Saturday, October 05, 2013

School, Impulses and RAD/ADHD

  We have constantly been seeking out ways to help Jon heal, regulate himself, and control his impulses. Although medications can do wonderful things for a child's behavior, they only mask the underlying issues and do not fix them. Therefore we have only used meds when absolutely necessary and at times it was the only way for him to be successful in school (and for us not to force teachers into early retirement!)

  We are now completely medication free and he is doing okay. Occasionally he gets a color change at school but they are now for things like talking and playing in line. Hey, thats like a normal kid! He has been having difficulty in PE but we are working on it.

  Here are the things we have done that may or may not have had any real impact. Somehow the total of all of them have worked. No, he is not 'fixed' but he is so much better. And so much HAPPIER!

1) Black and white. There cannot be any gray areas for him. If he gets by with something once he then begins to spin out of control. It takes 1000 reinforcements to convince him that the boundaries are there.

2) Coordinate with the school. We are extremely blessed to have wonderful people in our school who truly care and want to help. This has been a true blessing. I was up at the school on Thursday when a dear PE teacher that Kaytee had since 2nd grade came and found me. It seems Jon had been very disobedient and disrespectful to her while waiting in the gym for the bell to ring. She was concerned because this was new behavior she had never seen. We had a long talk about meds and behavior and such. She was very supportive and together we came up with a plan of action. I am meeting with his teacher on Monday. I had e-mailed her a few weeks ago just to give her a little insight into him but I think she didn't quite grasp what I was saying. She just assured me that all kids need time to settle into the school year and he would be fine. She didn't even react to the fact that I had already confiscated several stolen items from him. She will not be helping him by being nice and going easy. See #1 above.

3) Therapies. We started with the traditional therapy route. Talk, talk, talk, play, act out scenes, etc. This was a total bust. He is charming and delightful around strangers and shows absolutely no sign of the extreme turmoil raging inside of him. Two different therapists told me he seemed fine. I got the feeling they thought I was trying to create issues with him for my own attention. I wish! This is when I began to think outside the box. We took him to a year of ABA (Applied Behavioral) therapy. This is an intense form of therapy often used for children with Autism. For Jon, we had them concentrate on emotions. Reading other people's emotion, reading his own emotions, and the proper reactions to those signals. Before he started he had absolutely no comprehension of facial expressions. I would be joking with him and he would burst out crying or screaming thinking I was mad. I had a light fun tone to my voice, big smile on my face, and open body position, but he saw MAD. Now he is able to read those expressions, and can even tell me what he is feeling. Amazing progress! We have done some neuro-visual therapy to re-route pathways in his brain. This has been proven to work for PTSD. There has been Hippo therapy (horse back riding) and our therapy dog Buster.

4) Supplements. I am a big believer in nutrition having an impact on whole person wellness. Research has suggested that kids with ADHD symptoms may benefit from Omega's. There is also some studies that report these kids may also be low in zinc and iron. We have begun adding these to his routine. He fights me on taking them, not because they taste bad or make his stomach hurt like the ADHD meds do, but just because he has the need to control EVERYTHING. He is very passive/aggressive about it. He will smile and take the pills, act like he swallows them, and then I find them under his chair, in the dog food, in the toilet, etc. If I stand over him and watch him and make him show me his empty mouth afterwards, he cries, chokes on them and will throw up. (He can vomit at will, a common trait in RAD kids) One other thing I found is that ADHD kids do not sleep well and are perpetually tired, leading to more behavior issues. We now use melatonin each night and he is falling asleep much faster and staying asleep.

5) Diet. This goes along with #5. I restrict the amount of processed foods he gets. I cook from scratch as much as possible to limit preservatives and additives. I pack his lunch every day (I had to lock his school lunch account because he was buying a bunch of stuff I didn't want him to have and not eating what I sent). He gets a nutritious snack every day at school, too. (Our school has a snack time for every child every day. They have realized that a child who has breakfast at 7:30 am cannot make it to lunch at noon without running out of energy) As for sugar, I don't actually limit it but I do watch what kinds of sugar he gets. Less processed and more natural sugars. Does this help? I don't know, but it makes me feel like a good Mom! LOL!

