Sunday, November 28, 2010

Favourite Fidgets

Being Sunday night and I'm thinking about getting back to school tomorrow, I got thinking about my class.  In my class I have a few students who are diagnosed ADHD already and I few more that I think may be in the near future.  I have tried many different types of fidget toys in my room to try to help students stay focused while getting in their movement at the same time.  Here are a few of my favourites...
  • A wiggle cushion, OK that's just what I call it.  There are many different brand names of them, but they are essentially all the same.  They are air filled rubbery seat cushions for students to sit on.  My daughters first tried sitting on yoga balls as their classroom chairs.  While this worked incredibly well, their obnoxious classmates took to trying to kick it out from under them.  The wiggle cushions are more inconspicuous, but provide the same movement while sitting! 
  • A jumpsy rope.  You remember, when we knotted all the rubber bands together to make the big stretchy jumpsy rope?  Well I knot together thick rubber bands.  I make it just big enough to wrap around the front two legs of the students chairs.  The first time I made them I assumed that students would keep it behind their legs to kick their feet against it.  However, the majority of the kids decided to put their feet in between the front and back elastics, then they could swing their legs forward or backward with resistance either way.
  • Silly bands!  The new trend with all the kids makes a great fidget!  The kids collect them, so they seem to always have lots.  The wear them, fiddle with them, and stretch them.  This is another one that keeps their hands busy.  And, there is limit to how far they stretch as apposed to silly putty or the like that go on forever.
Well those are just a few of my faves.  Let me know if you have others. I love having new things to add to my repertoire.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I wonder if it's Connected?

I've been wondering lately about the overall perceived increase in ADHD and sensory seeking symptoms and the fact that our society has turned super safety conscious?  I teach.  I am frequently asked, "why is there so many cases of ADHD these days?"  I'm not a doctor or a researcher so I can only offer a standard, "I'm really not sure."  However, I do have a theory. 

Picture a bull at a rodeo.  Once they are harnessed and confined to a small space they become more agitated and enraged and fight harder to get out.  Once they get out and get that crazy human off their back, they start to settle down.  There are still boundaries,  but they are not imminently restrictive.  The ring allows them room to breath.

Now, picture an out-going, energetic child.  They are constantly being told, "don't do that, no you can't, you might get hurt, that's not allowed, get down..."  (are you picturing the trapped bull?)  Twenty, thirty, forty years ago kids were allowed to be rough and tumble kids.  They were allowed to play rough, climb trees, jump off things, roll and tumble, crash and bang.  If they got hurt, they learned, "oh maybe that was a little overboard." We don't let them learn that anymore.  In this day and age of suing everyone for everything, nobody thinks they are allowed to use common sense anymore.  Everyone might as well be covered in bubble wrap, so that it's not any one's fault! 

Sensory seeking and hyperactive kids never stood out this much before because everyone was allowed to play hard.  I'm not saying that we should be negligent parents and turn a blind eye to our children acting recklessly!  What I am saying is that it's our responsibility to find outlets for them to meet those vestibular and proprioceptive needs.  Helicopter parents need to give their kids some breathing space so they don't act out like caged bulls.  Let them run and jump, crash and bump in an appropriate environment.  The more you try to contain and restrict them, the more they are going to fight to get the activity they need. 

I am also not saying that these are not legitimate conditions.  I have two step girls with FASD and many ADHD symptoms and a son with ADHD and perhaps undiagnosed SPD.  They see doctors and are on medication and supplements.  I do believe in the benefits of medicating ADHD.  I have seen the astonishing results.  I do read up about everything that I can and learn as much as possible about each disorder.  But, I also let them be rough and tumble kids as often as possible.  I give them breathing space.  Consequently (I believe), they are on rather low doses of their meds. 

Here are a few of my kids favourite things:
  • slide down the (carpeted) stairs - on their butts, in their nylon sleeping bags to help them go faster (they don't get hurt, they don't hurt anything, they get to slide, bump, go fast, and laugh their butts off!)
  • TRAMPOLINE - ours is 14 feet with a big net around it, yes I let them on more than one at a time (uh oh I hope I don't sue me) because one of their favourite things to do is bring the big yoga ball on there with them (jump, bounce, bump, crash with the ball, laugh their butts off!)
  • karaoke concert - they are singing loud, acting silly, dancing, trying to break dance usually (they get to yell, head bang, roll, flip, jump, bounce, and laugh their butts off!)
  • run on my treadmill - they always want to see how fast they can go, I'm always nearby, there is a safety cord, and they always hold on (see, not negligent)
This is only a partial kids are very creative about how they burn their energy.  Luckily we have a house and a yard big enough for them.  Confinement, but plenty of room to breathe!

