I'm the Mom of an ADHD Child - Here is our story and some tips to help YOU on your journey.
Since our son Sam was very small, we noticed difficulties he was having. It's taken us years to really dig deep into his issues, and find help for him. (And it's still a process in work!) But, as we've spent years, days, and hours puzzling over ways to help him, we've learned quite a bit.
So, I decided to put into words on paper here our journey, that it might help give YOU some ideas if you have a child with special needs, and particularly ADHD and/or anxiety.
This blog post serves as part two of our story. You can view the first part of our journey to help Sam with his ADHD and anxiety here.
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A followup from Part 1 - How it turned out with neurofeedback
I called and called BCBS to escalate a response on whether or not neurofeedback would be covered for us. In the end, it was not. It just wasn't covered. It should have been, but it wasn't.
At that point, I could have begun escalating the matter even more, higher and higher up the ranks of Blue Cross to get it covered or at least under appeal. And I would LOVE to have done that. I am up for a fight.
But, as any parent of a kid with immediate needs knows, your child is your main priority. Basically, continuing an appeals process through insurance would have taken months, if not years to wait through.
So, we paid out of pocket. Yikes, but it still wasn't as expensive as Brain Balance!
Did it work? YES. We completed 23 sessions for him, and I could literally see the improvement in him on the car ride home. Basically, he seemed more able to move from emotions into logic much more quickly than before. His anger was not controlling his life quite as much.
My advice regarding neurofeedback? DO IT. And make sure you get the BEST neurofeedback provider in your area. I think better technology does make a difference.
Also, try for insurance. And be diligent to confirm that it will be covered. If you can fight the insurance company, go for it.
What we decided with school
I was between a rock and a hard place by the time Sam completed his 2nd grade year. If I were to continue him in public school, he would most certainly be lost between the cracks since he had score just a couple of points too high to receive reading services.
I could have supplemented his studies at home in the afternoons or gotten him tutoring services, but what he really needed at that time of day was to RUN and PLAY outside as much as possible. I just really didn't want to steal that away from him, knowing it was good medicine.
The private schools in our vicinity did not seem too well equipped to handle these kinds of needs. And in fact if anything, it would be an even more difficult level of education, which would be even worse for him.
So even though I never thought I would in a million years, I decided it would be in his best interest to homeschool him. I had the means and even the background to do it.
So, I did! We actually started with doing an in-home program called Epic. This lasted for us through the fall. Even though the teacher was wonderful, we were still beholden to state standards and excruciating testing (required still for public charter schools).
I continued to homeschool him through the whole year. Although I wanted to go on a million field trips and spend our days learning wonderful and amazing things, what I quickly learned was that I need to hone in on and focus on READING and MATH.
And that's what I did. With a strong emphasis on reading TO him and bringing him to a love of reading. We also backtracked and focused on building a strong foundation of phonics.
It seems to have worked well. This year, in 4th, he has strong reading skills, and they are increasing every day. I'm not homeschooling this year, because I found an amazing school for kids specifically with ADHD and anxiety in our town. So far, it's a game-changer. He loves school now!
Parenting a child with ADHD - Making the hard decisions about meds
In the middle of our homeschooling year (in about November), we began Sam on Concerta for his ADHD. It was an amazing life-changer for our family, and of course specifically for Sam. When you are parenting a child with ADHD, this is a decision you'll be faced to make, whether or not to use medication.
I know many families choose not to medicate their child, and for many years I held out too. But I hope you will let me share why we decided to go for it (in our situation).
Here were two of the reasons that I hesitated to use medications.
- I was worried about side-effects. In particular, I'd heard stories about kids becoming "zombies" on thier ADHD meds.
- It seemed like a band-aid instead of a solution to the actual problem.
- I doubted my own motives. Did I want my child just to "behave" better to make my own life easier?
And here are my own rebuttals, from my older, wiser self to my younger:
- Sam is on meds and has never once acted like a zombie. I believe that if he had, we would have simply adjusted his meds, whether that be to try a different one, or to adjust his dosage.
- Now that I can see the vast difference between his life on the meds and off, I don't care what we call it! A band-aid it is. This does NOT mean that we stop working on the underlying cause. We will still be on the hunt for natural remedies, therapies, and more neurofeedback, when we can afford it or have time for it.
- My motives were cleared up as soon as I started to see that his academics were going to slide if we didn't act. And since that time, I've realized that it's not JUST the academics that matter anyway. This last year on meds, Sam's relationships with his siblings and friends have blossomed.
This matters. When we are older and pass on, and when he has a family and life of his own, what will matter the most? His relationships. Memories of his childhood.
As parents, I feel it's our responsibility to help him learn how to keep and maintain relationships (especially those of his brother and sister, who will be his family long after I'm gone, most likely).
The meds have begun a healing process between him and his siblings. This is gold to me. The meds are way more than a band-aid. They are a bridge to his better future.
