Learning to have patience with my ADHD child

No one ever said parenting was easy. It helps to have a fair amount of patience with kids. But patience is not my strong suit.

Luckily for me, our first born, Jase, was a good baby and toddler. He was eager to help out, thrived on praise and generally a good boy. He lulled us into believing this is what our next child would be like.

Now while Jase is our rule follower, I like to call Lexie our rule tester. If you give her a rule, she will see how far she can go.
Originally, I attributed it to just her personality. While Jase was quiet and reserved, she was loud and crazy. Then in April of last year, Lexie was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. People with ADHD can have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors or be overly active. Their brains simply work in a different way.

To manage Lexie’s ADHD, we put her on some medication. It still amazes me to see the difference in her behavior on and off the medicine.  And while that calms her down and allows her to focus while at school, the medication has worn off by the time she comes home.

Lexie’s diagnosis of ADHD makes perfect sense now. It also explains a lot of her behaviors that try my patience. Often I would have to remind her dozens of times to finish a task such as cleaning her room or continually prompt her to stay focused on the book she was reading aloud. Now I understand that she wasn’t doing these things to annoy me. She simply can’t control herself.

Now I don’t want to excuse every behavior she has by blaming it on ADHD, but as I read up on it, I realize that many of the things that other parents, grandparents and well-meaning friends may think can be conquered with the proper parenting or discipline, just can’t. Her brain simply works in a different way than Jase’s or mine.

I am not saying that she can’t learn what is acceptable. Of course, she can. But her internal regulation is more prone to impulsive behavior.  Her mind goes a hundred different ways at one time. This made sitting in school nearly impossible. But with medication she can focus on her learning.

patienceLately, I have been losing my patience with her. Maybe it is because she was on winter break and home for two weeks. But suddenly, I feel like I am always annoyed with her, and I am sure it shows.

I need to learn to breathe deeply when she interrupts. I should be gently reminding her not to do that rather than being exasperated that she has done it again and snapping at her or using that tone which clearly shows my annoyance with her.

I need to learn to let go of my frustrations with her. I need to base my expectation on her attention deficit-influenced behavior. I should expect that I will need to remind her often to do something. And that likely she will stray from her task if not reminded.

Just the other day, my husband asked her to pick up her toys in the hall. She made two trips to her room with toys before she got distracted by some other toy in her room. Time for a deep breath and a reminder to finish the job. But often we end up raising our voice and wondering why she didn’t do as we asked.

One tip I have seen often – whether your kid has ADHD or not – is to pick your battles carefully. Children with ADHD often have messy rooms. While I am not going to allow her room to become overrun with toys and laundry, I am not going to waste my time trying to get her to have everything in its place. I have decided it is enough that you can walk to her bed without stepping on a Lego or some other small item. I would rather concentrate on her academics rather than stress over her leaving her shoes in the middle of the floor (again).

I am hoping that realizing Lexie IS different and cannot control these behaviors will allow me to regain some of my patience with her. Re-framing my thinking to what she can and cannot do should lessen my frustration. So from now on, I will take time to breathe, relax and collect my thoughts before responding to Lexie’s behavior.

Top Parenting Posts from 2015

As the new year begins, I wanted to take this time to highlight some of my parenting posts from 2015. If you missed out on these and want to read more, simply click the link to see the complete post.

Making family time a priority

It is easy throughout the year, and even more so during the busy holiday season, to be preoccupied with getting your list of chores and tasks done that you forget to take the time to stop and really just enjoy your family. (To read more…)

The necessity of Date Nights (or spending time together) for parents

Marriages take work. No one tells you that when you get married. There are compromises and fights along with the good times. And one thing that a couple needs to do – whether they have kids or not – is to continue dating. (To read more…)

Dealing with childhood anxiety

AnxietyOur rule-follower, Jase, is also our worrier. When we announced this summer’s vacation would be a cruise, he worried the ship would sink. When we went to a friend’s informal wedding reception, he worried about whether kids his age would be there. I knew our friend’s son would be there but that news didn’t reassure Jase, and he seemed uncomfortable with the gathering as we knew very few people there. (To read more…)

Discussing strangers, drugs and fire safety with the kids

Drugs, stranger danger, bullying, inappropriate behavior, sex, what to do in case of a fire (or other disasters) – there are a multitude of topics parents should discuss with their kids. (To continue reading…)

Personality trait or attention disorder?

Lexie has always been full of energy. Because of her horrible eczema when she was little we often indulged her – allowing her to be a little more rambunctious than her brother. She was so uncomfortable all the time but always a happy girl. But getting her to listen and follow directions has always been somewhat of a chore. (To continue reading…)

Starting ADD medication

I wrote back in March that Lexie’s teacher was concerned that she might have an attention or focus problem. I brought it up to Lexie’s pediatrician at her 7-year-old checkup in April. After a few basic questions, she gave us the paperwork to have her assessed for ADD or ADHD. (To continue reading…)

Dealing with Road Rage

There are many things that I don’t understand in life and one of them is Road Rage. Oh, I am not saying I have never been annoyed by another driver or waved my hand at them as I mutter a bad word or two over their stupidity. I am talking about the serious Road Rage that leads to someone beating another person or shooting at them. (To read more…)

Why doesn’t the tooth fairy and Santa bring equal gifts for all?

toothfairy 00140Madison gets a toy from the tooth fairy. I hope I get one too,” Lexie says as we tuck the miniature yellow tooth chest under her pillow.