Now here is my disclaimer...see the irony?  I am not saying that anyone else should do these things.  I am not providing medical advice.  I have no medical training.  These are only my own humble thoughts and opinions, which are not based in any scientific research.  I have no studies to back up any of my theories.  I'm very sorry to say that the only thing I have used to support my argument is observation, old fashion logic and common sense.  I bad.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Safe Adrenaline Rushes

At Great Wolf Lodge my ADHD thrill seekers/fish can slide and swim to their hearts content!  We have been there before and I can guarantee that we will go back again.  It's big enough that we don't run out of things to do, but it's small enough that the tween girls can roam and not get lost.  My kids can expend their boundless energy from morning until night.  They (GWL) are smart enough to also provide a buffet restaurant. My family's favourite kind, not because it's all you can eat but you can pick out what you like and you don't have to wait to be served.  The only waiting is to get a table.  Even then, while waiting in the lobby, there are animatronic creatures everywhere to entertain them.  It's ADHD paradise!
The worst part is getting them to leave.  That's when the reality sets back in.  Of course, everyone was up late, so everyone is tired and grouchy today.  Lots of extra patients required today, but it was worth it and the post GWL fighting is almost over because it will soon be bedtime.  Can you read my smile coming through?
I really think that is one of our most important jobs as parents of ADHD kiddos, finding outlets for their energy.  My greatest hope is that if I find them enough creative, safe, acceptable ways to meet their thrill seeking and adventurous needs they will not need to be dangerous, reckless teenagers!  I know, my fingers are crossed too.  But a season's pass to the closest amusement park should facilitate enough adrenaline rushes that they don't need to speed their cars down a dangerous highway!  Here's hoping...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Phew, What a Week!

What a crazy week! Is there a full moon coming?  I'll have to check on that.  My week was very busy: staff meeting, eye appointments for all three kids, Casey's birthday with all the family over for dinner, hockey practice, students were off kilter this week, girls had a huge field trip to spend the day at a local college, and dinner plans tonight at my mom's!  Now, take a breath...
Tomorrow we are off to the ADHD dream destination...Great Wolf Lodge!  There is something going on at every second in every direction in every nook and cranny.  Oh my gosh!  My kids LOVE it there!  We are only going for one night, but it's totally worth it!  I'll have tons to blog about on Sunday.  I hope you all enjoy your weekends!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ideal School?

Yesterday I was reading a blog post that essentially was claiming that parents are the best advocates and experts of our own children.  Right! Of course!  Perhaps this is why school is so incredibly difficult for our ADHD and FASD children, we don't rely enough on information from the parents about their own children!

In Ontario schools, parents are involved in the IPRC process and get input into the development of their child's IEP.  Check, yep, we do that.  But, do we really allow the parents to be the experts?  I mean truly.  Or, perhaps, for the most part do teachers and administrators listen politely and nod and smile at the parents advice and then carry on with the standard, cookie cutter IEP drop box suggestions?  I dare say in most cases it's the latter.

Please hear me loud and clear, I am NOT saying this is true in all cases!!!  I have had amazing teachers that thought of accommodations for my children that I would have never come up with.  Alternatively, as a teacher I have come across parents that have not taken the time to educate themselves about their child's relative issues.  Then throw in the fact that, as teachers, we have to teach about 15 neuro-typical children (who still all progress at different rates) and about 5 more neuro-atypical children who probably all have different needs from each other.  Getting it exactly right everytime is an impossible task.

I am NOT blaming teachers for not getting it right.  I am NOT blaming parents for being uneducated.  I am saying that the current school system on the whole is inherently flawed, especially for our atypical children!!!

