Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So far so good

On the weather, I mean. No signs of any superstorms. Or snowpacalypses. There is a pretty good chance of rain this week, but do you think for a second that kids are going to let a little rain stop them? Oh no. They'll trick or treat under umbrellas. They'll wear rain galoshes over their superhero boots. They'll talk their parents into driving them from house to house. (Note: We would never do this.) We are 0 for 2 on actually getting to celebrate Halloween on Halloween, instead of sitting in the dark/sitting in a storm shelter/sitting on an hour-long gas line/sitting in a hotel room because we can't stay in our house. We will not be denied. We will have costume parades and trick or treating and ritual viewings of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Because we are Jersey Strong and we want candy.

I mean, unless the locusts show up.

Anyway there had better be trick or treating this year or I will end up eating all the peanut butter cups stashed in our pantry. Which, technically speaking, I probably should not do.

I am hoping that kiddo remembers to stay with his adult guide instead of seeing a group of kids going house to house and running off to join them.  I am also hoping he doesn't become so candy-crazed that he starts running across the street without looking first.

I'm hoping a lot of things with kiddo. I'm hoping he quits having meltdowns, because they seem to have reentered his regular emotional rotation. I'm hoping he quits blurting things out in class. I'm hoping he stops picking bedtime to be the time he hyperfocuses on his Legos and can't be budged for any reason whatsoever.

There have been some frustrating moments the past couple weeks, let's say.

But whatever. It's Halloween. Since we have the option, apparently, for the first time in three years, I want the kids to have fun on Halloween. Parades and candy and everything.
And we're guaranteed to not even get through a third of the candy because DH and I are pretty strict on treats, but the point is the acquisition, isn't it?

So, Happy Halloween to you, and may there be no snowstorms or superstorms or locusts. And kiddo ... well, he'll do the best he can do. Whatever his best happens to be. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Arguing the hypothesis

Kiddo was supposed to be getting moving yesterday, and getting ready for karate class. Instead he was hunting down his plastic sword so he could have swordfights with, I dunno, the air? and intently trying to build a truck out of Legos. (He has a book showing different Lego creations you can make, and he seems to regard it the way I do a recipe book -- as useful source material.) He didn't want to put his uniform on, he didn't want to pick out a change of clothes for after class, and the more DH and I nagged and warned him, the more stubborn and upset he got, until he went into full-on screamy meltdown mode and refused to even sit in the chair for time out. I had to take him by the shoulders and sit him down.

He calmed down after that, and after time out was done, he and I hugged and apologized to each other and he was able to get his shoes on and go. And he was giggling and goofing around like the whole thing had never happened. Typical. (Not neurotypical. But typical.)

He hasn't had a meltdown like that in a long time. Seeing one all over again reminded me that it has been a long time, and he's been better able to hold it together when asked to complete tasks. It also reminded me how horrible those meltdowns are, and how stressful to deal with, and how almost exasperating it can be to watch him having totally forgotten about it two minutes later. I almost expect scenes like that to have some sort of emotional aftereffect. Like a meltdown hangover, if you will. But no.

This morning at church (UU fellowship but "church" is fewer syllables), kiddo only kicked his legs against the pew a few extra times before I glared him into stopping. So that was fine. Generally the problem is after services, when I go downstairs to collect the kids from RE class and they're jumping around the room and stealing extra snacks from the snack table. This time, some of the other boys were goofing around on bongos (yes, bongos. Just go with it) and cracking silly jokes, and kiddo found this all so hilarious that he went into extra-hyper overdrive, giggling madly, bouncing around, trying to join in. Generally when he gets like that, it's Code Red for "get him out of the room before he really goes too far and hurts himself/hurts someone else/damages property." He was so wound up I practically dragged him out of the room, after several unsuccessful attempts to get him to voluntarily walk out. And then of course a well-meaning elderly lady stopped me to tell me about how when her kids -- or grandkids, I didn't really hear her -- were being just like little jumping beans, she would make them do somersaults, or something like that. I didn't really hear her because in the time it took her to stop me and tell me all about jumping beans, my kids had already run upstairs and were heading right for the parking lot. Hey thanks for the advice. You know what would've been more useful? Staying out of my way so I could more effectively keep the kids away from moving cars. Just a thought.