“I don’t think so,” I reply. “Our tooth fairy brings you money. Madison’s tooth fairy can bring her toys if she chooses.”

“Mom, there is only one tooth fairy.”

It is a predicament that every parent faces. Kids talk. They talk about what the tooth fairy brings them. They talk about what Santa brings them. And often there is a discrepancy between what my kid gets and the other kid. (To read more…)

Leaving the kids home alone

Last week, I wrote about letting my son (age 9) walk home by himself and how so many people seemed astonished by that. So I guess, I shouldn’t mention to those same folks that I have let him stay at the house without adult supervision. (To continue reading…)

Two indoor “snow” activities for the kids

CIMG3537We don’t get much snow here in San Antonio. It might snow every three or four years, and even then it is never enough for the serious childhood snow play that I remember from my youth.

So whether you live in a snow-free climate or you just don’t like going out in the cold, here are two snow activities that you can do from the warmth of your house. (Click here to find out about these two awesome ideas!)

 

And here is to many more wonderful parenting post in 2016!

 

 

ADHD medication follow up

Back in June I posted about starting Lexie on ADHD medication to see if that helped her focus (and would confirm that she actually did have ADHD.) At the time, we started her on the lowest dose – 5 mg. After two weeks and very little behavioral changes, we moved her up to a 10 mg dose at the beginning of July.

You could see an immediate change. Lexie was calmer but not doped up or appearing drugged. She would follow directions better and could sit and read a book with me or do some class work. (Yep, I am that mom that has my kids doing school work during the summer, so they don’t lose everything they learned.)

But how would we know if this was the correct dosage? It is one thing to have her at home and focused but totally different to be in a classroom with 20 other students.

When we went back to the doctor, she immediately noticed the change in Lexie’s behavior.  No longer was Lexie rolling across the examine table. She sat there calmly playing on her iPad.

We told the doctor that we would keep her at this dosage and reevaluate at her after school started. The doctor agreed that was the best course of action.

IMG_0226So at the beginning of this year, I sent a note to Lexie’s second-grade teacher. This is nothing new. I always send a note on the first day to give the teacher a head up on her allergies (Epi Pen) and eczema. This year I added a paragraph about the ADHD. I asked her teacher to monitor Lexie’s behavior and let us know if Lexie’s dosage needs to be increased.

Last week, we had our fall parent-teacher conference. Lexie’s teacher marveled on her improvement in reading. Last year, she was behind and had special tutoring. Over the summer, I too had noticed an increase in her reading ability. Both her teacher and I attribute it to the medicine. Finally, we think Lexie is able to pay attention and focus on the story.

Of course, my husband said she had been playing more games on her iPad that required reading and that may have been the extra motivation she needed. Either way, we are thrilled to see she had made such a large jump in her reading.

Her teacher said she thought Lexie’s dosage was at the right level. She can stay focused in class, but she doesn’t seem overly medicated or tired.

I agree. We give her the medication daily and on the weekends, I can see a difference of when she is on the medicine and when she is off it.

The medicine has affected her eating habits some.  There are days when she barely touches her lunch. But she sure makes up for it when she gets home from school, and the medicine’s effect wears off. That happens usually within the hour after returning home from school.

And this means that when we do homework, she is no longer on the medication. Sometimes it is struggle to get her to focus but I like that she has that time to try without the benefits of the medication. We are allowing her to work on her self-control at home where we have the time for it and the medication is allowing her to focus at school. I think it is the perfect blend to manage her ADHD.

 

 

 

Starting ADD medication  

Lexie at her Fiesta parade in April.

Lexie at her Fiesta parade in April.

I wrote back in March that Lexie’s teacher was concerned that she might have an attention or focus problem. I brought it up to Lexie’s pediatrician at her 7-year-old checkup in April. After a few basic questions, she gave us the paperwork to have her assessed for ADD or ADHD.

Basically this included a questionnaire for both parents and her teacher. They like to have four assessments so we had Lexie’s reading teacher also fill out a form. The pediatrician then scored the questionnaires. We met with her at the end of April to go over the results.

Both my questionnaire and Lexie’s primary teacher indicated that Lexie might have a focus problem. But the one from my husband and her reading teacher didn’t. Since all four questionnaire were not in sync with each other, there was no definite diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.

As we discussed this, Lexie is rolling across the exam table and even though she had my husband’s phone to play with, she can’t sit still.

