Friday, October 21, 2011

The Math Test

When I got home yesterday, Steve and Jonas already had dinner in the oven. I LOVE that! There was still at least 30 minutes of baking time left so, instead of having to rush around the kitchen, I got to sit down with a glass of wine and ask them about their days.

Jonas was clearly not happy. When I asked him about his big math test, he said he didn't want to talk about it, and kept focused on the drawing he was working on. With a tiny bit of prodding he told me sadly "I got a stinking D on it!". He clearly didn't want to talk about it anymore so I continued the conversation with Steve, who had already reviewed the test with him. He told me that Jonas actually did pretty well on the test. He got 13 out of 20, but he lost 5 marks on one question, which he had trouble understanding. The two of them reviewed that concept after school and he's got a good grasp on it now. "So, one thing he didn't understand and a couple of little mistakes. No big deal" said Steve.

"Yeah, right" said Jonas, with the beginnings of a tiny little smile creeping into his pout. "Did you have enough time?" I asked. No answer from Jonas. "He said he did" replied Steve. "He did a good job. He just made a few tiny mistakes." I went over to Jonas, who was standing with his back to us, and wrapped my arms around him in a huge hug. I whispered into his ear and asked if he tried his best. "Yeah" he said with his head hanging.  "Then I'm very proud of you." I gave him a kiss on the forehead, which immediately turned that little smile into a big one and started him talking about the rest of his day.

The conversation turned into a long one, with each of us sharing the highlights and low-lights of our day. When the pasta was finally finished baking, we decided to eat in front of the tv and watch a movie. I hate doing that as a regular routine, but when we've had a chance to download and share the stories of our days, like we did last night, I don't mind it at all.

Last night we watched the Tim Allen movie "Zoom". It's about kids who have superpowers and are called upon to save the world. One of the things I love about it is that kids are all different from everyone else and that is something that they have a hard time dealing with. In the end, they are each celebrated for those differences, which I think is just awesome! It also contains this gem of a song that we've added to Jonas's MP3 player:

(Click on the link to listen to one of our new theme songs at Casa del Blanchard)


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Would You Please Sit Still!

One of the things that is awesome about Jonas how how totally and completely engaged he can become. A lot of the time, he gets completely plugged in, both mentally and physically. Energy simply oozes out of him and that translates into creativity, enthusiasm and optimism. It's a double edged sword though, because it can also be a hindrance. When he was first diagnosed with ADHD, we couldn't see the link between what was going on in his brain and what was happening with his body. Sure, it was easy to tell that he was hyperactive, but like many people who are uneducated about these conditions, we thought that his physical movements meant that he wasn't focusing mentally, and we believed that it was simply a matter of discipline to "fix it." (Looking back now, I think "Duh!")

Like most kids with ADHD, two of the things that are big challenges for Jonas are being still and being quiet. It has something to do with the dopamine levels in his brain but I don't understand the science of ADHD nearly well enough to write about it yet. What I do know is that he is always talking and always moving. Whether it's a tapping foot, chewing on a pencil, crawling on the floor, bouncing up and down on a couch, or literally trying to climb the walls, he simply can't sit still. It can be frustrating, but the reality is that he can't help it. His body is simply wired to always be "ON". 

We have a tough time dealing with this at home, at Scouts, and in other social settings, but the biggest conflict comes in the school setting. We've come to realize that Jonas learns best when he's on the move. Unfortunately, that can be a distraction for other students if it isn't managed well.  At home, where he's a got a few less restrictions in that regard, he is all over the place, especially when he's learning. Homework and reading time usually mean moving from a chair, to standing beside the couch, to laying on the floor, to squatting on the desk, and this morning we had a new one - kneeling on the kitchen counter to read.

Kneeling on the counter reading a magazine.
He's a whole body learner and worker!

