again. Kiddo's teacher noted that the OT said he seemed distracted during the evaluation. Again, glad they're seeing what we're seeing. The in-class observation won't happen till December -- thanks a lot, Sandy -- and we'll meet on those results in January. Progress is progress.

At any rate, kiddo and kiddette had a lovely Thanksgiving and even tried to dance along with the Rockettes during the parade. And since all of our immediate neighbors have already put up their Christmas lights, it's time to move on to the December Month of Shopping Madness and Way Too Much Sugar. Um ... hooray?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

And now back to our regularly scheduled angst

Just before that whole storm thing, DH and I met with various school officials for that RTI meeting. It seemed promising. I don't think I've ever been in a meeting where everyone involved was so utterly on the same page. That being: Kiddo is smart -- even a little ahead of the game academically -- likable and happy, but he can't sit still, can't focus well, needs constant supervision, doesn't deal well with transitions and has trouble interacting with other kids. We knew all this already, but it was nice that the others all saw it, too. So they planned to do in-class observation to figure out what needs to be done next, and we were waiting on the evaluation from the school occupational therapist. And then the storm hit and I have no idea where we are on any of this.

In the meantime, he's had a lousy week. Not listening. Refusing to work. Getting in scuffles with the other kids. Pushing, apparently unprovoked. And then coming home and lying to us about how his day was. His teacher's been emailing us daily updates, of course, so we call him out on that. I even read him one of the emails.

The lying bothers me but it's apparently pretty common in ADHD kids (not to mention kids in general, I imagine). They can't control their behavior, they feel bad about what they did, they try to cover it up. I think as long as we keep reminding him it's wrong, and show him we know the truth anyway, he'll give it up. At least I hope.

He keeps name-checking one kid in class as taunting him, claiming the kid calls him a "bad boy." Which seems pretty plausible, considering I met this kid on the zoo trip and either he's got what kiddo has, or he's a jerk. But kiddo is going to have to be able to deal with this stuff. I told him not to play with the kid, and that just because someone calls you a name doesn't mean it's true. But his teacher has observed that kiddo seems drawn to the kids who are likely to clash with him and make fun of him. Not sure what that's about. Maybe he wants attention so badly he'll put up with negative attention? Maybe he doesn't know a jerk when he sees one?

Two other problems: His talking doctor -- aka his behavioral therapist -- is about to stop taking our insurance. And his gym doctor -- aka his occupational therapy facility -- is no longer a option, because of billing issues. As in, they agreed to take our insurance even though they don't usually, and they don't really have a medical billing person on staff, just an office assistant, and our insurer had no record of any of the claims all summer but we didn't know that until the owner called us in a panic, because there was this $2,000 unpaid bill and other people owed them money too and she was afraid they'd have to shut down. This was probably information we could've used before the bill became $2,000. Anyway I've been calling the insurer, and making the OT resend claims, and they've been getting payments slowly but complaining that the payments aren't enough, and trying to make us pay the balance, and then the last month's worth of claims were denied because the code on them was deemed not medically necessary. When I told the office assistant that, she told me to call the insurer and find out which codes they meant. And then I blew up at her via email, on the grounds that I was not doing her job for her.

The upshot: The owner called the insurer instead to try and work things out. She also frostily informed me via email that she had decided not to accept insurance in the future. I frostily replied that we appreciated all their help but were trying for in-school OT, and that would probably be best for everyone involved.

I'm hoping school OT comes through, obviously.

So: No talking doctor, no gym doctor. No support system for kiddo, right when he needs it most. That has to be a factor in his behavior. Frustrating because I know he loved going to both. I'll try and find another therapist, maybe one who focuses on social skills. I'll find him something else. I do hope the school comes through on some help.

At least they see there's a problem. A lot of times, school officials either think ADHD is bogus or they think the kid's problem is bad parenting, or they (illegally) push the parents to medicate. But here, they seem to know what they're doing. And they like him.

He really is a sweetheart of a kid. If we could just help him figure out how to be the best version of himself, instead of the worst.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quite the fun week

It's an odd thing when nearly everyone you know has lost power, and you feel guilty because you haven't. And you don't have to exist on takeout and charging your phone at warming stations and standing in the cold for hours to get gas for your generator. And you drive home from work in the dark and it's extra darkness all around you because all the homes and businesses have no lights.

Not to mention the trees down everywhere and the power lines hanging down to the ground. Kiddo and I have already had the discussion about how he should never ever touch power lines.

We did wait on a gas line last weekend, because I had a quarter-tank left and it was an even day and I couldn't put it off any longer. (Seriously, I have no idea why the governor was so confident in our math skills with this even-odd rationing thing. Question I saw on Twitter: "Is zero even or odd?") I told kiddo to bring some books and a toy, and I took some snacks along just in case. We ended up only waiting a half-hour or so, which these days, isn't bad.

About the books: I've known for a while that kiddo basically could read. He's been trying to sound out whatever words he sees, and when his teacher sent home sheets of words to make into flash cards, he already knew every one. The only thing stopping him was that he hadn't realized it yet. So he was contentedly sounding out words in the car seat, and I was checking things on my phone, and suddenly he announced: "I can read!" I agreed that yes, he could, and that moment made the whole gas line worth it.

 The rescheduled Halloween went off as planned. At least in our neighborhood it did, because we had power, along with the quiet streets and sidewalks that usually attract kids from outside the development to begin with. Our neighborhood was probably one of the few in the area where kids could go trick or treating safely. So everyone came here. We didn't run out of candy, but if the doorbell-ringing had gone on too much past 8 we would've. DH took our kids around. I was working from home, so I sat on the floor near the front door with my laptop, ready to jump up and grab the candy bowl when necessary. Wonderful for my back, I'm sure. But still easier than getting up from the dining room, sitting back down, getting up, sitting down, etc.

I'm pretty sure some kids were repeat customers. I pretended not to notice.

Some of the neighbors were complaining afterward about all the non-residents showing up for candy, and how they like it better when they know all the kids they see. I wasn't really bothered. Mainly I feel bad for the kids. Two Halloweens in a row have been utter weather disasters, and instead of celebrating, the kids have been stuck in the dark and cold, watching their parents freak out about the spoiled food and the lack of child care. Or they've lost their roof or their whole house. Not fair, not right. They deserve to have the happy Halloweens I did when I was growing up. If that means their parents drive them to my street for candy, that's fine by me.

Anyway, if it's in the house I'll eat it. I've already been pilfering the kids' stash.

I think at this point everyone we know has power back, and the kids' schools are finally open again, so no more days of pounding away at our laptops while the kids watch way too much TV. I'm hoping they didn't lose too many brain cells. Monday should be back to normal. Ish.

I know we're profoundly lucky to have our house and our health, since a lot of other people can't say the same.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Shore of ruins

With apologies to Springsteen. Who, for the record, I think should have played "Wrecking Ball" during the Sandy benefit concert, instead of "Land of Hope and Dreams," which after all lost a little resonance when it became the MLB postseason theme. Just saying.

We're OK. We shockingly didn't lose power. There were a few moments Monday night, very early Tuesday morning, when it went out and we thought, OK, that's it then, but then it came back on. DH and I sat in front of the TV, tuned to News 12, and listening to the wind whipping around the house and the creaking all around us, and waited for things to get worse but they never really did. Eventually we quit dozing on the couch and went to bed.

The kids slept through it. I have no idea how.

In the morning we still had power and school was closed. (We didn't know, of course, that school would be closed all week. It may or may not be open tomorrow. There is some cabin fever going on.) The house seemed OK. Here is how much we lucked out: Wednesday or Thursday, when we finally ventured outside, we discovered the two huge evergreens on either side of the house had both been uprooted. Completely out of the ground. Both of them fell away from the house. In opposite directions. They're like dead tree bookends.

We kept watching News 12. And hit up Twitter and Facebook. And then we started to see the images from the Shore.

