Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I haven't written much lately.


I can't blame it on being too busy or not having anything to say. I have plenty to say and I've seen busier times. It's just that my subject matters are older with more complicated problems that deserve a certain level of privacy.

But it's not only that. As they've gotten older, I've gotten wiser. With each new challenge, I have a bank of resolved challenges to reassure me. I used to need to talk and write about my kids' issues and my thoughts in order to process them. Now it seems I just need to be quiet and go with the flow.

Since July, when my oldest began school, we've all been on quite a journey. We've all changed, good, bad and neutral changes. My son has ADHD. There. I've said it. I no longer doubt it. I no longer fight or challenge it. I also have no need to cling to the label or use it as an excuse for apathy or defeatism. It's just a tool to help us and others help him manage his behavior. If I know what works for most kids with ADHD, we at least have a place to start. And really who cares if other people don't believe it's a real disorder? (And if you don't, I have a 6 year old I'd like to lend you for a few days.)

When he began school, I would sit in the car pool line every day with a knot in my stomach waiting for the daily verdict that is his behavior plan. Some days he'd have a horrific list of infractions, other days he'd have all smiley faces, still others would be a mixed assortment of praise and concern. Within the first three weeks of school, he'd been sent to the principal's office, been written up for being a danger to himself or others, and I'd gotten a call from the principal himself. I had to get off that roller coaster.

Things slowly got better. He responded beautifully to positive reinforcement and rewards. The rewards were something I had always steered away from because I didn't want my kid doing something just for the reward. Apparently, this is something that works very well with many ADHD kids. We developed a reward system for him based on the number of smileys he got each day on his chart. He gets one penny for every smiley he earns and nothing for a frownie. When he has 10 pennies, he can trade them in for 15 minutes of computer time or lamp time at bedtime or game time with us. He's not as vigilant or attached to the reward as he was the first half of the year. Some days he even forgets to bring his chart home.

He seems to thrive on checklists. We have several strategically placed on chalkboards throughout the house. There's the upstairs morning routine and the downstairs morning routine; the after school routine and the bedtime routine.

We also provided many crutches for him to get through tough periods of the day. At quiet time, he was allowed to listen to music with earphones. At dismissal, I had the teacher provide him with an extra snack. He has spent time on and off in alternative recess, a special, smaller recess with the resource staff to help with social skills. He no longer needs most of these things, at least not on a daily basis.    

Part of the struggle for me these past months, though, is the guilt and resentment I often feel at having a child who sucks up so much time and attention and worry. I feel the other two children get less of me and less attention and a more stressed environment. For a while, some of the energy needed to help him was wasted on the useless thought, "Dammit, why can't this kid just behave himself?"  It's not been a struggle I want to write about either; just something to sit with until it goes away. I've realized recently that it affects the other kids in as much as I attach myself to Danny's problems. I don't have to intervene every time he starts to get agitated. I can just let him whirl and if the whirling gets out of hand, I can banish him with good cause. When I can detach from his issues and make him own his behavior, I am more available to the other kids.

So we're just coasting along here. I'd like to say I'll write more. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't.