Saturday, August 17, 2013

We can rebuild him. He is the Six Billion Star Man.

My son. A boy barely registering in self-esteem. Repeating fifth grade. Report card in the dumps.

We can rebuild him. We have the tech-nature-y. He is The Six Billion Star Man.

If you weren't a child in the '70s, you might completely lost by the above description. But if you did grow up in the '70s, you remember the set-up from The Six Million Dollar Man, a fictional account of the world's first bionic man. (There was a sequel series, to give equal time to both genders, called The Bionic Woman.

After retrieving Dylan from SOAR camp, I feel sort of like he's the Six Million Dollar Man. He does feel at least somewhat rebuilt. It seems as though spending three and a half weeks in the woods amongst a billion stars has done a lot to push the reset button.

Is everything perfect? Do I have nothing more to worry about? Hardly. But he seems more aware of his moods and less prone to overreact. I was a nervous wreck about him going back to the same school, repeating fifth grade. Yet, the night before school started, he said he was sort of looking forward to going back! I was pretty speechless.

Now, we're only two days in. The real bulk of schoolwork hasn't started. But I still can't help feeling excited about the changes in him.

He has about a million mosquito bites on his legs, but he sees them as a badge of courage. He's eager to tell you about whitewater rafting, and rappelling, and tubing.

I had worried, too, when he left that he'd be miserably homesick for the entire time. He was homesick. But he got past it and now he's looking forward to Boy Scout camping trips, knowing he can handle it.

I even worried that I'd get a call asking me to come get him. However, at our debrief, we were told how he approached every day with a smile on his face, eager to try more. He got praise for his willingness to work hard in academics. His counselor said he was the only one who wanted to read the interpretive signs in the parks and museum they visited.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, wonders if ADHD is really nature deficit disorder. While I don't think Dylan's problems could be solved with a weekly dose of nature, I think nature is a great place for kids like him. We could never afford it, but SOAR even has a school-year academy where kids are in school two weeks on/two weeks "off" when they go on nature expeditions that tie into their schoolwork. How perfect for these visual and kinesthetic learners! I wish regular schools could learn a lesson or two from a school like this. It would certainly be a better idea than Common Core and endless testing.

The send up of all this is that SOAR was a roaring success. Dylan learned skills and more importantly learn things about himself he can carry with him as part of his personal tool kit.

Kind of like a bionic power pack that keeps the Six Billion Star Man going. 

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

My child is SOARing

It has been 19 days since I last saw my son. We have never been separated this long, and even when we have, it's usually because I have been away on business. This time he has been away.

After a lot of thought and consideration, we decided to send him to SOAR camp. SOAR is: Success Oriented Achievement Realized. For a lot of reasons, Dylan has been on a downward spiral and I felt as though we needed to do something dramatic to break it. I want him to be able to believe in himself and be able to persevere through things that are challenging.

There's no real clearinghouse for finding what we were looking for. No algorithm to plug in the variables and get an output that would give us the ideal choices customized for our situation. Basically, we had to go on gut instinct.

SOAR is in North Carolina, so it was not an easy decision to make. There is a local school that has a camp for kids with learning disabilities. But it was just a week and only half days. I just didn't see what five days at three hours a day was going to do (plus there was the issue of who would pick him up at noon every day?).

This is not an actual SOAR pic, but camp there does include
rock climbing, backpacking, white water rafting, and more

SOAR has been in the business nearly 40 years. The executive director, himself, has struggled with ADHD and learning disabilities, as have his kids. On top of that, Penny Williams, the original founder of A Mom's View of ADHD, attended the family weekend program and was blown away. All of that was very promising.

Generally, when I told people that Dylan was going to camp for 26 days their mouths dropped open. Some said they could never send their kids away for that long. Others recovered and agreed that it sounded like a good idea. The best response, however, came from the owner of the occupational therapy center where Dylan has gone for OT. She pointed out that it takes 21 days to form a habit. He just gets five extra to confirm it!

I heard nothing at first. Kids aren't really allowed to call and parents can't just pick up the phone and call to talk to their kids, either. You can send letters and emails; just no calls. And I get it. In fact, mid-way through the program, when kids are scheduled to call home, a coworker asked why they had to mess up a good thing?  In other words, if everything was going along fine and Dylan had gotten over any homesickness, why mess with that?