Look, I'm from South Jersey. I grew up on boardwalks. I've been on the rides at Seaside Heights and I've played the cranes in Point Pleasant. I love that little aquarium there. I've admired the pretty beachside houses and hung out at Jenkinson's and eaten my share of funnel cake and boardwalk fries fresh out of the fryer, which are the best fries in the world.

When I was even younger, and we lived in Monmouth County, we used to go to Keansburg. There was a giant undulating slide that you went down sitting on a burlap sack, and there was a rotating helicopter ride where you could make the copters go up and down as they went around. There was a duck game, where you just picked up little plastic ducks as they floated past you and whatever was written on the bottom determined the prize you got.

All of that is wrecked now.

The images of devastation keep horrifying me over and over. I feel terrible for all the people who lost their homes. But the shot that really went right to my heart was seeing the roller coaster at Seaside Heights sitting in the ocean.

We didn't make it down to the beach this summer. It's a long drive now, and I hate sitting in Shore traffic -- like I'm somehow above it because I used to live 20 minutes away. Plus we have a pool nearby. But I wish we'd tried. Because I really liked bringing my kids to the places I used to love. I liked watching them on the beach and trying to win them stuffed animals in the arcades, the way my father did for me. I liked watching them shriek with pleasure on the kiddie rides. And I don't think we'll be able to do that again. Not for a long time, if ever.

Things might get better. But they won't be the same.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm storm stormy storm storm!

... sitting and waiting. We have bottled water and non-perishable food. The sparkly Halloween cat and the scarecrow have been uprooted and moved inside, the lawn furniture is in the shed. I'm doing as much laundry as possible. And I'm using the heat pack on my back as much as possible because if the microwave goes out, it'll be useless.

Oh right, did I mention I have arthritis in my back? That's right, I said ARTHRITIS. I'm not even old enough to get a mammogram yet and I have arthritis. I found that out a little over a week ago, after the back pain got so bad I went to the doctor and they had X-rays done.

"Am I even old enough to have that?" I asked the nurse on the phone.

"Everybody's body develops differently, dear," she said.

Hey, thanks.

Possible factors: the scoliosis I've had more or less since puberty -- I was seeing a specialist about it for a while, but the curve was so mild they opted not to do anything -- and the genetic predisposition toward arthritis I apparently had but didn't know about. Until Dad said, "Oh yeah, I have it in my knees. And my mother had it in her shoulders."

Because that's what happens every single time something medically weird comes up. My parents say "Oh yeah, every third cousin for five generations had that, didn't we tell you?" I could find out next week I have the gene for spontaneous combustion and they'll say "Oh yeah, your Great-Aunt So-and-so spontaneously combusted in 1976, didn't we tell you?"

Yes, I know you're reading this. Take a joke. Nyah.

Anyway, I've been seeing a chiropractor and doing stretching exercises, plus the heat pack and meds if necessary, and it's been OK aside from the occasional twinge. It's as though periodically my back likes to nudge me and say, "Hey man, guess what! You've still got arthritis!"

I'll be joining AARP next, I guess. And eating more early-bird dinners. And changing my blog's name to "Angry Old Mom."

Anyway. My bum back and I are awaiting the storm. Just windy now. It would be really really nice if no one got hurt, and the power stayed on, and the trees stayed up, and Halloween wasn't postponed for the second year in a row. And if we could actually stay in the house this time instead of fleeing. But it's early yet.

Monday, October 15, 2012

... and on to Plan B

Yeah, the 504 plan isn't working out. Kiddo just can't settle. He can't transition into new activities. He can't stay in line in the hallway. He can't keep his hands to himself. He gets upset a lot, to the point where he throws himself on the floor in a fit.

So I'm pushing for in-school OT, and for an IEP.

The OT required an evaluation form ("does he do this? how about this? how frequently?"), which we have just filled out -- not the most fun thing to do on a Saturday night, but since we were also watching the Yankees lose and Jeter fracture his ankle, basically, a downer of a night all around. (Stupid A-Rod. I digress.) The first step in the IEP process is an RTI meeting -- as in, "response to intervention." Everybody remotely involved in teaching and/or parenting him will meet to discuss what's working and what isn't.

And then ... I don't know. More research on my part, clearly. Someday I would like to read for fun again. Imagine ... a novel! A comic book! I don't know, a cereal box!

Seriously, between ADHD, ODD, OCD and IEP, it's like an alphabet soup floating through my head.

On the plus side -- and hooray that there are plus sides -- kiddo seems to have buddies at aftercare at least. We went to a bowling birthday party yesterday, and for the first time in a while I didn't know any of the other parents. But kiddo knew four or five of the other boys and they all hugged him hello. Granted, he threw a fit or two over not getting his turn, and kept lugging his ball to the wrong lane, and then would sit there twirling the ball on the floor till it twirled away from him, and kept climbing on top of the ball return console (or whatever it's called) until I started counting him down to a time out, but you know, aside from all that it was fine.

I have no idea what the other kids in kindergarten think of him.

In related news, Happy ADHD Awareness Week, everyone! You know what my favorite part of dealing with this disorder is? Dealing with all the people who think it's bogus. Need proof? This is how the above website kicks things off:

The debate about
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is over.

And the truth about ADHD is clear.


Yeah, here's the thing: If you feel the need to introduce your awareness website by referring to "the debate," it means the debate isn't over. Even if it should be.

Also, surely you've heard about the doctor in Georgia, per the New York Times, who's prescribing ADHD meds to low-income kids who don't have it because they're struggling in school. And calls the disorder "made up" and an excuse to give the kids something that will help them focus in a substandard classroom setting. 

And my knee-jerk reaction is: argh.

You think ADHD is made up? Spend a week with my kid. You think the answer to a lousy school system is medicating kids who shouldn't be medicated? Man, you must be a big Mark McGwire or an A-Rod or a Jose Canseco fan. Or a Manny Ramirez fan. How is taking drugs to enhance academic performance any different than taking drugs to enhance athletic performance?

And once again, for the record, my son is not on any medications. But on behalf of all the ADHDers who legitimately need those meds to function -- not to get A's in school, just to function -- I'm pretty appalled. 

For further reading, an interesting column from Forbes here, and for your amusement, Stephen Colbert's take on the matter here

And thoroughly exasperated, I am off to watch my son struggle through another week.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ups and downs

Kiddo is not what you'd call living up to expectations these days. He's running around in class. Not listening. He got in trouble a couple weeks ago for hitting another boy with the strap of his backpack. (He wanted the boy to move, he explained later.) He's doing his homework, but he'll write one letter the right way and then scrawl the next one all over the page, or write the next three letters too close together and say that they're holding hands, or some other kind of story.

On the plus side, he hasn't missed the bus yet.

We're also back to the "I don't want to go to school!" bit when he wakes up in the mornings. "It's boring!" he says. Fortunately threatening to have breakfast without him -- or just leaving him to go into his sister's room -- tends to get him moving.

I've already requested an evaluation for in-school OT, per his teacher's suggestion. Hoping that helps.

At least I hear good things about his teacher. By which I mean absolutely glowing things. Like "My kids are in college and they still rave about her!" In fact we specifically requested her because she was said to be good with special-needs kids. The one phone conversation we've had so far, prompted by the backpack incident, seemed to go well, in that she was more trying to figure him out than trash him for misbehaving. Although admittedly I was threading through Route 80 traffic in the pouring rain at the time, because she called my cell and I didn't want to blow her off. So I hope I sounded coherent. (Don't bother telling me I'm nuts. DH already did.)

And the school district, not that I'm any kind of an expert in these matters, seems like a nice one, in that people are pretty involved.  Back to school night? Standing room only in the multipurpose room. PTA meeting/ice cream social? Packed. Although that's because it was not so much a "meeting" as an ice cream-fueled free-for-all. Sugared-up kids did their best NASCAR impressions, zooming giddily around the place. And then zoomed outside to play on the playground, in the dark. Kiddo and a few others discovered the almighty game of "lie down and roll down the hill!" and did that a few hundred times. And I got to chase after him in heels. I do not know how the other parents all have time to change clothes before going to these things. Either none of them works, or they all have two-minute commutes.

