Sunday, April 19, 2015

running on high.

More than 18 months ago, I wrote a blog about sawyer. I really was sick of people trying to give me advice on my "strong willed child". I was sick of explaining why she did things differently, why consequences were not the same, and why when I talked about certain things, I couldn't explain how unlike other kids it was. I had known that since she was a toddler.

All through kindergarten, sawyer danced to her own beat - and that seemed okay. Soon, though, I could tell that she just wasn't learning as quickly, wasn't memorizing sight words as easily, and I started to take some notes. Redirection, moving desks, and similar things, all seemed to help for a bit while at school.

At the beginning of first grade, I wrote her teacher an email stating that I knew she was behind and to let me know if she felt anything needed to be addressed - and that I am ready for any sort of help that she needs. I told her to keep an eye on some reading problems that I saw and that was just ready to help.

Within a few months, I talked to the pediatrician and he mentioned ADHD and put her on strattera, a non-stim med. I honestly had no idea why she was put on that first. The "not a stimulant" aspect pleased me, in a way, because I was made to believe, before that, that kids who take stimulants are somehow zombies. I thought I saw improvement, but in the end, I realized that I was just being idealistic. Hoping.  She would take it at night because her stomach would hurt when she had it in the mornings - and she seemed tired. With the right dosage, I was told that it would last 24 hours - and that did not happen.

Around this same time, sawyer was moved into tutoring, during the school day a couple of times a week, which I was so excited about, honestly. Slowly, but surely, her ridiculous iStation test scores started to increase and she seemed to be doing better at school.  She has had pre-testing for dyslexia and will have the full district test within the month, and I (and our new developmental doctor) would be quite surprised if she did not qualify for the dyslexia program next year - it is such a relief to finally be getting somewhere with all of this.

But at home. sigh. There are a handful of people who have seen sawyer "in action" at home, when she is upset about something. It is not a tantrum that is redirected. It is not something you can just ignore. It is screaming at you. It is so loud and from her gut, that you want to move the other kids out of the room. It is over asking her to "pick that up off the floor".

...and this is all because of severe ADHD.

We went to a behavioral and developmental pediatrician, who specializes in all of this, to officiate some neurological tests. I wanted to make sure that we weren't oppositional-defiant or overly sensory. While sawyer exhibits some of both, it is all mostly linked to the ADHD.

I could re-write the blog that I posted above, today. The outbursts, the constant repetition, the consequences that have no effect.

But on friday, I left feeling like a weight had been lifted off of me. Instead of feeling heavy I thought we were just doing everything wrong, I realized that it's not us. It is not her. She just can't help it.

ADHD is the broad term and there 2 subtypes. Inattentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive. You can be one or the other OR you can be both. Sawyer is both.

Of the first, she checks 9/9.

1. fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
2. has difficulty sustaining attention
3. seems not to listen when spoken to
4. has trouble following through on instructions or finishing tasks
5. has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
6. is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
7. often loses things
8. is easily distracted
9. is forgetful in daily activities

Of the second, she checks 7/9. She is able to play by herself and also, she doesn't literally RUN around. She does, sometimes at home, need to do cartwheels around ;) so maybe 7.5 lol

1. fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
2. leaves seat in classroom
3. runs about or climbs excessively
4. has difficulty playing quietly
5. often seems “on the go” or acts as if “driven like a motor”
6. talks excessively
7. blurts out answers before questions have been completed
8. has trouble taking turns
9. interrupts or intrudes on others

Her brain is not the same. Without going into crazy brain details that our amazing doctor did, bottom line is after scans of ADHD kids v non, there are just parts of the brain that did not develop or didn't develop the same. So while sawyer knows the rules, the part of her brain the prioritizes those rules over what she impulsively wants to do, isn't working as it should be. The memory related to the consequence that was just given is almost immediately fleeting.

The things I was doing at home simply weren't working - and honestly, I felt like a huge failure of a mother, with her. We couldn't spend too much time doing things because I would get frustrated and need to just... stop. I just told her to please stop doing that, I told her again, and again... WHY does she continue to do it?!