I was upset when a young man with ADHD was let go from our company a few weeks ago because he couldn't sit at his desk and focus on his work long enough to get the job done. A friend told me that I'm getting ahead of the situation, but it made me worry about Jonas's future. While that scenario is something that would be way down the road for us, we are dealing with some of the early reprecussions of it right now. On the OT referral form we recieved this week, his core teacher noted that he "prefers to stand to do his work." (She said it's actually one of the ways she can tell that he's dialled in.) Thankfully, she has made accomodations for him in the classroom, and allows him to stand at his desk to work, and also allows him movement breaks, as long as he doesn't disturb the other students while he's doing it. (i.e. Walking around the class is fine but putting on a one-man-band dance party, not so much.)  Some of his other teachers have not been so accomodating and we expect that situation will repeat itself in the future. We know we have to be proactive about getting the help he needs to learn to manage these symptoms. Telling him to "Sit still!" simply won't work and punishing him for it only erodes his self-esteem.

One of the key things we are pursuing is Occupational Therapy. We finally got the request forms home from the school this week, after fighting for it for the past year. HOORAY!!  We also got a great referral for private treatment, and are very hopeful that the wait lists won't be too long. Cross your fingers with us, ok?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thankful Tuesday: Three Things

Three things I'm thankful for this week are...

My Mom. She has the patience of Job when it comes to Jonas. She sat with him for an hour and a half after school today, letting him teach her how to play Lord of the Rings Online, while I made dinner. He loved it and I think she did too. They're building a great relationship with each other and she is such a blessing to us.

Jonas and Nana
I have no idea how she learned anything with hm climbing all over the desk and practically standing on her
but she actually seemed to enjoy it!

My BFFs. I am surrounded by wonderful and cherished friends. Some are stuck with me because we're related, and some stick with me despite this lack of a genetic bond, but all are vital to my sanity. Most live far enough away that I don't see them very often, but they're always there for me with a phone call, an email, or a much needed Girls Night Out. They don't always understand exactly what I'm going through but they understand the toll it takes and they're always at the ready to help with humor, ideas and shoulders to cry on. They never fail to bring me much comfort and a renewed spirit. I often feel that I don't give back as much as I get and I know that I am blessed to have them in my life.

The net. I've found a wonderful resource in the internet. In researching ADHD, I've discovered an on-line community of other moms who, like myself, struggle sometimes to find the answers and support we need. (Check out "A Mom's View of ADHD" and "Easy to Love But Hard to Raise" if you're in the same boat!) This world we're a part of if immense and complex. Knowing that there are other people out there with similar concerns and struggles, who are willing to share their experiences and ideas, is a blessing.

The only piece of advice I'll offer to anyone who gets overwhelmed by life sometimes, is to look around your village. You'll be amazed at what you might find!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Struggling at School

Our experience with school this year has been filled with clouds and rainbows.

It's been a somewhat distressing week. It feels like there's a big black rain cloud hanging over us. We've been working very hard on things at home and this week was a good one, even with two nights of homework. At the same time, Jonas has had a rough week at school and we're are at a loss about what do to about it. We know how tough the teacher's jobs are and also that he's not the only kid in the class. It's a great school but we feel like he's falling through the cracks and that they are increasingly looking to us to resolve the challanges he's having there.

On Wednesday his Science teacher kept him in at lunch to time to write out the school's Code of Conduct. While we're not opposed to him receiving consequences for disrupting class, we've got two concerns about this remedy. First of all, he needs his free time outside to run around in the fresh air. Predictably, his afternoon was worse than the morning and I suspect that a big part of reason why is because he didn't get that break. The second issue we have is that the teacher effectively used handwriting as a punishment. Jonas is still far behind where the average Grade Three student should be in terms of his handwriting. It's something that we're working on and it is a HUGE struggle. If it's used as a consequence he'll very likely lose what little motivation he has to keep trying to improve.

