Friday, May 31, 2013

When ADHD kids socialize ...

... it's actually kind of wonderful, because they won't spook each other with their massive amounts of energy or their way of saying exactly the thing that's on their minds or their notion of "personal space" as merely a suggestion and not an ironclad rule.

Kiddo now has two such fellow ADHDers: his friend J., and his cousin E.

J.'s mom and I found each other through the ADDitude board for parents of ADHD kids. Turns out we each have a son with ADHD and a younger daughter, and we live pretty close to each other. In other words, instant playdate. We've gotten together a couple of times -- playing Legos at their house, playing stomp rocket at our house -- and we met up at the Fairy and Pirate Festival (where kiddette and N. proceeded to take over the bounce castle and the trampoline). Kiddo and J. had a slightly rocky start, in that kiddo's super-over-enthusiasm banged up against J.'s desire to exert total control over his environment (J. semi-near the end of a playdate: "Can we go home now?" I actually find the forthrightness a little funny). But by the second playdate they were buds, running around the house together.

Cousin E. is the son of my cousin H., whose voice of experience has been an enormous help through this whole ADHD journey. After much discussion and debate and one cancellation-by-strep-throat, we finally made the several-hour trek to visit them -- cousins H. and R., and kids E. and L. (yeah, I know the initials thing is getting silly. There's no way I can come up with nicknames for everybody) -- down South for the weekend. How'd it go? I've never seen kids who'd never met each other before decide quite so instantaneously that they were going to be friends and have the bestest of times together. (Sheesh, kiddo couldn't even wait for us to get out of the car when we got there. He ran on up to the front door and invited himself inside.) They played in the park together. They watched the Rolling Thunder motorcycle procession from the highway overpass together. They had massive giggle fits at the breakfast and dinner table together, while we parents listened in, chuckling, from the dining room. They played a rousing game of basement dodge ball together with R. -- except for L., the curly-haired little pixie, who peered over the banister to smile at me while I was taking pictures of the game. (She is so cute I can't stand it.) Kiddette and L., apparently in total solidarity, blew off their naps together. Kiddo and E. curled up on the couch together, practically on top of each other, while E. played video games. Kiddo announced to E. that he loved him.

One game they very quickly seized upon revolved around a sparkly wand thingy that they found enticing. E. announced that the wand had "the power of cuckoo!" and he and kiddo  spent much time chasing each other around to acquire the power of cuckoo from each other. Kiddo explained later that the power of cuckoo gives you the power to run really fast. Which means he's a little fuzzy on the definition of "cuckoo," but whatever.

The side benefit for me in all this, of course, is getting to bond with other moms who are dealing with the exact same things I'm dealing with. J.'s mom -- hereby known as L. -- and I almost immediately started in with "What works for you? How do you handle X? How does the school handle it? Is he on medication? What kind? Is it working for him? Are there side effects?" H. and I have been discussing such things for months, and she's helped me understand what occupational therapy is, what behavioral therapy is, etc. It's just nice to talk openly to another mom about this stuff and not have to defend or explain yourself.

And on that note, H. and I are both going to this conference in July, designed for moms of special needs kids. The first conference was held last year; I figure if it was successful enough to have a second one, it must have done well. There are going to be talks on how to successfully advocate for your child, and also spa treatments. I'm pretty psyched to go, to hang out with H. and to meet other moms, and I assume there will be wine available at some point.

So if you happen to also have a special needs child, come join us! There's no power greater than that of being understood.

... except, perhaps, for the power of cuckoo.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unicorns and fairies (and pirates)

So the letter for show and tell on Friday was U, meaning, bring in something that starts with U. I love these impossible letters. What are you supposed to do with X, if you don't own a toy xylophone? (I realize everyone probably owns a toy xylophone. It's one of those things you would not necessarily have chosen for your child but that your child ends up acquiring anyway. Like temporary tattoos.) Really I think it should be acceptable to just write the letter on a piece of paper, in marker or something, and bring that in. Kiddo decided that his letter U should be a unicorn, because he knew that I could supply one.