6) Discipline. Ugh. I feel like I am on him so much more than the other kids. He just requires so much more direction and external regulation. I hope this gets better because I cannot spend my life following him around and telling him what to do. I have to think way outside the box on this one. I use a lot of humor to redirect him. If he tells me No (not allowed) I will make an exaggerated face and in a super goofy voice ask him, "What did you say? I didn't quite get that?" and he will giggle and do what I asked him to do. If he starts screaming mean things at me, I place him on his bed, then stand in the other room screaming bizarre things. He screams he hates his life, so I scream I hate lima beans. He screams how mean I am, I scream how big an elephants behind is. He usually stops screaming in less than a minute and ends up smiling. Then I tease him about smiling......and he smiles bigger. When humor doesn't work, I will have him do chores for me to make up for his behavior. He actually likes this! I give him things to do and then tell him what a great helper he is, how good of a job he is doing, etc. Positive, positive, positive. Not over-the-top fake positive but sincere words. I have also been known to completely loose my shiznit and scream at him. Not proud of those moments. We do sit and talk about it afterwards. Sometimes when he pushes me that far it has a huge impact on him. On one hand he is trying his best to push me over the limit, but on the other hand it scares him a little bit. We talk about it afterwards and he and I have a bonding moment. He is like me I say. We both lose our cool sometimes and we talk about how to do things better next time.

What has worked for you? What hasn't? I have no idea if I am doing things right, but I just keep trying!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Food Allergies

  I would like to thank the Texas legislator who was so upset that his daughter could not have cupcakes at school on her birthday that he snuck in wording into a completely unrelated bill to make it LAW that kids can bring birthday treats. Yep, he deserves a great big hug from this Mama. NOT!

  You see, as the parent of a child with food allergies, I have to work really hard to protect my son. We are lucky and Ahren's allergies do not seem to be life threatening at this point, but I would kind of like to keep it that way. When they have scheduled parties at school I can prepare him and coordinate with the teachers to have things that are safe for him to eat. I have no idea when a parent might bring birthday treats for the class. The only way we can think to keep him safe is that he cannot participate at all.

  So Mr. Smartypants Legislator, your daughter can now bring whatever she likes for birthday treats, but kids like my son will have to sit and watch as everyone else gets to enjoy them. Worst case scenario is a child with allergies gets too close to or does eat the treat and ends up in the hospital or dead. There was a valid reason for changing the rules about snacks and treats. Reasons that involve life and death for some children.

  Instead, you got your undies in a bundle because your child didn't get to hand out cupcakes at school. Why didn't you just explain to her why the rules were that way? Why didn't you teach her that it's more important to keep kids safe than for her to have cupcakes? Why didn't you use this as a teachable moment to show her that it's not all about her in life, that others need to be considered? This is the most colossal parent FAIL! He failed to teach her simple humanity and is putting other kids at risk.

  I was at the school today when a Mom brought in cupcakes. Pistachio cupcakes. For a class with a child that has severe nut allergies.  No one knew what to do because it is a freakin LAW. They ended up calling the allergic child's Mom and getting permission to remove the child from the class for the last 15 minutes of the day at which time they served the cupcakes.  I suppose afterwards the teacher had to stay and clean the room really well since even brushing against a product containing nuts is dangerous to this particular child.

  It's not easy to keep kids with allergies safe. At the first class party after Ahren was diagnosed I carefully prepared him a bag of party treats that were safe for him to eat. I would have liked to have been at the party but had to work. The teacher knew everything and I trusted her completely. That night as I unpacked Ahrens backpack, I found the goodie bag untouched. I asked him what he ate at the party and he began to list off things he absolutely could not have. Turns out that the Mommy helper decided to make him a plate of food when she saw he didn't have one. She set it in front of him and told him to eat it so he did. It took 5 days before his belly stopped cramping and bloating. Now I stick a sticker on his shirt that says, "Do Not Feed Me, I have Allergies. I guess I need to put that on his shirt every day now. Maybe I can just get some shirts printed up with that.....