Also, have I mentioned what a really nice area this is to live in? Here was our day today: I got the kids up and we went to the Unitarian Universalist church we've been attending (fairly good choice for interfaith families). It's a lovely drive to the church, all winding roads and trees, so that always puts me in a good frame of mind. We went to our usual diner afterward and the kids didn't embarrass me overmuch. Then kiddette went down for her nap and kiddo and I hit up a town bicycling event at the park nearby, where we ran into a classmate of his and the other mom and I had a nice chat while they played.

(Kiddo, incidentally, insisted on riding his trike to the park even though he has a bike. So the other kids were all cruising around him while he double-pumped on the trike, which he is just about too big to be using in the first place. It was hilarious.)

Then we hit up one of the gazillion farms in the area (all of which are totally overrun right now on account of the apple picking) for apples and cider and pumpkin butter. Kiddo ran around like a loon and had a fine time climbing the hay bale pyramid and yelling, "I'm king of the mountain!" Then we came back and finished his homework.

It's just ... bucolic out here. There's so much outdoorsy stuff to do, which is great for Mr. Energy. And people rarely seem bothered by kiddo's intensity. Either they know about his condition, since I make no secret of it, or they don't think his behavior is especially un-ordinary. He's so happy when he's running around with other kids.

So things aren't all great but I feel like there's the possibility that they'll get better. Which I think is about all I can ask for.

Monday, September 17, 2012

And then she was 3

And there was much fanfare. Kiddette was thrilled that her family was coming to her birthday cake. She also hoped that they would eat her birthday party.

We booked the usual let-the-kids-amuse-themselves-so-the-parents-can-chat party place and got the usual child-approved menu of pizza and cake. Or as I call it, pizzacake. Everybody serves pizzacake. I fear these children will grow up to be culinarily stunted, and should they find themselves at a fancy cocktail party in a fine dining establishment sometime, will be baffled and sad to see no pizza. Or cake.

(I do buck the trend on this a little bit and also serve fruit, and am secretly delighted that the children actually eat it.)

Kiddette is still in her loves-monkeys phase and I see no reason to snap her out of it, because once she goes full-on princess it's going to be all pink sparkles, all the time and then our eyes will hurt. So her cake had Small Paul on it, to match the napkins and the plates and such. I did buy her a purple tutu to wear at the party, because it was so goshdarn cute I couldn't stop myself, but purple is her favorite color. And one ought to dress up a little bit at one's own party. And besides, she wore it over kiddie jeggings.

All the kids had a fine time and I didn't have to climb up into the jungle gym thingy to rescue anyone this time, which is good, because I seem to have a bit of a back problem and probably shouldn't be climbing into kiddie play places. Stupid back. (The doctor said, "Do you pick your children up a lot?" Why, Doc, are you offering to swing by my house and pick them up for me?) Apparently I understuffed the goodie bags, since there were some mild complaints about them. But I really really didn't want to pad them out with candy. We have Easter candy we still haven't eaten. We have Christmas candy we still haven't eaten. We don't eat a lot of candy. I see no reason to inflict extra candy on other parents, a month away from Halloween, when we'll all have too much candy.

Honestly I can't figure out this goodie bag thing. How much stuff are you supposed to put in them? Aren't three or four things enough? Are the kids measuring by quality or quantity? (Quantity, duh.) Is the monetary value of the goodie bag supposed to equal the monetary value of the gifts? Because that seems like wedding-gift logic.

I feel like I need to consult Emily Post on this before the next round of birthday parties. Or whoever handles etiquette for the under-10 set. Li'l Emmy Post?

At any rate kiddette enjoyed herself immensely and used the ruffle of her tutu to wipe pizza sauce off her face, which should annoy me, but she's gotten food on so much of her clothing that at this point I just shrug. At least she eats. And she very much likes the talking Woody and Jessie dolls she got, and so does kiddo -- even though Grandma got her a Woody so she would leave his Woody alone. But hers talks, you see. So we've got a bit of a scuffle going on at Woody's Roundup. Meanwhile I am disappointed that talking Woody doesn't say "There's a snake in my boot!" like in the movies, because I always thought that line was hilarious.

And now that all birthdays for the year have been accounted for, on to Halloween.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

So far, so good

At least as far as we can tell. The first day was more or less a blur of photos and a parental mob scene in front of the school. But kiddo seems to like kindergarten. He likes riding the bus and occasionally mentions kids by name that he played with (not a thing he frequently does. Usually I start guessing names, based purely on which kids I've met at birthday parties and play dates). He's even done homework without too much fuss. Note: The homework comes in a folder with a sign-off sheet that we are supposed to mark, to show that he got it, or that he did it, I guess. Maybe the teacher doesn't want to mess around with lost homework.

We've even managed to not miss the bus yet. This is pretty good, considering kiddo -- like lots of other ADHD kids, per my studies -- can be legendarily impossible to get out of the house. He'll stop getting dressed to inspect one of his Thomas tracks. He'll quit eating breakfast to yell through the glass door at the rabbit in our back yard. He'll throw a fit instead of eating breakfast because I put his cereal in the wrong color bowl. He'll run around the house, or burrow into the couch, instead of going upstairs to brush his teeth.

I use the timer on my phone to get him dressed, and if he's not done by the time it chimes, I leave the room. (He hates that.) We tell him if he's done eating, we'll throw the food out, or we tell him he can go to school without breakfast. And for the toothbrush refusal, we'll generally count him down to time out. Or else DH just carries him upstairs.

Basically it's a constant game of calling his bluff. Eventually he's going to take it too far and we really will miss the bus. But I've decided there are worse things in life and we'll just have to drive him those days.

Packing an a.m. snack for him has been an interesting challenge, because of the no-nut rule, and my desire to get protein into him whenever possible. I tried making granola bars from scratch, which is actually not hard -- unless of course you use the wrong size pan and you end up with granola crumble. But it tastes good, anyway, so I have bags of it in the freezer as needed. (Unless DH eats it all.) I also stocked up on whole-grain Goldfish, for whatever that's worth, and sometimes I just give him fruit, because he loves it. 

We even got the 504 issue resolved -- the coordinator added the missing item, sent a new plan home in our "welcome to kindergarten!" packet, we had it back to her the next day. Oddly easy. I'm hoping it stays that way.

I know the real test isn't how he does the first week, but how he does two months later, when he may or may not have gotten bored. But it's a hopeful start at least.

Monday, September 3, 2012


School starts this week and I'm really, really hoping he's up to it.

We did get an updated report from his OT and it was pretty positive -- she saw a lot of improvements in behaviors, self-care, physical development, etc. So that's good. She did recommend he continue with the group sessions, which is fine, because he loves them. We've gotten a little ritual going, in which he and I drive to the session, he does his thing while I read/check Twitter/chat with other moms, then we have lunch together and he gets his inevitable grilled cheese sandwich. Sometimes we go to Trader Joe's after. Sometimes we go some place interesting, just because. (This weekend we got the oil changed in my car. He thought that was the coolest thing ever and was watching through the big windows as the mechanics did their thing.) He's good about ordering his own lunch and carrying his tray, and then helping to clean up when we're done. And then he falls asleep in the car on the drive home.

He and I went to the farmers market yesterday and he was great -- helped pick out veggies, stayed with me, didn't run off.  The rest of the day, though, he was a whiny mess  and I blew up when I discovered he'd dumped the liquid soap out of the dispenser and refilled it with water -- again. Especially irritating when you're trying to get the kids to wash hands for lunch.

 (I have no idea how to channel that habit positively. Give him a fish tank? Get him a water-filled toy? Make him wash dishes?)