I had a big love for unicorns when I was a kid. (This is how it shakes out. Regular-type girls love horses. Geek girls love unicorns.) Unicorn bedsheets. Unicorn necklaces. Unicorn T-shirts. Ceramic unicorns and unicorns full of bubble bath formula. Unicorn prints on my wall. "The Last Unicorn" on VHS. Unfortunately most of that has vanished with time. What's left, mainly, is my old My Little Ponies, some of which happen to be unicorns. How they all got in my closet is beyond me. They appear to have snuck in along with the Cabbage Patch Kid.

Anyway kiddo requested a rainbow unicorn. I have no idea what prompted that -- I'm going to blame "Dora the Explorer," because he's been watching it lately, and because I can -- but it just so happens that I have one. Her name is Windy. You can see her here. There's quite a bit of devotion to My Little Pony out there.

I'm not entirely sure how many 6-year-old boys ask to bring a rainbow unicorn to school for show and tell. I don't know that rainbow unicorns exist on the same planet as most 6-year-old boys. DH did gently try to explain that this was more of a girl toy, but kiddo didn't care. Well, shrug then. I gave him the unicorn.

He was quite taken with her, except that her mane kept getting in her eyes and that bothered him. But he took her to school, and that night she acquired a space on his bed, next to Cowboy Woody and whichever Matchbox car he'd chosen for night duty. The next day he asked to swap her out for a different pony, because her hair was still in her eyes. (The '80s ponies did all have that Veronica Lake thing going on.) I gave him a different pony, and he was happy.

And the next day, we attended the Fairy and Pirate Festival. No, really. This town event started off as the Fairy Festival, but clearly this was not gender-inclusive enough so it was amended. Kiddette wore her pink fairy wings. Kiddo wore his two-year-old pirate costume. They blended right in with a sea of little girls in sparkly dresses and wings and boys in bandannas and the occasional eye patch. Some of the business folk and craft vendors manning the tents, endearingly, also wore wings. There was a "bounce castle" -- okay, no, it was a bounce house, talk about inflation -- and a big slide and a treasure hunt and games and dance demonstrations. You have not seen cute until you've seen Irish step dancers performing with wings on.

I have to say, occasionally I am puzzled at how thoroughly geek culture has gone mainstream. Adults walking around in fairy wings. Summer blockbusters riddled with superheroes. "Star Trek" movies that actually make money. Teen romance novels full of vampires and werewolves. It's all very strange. Don't people know that only geeks are supposed to like this stuff?

Now how is the next generation of geeks supposed to rebel against the mainstream? Read "Babysitters Club" novels and play Scrabble?

My point is, it's weird. But kiddo and kiddette don't care about such things. They just liked the "bounce castle." And, well, I would too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The week in ADHD news

So a study came out recently saying that the majority of pediatric specialists ignore the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for treating ADHD in preschoolers. (I learned about it here; the full story is here.) Researchers at the Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York sent out a questionnaire to 3,000 specialists nationwide. The AAP guidelines, which were revised in 2011 to extend the minimum age for diagnosis from 6 down to 4 -- in other words, the age at which kiddo was diagnosed -- say behavioral therapy should come first, with medication as more of a last resort. In other words, what we did. But more than 1 in 5 specialists said they go with the drugs first.

Sigh. Any second now I expect the NY Times to weigh in on the terrible terrible overmedication of America's youth, while once again not managing to find a single child or parent actually dealing with ADHD to interview about it.

OK, why do I think doctors (and/or parents) opt for medication first? Because it's covered by insurance. Basically the reason we haven't been back to kiddo's behavioral therapist is because she dropped our insurer, and while she offered to keep seeing him at the co-pay rate, we felt like that was more of a short-term favor. Most occupational therapy facilities (and, I have a feeling) ABA facilities don't take insurance, and after our ongoing aggravation with the OT Facility That Wouldn't Quit Billing, I can understand why. They're not equipped for that level of paperwork. So what are parents supposed to do if they can't afford to pay for therapy out of pocket? They go with what's covered.