The doctor talked briefly about our options – trying therapy to redirect Lexie or trying some medication to see if that helped her focus. If the medicine worked, we would then have our ADD diagnosis. If it didn’t then we would need to look at other methods for redirecting her.

I think because we are already frustrated with her, medication seemed the easier solution to at least get a definitive diagnosis. The doctor went over the side effects – decreased appetite, sleep problems or even possibly heart palpitations.

One thing I didn’t realize is that most ADD medications are stimulants. As such, since Lexie was born with a congenitive heart defect (which resolved itself before 9 months old), the doctor ordered an EKG that would be evaluated by her pediatric cardiologist (who we hadn’t seen in almost 6 years).

Well, her cardiologist had since changed offices and he didn’t have access to her old records. If he had, we probably would have been saved from having to make an appointment to see him. As it was, we got a call that he had noted something unusual on her EKG and we needed to follow up with him.

After a second EKG, an echocardiogram and refreshing his memory about Lexie’s medical history, he pronounced her heart strong and saw no problem with her taking ADD medicine. (He did note that he could see why she might need the medication as she again could hardly sit still during the exam.)

So after one last appointment to again go over the side effects, we were given a prescription for Focalin. We were to start her with the lowest dosage of 5 mg and then if after two weeks that didn’t seem to help, we were to move her to a 10 mg dosage.

After a few days delay of getting the insurance company to understand the dosage instructions so they would cover her medication, we tried to start Lexie on the medication on June 12th. I say try because the medicine came in a pill format and Lexie has never taken a pill.

My husband thought it would be no trouble as he has never had problems swallowing pills. I on the other hand remember struggling with it as a child. Lexie takes after me and had trouble swallowing the capsule.

The instructions indicated that we could open the capsule and add it to a spoonful of applesauce which we didn’t have since neither kid eats it. So we decided to open a capsule and add the contents to some water and administer it by a syringe as we do all of Lexie’s other medications. Lexie however panicked and the most of the meds dribbled down her front side.

Admitting defeat for the day, we tried again the next day. This time we sprinkled it on a spoonful of yogurt and she had no problem taking it. She has now been taking it for a little over a week and there has been very little change in her behavior. We will probably try the higher dosage in the coming week and then meet with her doctor next month to check her weight and discuss if the medication is helping her.

Personality trait or attention disorder?

Lexie has always been full of energy. Because of her horrible eczema when she was little we often indulged her – allowing her to be a little more rambunctious than her brother. She was so uncomfortable all the time but always a happy girl. But getting her to listen and follow directions has always been somewhat of a chore.

Even her kindergarten teacher mentioned it last year. She was often always moving around and not seeming to pay attention, but she did well when tested.

Now she is in the first grade. We had her spring parent-teacher conference in February. In addition to keeping up with her reading tutoring, her teacher, Mrs. D, mentioned Lexie’s trouble focusing. She said compared to the other kids, Lexie stands out. By this time in the year, her teacher expects her to follow the rules and to work hard. But Lexie continues to get up during work time to come talk to Mrs. D.

We easily read between the lines that her teacher thought she might have an attention disorder such as ADD or ADHD. Of course, Mrs. D is not a doctor, but she has been teaching for 29 years – 20 of those at the first-grade level.

Her teacher did talk about how research has shown this is a medical disorder and through either therapy or medication, Lexie might be able to concentrate better – if she is actually diagnosed as having a problem.

Mrs. D stressed that she didn’t want to alter Lexie’s bubbly personality, but she was worried about her decline in grades and how she would do in second grade when the work becomes harder.

I have mentioned this conference to a few friends, and they have wondered what we wonder – is this really an attention problem or is it just part of Lexie’s personality that she bubbles with energy. She never sits still out dinner. One of my friends mentioned her eight-year-old son is the same way and he doesn’t have any attention problems.

Can Lexie pay attention? Well, yes if she wants to. She can spend hours playing video games or with play-doh or fake snow. And as with many kids, she would rather be playing than doing homework. Ugh – homework is always a chore with getting her to stay on task and finish the assignment rather than go off on one of the hundreds of tangents that she seems to want to go down.

Of course mention of Lexie possibly being ADD brought out instant denial by both sets of grandparents. We heard everything from the teacher is to blame (can’t control the kids) to she isn’t being stimulated enough (as in the work could be too easy) to she is just behaving like all kids do. This is coming from people who raised kids in the 80’s and have memory of parents being told to drug their “unruly” children. In other words, they don’t see this as a real medical disorder. Or at least not one their granddaughter has.

I don’t know what to believe. My husband and I have commented in the past that if either of our kids had ADD it would be Lexie. She appears to draw the short straw when it comes to medical problems. From amblyopia to eczema, she just seems prone to more medical issues than Jase.

I don’t know if she has an attention problem in the medical sense but I do know that I want her to do well in school. In her current state, she may need help doing that. So what we have decided to do is speak to her pediatrician about it at her well-check appointment, which will be next month. Once we know more, we will know which way to go with helping Lexie do her best in school.