Parents you are the most accurate experts where your own children are concerned.  What would be the most ideal school setting for your ADHD or FASD child?  Shoot for the moon, I'm asking for pie in the sky wishes.  I'd love to hear the wish list!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

ADHD at Work

Here is what I find particularly difficult about work - people who can only think inside the box!  I mentioned in an earlier post that I believe that ADHDers are not just outside the box thinkers, they didn't even realize that there was a box.  This makes us excellent problem solvers.  I have often had colleagues comment to me that they would "never have thought of it that way", or "how do you always come up with such great ideas?"  Currently, I'm working with some very, very inside the box thinkers, they may even be trapped in there.  I find this driving me crrrrrraaaaaazzzzzyy at work. 
I think there are thousands of shades of grey.  I simply don't understand how some people can only see black or white solutions.  In fact, I'm getting to the point where it actually feels like my ideas are being devalued.  I'm feeling stifled.  Restless.  Pulled in another direction. 
I'm thinking of making a career change, very early stage thinking.  I have been both a primary teacher with a specialist in reading and a special education teacher.  I have children with FASD and ADHD.  I truly believe there is a need for small specialized schools that meet the needs of special children better than the public school system currently does.  In my location, the closest special needs classroom for primary aged children is about 90 km away.  So it's not very feasible for parents to send their children there.  The closest private school only begins at grade 7.
Some of the ideas that I'm throwing around are:
  • small class sizes (duh)
  • timetables with built in sensory diets
  • vestibular stimulation with children sitting on yoga balls or balance disks for chairs
  • tons of kinestetic learning activities
  • shorter periods, more movement, more breaks
  • education about the disorders so students have better understanding
  • etc.
I would love to have comments or feedback about how you all cope with narrow-minded coworkers.  Or, what you think about the ideas of smaller specialized schools.  Can't wait to hear your thoughts...

After a Weekend Away...

Why is it that my husband and I can't have any time away?  Wait, let me rephrase that...we can, but usually there's some kind trouble when we get back.  This is what happened when we got back and I went to my moms to pick up our kids.

Me: So how did things go?

Grandma:  Well actually Autumn has been pretty mouthy all day.  Then when I had finally had enough I told her to go to her room and she started laughing!

Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grandma: It wouldn't have been so bad if she didn't laugh in my face about it.

Me:  So Autumn what is the problem?

Autumn:  I don't know.

Me:  Well why were you being rude to Grandma?

Autumn:  I don't know.

Me:  Do you think that was a good way to show Grandma that you appreciate staying at her house and taking you and your friend to a birthday party yesterday?

Autumn:  No.

Me:  Do you think maybe you should fix the problem?

Autumn:  Yeah.

Me: Well...

Autumn:  (calling past me into the living room) Sorry Grandma.

Me:  I think you could have thought to do that before now.

Autumn:  Yeah.

Fast forward to home...about 30 minutes later.

Me: Well you are grounded in your room for the rest of the day.

Autumn:  ok

Me:  And, you need to clean it while you are in there.

Autumn:  ok

Me:  And, while you are in here you need to think about why on earth you were so rude to Grandma today.

Autumn: ok (starts to clean her room)

Fast forward two hours...

Me:  So did you think about why you were acting that way?

Autumn:  Yeah, when I went for a walk earlier, some boys were mocking me (about an incident that occurred at school earlier in the week).  I told them that it was none of their business and I didn't think they should be doing that, but it made me mad.

Me:  Did you tell Grandma that's what made you upset?

Autumn:  No, I didn't want to ruin her day.

Don't we just love the logic of our FASD kiddies?  Oh brother...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

First of all, THANK YOU to all of those who serve and have served! 
Second, I couldn't be more proud of my own children or my students today.  A Remembrance Day service, let's face it, is pretty tortuous for kiddies with impulsive and/or hyperactive tendencies.  I was so pleased to see how well they all handled it today!  Our two minutes of silence lasted at least five due to a "technical difficulty" and nobody broke it.  The placing of the wreaths lasted for about a half an hour and named veterans that almost all of my students had never heard of.  They showed patience.  I taught a lot about why we remember this week and I'm glad that they learned the seriousness of it. 
Props to my own son Casey (6 w/ADHD) while I'm at it...part way through the placing of the wreaths he leaned in my direction and mouthed to me, "how much longer?"  I whispered back to him, "do you think the soldiers in the trenches asked how much longer?"  By the look of surprise on his face I knew he understood me loud and clear.  At the end of the service many of the children were sighing with relief that it was FINALLY over.  Casey turned to them and said "at least nobody had to feel the way the soldiers felt."  They kids looked at him with the same I-never-thought-of-it-that-way look that he had given me earlier.  I love when kids get those deep, important messages!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Box?