On Saturday, we all went to a barbecue given by friends from preschool -- it was a lovely time. He was fine, except when he came careening down the backyard kiddie coaster before checking that the coast was clear, and slammed into one of the younger boys (who was fine, thankfully). And except when he drove the ride-on electric kiddie car a little too enthusiastically, and slammed into the table some of us were eating at. Luckily, as they say on Sodor, no one was hurt. There were absolutely no eyes poked out during the s'more making, and even though he threw a fit about having to go home, at least it meant he'd been having fun.
 So there are good moments and bad moments with him. I think there are more good than bad moments, these days. But the question is, will he have bad moments at school? How often will he be having these moments, and will these moments, in fact, be epic?

I'll feel better after this week. Theoretically. Maybe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Operation 504 Plan: A success ... ?

In that we have one. Or we will once we sign off on it (there's one more thing I want added). And after we show it to kiddo's behavioral therapist for her opinion, in case there's anything we're missing. So we're sort of done, kind of not really.

But the meeting went well. The coordinator was open to whatever we suggested (preferential seating, classwork breaks, letting him stand up while working if needed) and had her own suggestions (provide a timer for him, rig a large stretchy band around his chair to help with the fidgets). She said what we came up with was a pretty standard 504 plan, and we could always add to it or adjust it as needed. So all seems promising.

I also checked with his occupational therapist, who suggested we wait a few weeks for him to settle in before looking for further input. She also said she thought he would "rise to the occasion" and be more or less OK.

I do think the extra things we did with him this summer -- keeping him home with a nanny, twice-a-week OT sessions -- helped out. He got a lot more one-on-one time, he hung out with buddies at the pool, he got swimming lessons and he's been in group OT for a couple months now, which is not only working him physically, but teaching him how to interact properly in groups. So he got a lot of practice in social skills and a lot of exercise (seriously, the kid's chest is rock-hard. I didn't know 5-year-olds could grow muscles).

It seems to me that ADD really means "attention deficit" as in, needing extra attention from the people around you. And acting out if you don't get it.

Will all the extra attention translate to better behavior in kindergarten? Will the 504 really be enough? I don't know. He can get bored -- and act out -- in .5 seconds or less. But at least there's the possibility that this will all go well.

People keep joking about the milestone of kindergarten and am I ready and can I believe it and boo hoo etc. Maybe I'd be in that mindset if kiddo were neurotypical. Really I'm just thinking, Please let him not run around/push/hit/yell/refuse to do classwork/scare off his friends. I'll save that whole misty-eyed thing for later. High school maybe.

In the meantime, he apparently needs two pocket folders and an old shirt for art class, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with this big yellow bus pass. Staple it to his backpack?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why scaring them straight doesn't work

Me: OK, kiddo, it's time to go potty.

Him: But I go potty all the time. I'm tired of going potty.

Me: But you have to go potty. When your body gets done digesting the food you ate, it has to get rid of the rest. Otherwise you can't eat any more food.

Him: Because then what happens?

Me: (proving I've watched too many Monty Python movies) Well, if you don't go potty and you keep eating food, then your body gets fuller and fuller and then it explodes.

Him: And then what happens?

Me: Well, then you've exploded.

Him: And then what?

Me: And then you can't eat any more.

Him: And then what?

Me: ... And then the doctor has to come and stitch you back up.

Him: And then what?

Me: And then you look silly because you have stitches all over you.

Him: And then what?

Me: And then people laugh at you.

Him: And then what?

Me: ... I don't know. But you still have to go potty.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take him outside, they said

Who's they? A whole bunch of they's. Some of the books/magazines I've read. His behavioral therapist. Get him into nature. Help him release the energy. It won't overstimulate him. It'll be good for him. Etc.

Maybe they would like to do the honors next time.

I took him to Canal Day at Waterloo Village yesterday -- it's outside and there are interesting historic buildings to look at, and they were giving short boat rides on the canal. He likes boats. He also likes the song "Erie Canal," and his favorite part about the Crayola Factory was the little upstairs exhibit where you could guide a small boat through a canal, opening and closing the locks. So this seemed promising.

OK, first off, Waterloo is a little depressing these days. It lost funding, and is only open at all due to volunteers, so most of the buildings are closed. (Except, weirdly, the church in the middle of the village, which is still operational. I wonder what it's like to go to services there, in the middle of all those empty houses.) Some buildings were falling apart, and were blocked off with that orange construction fencing. One house had random plants growing through its front porch. I've been to other reconstructed historical sites -- Mystic Village in Connecticut, the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown -- and they're in much better shape, with actual staffs, and fun demonstrations and activities, and buildings in good repair. It's a bit of a sad contrast.

Kiddo did not notice these things. The things he noticed were 1. wide open paths to run on! and 2. a boat to ride on! So we hustled down to the dock. Luckily (or less so), we had the ride to ourselves.

The very nice gentleman who was giving the history talks during the boat ride was, at first, charmed by kiddo's gleeful enthusiasm. He used to teach college courses, said the gentleman, and kiddo was his favorite kind of student to have in class -- the kind who didn't realize how smart they were. Then, however, followed an absolute textbook example of the troubles kiddo is clearly going to have in class this year, as Teach got progressively more and more annoyed by his constant chattering: "Are those lilypads? Are we going to run over the lilypads? Can you steer the boat that way? Are there sharks in the water? What else is there? The boat's going really fast! I'm going to look over the back of the boat. Why are we turning around? Can we keep going? Is there a turtle? Where is the turtle? I don't see the turtle. Oh, there's the turtle!" And on and on and on and paying no attention whatsoever to Teach's history spiel, which, to be fair, was going to make no sense to a 5-year-old anyway.

Teach went from charmed to irked in about a minute. Comments included: "There are girls who don't talk as much as he does." and "Boy, his teacher's got her work cut out for her!" and "I hope his teacher gets some sleep!" and "Can you be quiet now while I talk to your mom?" Finally the other volunteer on the boat got up and tried to guide kiddo away so Teach could finish teaching in peace. I'd been laughing the whole thing off, politely, but geez, take a hint, Teach. Play to your crowd. Sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for him or something. But noooooo, he had a spiel about the Morris Canal and damned if he wasn't going to recite it to someone. Even if he had to repeatedly insult that someone's small child to do it.

I'm guessing Teach doesn't have grandkids.

I figured things could only go up from there, so we headed down the path to the gristmill, which still works, and was one of two buildings actually open that day, unless you also count the restrooms. So, uh, three. Kiddo loved the gristmill. They cranked it up and the giant wheels spun in the water and the cogs turned, and you can see where the flour would've come out. And you can repeatedly run up and down the stairs from the upper level to the lower level so you can see all the different parts of it. And then run up and down the stairs again. And then run outside so you can see the exterior of the mill and where it meets the water and then run back inside and down the stairs and up again and down again and up again and back outside and back inside ad nauseam. He finally ran away from me one too many times and I hauled him back down the path to the car. While he complained repeatedly about being hot and his legs being tired. I showed great restraint in not saying, "Well, duh."

So there you have it. We were outside. Also inside. But mostly outside. And it didn't calm him down. It revved him up. Unless the only real solution is to take him outside where there are no buildings whatsoever and the only exciting thing to look at is trees.

I think there's an arboretum around here somewhere.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Educational exasperation

So I attended another advocacy workshop, this one all about how to write 504 plans. At least I thought that was what it would be about, except it was actually about the law that governs 504 (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in case you were wondering) and about how 504 plans aren't as comprehensive as IEPs and no federal funding is allocated for 504s -- except for counseling, occupational therapy and speech therapy, for which funding comes from IDEA (aka the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which governs IEPs). So basically if we can get OT written into kiddo's 504, we won't be paying for it, I guess. Other than that factoid, this was mainly stuff I'd heard/read before. Oh, and that schools won't necessarily give you all their records on the child's behavior issues, so you may not know the extent of the problem, and that schools won't necessarily follow the 504 plan and you have to monitor them closely. Also, the state doesn't monitor for 504 compliance. But hey, if you've got a problem you can file a complaint with the state.

Honestly, the more I delve into these things, the more depressing it is. Not once have I heard or read or seen anything positive about any school district anywhere doing anything right by its special needs kids. Everything is "They won't tell you what you're entitled to, they won't follow the plan, they won't understand your child's needs, they'll belittle your child or they'll stand by while other kids belittle your child, and your child will have a horrible lousy time in school while not learning anything or having a social life so get ready for years of misery. Or just homeschool them."