Because she has to. She has to do it again.

How many times do I have to ask her not to come up and yell something at me when I am on the phone? Why can't she wait patiently like the other kids?

Because she has to say it - right then. There is no other option. She may even blurt something out that is offensive, but she just truly did not think before she said it. Does she, afterward, understand that it was a bad choice? yes. But telling her to stop, think, and rearrange her thoughts is simply impossible.

Having no way to prioritize those choices means that she just does the most exciting thing that wells up inside of her. While that may be an amazingly fun, seat-of-your-pants child, there are times when you need to make a different choice.

Our doctor mentioned when he was testing her, how the phone rang 2 rooms away, all doors to the rooms closed, and *poof* gone. Sawyer switched all focus to the door and had to be brought back to what they were doing, several times. That must be exhausting to try to sort out every day - and so she doesn't. She chooses the door, then something by the door, then drawing something on her paper because of what she saw by the door, then maybe telling the teacher about it...

I was doing everything wrong, it seemed. I did time outs that weren't short enough, that after 2 mins went by, she had forgotten why she was even there. I threatened things that she could not rationalize, like taking things away for an extended period of time - by the next day, she may still be mad something is gone, but will not relate it to the action that she did to have it taken away.

I was angry when she was angry. I did not realize that I could not curb her behavior with repeated consequences. "ok then no  ______ tonight." "sorry then you can't _______." and onward - it only made her angrier. Since sawyer already runs on a higher key than everyone around her, the emotional explosions are just her having to get it all out RIGHT THEN. that being said, within a few mins, she is still angry and really doesn't understand why, but the emotions are still flowing so she is still amped up. That can go on for an hour or more. You can't just "tell her to stop" or even give her what she wants because she doesn't even know what she wants anymore. The scenario I mentioned above makes you choose a decision of just picking up that something that is on the floor or keeping at her until she does it. After a minute or two of her just saying no, you start threatening consequences, she gets angry, then you don't want to just drop it and make her think the screaming "worked", but you don't want to make her more angry. Should she go to her room? Should she come over and cuddle it out? It was a constant struggle here - several times a week, sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes it would lead to almost not even going to school because she could not cycle out.

Our new house motto is to foster, not change. I want to do cartwheels in the house with her because she needs to - not because she is being defiant. Last night, EJ had a handstand competition with the big girls. We laughed till our sides hurt. This was much better than saying to go to bed with those sillies still pent up in their bodies because we thought adhering to a strict sort of schedule would be better for sawyer. I want to remember to not ask her to do things when she's in the middle of something else - because there's no chance she'll be back to the original task, easily. I want to give her credit for the small things. The things that the other kids may do without thought, I want to remind her how important all of those things are. Thank you for putting that away and not getting lost on the way. Thank you for waiting until I am off the phone to talk to me.

We will get with a child psych for us - who have parent behavior classes where we can get new and fun tips on how to engage her, as well as support her. She starts new medicine as soon as it bounces from the pharm, to the dr, to insurance, back to the dr, and back to the pharmacy ;) and our doctor is finding us a tutor for her, for the summer, so she can get mostly caught up with some dyslexia techniques. EJ and sawyer chose some items, last night, to obtain "points" to "buy" - this way it is immediate. All of her consequences will be right then - good or bad. plus or minus.

After some slight badgering with the school, her 504 will be set up next week and we can get all of this in line. No more will she tell me that "the smart kids finish!!" the timed math tests that she can only decode a handful of the questions.

Is she strong willed? sure. But that doesn't mean she can make the choice, on her own, to stop. I feel like ADHD has some sort of stigma - a kid who doesn't listen, so they need meds to focus. What I would like people to realize is that kids like sawyer know all of the rules. She is smart and wants so badly to show everyone that, but coupled with the dyslexia, it is hard to get those points out. Her stories, the imagination, the way she talks and presents herself - so much older than what the ADHD lets her exhibit in those opposite non-social ways. I cannot wait to watch her thrive even more.