Also, behavioral therapy is a long-term time commitment. I had to come in to work late on appointment days; kiddo occasionally missed part of kindergarten. It helped, sure, and we got some good advice on dealing with him (this is most of the point). But not everyone can make that kind of commitment.

And also, I think there is such a general lack of education out there about ADHD and other mental issues/disorders that people think the meds are what you're supposed to do. Got ADHD? Oh, well, get drugs. The other (and preferable, if you can swing them) options never come up because people don't know what they are.

I do find it troubling that doctors are just throwing medication at little kids to solve the problem. But I also think doctors will just throw medication at anything to solve any problem. Case in point: Many years ago I went to my doctor looking for help and advice about my insomnia. He rolled his eyes and gave me a prescription for Ambien. I'd actually kinda been hoping for an informed discussion about what might be causing the insomnia and what I could do about it, but sure, OK, Doc, I'll just take these meds and quit bothering you. The upshot: I took it maybe three times, didn't like it and stopped. And then I had children and insomnia basically ceased to be a problem, because when you have kids you're always tired and will never turn down an hour or 15 of sleep if you can get it.

So you want doctors to stop overmedicating kids? Great. I'm with you. But how about getting doctors to stop overmedicating the entire rest of the country while you're at it?

Bringing me (tangentially) to point number 2: This is Speak Up for Kids month, according to the Child Mind Institute in New York. (And you thought it was just Mother's Day.) The institute, which helps kids with all manner of behavioral and learning disorders (and has a pretty informative website, do check it out), runs a campaign every May to inform people about these disorders and about how kids' mental health is disregarded and underserved. I can't say they're wrong. If more people (and more doctors, apparently) really understood ADHD or autism or OCD or Tourette's or any number of other issues, they'd be better prepared to help kids who have them, wouldn't they? And maybe overmedicating would be less of an issue.

Anyway, that's my four or five cents. Now I have to get back in bed so the kids can serve me breakfast. Happy Mother's Day, all.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Status quo, maintained

I asked the school about ABA therapy, noting that our pediatrician strongly recommended it and wrote us out a prescription and everything, and also noting that I'm worried about how kiddo is going to do next year when he switches to a full day of school. The school folks are checking into it, but noted that they would have to get clearance to arrange such services for a non-IEP student.

Well, I knew that whole "he doesn't need an IEP, he's doing great academically" decision would come back to exasperate me at some point.

In all honesty, his school has done a lot for him -- classroom accommodations, OT, social skills group, regular meetings to discuss progress -- so I can't really complain. The boards on are full of parents upset that their school won't give accommodations or won't follow the 504 plan or won't discuss issues with the parents or won't even acknowledge that ADHD is a real thing, and write the kid off as lazy/stupid/badly parented. We're in a pretty good place, comparatively.

But I do think he could use the therapy. I'd rather go the extra mile now, than wait until he's really floundering and try frantically to make up for lost time.

I will say kiddo has one thing very much going for him: He's a dancing fool. We were at a first communion party yesterday, with a dance floor and a kid-friendly DJ and everything, and he basically danced the whole time, except when he was eating. It's hilarious and adorable (and in about eight years, will serve him well at school dances). Some of the other boys at the party were out in the hallway instead, tumbling around and tackling each other and throwing a ball around (and probably threatening the nice loungy furniture), and I know if kiddo had joined them he would've taken the roughhousing that half-step too far and hurt someone, or gotten in trouble -- inevitably being the only one to get in trouble, and not understanding why. So dance away, my son. Rock it Gangnam Style.

Only downside to the day, really, was the ice cream bar and the cake and the chocolate lollipops. Which were tasty, don't get me wrong. But I knew all the sugar would probably cause issues for kiddo, and I was right -- getting him out of the house this morning was a nightmare. He actually got out-and-out oppositional -- "No! I don't want to brush teeth! I want to play!" and running off -- which he hasn't done in a long time, certainly not since starting the medication. It's a conundrum, situations like that. Do I tell him he has to be the only kid in the room not eating dessert? Or do I suck it up and let him go all wonky later on? It's a lose-lose situation either way, seems like.