I scan the message boards on ADDitude magazine a lot and it's more of the same. "My child has ADHD, the school won't give us a 504 or an IEP because he's not failing/he's too smart/they think he just isn't applying himself, he has no friends, he has trouble in class, I don't want to put him on medication/we've tried medication but it doesn't work/the medication helps but he's still having issues, please help!!!"

I've been reading "Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention" by Katherine Ellison, in which the author recounts the year she spent trying to help her son's ADHD issues, while also dealing with her own ADHD. Good book, well researched and engaging, I highly recommend it. But even she notes, at the end, that her son's school never told her that he was entitled to services because of his diagnosis, and he had an excruciating few years until they put him on medication, did neurofeedback and a few other things. She's an investigative journalist and she didn't know about special needs services. Because no teacher or school official could be bothered to tell her.

The across-the-board negativity is what frustrates me. I'm perfectly willing to believe that some teachers and administrators are uninformed and/or incompetent, because a certain level of incompetency is built into any bureaucratic institution. (Read "The Peter Principle.") I'm having trouble believing that no teacher or official anywhere is going to be helpful at all. Somewhere out there, there has to be a teacher who actually knows how to work with special needs kids, or an official committed to upholding the law.

All of this, of course, may have nothing to do with our own district. I've heard good things about kiddo's school-to-be from other parents, but those parents' kids aren't special needs. We're going to have to see for ourselves how things go, starting off with when we meet with the school to write the 504 plan.

It would be nice to hear someone's success story, though. There have to be success stories out there.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Road tripping

Well, of course I was worrying about leaving the kids for multiple nights. A lot of moms would worry about such things even if their oldest were not ADHD and known for bouncing off walls/running in front of cars/throwing fits over being asked to wash his hands. That particular extra factor was just the cherry on top of the large sundae of worry. In fact my original plan was that we would go away for part of one day, no overnights. DH talked me out of it, on account of it was our 10th anniversary, and that plan was lame. (I would like to note that there are plenty of nice day-trip spots in Jersey. Just saying.)

Grandma and Grandpa were up for whatever, and saw nothing to worry about. I privately worried that Grandma and Grandpa were not exactly the swiftest of runners. The kids' favorite battle tactic? Running in opposite directions. They're like little Ping-Pong balls, with legs.

So we arranged backup. Kiddo's nanny would come for two days to help out, and the grandparents would be on their own after that. And then I was cool with making hotel reservations.

I won't bother with suspense: Aside from an occasional time out, the kids were fine. They went to the pool, they went to the library, they went to the kiddie play place at the mall. They helped kiddo work on his writing skills. They read books, they baked cookies, they cheered kiddo on during his swim lesson. A grand old time was had by all. Because the thing I keep forgetting is, the kids always behave better for other people than they do for us. This is both useful, and immensely aggravating.

Meantime DH and I were in Boston, touring Fenway Park ("we have to go extra slow for the Yankee fans," said the tour guide, ha ha ha) and the Sam Adams brewery (it was us, a bunch of thirsty college kids and one poor pair of parents whose kiddies kept wailing in their strollers, not that I would bring my kiddies to what is essentially a 20-minute talk and a beer tasting) and getting massively stuck in Boston traffic. Because I forgot the cardinal rule of cities: Don't drive in them. Also met up with cousin E. for dinner at the Seaport, which was great fun and also instructive, because their son has Asperger's and she knows quite a bit about parent advocacy at this point. Her main point was, the school districts won't necessarily volunteer all the resources that are available to you; you need to research them, and then push for them.

I heard precisely one actual Boston accent, from the cafe cashier who I was going to ask about restrooms, but who clearly assumed I was going to ask about parking meters. "Sure, you need quahtahs?" she said. Hee.

We also drove all the way up Cape Cod and back, which you can do in one day if you're willing to skip a few towns. The Sandwich Glass Museum is interesting, with all kinds of lovely glass objects on display, and glassblowing demonstrations. We also stopped at the Edward Gorey House, which was charmingly odd, and I learned that Gorey had seven cats and loved "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which is just cool. Fun/morbid fact: There are little gravestones in the garden representing the victims of "The Ghashlycrumb Tinies." I brought home several books for kiddo (no, not "Ghashlycrumb"), which may or may not make me a horrible mother, but he's made me read "The Epiplectic Bicycle" to him three times today so I'm leaning toward not-horrible. We ended up in Provincetown, which is this delightfully weird mix of funky shops, ice cream stands, kiddie attractions (a pirate museum! Really!) and drag queens on the sidewalk advertising the 10 p.m. show.

The antiques show in Rhode Island on the way home was less enjoyable, what with all the fisheye stares from all the expensively dressed attendees who correctly guessed that we were not in their tax bracket. Of course we couldn't afford anything there -- I usually can't in antique shops. I happen to like looking at antiques, because they're beautiful, and they're a reminder of a past way of life. Except to this crowd, apparently, who seemed to think of antiques as commodities to be bought, and could not believe my temerity in standing in their way when there were things to acquire. One of them practically nudged me aside with his cane. A disheartening experience, but the only downside to a really nice trip.

And the house is still standing, and kiddo and kiddette were not bothered in the slightest by our absence, and kiddo has already broken the little pirate ship I bought for kiddette. Because he's, you know, a pirate. Many thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, who made this trip possible, and I expect you'll sleep well tonight.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The prep work

So less than a month till we're supposed to sit down with the school district's 504 coordinator and write out the plan, and I'm frantically reading everything I can about 504 plans so I know what one should look like and what to expect and what to watch out for. So I don't sound like a total idiot, basically. Just like cramming for a final, minus the all-nighters and the cold pizza for breakfast. (Oh, don't judge me. That was college.)

I found one useful site here; it has sample 504 plans and resources from a couple other school districts. ADDitude magazine had a handy checklist (which I can't find the precise link for) offering suggestions for how to handle certain behaviors -- for instance, seating an easily distracted student near the teacher, or giving them written and verbal instructions if they're having trouble following verbal instructions alone. If the student loses books, allowing them to keep an extra set at home. That sort of thing. It's fairly common-sense stuff, but might be useful to put in writing anyway. 

Still, it doesn't help matters that every time I talk to somebody about 504 plans I get a variation on, "Well, they don't really do much. You should push for an IEP." Now, that may well be true. 504 plans come with a certain amount of legal backing but no extra financial backing, and most schools won't want to spend the money, especially if they're strapped (and aren't they all strapped?). I've read some accounts online in which parents couldn't even get their school to agree to a 504, so having the approval before he even starts school is something. But every time I hear "they don't really do much," what I'm really hearing is, "I can't believe you fell for that 504 BS, you chump." So it's not encouraging.

I really don't know whether the 504 will be enough for kiddo. Some days he's great. Other days, he head-butts his nanny at the pool. Or repeatedly runs off through the fields while we're blueberry picking, then takes off toward the entrance of the farm -- as in, toward the road -- because there's a sprinkler on out there and he's hot, thus encouraging kiddette to run too -- right into the parking lot. (Sometimes the biggest problem is that kiddette does everything her brother does. It's like having two kids with ADHD. And they're both surprisingly fast.)

He's definitely smart, and notices things. Last week, we were a little late for OT because a traffic light was out on our regular route, and we had to crawl through a detour. Yesterday, he not only remembered we'd been delayed, but he remembered the exact light that had been out, and he cheered when he saw it was working again.

I did check in with the school about the Brigance screenings -- the administrator who'd run the test called back within hours (they always return calls at this school, which strikes me as a good sign) and gave me a category breakdown of how he'd done. Turns out he'd done pretty well. Scored high on colors, syntax and numbers -- she asked him to count to 30 and he went to 41. (I've gotten him to go to 100, actually.) His visual motor skills are a little off -- he had trouble tracing shapes. And he didn't always know the proper names for things. She suggested working with him on word play and helping him practice writing. She also said he was friendly and enthusiastic.