I mention all this as a leadup to this article in the Times, which I notice is being namechecked all over the Twitters today so people can trash ADHD as being trumped-up and fake and a big conspiracy by Big Pharma and incompetent bureaucratic schools etc. First of all, you think ADHD is fake? You take my kids to church. Second of all, that's not exactly what the article is saying.

The writer's point -- and she acknowledges up front that she has ADHD herself, which alone is some sort of breakthrough here, because generally Times stories about ADHD only talk about how college kids are OD'ing on stimulants -- is that the rise in diagnoses might be related to sociological factors as much as medical need. First of all, she notes:

Most children are given the diagnosis on the basis of a short visit with their pediatrician. In fact, the diagnosis can be as simple as prescribing Ritalin to a child and telling the parents to see if it helps improve their school performance.

Right, I agree, that's no way to diagnose. I keep harping on the fact that general practitioners shouldn't be making these calls. That's why we went to a pediatric neurologist.

The sociologists she quotes say that the policy shift making ADHD kids eligible for academic accommodations -- extra time on tests, etc. -- made the diagnosis more appealing, and linking school funds to students' test scores coincided with a jump in ADHD diagnoses in some states. 

Well, my kids are going to have to take standardized tests no matter what I think of them, so I won't go into that now. I can only speak for myself here: I didn't push to have kiddo evaluated so he would get better grades. I pushed because he couldn't function at school and he couldn't function at home. I pushed because the screamy fit he had yesterday used to be an everyday occurrence, and just being around him was mentally exhausting. Stick that on your standardized test.

A psychiatry professor she quotes offers this:

Schools used to punish kids who wouldn’t sit still. Today we tend to see those kids as needing therapy and medicine. When people don’t fit in, we react by giving their behavior a label, either medicalizing it, criminalizing it or moralizing it ...

Oh, if only kiddo's entire problem had been sitting still in class.

The problem with this article -- and don't get me wrong, I think it's generally a well-written, well-researched article -- is that it operates on several assumptions. One, that all kids diagnosed with ADHD automatically get fed stimulants. There are, in fact, no hard numbers in the article about how many of those kids actually do take stimulants. Some families can and do operate without them. Two, that the only ways ADHD shows up are in academic underachievement and fidgeting in the classroom. This completely leaves out issues like 1. inability to read social cues, 2. no understanding of "personal space" (really a subset of 1), 3. lack of "executive function" skills, 4. delayed behavioral/emotional development, 5. delayed motor skills, 6. hyperfocus (granted hyperfocus can be a bit of a plus sometimes). And none of this touches on frequently co-occurring (or "comorbid") disorders like Asperger's, Tourette's, dyslexia/dyspraxia or OCD/anxiety disorders.  

Are there not-incredibly-educated authority figures out there looking for a quick-fix solution, or a way to game a funding system? Let's say it wouldn't surprise me. But I don't think that should take away from the fact that ADHD is real and there is genetic evidence to support that (as the writer says, early on). Unfortunately, all that the commenters on this article seem to have gotten out of the article is that kids today watch too much TV and eat too much sugar and never ever play outside, and that's the whole goshdarn problem.

Oh yeah? Kiddo gets restricted screen time and loves playing outside every chance he gets. (Like today, when we were on the playground for an hour.) As for the diet ...

Me: "Hey, sweetie, we're going to have chef salad for dinner this week."

Kiddo: "Yay!"

And yet he still has ADHD. How about that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The down and the up

So for a while I was posting on ADDitude's message boards, seeking other moms/kids/etc. dealing with ADHD, looking for the same answers we were, maybe looking for fellowship and a place to vent. And it worked -- that's how I and the other ADHD moms in our little informal group found each other. They're awesome women and all our respective kids are doing pretty well in school right now.

The thread I was posting on is still up there, and that's how another poster found me, an adult with ADHD. They asked about our group, I explained that we're all moms of ADHD kids, but that certainly we're available for anyone to vent or commiserate. The person wrote back explaining that what they really needed was a support group, because their professional and personal lives were in shambles, and they didn't know what to do anymore. (Note I'm leaving most details out, to respect the person's privacy.) I felt awful. Advise a fellow mom about the benefits of a 504 plan? That I can do. Help an adult who's got way more hand-on experience with ADHD than I will ever have? There I'm out of my depth. The person wasn't really interested in talking further, but I offered the name of my old therapist, who deals with a lot of ADHD adults, and I wished them luck. Which I think was about the limit of my usefulness.