People with ADHD can "think outside the box".  Really, what box?  I think that those of us with ADHD never even knew there was a box! I recently came across a printable poster about reasons to love your ADHD.  I thought there were lots of good points on it!  It was from the website for ADDitute Magazine.  They had a couple of different printable posters that are very light-hearted.  They have asked that the posters not be reproduced, but here is the link if you would like to check them out: 
I think that many people need to realize that ADHD is not an inherently bad thing, there are many, many positives that go along with the diagnosis.  The trick is learning to use your strengths to your advantage and coping with your weaknesses...wait a minute doesn't that describe every one's life?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Great Med Debate

My first child was diagnosed ADHD over 6 years ago now, but we also medicate or not to medicate that was the question... We already had a very structured home routine and my brother-in-law had been on Ritalin as a kid.  Therefore, my husband had many preconceived notions about it.  “No way are we medicating my kid!”
Like many others, we also tried to control the ADHD with diet.  It turned out that her triggers were dye, sugar, and dairy.  OK, so, doubled with the fact that she was already a very picky eater, it pretty much eliminated anything that she would eat.  Also, as a 7-year-old little girl, she felt absolutely deprived!  She was not wise enough to see the benefits in herself yet.  (Around age 10 she finally could.)
After about 3 month I convinced my husband to do a short trial of Concerta, two weeks.  It was brilliant!! It was our magic bullet, so to speak.  She was having terrible difficulty learning to read.  Her brain would not let her slow down to look at words carefully enough to read them.  At the end of the trial, the Special Education teacher sought me out to share her delight that reading has finally “clicked” for Courtney.  Yes, after just a two-week trial period.  My husband conceded that I might just be necessary.  After being medicated through the end of grade two and three, she actually caught up to her grade level peers!  There was no denying the success of the meds.
This is why over the years, when both of our other children were diagnosed we didn't hesitate to medicate.  We saw first hand that we did not turn our child into a "zombie", we allowed her to be her best self!  This is how I always put it to parents that ask me. (I am a grade two teacher so I do get asked a lot.)
  "You are not drugging your kid to make them sit still and be quiet.  You are medicating the disorder that does not allow them to be as successful as they might otherwise be.  You are preventing future school problems and potential failures.  You are doing your child a disservice by not at least giving them a trial of medication."
My favourite story of all in the great med debate is from when Courtney was at the beginning of grade five.  It was nearing the end of September and Courtney’s teacher was noticing that she wasn’t herself.  She had the same teacher for grade four, so I strongly trusted his judgement.  I thought that maybe it was finally time for a stronger dose of her meds.  She had been on the same dose since grade two, her initial trial dose.  I called the doctor and made the necessary changes.  The first day that Courtney came home from school on her new dose she hugged me and thanked me!!!  She said it was her best day ever!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Why is there still such stigma about ADHD?  I have seen so many parents disregard the idea that their child might have it.  Yes, developmentally children progress at different rates.  I don't think that anyone would ever dispute that.  However, if a teacher is indicating to you that your child may have further issues, don't you think they might have a clue?  They have 20 other children to compare what they see.  And, if they have been teaching for any length of time, they may have experience with hundreds of other children.  Teachers have a pretty good baseline for what is "average". 
Here is how I always explain my observations for parents.  I start by telling them what I see inside and outside of the classroom, in the most positive light possible.  Parents want to hear that their kids are trying.  If a child is consistently inattentive, I assure the parent that I know their child is not making a choice to ignore me.  It seems as though they didn't even realize that I was talking.  Kids with ADHD are not (typically) making a choice to not pay attention, their brain doesn't let them pay attention, even when they want to.  I remember that frustration!  I would be thinking so much about how I needed to start paying attention that I would still not be paying attention!! 
Also I make sure to let parents know that I'm sure that their children could be getting better grades and learning much more than they are currently.  I find that typically children with ADHD are at least of average intelligence and often above average.  However, since their school performance usually suffers from their inattention, they don't get grades and report cards that reflect how smart they are.  It's very important to parents that their kids are doing their best.  I try to impress upon parents that it would be a terrible shame if their child had a medical reason that was preventing them from doing their best.  Wouldn't you want to know if your child was physically not able to do their best?  I would!  I did!
These were the reasons that I convinced myself that my children needed to be referred to a pediatrician.  When I tell parents that, it also seems to reassure them.  I am a mom before I'm a teacher.  I understand.  I care.  I'm NOT just trying to make your kids sit still and be quiet.  I want to see all children be the very best they can be.  Mine and yours!