I think he'll be able to learn at school. If he can sit still long enough to do it. And if he doesn't get, let's say oppositional with the teacher. Or the other kids. Or anybody else.

So I'll keep studying up and we'll see how things go.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

ADHD: Celebrity edition

Because I find it reassuring that there are people who have grown up with the disorder, with or without being diagnosed, with or without going on meds, who become incredibly successful adults. Also, my suspicion is ADHDers are almost naturally drawn toward the arts and entertainment fields, because they tend to be so creative and crave attention, and because a 9-to-5 TPS Reports office job is not going to appeal to them. So here is the absolute beginnings of a comprehensive list of which celebs have it.

I tried to find interviews with said celebs in which they acknowledged having ADD/ADHD, but in some cases that wasn't possible -- just a lot of blogs name-checking each other's posts saying that so-and-so has it. Robin Williams, for instance: I couldn't find a single legit article saying definitively that he has it (I'll keep checking), but I found a whole lot of people who think he has it because he's so off the wall in stand-up and in interviews. I agree it's entirely possible -- yeah, I've seen his stand-up too -- but I kind of want him to say so himself.

A few names below come from an article in ADDitude magazine, which is a pretty useful resource, but then I couldn't find any corroborating articles elsewhere, so in a couple cases, this is the only source. Just FYI.

Disclaimer: Just because I include someone on this list does not mean I .. 1. like their music; 2. agree with their politics; 3. follow their team.

So here we go, in alphabetical order:

Glenn Beck: You know him, you love him ... or you hate him intensely. Either way, he's got it, and managed to build himself a bit of a media empire, so that's something. Here's the transcript of an interview with Ty Pennington a few years back in which they both discuss their ADD issues and medications. (More on Ty below.)

Terry Bradshaw: As in, the four-time Super Bowl champ. He goes into his ADD a little bit in this article, which yes, I realize is on the 700 Club website, but it's the best I found.

Russell Brand: Currently famous for breaking Katy Perry's heart, but he is a pretty big-deal comedian/author back in the U.K. Also, he was funny in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," so there you have it. Unfortunately, the only mention of his ADD I found was this review of his new talk show, which you'll notice is less than positive. Sorry, Russell.

Sir Richard Branson: Per ADDitude and nowhere else definitive, although Mr. Virgin Airlines does talk about growing up dyslexic in this clip.

 James Carville: Per ADDitude, and apparently he also said so on CNN, although I can't find the clip. Super-Dem strategist and pundit, credited with getting Bill Clinton elected, and notable for his marriage to Republican strategist Mary Matalin, which I mention because I did kind of like the movie "Speechless," which was sort-of kind-of allegedly not at all based on their relationship.

Scott Eyre: The MLB pitcher -- most recently on the Phillies -- was diagnosed while he was playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, and he's made a point of speaking out about it to help other kids. Interview here.

Adam Levine: Probably the most notable right now, because he's everywhere, and also Maroon 5 has a new album, and he's been doing PSAs for "The Own It Project" (, which is supposed to encourage adults who think they still have ADHD to take control of it. Basic info on it is here, and here he talks about what it was like to grow up with ADHD.

Howie Mandel: And OCD too, apparently. The actor/comedian/game show host/"America's Got Talent" judge is pretty open about it, I think to his credit. He talks about it here and in this clip from "Ellen."

Jamie Oliver: Per ADDitude. And I already think he's awesome for trying to make school lunches healthier.

Ty Pennington: Sorry about "The Revolution," Ty, but thanks for being so willing to talk about growing up with ADHD in, for instance, this article and this ABC News interview.

Michael Phelps: Mr. Mega Olympic Swimmer is making a pretty good case for my kid's swimming lessons. He told the New York Times about how swimming helped him find himself.

Britney Spears: *Sigh.* I'm inclined to argue that she's not helping the cause, but let's see how she does on "The X Factor." Anyway, this is per an anonymous source, so ... grain of salt? 

Justin Timberlake: Yet another grain of salt, because the only article I can find in which he says he has it is this one from Collider, and it's one sentence about him having ADD and OCD, and then a whole bunch of quotes about "The Love Guru," which I refuse to believe people were actually interested in even when it did come out. Every other mention is other websites citing this article, and then saying snarky things about Justin Timberlake. Memo to bloggers: I don't think he cares if you hate him.

Andres Torres: Not only does the Mets player (born in NJ!) speak out about his struggles, and how he improved as a ballplayer after he started actively managing his condition, but there's a documentary in the works about him and how he's an inspiration to others. See here for an interview and here for a preview of the film.

Shane Victorino: And we're back to the Phillies. He's also been speaking out about it, for instance here, as part of the same campaign as Adam Levine. Here's his PSA.

I'll add more names as I find them, should any more be findable. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mr. Personality

Kiddo has his problems but friendliness is not one of them. His nanny has been taking him to the pool practically every day, and since this is apparently where all the SAHMs are hanging out with their kids, he's met all the kids his age in the neighborhood. They've become buds. He even crashed a birthday party there last week. The mom said, "Oh, I should've invited him!" and offered him cake and ice cream.

I'm very glad for this, because at least some of those kids should be in kindergarten with him come September, and because repeated social interactions are part of what he needs to work on (he's roughhorsed a few times and gotten busted by the lifeguard), and because we're paying pool dues so someone ought to be taking advantage.

He's also in a group session now at OT, with a few other boys more or less his age, the idea being to get them all working on social interactions as well as the other tasks. I don't entirely know what they're doing in there, except I hear a lot of giggling and running and occasionally a thud into the waiting room door. His therapist says he's been showing good listening skills and has been pretty good about transitioning to different tasks. Of course, the session just gets him wound up, not tired out (he's the Energizer bunny in shorts and Lightning McQueen sneakers), so after the session yesterday, he and another boy from his group were still goofing around in the waiting room, and then kiddo pulled a classic wrestling move on him and knocked him over. Which didn't seem to bother the other boy in the slightest, but it bothered me a little. (Also: Where did he learn that? Seriously, he looked like The Rock for a second.) And then he ran out into the hallway while I was still talking to his therapist, which he does after every session, and then I have to give chase. So you could say the impulsivity is still there. Next time I'm just telling the therapist to text me and I'm hauling him out of there.

But no matter where we are, he thinks he's among friends. We get lunch together after the group sessions, because they end at lunchtime and the facility is a good 35-minute trip from home. He gets a grilled cheese sandwich; I get a salad. Yesterday we were sitting next to another family, a mom, two boys and (I assume) their grandma. And kiddo turned to them and just started talking. About why they'd been speaking Spanish (he seems to think it's just a fun language you hear on "Dora" and not one people actually speak). About his lunch. About my lunch. About his toy school bus. One of the other boys chimed in about his toys. Then they started trying to make each other laugh. They made funny faces at each other. Kiddo leaned back in his seat and bicycled his legs near his face. They made weird sounds at each other and laughed hysterically. The other mom and I kept looking at each other and grinning.

It did get to be a bit much when kiddo and the other boy started chasing each other around the chairs. But at least lunch was about over.

I'm beginning to worry that we have a Class Clown on our hands. But that's probably what happens when two smartasses marry. (Serves us right, in other words.)

The real issue is that he gets all worked up by the attention and takes whatever he's doing a half-step too far, and gets in trouble. But we'll see what happens in September, I guess.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Overdiagnose this!

So The Atlantic had an interesting article out the other day titled "Are You Listening? Your Child May Not Actually Have ADHD." First of all, ha ha ha, laugh riot of a headline. What do they title an article about blindness -- "Hey, Look At This"?

The point of the article is that, per the FDA, prescriptions for ADHD medications jumped 43 percent from 2002 to 2010, but a recent Penn State study of 1,473 ADHD, autistic and neurotypical kids found that the kids scored roughly the same on a diagnostic test as kids from 1983. Ergo ipso facto etc., the number of kids with ADHD is the same as in 1983 (their baseline info), so the soaring meds rate must be because ADHD is overdiagnosed. The end.