None of this post is meant to be an excuse. But I do so hope that someone out there takes a deep breath and says "ok, maybe it's not anyone's fault".

So c'mon, come do cartwheels with us.


sawyer cartwheel2


  1. A lot of what you are describing sounds like my daughter and our struggles of parenting her! I really need to get her seen so we can all get help. It is so sad when she doesn't even know why she got mad about something and she wonders why everything is so much easier for her brother. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Yes, yes, yes! My 6 year old son has ADHA (diagnosed) and I have trouble putting into words why he isn't a "bad child" or "uncontrollable". I will share this post, as it is exactly my thoughts!! Thank you!

  3. We had almost the same struggles at our house. But with my son it was Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) He cannot stay still to save his life and his attention span is nothing. He is looks socially awkward because of his "quirks" and it takes a while for other kids to warm up to him. I had the school tell me it was ADHD, but I knew in my heart that it really wasn't. I have nothing against that dx, my brother is ADHD. I just knew it wasn't him, but I didn't know what was going on with him. Until I met an amazing PC. She has 2 kids with SPD and recognized it instantly in my son. She referred us to an OT that we have been working with for 6 months. He has significantly improved in school and at home. He still has moments when it is just too much and he gets over stimulated, but it much better, and we both know how to handle it. I am glad you got an answer for your situation.

  4. i am almost in tears right now bc i feel your struggles. my son is 11 now with inattentive adhd. he started meds 3 years ago (which we were kind of against but decided to try for 3 months) and IT HAS CHANGED HIS LIFE! he has been able to focus enough now to learn, and has made such significant strides. the growth he has shown in these three years is astounding! now, don't get me still can take him 20 mins to brush his teeth in the morning bc he gets side tracked drawing pictures on the bathroom mirror............and in the moment trying to get out the door for school i could go insane, but when i come home later and see it so faintly in the mirror....i give a huge smile.....because thats WHO he is and it makes me love him even more!!!!!!

  5. My youngrst bro has severe ADHD and dyslexia. His first few years of school were so difficult. Once he got the official diagnosis, the right meds, and awesome teachers, he did well. He had/has to work harder than the average person, but he rocks!

  6. I've read this 4 times and I bawl every time. I've never been able to put Into words how it is with my oldest and you hit the nail on the head!! I feel your pain 100%. Thank you for writing this for all of us who feel like we are failing also! You rock!

    -Dawn (Jeanines bff)

  7. My 5-year-old is like this. First, bless you for being a strong mother to these girls. I hear you loud and clear. My son has always been a challenge, since basically Day 1. A challenge. Those are words I use on the internet. If you and I were having coffee, I have a completely different set of terms to use.

    I decided about a year ago that I was all done being apologetic about the means we have had to go to to meet his needs. If I'm not an advocate for his care, who will be right? If I'm the one - me, his mother - whispering about taking him to see a play therapist before checking over my shoulder to see who's listening and then quickly stumbling over myself to reinforce that the therapy is really for *me* not him... because let's minimize it shall we? - then how do I expect him to feel anything but ashamed to seek out mental healthcare when he's older? We talk so much about not shaming our kids in other ways, isn't passing judgement just another way of creating shame?

    So know that you are doing awesome. Just because you are trying so hard. And know also that there are other mothers out there - like me - who are sitting in parent-teacher conferences trying to come up with ideas and crying in pediatricians offices because the tantrums just are so very epic and not going away like they should. Googling child therapists. Reading books. Having an extra glass of wine after particularly horrible bedtime routines. You are not alone.

  8. I can totally relate to this. It is so hard not knowing why you can't seem to get through to them. My son is on medication and has made huge strides in school. Home is still a struggle in the am and pm due to the length of time the meds work. I frequently remind my husband and parents and myself...that his brain works differently. It's good to know you're not along...and clearly you are not.