My therapist had always said that adults with ADHD, the more severe cases, can't handle money, can't hold down a job, can't maintain relationships. What are they supposed to do? Who helps them? And what if that's my son in 30 years?

On the other hand, I was poking around the Interwebs and I found this, written by a TV documentary filmmaker in the U.K. He realized late in life that he probably had ADHD, but decided it was a gift, not a curse, because it gave him endless energy and the ability to mega-multitask.

He says:

By the age of 26, I had directed 26 plays, two operas and two TV dramas.
Then I switched to being a documentary film-maker and have made more than 130 films and studio dramas as director, producer, series producer and now executive producer.
Last year I executive-produced 13 films, and am responsible for nine so far this year.
In my 50s, I also became a writer - three books and hundreds of articles so far.

(I'm tired just reading that.)

He adds:

So I hope the parents and teachers of children with these problems, and those who have suffered from ADHD, will see beyond its drawbacks to a future of excitement and creativity if sufferers are given the chance to learn how to use their energy positively.

Well, thank you, Mr. Graef. I hope you're right. I hope we figure out how to channel kiddo's energy and hyperfocus in the right way. I hope we all don't fail this generation of ADHD kids. And I hope my ADDitude correspondent finds whatever they need to get through. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's ADHD Awareness Month ...

But since it's also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think people are probably not clamoring to be more aware of ADHD. There's only so much awareness to go around.
OK, I did find this funny.

I'm just not sure what ADHD Awareness Month is supposed to accomplish, and I think that's why I find it a little frustrating. (Also, I could swear it was just a week last year?) You're not going to cure ADHD. Frankly I'm not sure you should. There are a lot of upsides to it -- creativity, energy, hyperfocus. The ability to multitask, since an ADHDer would be doing 15 things at once anyway. Hypersensitivity to what others are saying and thinking can be damaging, but it can also lead to a sense of empathy for others, and an increased ability to "read the room" and figure out how everyone is feeling or thinking. I've seen this in action with kiddo; if someone else is upset, he's upset. That sense of empathy would be useful in all sorts of professions, and I think it makes him a better person. Getting kiddo to adulthood is going to be, at times, challenging, but I think it's going to be a rewarding effort, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Basically, looking at the official website, it looks like the way to raise awareness is to assume the defensive crouch and say "ADHD is real and stop calling me a lousy parent!" over and over until someone believes you. The listed events appear to be talk radio shows or seminars for people who are already dealing with ADHD, which is great, but it's not raising awareness. (That is what is known in political punditry as "the echo chamber.") Here are some of the site's suggestions for what you can do:

  • Contact organizations in your community to recognize and hold ADHD Awareness Month activities. 
(An activity is not telling people to hold an activity.)

  • Contact a State Legislator to have your State declare ADHD Awareness Month. (Google: ”yourstatename legislature”).
(Right, our politicians have absolutely nothing else going on right now.)

  • Arrange for a local library or community center display on ADHD.
 (OK, that one actually sounds useful.)
  • Do not feel limited to the month of October. Keep spreading the word and holding activities throughout the month of October.
(Guys, proofreading?)

I know I'm just bomb-throwing over here, but it's out of a certain amount of frustration. The years change and the conversation remains the same, and no matter what this website says, there are still going to be people who think ADHD is bogus, and they will say so in online comments on every single news story about ADHD. If you want to raise awareness -- really raise awareness -- you have to do more than put up a website. I'm just saying.

But *sigh* tell you what, I'll do my part. Here goes:

Yes, ADHD is real. No, my kid doesn't eat too much sugar. Yes, he likes fruits and vegetables. Yes, he also likes playing outside. No, he does not watch too much TV. Or spend too much time on the computer. Or have his own cellphone. No, just telling him to try harder does not work. Neither does spanking. No, the point of medicating is not to create little kiddie zombies. Or to help college kids ace their exams. Yes, medicating is sometimes necessary, not so the child gets good grades but so the child (or adult) can function. No, I do not care what your third cousin twice removed who read a magazine once says causes ADHD, unless your third cousin twice removed is a pediatric neurologist. And finally: No, I'm not a lousy parent. Thank you and good night.