OK, really, one study? One study that didn't even just focus on ADHD kids? That used precisely one diagnostic test as the basis for its conclusion?

Hey, I'm perfectly willing to believe that there were just as many ADHD kids in 1983 as now. Except back then they were called troublemakers, problem kids, bad seeds or stupid, and were either kicked out of school or just failed out. I went through the public school system, and believe me, if you're at all different or quirky, if you have trouble learning the slightest thing in the standard pre-approved way, you get trashed for it, or you get ignored, or you fail. And for the record, I was a "gifted" kid in honors classes.

I didn't know any kids with ADHD growing up. But I did know kids who were smart and creative but struggled anyway, who were great in all classes but one, or who did the homework and learned the material but froze at test time and failed. And if anyone with an ounce of expertise had bothered to really look at these kids, maybe they would have seen something that explained the problem, and could have helped improve things. But hey, easier to write the kids off as stupid, right?

The article also says: "For one thing, it's become one of the world's most overdiagnosed diseases, increasing by an average 5.5 percent a year in the United States. There's no comprehensive clinical test for ADD and ADHD -- usually, doctors simply assess the disorder by intuition and rules of thumb."

Uh, no?  We went through a whole series of tests the first time we brought kiddo to the hospital, observing his motor skills, his problem-solving skills, his ability to transition, checking his reflexes and his hearing and his ability to make eye contact, in addition to the questionnaires his teachers and we had to fill out about specific behaviors. And then we did the questionnaires again the next year when his behaviors had gotten worse. I don't think the neurologist was diagnosing him by "intuition."

The writer's basis for that comment is an Atlantic article from April, titled "Study: Why Attention Deficit Disorder Is Over-Diagnosed." (Oh, and nice stock photo of a stoned-looking kid they used to illustrate it.) Seems a university study of 473 psychotherapists/psychiatrists in Germany determined that they were making ADHD diagnoses even though most of the "case vignettes" they were given didn't meet the diagnostic criteria. Says the article, "Many mental health practitioners seem to proceed heuristically and base their decisions on unclear rules of thumb."

So if I'm reading this correctly ... these doctors were given a piece of paper describing a mythical child's alleged symptoms, told to make a diagnosis, then knocked for diagnosing something that wasn't there?

Come on, my pediatrician won't even diagnose my kid with a cold unless I physically bring him in.
I'm sorry, but I don't buy this. These studies don't seem comprehensive to me. Not enough people participating, not enough variables taken into account. Way too skimpy to make sweeping conclusions like "ADHD is overdiagnosed!"

And I wouldn't get so worked up about it except I've heard "ADHD is overdiagnosed!" from a few people myself, usually in the context of "The teachers don't know how to discipline anymore and they just want the kids on meds to shut them up!" And I feel like the corollary to that is "The parents don't know how to discipline anymore and they're throwing a pill at the problem!"

Yeah? Here's the thing. My son has ADHD and he isn't on meds. Maybe he'll need them in the future, in which case we'll deal with it then. But clearly the automatic assumption with people is, ADHD = drugs. And then the next assumption is, ADHD drugs = zombie  children. And because I know some kids who are on meds, I know that isn't true either. The meds are supposed to focus them, not brainwash them.

I never like it when people make assumptions about things based on their own biases. I especially don't like it when it involves my son.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Good news, and maybe good news

Week 1 of Operation Nanny was a success. She's a sweetheart and she keeps him incredibly active -- they're basically living on the playground. She tired him out so much on the first day, in fact, that his OT ended the session early, on account of he was too wiped to do the exercises properly. We're a little in awe, because we can't remember the last time anyone tired him out (or outlasted him, for that matter).

So this does seem to have been the right move. He even still seems excited about kindergarten in the fall.

The bad part is that kiddette has figured out what's going on and appears to be jealous of her brother, because man is she acting up at school. She's pinching people. She's disobedient. She's giving teachers the Look of Death.

I'll explain: All of the women in my family can do the Look of Death (as DH calls it). It is a seethingly baleful glare that says, "Don't mess with me or I will destroy you." It is an especially intimidating look and I have occasionally found it useful. (No, not on DH. I wouldn't, and he's immune.) I expected kiddette to develop the look at some point, it being part of her heritage and all. I don't quite think I was expecting her to develop it at age 2. Umm ... hooray, she's a fast learner?

Admittedly, that look coming from a toddler is actually a little funny.

Anyway, her teachers find the look off-putting. One of them decided to give her a look right back. There was a stare-down. I kind of wish someone had taken video of this. I keep picturing it like a showdown at the OK Corral, with some Ennio Morricone whistle-twang music in the background. Fortunately, perhaps, for all of us, kiddette quit first and looked away.

I just can't wait until that child is 14. Oh, the slammed doors and the stomping feet and the teenage Look of Death, which will not be nearly as cute as the toddler version.

Aside from that, we got the test results back from the Brigance screening the district did a few weeks ago. Nothing incredibly detailed -- just the final score. The letter notes that they assessed for "reporting and printing personal data, gross and visual motor skills, counting, number readiness and uppercase letter identification," as well as checking for "handedness, pencil grasps, hearing and speaking." The categories were Partially Proficient, Proficient and Advanced Proficient. Advanced Proficient was a score of 80 and up for his age group; kiddo got an 85.5.

Well, OK. We knew he was smart. Because even if we hadn't figured that one out for ourselves, every single doctor or therapist he's ever been to has made a point of telling us that. It's nice to see that the testing reflected as much ...

Except that sometimes, per my research, districts will say to parents of an ADHD child, "But your child is smart. He doesn't need any special services." Completely overlooking the fact that ADHD kids tend to be very smart and creative. Their problems lie elsewhere.

Also, no breakdown by individual score means I don't know if he was doing well across the board, or if he was great during some parts of the assessment and entirely blew it on others. The highs and the lows could have averaged out to a good score, hiding the fact that there were any lows. Meaning there could be something he's not good at that he doesn't get help for, because hey, the final score was good, right? No problems here.  (This is also per my research.)

So I will probably call the school and ask if they have the full breakdown, and they will probably think I am crazy for complaining about a good score. C'est la vie.

In closing, I'd like to wish DH a Happy Father's Day, even though I think he's afraid to read this blog, because he's a wonderful husband and daddy and he's willing to do the grilling today when Grandma and Grandpa come up to visit. (His grill; I don't touch it.) I hope he has a lovely day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Leaving school

At least temporarily. Kiddo's last day for the summer was Friday. Tomorrow a nanny will start. She's getting her degree in occupational therapy, she's interned at his OT facility, she's home for the summer and she seems good with kids. Kiddette even took right to her, and kiddette takes right to nobody. Normally she studies unknown people, poker-faced, until she's decided the person meets with her approval, but this time she was practically climbing into the girl's lap.

The nanny said she could work with kiddo on physical things and suggested she could check in with her sister (a teacher) on classwork to use. But mainly what I want is for kiddo to get a break. Because I'm sick of this scene:

ME: OK, kiddo, time to get up.

KIDDO: Where are we going?

ME: School.

KIDDO: Nooooooooo! I don't want to!!!! Can we go somewhere else first? Can I stay home?

It's a nice enough school, where he's been going. If kiddo were, as they say, "neurotypical," I think things would be fine. (Kiddette, in fact, is doing perfectly well there and will keep attending.) But he's not. And they just flat out don't know what to do with him. And when I make suggestions, they either don't have the staff to do it, need approval from corporate or don't do it consistently, across the board, and then it doesn't work.

For instance, the star chart, which someone there threw out after a week because they didn't think it was working. And never told us (or the director, apparently). So we spent most of the next week reminding kiddo to get more stars on his chart, and he kept telling us it had been thrown in the garbage, and we didn't believe him.

Eventually, we brought in our own dry-erase chart for him. But even still I don't know that it was being used properly, or consistently. What makes me think that? A couple weeks ago, kiddo was being spoken to about the chart, and he went up to it and erased the whole thing.