I understood her comment only too well, but I was also looking forward to talking to him. And he sounded great! Like he's having a blast! The counselor said that he did have some homesickness at first but they let him work through it. Perfect!

Dylan's program is Academic Discovery, which combines classroom learning with adventure activities. He didn't have too much to say about the academics, which concerns me, but I'm hoping that the influence is deeper than even he realizes. We'll see when fifth grade starts all over again in a few weeks.

For now, I just cannot wait to see him and hug him!  I'm glad that he had this opportunity thanks to some funds from his grandmother and that we had the opportunity to give it to him.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Link to a great resource on building your child's self esteem

I've mentioned before how much I love the Pragmatic Mom blog. Today, Mia has guest blogger Faigie Kobre talking about self-esteem in kids, something every parent of a child with ADHD struggles with. These are kids who are so often told what they do wrong but don't hear enough about what they do right.

Faigie gives some concrete ideas to help build esteem and the best part is she tells us that no matter your child's age "it's not too late!" There's lots of good, meaty info and I encourage you to check it out!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

10 ADHD Evacuation Tips

The first tropical storm of the season blew through Florida last week. Tornados have wreaked havoc in Oklahoma and elsewhere. Then there have been the freak thunder storms, fires, and other catastrophes impacting other parts of the country. No matter where you are, it’s a good idea to think about what you would do if you had to evacuate.

Here in the Gulf South, we are no strangers to evacuation. I hadn’t lived here a year before my first evacuation and Dylan was not quite 2 the first time we evacuated with him. Of course, I didn’t know about ADHD yet. While I’ve heard plenty of parents say that their ADHD kids have been fussy and grumpy since birth that was definitely not Dylan’s M.O. For his first evacuation (Hurricane Ivan), we spent a whopping 16 hours in two separate vehicles driving from New Orleans to Lafayette, LA. Keep in mind that a typical drive to Lafayette takes less than three hours, so, yes, this was a miserably long trip. Dylan slept through almost the whole thing and when he didn't sleep, he babbled to himself and watched what was going on outside the window.

We’ve evacuated a few other times as a family, most notably for Katrina. For that monster storm, we thankfully bugged out of town two days ahead of time, sparing us from the extremes of both danger and traffic.

Evacuating is not for the faint of heart but it’s the right thing to do. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If catastrophe is heading your way and you can avoid it, I recommend it. You might lose some time and you’ll likely spend some money, but it’s better than losing your life or the life of a loved one.  Here are a few tips:

Before Catastrophe Hits   

  1.  Know When. Have a benchmark for when you’ll evacuate. For a hurricane, is it Category 1 in the Gulf? Cat 3? In the Cone of Possibility or something more likely? Three days away? One? For a tornado, which involves a much quicker decision making process, there will be different benchmarks. Same thing with fires.

    Everyone has a different level of risk tolerance. Know yours. Know that waiting for higher risk often means more crowded highways, less available gas, less of chance that you’ll actually make it out of town before catastrophe hits. If being in a car is difficult for your child, plan to leave early.
  2. Have a Plan. When you go, where are you going? Sometimes you can’t predict which way the storm will come. Have contingencies. For Hurricane Gustave a few years ago, we booked hotel rooms both East and West of New Orleans. I encouraged a fellow member of our church to do the same. He said he wanted to wait until he knew which way the storm was going. By the time he evacuated, all the hotels were booked and he ended up driving for 24 hours straight before sleeping in his car, along with his wife who has an anxiety condition. That could be nightmarish for a child with ADHD or other conditions including anxiety, autism, and sensory processing disorder. 
  3. Book a Room. Don’t count on finding a hotel on the side of the road. Everyone’s way ahead of you, unless you’ve left really early. I generally try to book something when a storm enters the Gulf. Know the cancellation policy and you can always cancel ahead of time. When necessary, I’ve paid for a night when I still wasn’t sure just for peace of mind. Having a hotel room reserved is especially necessary if you are traveling with pets. It also gives you a destination, so you can tell your sequential thinker where you are headed.
  4. Plan for Meds. When we evacuated for Katrina, we figured we’d be gone for a few days and then we would come back, pick up a few limbs, and get back to normal. Return ended up being four months away; normal took a whole lot longer. I can only imagine how much of a hassle it might’ve been had meds been an issue, especially since stimulants don’t have automatic refills. If there’s a better than 50% chance you might evacuate, see if your doc will write you an extra prescription to tide you over until you get back (or until you find a new doc in your temporary secondary home).
  5. Bring Important Papers and Sentimental Items. Along with insurance documents, birth certificates, and your child's psychoeducational evaluation and 504 or IEP, let your child bring some of their favorite things. You never know when disaster will really strike. Short term, they will need the comfort and familiarity, and if the worst happens, they’ll have some of the things that are meaningful for them.  I know this first hand.