He lost his star again yesterday because, as the note from the teacher said, "Jonas has to learn to use the washroom during recess rather than class time." I'm giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt that this was immediately after recess and not sometime between recess and lunch or the end of school. (Frankly, if he has to go then he has to go.) ADHD means that he gets hyperfocused sometimes and does not realize that he has to go until it's an emergency. I do understand how frustrating that is, however, simply punishing the behaviour we don't want and telling him to learn doesn't do him any good. If we want him learn, we have to teach him and help him develop better habits. We've suggested that he go at the beginning of recess but we know full well that isn't going to happen unless he's reminded. (If he doesn't listen to the reminder, or argues about it, that's a different story.)

So, the condumdrum is what to do next.

We kept him home from Cub Scouts last night because he had a week full of late nights, he's fighting a cold and he had homework. We told him that he wasn't being punished for what happed at school because it's important that we not double up on the consequences when he's already faced them at school. We also talked to him about things he can try to make things better at school - like listening to the teachers who are trying to help him, going to the washroom at the beginning of recess, keeping his water bottle on his desk so he remembers to drink it, etc. He had a great night, went to bed a little early and woke up feeling physically worse but in better spirits.

After pondering it for a day, we sent a note in his agenda today asking his Science teacher for more details about what happened in class on Wednesday and asking for a meeting with her. We sent another note asking his core teacher to help him develop better washroom habits by giving the entire class a general reminder that recess is the time to go. We also left a message for the school SERT teacher to ask if what else we could do to keep the ball rolling.

The SERT teacher called me this morning and we had a long talk. This is what we've come up with for an immediate action plan:
  • She followed-up today with the School District's Speech and Language team and they confirmed that he went back on the waiting list for speech therapy after his last session in January. There's now about a 2 year wait for another block of therapy.  His speech is affecting him academically and socially so we're again look into private treatment and trying to find something that's covered under Steve's benefits plan.
  • She has completed another asssessment of his handwriting and determined that he is still far behing where he should be. His letters are still very big, a mixture of upper and lower case and with little to no space between words. 
  • She is TODAY filling out a request form for occupational therapy and will send it home tonight for us to sign. (I thought this was done last year but neither school followed through- argh!) There's about a one year waiting list for that.
  • She has given him a popsicle stick that he's going to decorate and use when he is writing to keep spaces between his words.
  • She's going to send home a list of websites that will help Jonas with his keyboarding skills. His hand writing is still way behind where it should be but he's a hunt and peck typer so though his work is legible, it often takes just as long to get done.
  • She's talked to his teachers and they're open to using different tools for assignments in which his handwriting isn't being assessed. We can have him type his written homework on the computer and print it out or he can dictate it to us and we can print or type it for him. It needs to be his words though and he needs to do the capitals, punctuation, grammer, etc.  They are also going to give him more computer time at school.
  • His core teacher is going to start using some voice technology contraption so that he can do more of his tests orally instead of written.
  • We are looking into getting him an excercise ball or special seat cushion that will help him keep moving while he's sitting. That may add to the benefits they've already discovered by allowing him to stand at his desk when he feels he needs to.
  • She also told me that if we ever realize that he's fogotten his meds she said we should call the school and give them the heads up so they can adjust and "not come down on him too hard."  I"m not sure how I feel about this one. Yup, I totally get the "let us know" thinking about it worries me nontheless.

I'm still feeling overwhelmed but I think I can see a rainbow through the clouds.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Negative Nelly Learns a Lesson

Steve and I were a little uneasy about our conversation with Jonas's pediatrician on Tuesday. The upside is that we took a few more steps forward in our understanding of Jonas and how to better face the challenges we're all dealing with. On the other hand, it was another eye opener into the immense complexity of world we're now a part of. In a word, it was overwhelming.

