Archive for November, 2014

Be on the Look-Out: ADHD Boy with a Blankie

Posted on: November 18th, 2014 by Jen Mitrakos No Comments

Mother of four but feels like much more.  Sound familiar?  Some days I thrive and some days I survive.  Having an 11 year old with ADHD and as an educator for children who learn differently, I am well aware of ADHD behaviors.  I do my best to be proactive to avoid emotional meltdowns and behaviors that would have most parents calling Nanny 911.  My husband and I divide and conquer so that we rarely take all four kids on outings all at once.  This enables us to focus our attention on our children and help shape behavior.   On the rare occasion we do venture out as a family, we call for reinforcements.  Going out to dinner?  Bring the older cousins and Aunt along to entertain the little ones.  Going to attempt shopping at the mall?  Bring Mema along to help rally the troops.  This brings me to my last visit to the mall.

I am at the mall having what I think is a good day with my hyperactive and, at times, emotionally unregulated 4 year old son.   I successfully purchased dishes.  Then I browsed the fine china section without a single broken dish or stroke of the glistening glassware.  Kapow…success!  My mom and I decide to venture on.  We meander through the purse section.  My son restrains the urge to swing all the purses on the rack and doesn’t knock a single one to the ground.  He continues calmly through the store, with blankie in hand, following his momma like a little duckling.  My mom and I glance at each other, shocked by the glowing behavior.  We pause to take a glimpse at the jewelry display.  That’s when “She” passes by and reduces my feeling of euphoric success to feeling like a child rearing failure.  My son is standing a foot or two behind me and begins to twirl with his six-inch square blanket in his hand.  During his pirouette his blanket grazes the subject, to whom I apologized.  She glares at me with a sneer that’s worse than the one my mother would give me if I acted up at church.  Then she says with malice, “Control your child!”.  At a loss for words I say nothing and try to internalize what my son did that was deemed “Out of control”.  The answer, nothing.  We just so happened to cross paths with someone who has no idea what success I was feeling and that she should learn a little self-control over what spews from her mouth.  What I thought to be great behavior was quickly ripped from me.  If she was to spend one day or even one hour in my shoes, maybe she too would celebrate the small success of going out with a child who doesn’t run away, cry, touch everything on the rack, or shout in a store.  Do not let others strip you of the small successes each day.  For once I went shopping with one child and it felt like I had one child.  I was able to think, browse and talk with my child as we wandered the department store.  Raising a child is challenging.  Raising a child with ADHD can feel overwhelming.  Take each day as it comes, celebrate the little success, and know that you are not alone.

If the Morning Routine Leaves You Feeling Like You Ran a Marathon, Your Child May Have ADHD.

Posted on: November 3rd, 2014 by Jen Mitrakos No Comments

As I began to reflect on the day of a life of a child with ADHD, it became readily apparent that capturing snapshots from the period between getting up and going to school would provide more than enough information about how challenging a typical routine can become when a child experiences symptoms of ADHD-distractibility, impulsivity and high levels of activity.

One would like to think that as a professional with years of experience helping parents to proactively manage these challenges, I would be well-prepared to structure my 7-year old son who manifests each and every symptom of ADHD.  However, as fate would have it, I have come to accept that my actions have the potential to elicit a host of equal and opposite reactions UNLESS I anticipate and monitor my son to help him execute the expected steps of the morning routine.  This mental challenge can be exhausting and at times, like many other parents, I lose patience and add even more stress to what may already be a chaotic morning.  Despite momentary frustration, I know from experience that with consistent practice, this routine will become more automatic and we will move on to bigger and better challenges.  Equipped with this knowledge, I forge forward with a process in place to help my distractible little guy practice the routine with increasing independence over time.

First and foremost, we prepare as much as possible the night before.  This helps to create a mental checklist of items needed in the routine and allows for advanced organization when not in the thick of the morning pressure.  For us, this involves having the backpack, socks and shoes by the door, leaving the school uniform in the bathroom, and at times, preparing parts of the daily snack.  This leaves the often extended getting out of bed process, bathroom time, breakfast, dressing, teeth and hair brushing, and the struggle with socks and shoes for the morning.  Although I can’t believe I am admitting this, we have discovered that it is quite comfortable and saves a step to sleep in the PE uniform the night before PE.

What one can never account for are the hundreds of distractors that lurk around the house to keep us from successfully managing this seemingly simple routine in a timely manner.  Take for example the day that my child jumped out of bed, ate breakfast and then headed to the bathroom for the remainder of his morning tasks.  I was overjoyed that he was independently following the routine and was silently praising myself for the success of the parental structure I had imposed.  Little did I know that he was staging a full-fledged military attack in the bathroom instead of following the last three steps in the perfect plan.  Although by many standards, the scenario that awaited me would be hilarious, I was not amused.  My son emerged from the bathroom completely unclothed with a banner of toilet paper meticulously wrapped like a sash across his chest claiming he was ready to defend our home from “bad guys”.  Although I was able to reflect and chuckle later, my stress at that point was evident to my child who was clearly disappointed about my lack of enthusiasm for his obvious creativity.  Instead of enjoying the moment, I was calculating the time we lost with these off-task antics.

Once redirected to get dressed and after standing over him to make sure he actually brushed his teeth, the next big barrier occurred when he put on his socks only to experience the apparently heightened discomfort the seam of the sock inflicted on his sensitive little toes.  Again, not being at my best, this was the moment I chose to develop his resiliency by telling him he wouldn’t notice it once he put on shoes.  This extended a 2-minute task into a 10-minute torturous ordeal.  After the fact, I admitted to myself that I should not have chosen that time and place, given that we were running behind, to require him to tie his own shoes.  Live and learn!!!

For many of you, these scenarios will appear silly while others of you know far too well how challenging this process can be each and every day.  For the latter group, I offer encouragement to keep plugging along with as much patience as proactivity as you can possibly muster.  Specifically, prepare what you can in the evening and plan two to three times as much time as it would take you to get through the morning routine by yourself.  In addition, make the steps of the routine clear and when initially developing these skills, provide a high level of monitoring, pour on the praise as steps are accomplished and realize you may have to assist with some steps (pick your battles) if the process does not go as planned.  And in closing, have faith that your child will continue to develop these skills with practice though it will likely take longer than his same aged peers.  And, to help you chuckle when things are not going as planned, consider repeating the Star Wars mantra, “May the Force Be With You”.







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