During Evacuation
  1. Have Car Activities. Just as with any long car trip, plan to keep your child entertained. I’m very lucky that Dylan is a phenomenal traveler. We have literally considered selling everything and buying a mobile home since Dylan’s behavior is very consistently good while traveling. That said, I always have a bag of tricks ready. When he was younger, this usually involved inexpensive dollar store games and toys that were new to him but were small and weren’t valuable. These days, it might be a new graphic novel or a new ap on my iPhone. I’m not a fan of TV in the car, but if there ever was a time to have it, this would be it. 
  2. Stay Hydrated. But not too hydrated. Make sure everyone – especially the kids – drink enough fluids, but not so much that you have to stop at every rest area and large tree along the way. Dehydration can hasten and exacerbate melt downs.
  3. Follow Routines. As much as you can, keep to a normal time schedule so your child won’t get hungry and will feel some semblance of normalcy on the road.
  4. Overlook (Some) Bad Behavior. Evacuation heightens everything and even with your efforts to keep your routine, the situation will be anything but routine. Expect some difficulty dealing with it expressed through back talk or bad behavior. Only address things that cannot be ignored.
  5. Plan What Happens After You Stop. Dylan slept through that 16-hour marathon drive to Lafayette. When we arrived, I had literally burst a blood vessel in my eye from peering through the windshield so intensely all night long but Dylan was fresh as a daisy, ready to GO. As tired as I was, I had to drive around looking for a playground where he could burn off some energy.
If you can, share driving duties so that someone will be awake enough to take on parenting duties when you arrive. For the Ivan evacuation, we were in two vehicles since we had two dogs and a child, and the camper top we had ordered for the truck hadn’t arrived in time. (The truth was that it had arrived in time – twice – but the company didn’t measure it right – both times.) 

Finally, try to make it fun. You’ll be stressed and so will your child, but it can also be an adventure. Think outside the box – if you can afford it, maybe you can evacuate to a resort or at least a motel with a pool. Spend some time seeing the sights. Evacuating can be a pain and it can be a hassle. But if you’ve got to do it, you might as well enjoy at least some of it.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

From Moms Charlotte: Life as a mom of a child with ADHD

Julie Greer McGrath launched an 8-week series this week on Moms Charlotte.  I look forward to reading the rest of her tale. Unfortunately, you have the typical naysayers. When will the stigma end? 

LD Navigator

The National Center for Learning Disabilities has just released the LD Navigator.  It's a tool designed for pediatricians, but it's great for anyone who wants to learn more about diagnosing learning disabilities. It has a great interactive design!

Visit to see it in person!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

From Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities: Changing Times: Challenges for Kids with ADHD

I subscribe to many, many blogs and newsletters related to ADHD. I thought this was a great post on Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Changing Times: Challenges for Kids with ADHD

By Peg Dawson

A generation ago, children with ADHD went undiagnosed; they were often labeled “lazy” or “troublemaker,” and some dropped out of school while many struggled to get through. But today more children are at risk for school failure due to attention problems. Why? Because the skills we expect children to master and the work we expect them to perform are more complex than in the past. Homework is no longer a page of division problems or a spelling worksheet. Kids now are asked to carry out complicated projects with multiple steps and scoring rubrics that resemble procedures from a NASA engineer’s manual.

In addition, youngsters today...