"Most parents are good parents. But if your son or daughter has attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), "good" may not be enough. To ensure that your child is happy and well-adjusted now and in the future—and to create a tranquil home environment
—you've got to be a great parent."
-ADDitude Magazine

We read an article in the waiting room that basically said that parents of kids with ADHD have to be exceptional for their kids to be successful in life. To say we were discouraged by that would be an understatement. Luckily Dr. Saunderson bolstered our confidence and gave us back our hope. We both woke up yesterday determined to make things go more smoothly around here. Our life truly is a team effort and, in our minds, yesterday was going to be a fresh start. My mom would pick Jonas after school, Steve would be home by dinner time, and I would be home in time to read with Jonas before bed.

As Steve got ready for an early morning at work, I went into Super Mom mode. I made breakfasts, lunches and a crock-pot dinner that would be ready when everyone got home. I had my patience cape on as I guided Jonas through eating his breakfast, getting dressed, brushing his teeth, and packing his backpack. I even managed to squeeze in a few minutes for a little pep talk before I dropped him off at school.

As I drove to work, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Our fresh start was on the right track but, as they say, pride goeth before the fall. As I poured myself a cup of  coffee at the office, I realized that I forgot to give Jonas his medication. I sent him to school unmedicated, tired from a late night and excited about seeing his Nana. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I fought the urge to bang my head on desk and then crawl under it to hide. I spent the rest of the day with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Waiting. Hoping. Cringing.

When I called at dinner time to check-in, Steve told me that Jonas had a bad day at school. The note from his teacher said something to the effect of "Jonas was very disruptive in class today so he missed part of his playtime at lunch to write out the school's Code of Conduct, to reflect on his behaviour and what he can do to make things better." Ouch! I spent the rest of the night at our Beaver Scouts meeting with a little part of my brain wondering how everything going at home, worried that things might be off the rails. More often than I'd like to admit, we let a bad moment steamroll into an on-going struggle where everyone ends up upset and in tears.

Counter to my Negative Nelly thinking, Steve and Jonas were both all smiles when I got home. Even though my mother guilt insisted on assuming the day had been an epic fail, and that the entire day had been a downward spiral, the team recovered just fine. Maybe, just maybe, I need to cut us all some slack and realize that everything isn't ever going to be perfect. We're all going to make mistakes and things are going to go wrong. BUT, if we work together, and stay positive, it doesn't have to be the end of the world.  Kudos to my wonderful husband, mom and son for proving that to me last night. Lesson learned.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: A Boy and His Bear

Teddy is like a member of the family. He's Jonas's very best friend.
Jonas was pretty anxious about his doctor's appointment yesterday,
as evidenced by the fingers in the mouth.
Teddy always helps him feel better!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thankful Tuesday: One Family's Hero

The FP Rescue Heroes have always been one Jonas' favourites toys
but none can hold a candle to his real life pediatrician.

This week, I'd like to express my extreme gratitude for Jonas's pediatrician, Dr. Saunderson. She's AWESOME!! Since the day he was born, she's always made time for us when we have questions or concerns, and has never once made us feel inadequate as parents even when we felt like we were. She's a gift from heaven, I'd say.

We met with her today to talk about Jonas's ADHD. This was an important review for all of us. It's been about 10 months since he was diagnosed and about 8 since he started his medication. Today we mostly talked about how we're all coping and came up with some new strategies to move forward. There have been a lot of changes in since November, some better, some worse and all evolving. The medication has been helping but it's a mixed blessing and not a magical cure. (And no, we never expected it to be.) It's one one small part of an equation that includes parenting, nutrition, sleep, exercise, teaching strategies, classroom accommodations, his own self-development and, of course, the village. It's like an on-going experiment to figure out what the challenges are what the best strategies are to manage them. 

ADHD isn't often a stand alone diagnosis, and it isn't with Jonas either. Although the core symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, many children with ADHD have co-morbid conditions (What a yucky term!) In addition to his combined type ADHD (he has all three classic characteristics), Jonas has symptoms of LD (Learning Disabilities), anxiety, depression, ODD and eating disorders. Add to those a family history of chronic depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities and these quickly become very real fears for us. Diagnosis and treatment are slow processes, so these fears loom out there on the near horizon, keeping us on edge.