We started giving him an extra blankie to bring to school as sort of a comfort item, so he could have it when he needed to calm down. After he had some sort of spectacular meltdown at school one day, he explained to us that he'd asked the teacher for his blankie and the teacher said no. Could he have made that up? Sure. But we'd also been sending small toys and books in his backpack to use if he got enough stars that day; it's plausible that someone might have mistaken the blankie for just another prize, instead of something he could have whenever he wanted.

He was hitting teachers. Pulling their hair. Kicking them. Running around the classroom, not listening. Refusing to do classwork. All this while we were seeing improved behavior at home, in public, around relatives -- basically everywhere else except school.

And here's the bottom line: As I say, it's a nice school. They really made the extra effort to teach him to write, and he more or less can now, and I appreciate that. But what we really need for him is day care. Because we both work. I'd almost rather blow off the "school" portion and just focus on the day care. Otherwise, he's going to enter kindergarten in September already hating school and hating classwork and refusing to do things and hitting people, and we can't have that. I've read online other parents' accounts of their ADHD kids having school troubles, and a lot of what they describe seems eerily similar to what we've been dealing with, and these other kids are way older than 5.

 What everyone involved needs is a break. Before kiddo actually becomes the bad kid he's probably being seen as.

We did reserve his spot there for September, because kindergarten is half-day, and they do aftercare. I'm hoping by then we'll have made some sort of progress, and the break will have made a difference.

Because he shouldn't be flipping out this much about going to school when he's 5. Just no.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kindergarten: The preview

So our district does something called Countdown to Kindergarten, in which the kiddies get an hourlong tour of the school and the classrooms, get to ride a school bus (the first week) and get to have a peanut-free snack with the kindergarten kids (the second week). This seemed like a good thing, so I signed kiddo up.

Incidentally: I am totally in favor of kids with peanut allergies not dying, but planning lunches and snacks around said allergies can be frustrating. In that kiddo is supposed to be getting more protein, and nuts and peanut butter are among the few types of protein he'll willingly eat. If I could get the kid to like a turkey and Swiss on whole wheat, it would be less of a pain. Also (said the school nurse at orientation) you can't bring cupcakes or cookies or whatever to the school unless you can vouch for every single ingredient in them, and you're supposed to call ahead 48 hours before you're planning on bringing in the whatever so that they can pull the allergy records for the class and see what you need to watch for. Lemon ice is always fine, apparently.

If it seems like parents are more neurotic than they were a generation ago, it's because most parents a generation ago could give their kids PBnJs for lunch -- or bring in cupcakes for the kid's birthday -- without worrying about accidentally killing another kid. Just saying.

The night before Countdown, I lay awake and worried. Because of the school bus. Kiddo has had a tendency to run in front of vehicles lately. I imagined him getting away from the coordinator, running circles around the bus, the driver not noticing ...

He was of course thrilled to be going to the big school, and while we were waiting in the office with his usual security-blanket Matchbox car, another little boy came in with his mom, and while the other mom (nice) and I chatted, the two of them instantly bonded over the car, rolling back and forth to each other across the floor (until they started to throw it to each other and then I had to step in).

The coordinator turned out to be a PTA member who's been doing this program for years. I quietly explained to her that I knew parents weren't supposed to stick around, but that my son has ADHD and is liable to run, especially around buses. She said no problem, we'll keep an eye on him. And then promptly made him the line leader, so he would stay right in front and they'd know exactly where he was. Smart. He was delighted to be line leader, even if he didn't know what it meant.

They all trooped off, I ran errands for an hour, I came back, he was fine. The coordinator explained to me that her teenage son has it too, so she knew how to handle it. The more I talk to people, the more ADHD kids I find. Just never kiddo's age, I guess.

Week #2 was less dramatic. I packed an apple and a yogurt smoothie and sent him off. He was line leader again, and he had a good time. 

So at least we know he can handle kindergarten for an hour at a time, right?

They also did kindergarten screenings last week -- apparently this is new. They use the Brigance program to see if kids are gifted or have learning disabilities, or anything else they should worry about, and then the results help them determine the makeup of the classes as well as whether any kids are going to need extra help in anything in September. It seems like a good idea to me, but then we already know our kid needs help (and I remind every school official I meet that he's already approved for a 504. Because I am that mom). I'm genuinely curious to see what the test comes up with. The parents had to wait in the lobby while the kids were tested, so I can't say what they were doing, but the survey we were asked to fill out had questions like, "Does your child know his first and last name? Can he stand on one foot? Can he count to 10? 20? 30? Can he play well with other children?" That sort of thing. Basic knowledge, basic social skills. They'll send us the results. The official running the testing did say he'd done well, and seemed to find him quite charming, as many adults do.

Of course, he's always charming when he's meeting new people or something interesting is going on. Less so when he's bored, upset or being asked to do schoolwork.

I think the next thing we're supposed to worry about is buying all the supplies on the checklist, but I am so waiting until August on that one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The gym doctors

That's what kiddo calls his occupational therapists. (His behavioral therapist is known as "the talking doctor," or "the doctor with the play room and the three cars"). I can understand it, considering the facility is about the coolest looking kiddie gym I've ever seen -- and I've been to a few kiddie birthday parties at this point so that's saying something. There's a rope swing hanging from the ceiling. There are giant pillow-type things you can climb on. There's a mini ball pit. There's a separate room with a rope ladder leading to a series of room-length hammocks that you are meant to climb into and out of. There's a fabric swing also hanging from the ceiling that looks a little like a giant kangaroo pouch, and when kiddo nestles in it, only his face peers out. All the floors are padded, and shoes are not allowed.

He goes twice a week now. They're working on strengthening his core, and teaching him to breathe properly, and helping him with fine motor skills. He loves it. Hell, I'd love it. I keep wondering whether I can get some occupational therapy too. By which I mean the rope swing.

Here's the routine: We hang out in the waiting room for 40 minutes or so while he does his thing with his therapist (he has a different one for each day; they're both quite nice), then for the last 10 minutes or so, the therapist brings us in to discuss his progress and also so any younger siblings can play on the equipment too. Which is why when I ran in at the end of the last session, having come from work, I found kiddette and kiddo both clambering through the giant hammocks, giggling madly.

Generally the parents don't talk to each other in the waiting room. I'm not sure if this is customary. Do people not want to discuss with anyone what their kid has? Or would they just rather check email than chitchat? I bring a book. Sometimes another parent and I will smile at each other if our kids are socializing post-session.

By which I mean, if my kid is being his normal self. It's both adorable and a little exasperating that he thinks every single other person on the planet should be his friend. The last time I brought him to the playground, he kept sidling up to the teenagers shooting hoops so he could tell them all about his jump rope skills. The teens were pretty good-humored about it, but still. I tried explaining to him that those kids were way too old for him, and then he would manage to jump-rope their way again.

So whenever we go to therapy, if we happen to be riding up in the elevator with another family, he will promptly adopt that family and tell them all about what the elevator does and who he is and what he's doing there and he'll run down the hall with the other kid and explain to the kid how to open the door to the facility and then they'll run around the waiting room together and etc.

I swear, he's either going to be a politician or an actor. Or maybe a tour guide.

His therapists -- sorry, gym doctors -- have suggested some simple things we can do with him at home, like blowing bubbles or drinking a smoothie through a straw, to help him with his breath. Turns out he loves yogurt smoothies. They also suggested letting him use a straw to blow bubbles during bathtime. That was quite a hit.

They've noted that he likes to burrow under things, or wrap himself in things, and say that helps him ground himself and we should encourage it. So if he's sitting on the couch, we surround him with couch cushions and put a blanket over the whole thing. He seems to like that.

Also, exercise is good (obviously). So most mornings, we do push-ups, then a few yoga poses. He likes Warrior One. I want extra credit for doing all these things while already dressed in my work outfits, which are not push-up friendly.

The gym doctors keep saying he's doing great and that this will help him improve his behaviors. We'll see, I guess. At least he's enjoying himself.