This being true, we still search for better ways to help with the ADHD and the anxiety. One thing at a time, one day at a time.
How to calm a child with ADHD
I'm not a therapist, but I can tell you what I've learned and what has REALLY helped me learn how to calm my child with ADHD when needed.
A dear friend of mine who IS a licensed therapist gave me the very best advice, which I've been applying for the last year, and even though it's slow and still hard, I absolutely see progress.
It helps to understand that my son cannot bring himself out of an emotional state sometimes in order to process a situation logically.
(Read that sentence again. And then again if needed). Very young children at age two or three have this problem as we all know. But in a person with ADHD, that problem can persist.
So - my goal as a parent is to help train his brain, in the years that I have him, to be able to move out of the emotional response into a logical place on his own.
Here's how I do that. When he begins to melt down, I join him, so to speak. I don't actually melt down too, 🙂 but I get loud enough for him to hear me and I join his emotion. I say things like, "That STINKS! I know how you feel!", or "Doesn't it feel TERRIBLE to have the ball taken away from you? I HATE that!" I do this at the same volume he is, very loud if necessary and over-exaggerated.
It sounds comical and ridiculous. But here is what is happening. He is being heard. Even if what he is upset about sounds illogical to me, he is most definitely feeling these feelings. And now he feels like I am joining him, emphasizing with him. He is not quite so alone.
Once he feels me joining him, he calms down. And slowly with a little time, we might be able to talk a little logic. It is here that I explain why/ which consequences have to happen (if the situation calls for it).
This does not always work well and it can be messy. Sometimes I fail and I react or respond with logic first, or I don't have time, or I'm just human. Or sometimes we are just flat out in public, and the best response is to leave. Every situation is different.
But when it does work and I remember to do it, his brain is being "rewired" so to speak, to be able to move into a place where he can grow in maturity and response with logic. It's my overall goal to meet his meltdowns in this way as much as I can.
It has made a huge difference for us. So I wanted to share, because maybe it will work for you. Just remember it takes time. Maybe even years.
And it's hard. It's really, really hard. Mom (or Dad), you are not alone. You won't parent perfectly. But just in reading this, I know you are trying. So hang in there. I know you can do it. If you failed yesterday or today, just get back on the horse tomorrow!
Tackling the anxiety
When we started the meds for the ADHD, I noticed that it slightly took "the edge off" of Sam's anxiety. But it didn't take it away. So now that it is fall, and we've started a new school, we've started him in therapy.
I'm hopeful for this! We've only had one session so far. But his therapist really connected with him in the first session, and happens to have ADHD as well. So I think it will be good.
I know that a lot of parents have their kiddos on meds for thier anxiety. I'm not opposed to that route, but as I tend to be cautious, again I'm trying a few things first before going down that road (therapy among them).
I like to try one thing at a time, because then I get a clearer picture of whether or not it worked.
But this is where we are. I'm going to educate myself on ways to help him deal with the anxiety. I'll update this post as we learn and grow as we go.
ADHD parenting tips
In trying to summarize what I think might be most helpful to you to take away from my experiences, I'll give a few pointers here and ADHD parenting tips. I know lots of parents who have kids with many more issues than Sam has, and many more difficult. But I thought, maybe our experience could still be helpful.
- Take it one day at a time, one symptom at a time. Educate yourself and then decide what to work on first.
- Take a lot of deep breaths and try to make friends with Moms in similar situations. Facebook groups for Moms of ADHD/anxious kids (or anything else, like autism, odd, etc) can be not only a goldmine of information, but help for just not feeling alone.
- Ignore mean people. Just don't listen to them. Focus on your child's well-being and your own and your family's well-being.
- Consult doctors and specialists where needed, but also always listen to your own intuition and common sense. Get a second opinion if you need to.
- Find out what it takes to get an IEP or a 504. Don't hesitate to at least educate yourself on it. If your school is resistant, consider getting an advocate.
- Be open to anything that will help your child, regardless of your preconceived beliefs. Look at everything from every angle, keeping in mind what will most bring him to a healthy place with his emotions and relationships later in his life.
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Our future plans
Right now, we are going to plug away at his new school, and see how the new therapy session go. We'll keep an eye on his meds, and always make sure they are working for him.
In the future, I'd like to have him go through more rounds of neurofeedback. It's so easy (he just sits there and watches tv), and it could really continue to help him. We'll probably revisit this in a year or two. And maybe I'll even attempt to fight the insurance company over it again.
I'll keep trying to provide better, more healthy foods, to make sure I'm not missing anything there. For some reason, this is a stressful one for me. Going through the food eliminations with him was super hard, I found. But I'll continue this as well, as I can.
Anything else I learn that could help him, we will try. If you are just starting out on a similar journey, you can do this! Just take it a day at a time and do what you can when you can.
I'll keep updating this page as time goes, to let you know if anything changes, or how we grow in the future. Meanwhile, I'd love feedback down in the comments below if you have anything to add or to share, please do!