Dr. Saunderson is fantastic with Jonas but he isn't only him that is her patient, it's our family. It's fair to say that we get overwhelmed sometimes. We get confused, worry and doubt our parenting skills. We get mad, we get sad and we cry. Dr. Saunderson gets all that. She gives us her time, her ear and her experience and I will be forever grateful!


Monday, October 10, 2011

"Wanna snuggle, Mum-ah?"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thanksgiving is my favourite of all the holidays, because it's simply about being thankful. It's not about the presents, and the food is always delicious no matter what the menu, but the best part for me, is getting together with family and friends, especially ones that we seldom see, which seems to become the case more often as the kids get older. Even though the time is more crunched than at Christmastime, we get to catch up with the cherished people in our lives. We spend time with good friends, most of our cousins, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents and my Grandma. The kids all love playing together and watching them together is amazing. It truly is my favourite weekend of the year.

Sadly, we missed all our gatherings this weekend because yours truly was sick. I've had some sort of bug since Wednesday and it just wouldn't let go. I really wasn't up to it this year. Rather than pass whatever this is to everyone else, Steve, Jonas and I stayed home. I didn't leave my bed, the couch, or bathroom, and the boys got a little stir-crazy even though we kicked Jonas outside to play every day. We were all pretty bummed about it.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving though, I am thankful for something about this weekend. Jonas was in take care of mom mode, at least part of the time. He brought me water, read me a story, made me breakfast on Sunday (eggos slathered in choco-hazelnut spread with a banana - yum!) and several times he uttered the best phrase of all: "Wanna snuggle, Mum-ah?"

Snuggle time with him is right up there at the top of my list of favourite things. ADHD means that he doesn't stay in one place for very long and even when he does he's still fidgety, but he loves to snuggle when we watch tv or read a book. His boney little shoulder digging into my chest, that little sigh he makes after he's adjusted the blanket for the thirty-second time so that's just right, and his little wiggle to finally get himself and Teddy settled... pure heaven for me. 

It's part of our nightly ritual at bedtime too. Once we've done jammies and storytime, and our teeth are brushed, we snuggle in his bed for 10 or 15 minutes. We start by looking at the stars on his bedroom ceiling and try to find goofy new constellations. (Randomly placed glow-in-the-dark paint dots. He may never get his Scouts Stargazer Badge now!) We talk about the day just past and the one yet to come. (What was the best part? What was the worst part? How can we make tomorrow great?) After that, as he's starting to drift off, we decide what we're going to dream about and where we're going to try to meet in Dreamland. (He usually picks Candyland.) Then we whisper I love you, I kiss him, he kisses me back and we snuggle for a couple of more minutes.

I know these moments are fleeting. It won't be long before he outgrows them. For the time being though, they are a special part of our day and I am so thankful for them!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: "I promise to do my best..."

On his way to Investiture Night at Cub Scouts.
"I promise to do my best....."
Receiving his epaulette and his Cub Scout woggle from Akela.
An officially invested Cub Scout!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thankful Tuesday: Three Good Things

In the rush to whine about all the things that aren't working in my life, I need to remember to take more time to count my blessings. I believe that for any thing, being, feeling or event, big or small... every thanks you give ripples out like a pebble sends waves across the water.  By focusing on gratitude, we become aware of those things and thus create a shift in our thinking to the positive. That's a shift I could really use!

So, I'm starting a new tradition this week - Thankful Tuesdays.

Three good things I am thankful for today are:
  • for the amazing teachers, Scout leaders and volunteers who are making such a positive difference in Jonas's life.
  • for my Mom, who drives a long way to pick Jonas up from school one day a week so that they can spend time together and so that Steve and I can have a little time to tackle to To Do List.

  • that Steven and I have jobs that let one of us always be there for Jonas before and after school.

I'm a lucky woman. I have so much to be thankful for. Thank you!