The journey to become an advocate for your child is daunting but you're not alone. In the last month I've been to a couple of events aimed at networking and spreading information about local resources for parents and teachers. This is a whole new world for me and I want to share some lessons I'm learning as I navigate the various support systems of this exciting grassroots movement of parents, and slowly learn to speak up for my son in a more assertive way. I know some parents are already in that zone but I've always been shy about advocating at school in addition to being discouraged by the former principal and teachers from pursuing an IEP or a 504 due to my son's ADHD. Now that he's officially diagnosed with ASD and his academic performance is at a low point, I've mustered up the courage to pursue an IEP at school, and I also want to know the available resources for my son.
My kid is not unlike many other kids that are diagnosed in piecemeal fashion: first with ADHD, then Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and now Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I affectionally call the timeline of his diagnoses: the Summer of (age) 5, the Summer of (age) 7, and the Summer of (age) 9.
My son has struggled from an early age emotionally, socially, and academically. His father died when he was 23 months old and grief seemed to be the obvious explanation for his puzzling behaviors at first. Grief in children can take on many forms and go on for many years. He was often misunderstood as misbehaving because he "looks" neurotypical, but as he grew, something was clearly amiss and I began seeking professional help.
This post was originally published in five parts and it's now an ebook on Amazon called Parenting Your ADHD Child: A Quick Guide with 20 Natural Strategies. This is a shortened version of the book with five of my favorites strategies.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age five and at age seven he was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. I agree with renowned Dr. Hallowell who sees ADHD not as a mental illness or disease but as genetic traits (an ADHD neurotribe) that, if nurtured and well managed, can be incredibly positive to someone. While in some cases psychiatric medication is life-saving, I’ve been able to successfully manage my son’s behaviors and challenges for the past four years using a combination of strategies.
My biggest discovery in this learning journey is that ADHD is not just about the chemistry of the brain but also the physics of the body. Sensory issues play such an incredible role in regulating emotions and attention that being able to identify the sensory needs of a child, rather than controlling them, can really help him/her without the use of medication.
Back in March, I was dropping off the paperwork for my son’s camps at the YMCA and I had an oversize planner full of colorful sticky notes. The attendant at the desk opened her eyes wide and exclaimed what I could only interpret as a joke: “Wow. You’re the most organized parent I’ve ever seen.” I rushed to correct the record: “Oh, no. I’m really not this organized. I just act like one for the summer.”
I’m not a medical professional—I’m simply a mom raising an awesome little man to live up to his full potential. I’m sharing our experiences in hopes that they’re informative and encouraging to you.
We instinctively know that nature is the perfect playground for children. There’s also a growing number of peer-reviewed research pointing to countless health benefits of nature play for all kids, especially ADHD kids, like here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Much attention to this issue has been promoted by best-selling author Richard Louv who created the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to describe how the lack of contact with nature affects people’s mental and physical health. It’s not a clinical term, but the concept has gained recognition in the medical community—and doctors are even prescribing vitamin “N” (Nature) now. While all this information is fantastic and helpful—especially when managing ADHD symptoms—the lesser known Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is off the radar and unknown to most people, yet it often coexists with other diagnoses such as ADHD, Autism, various Learning Differences, Developmental Delays, Premature Birth, and so forth. Even without SPD, sensory play is essential for all children, regardless of developmental differences.
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I'm a single mom, graphic designer, crunchy mama, trekkie geek, life warrior. It's embarrassing how excited I get about food. I'm an expert in barefoot Lego fire walk.
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