Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Island are you on?

As I was reading the lastest blog post on "a mom's view of ADHD" today, I could relate to each of the different islands described because at one time or another, I have been there, done that.  Currently I feel like I am on Gilligan's Island and keep getting sucked back onto the island and just not sure when I will ever get off!  Check out the article:  The ADHD Islands

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Diet and ADHD

It is quite a controversial topic... 

Here are the results from a recent study conducted by INCA - Impact of Nutrition on Children with ADHD:
Their conclusion was that "A strictly supervised restricted elimination diet is a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food."

Does Diet really affect ADHD symptoms?  Everyone has got their own thoughts and theories...

 All I know is what I have experienced with my own son who was diagnosed with ADHD and I would say that it definitely made a difference for him.

Let's take a trip down memory lane... it's first grade and my son is having daily issues at school - he can't sit still, he can't focus, he is easily frustrated and melts down quickly when things don't go his way.  He has regressed and is hiding under his desk when things don't go as expected.  He is exhibiting behavior that clearly illustrates that he feels like everyone is against him.  When something happens, he immediately moves into a "fight or flight" type reaction and is unable to reason or logic through any situation until he is given time to calm down.  He is being suspended for his behavior in the classroom and no one at school is able to help us.  We did want any desparate parent would do, we scheduled an appointment with the psychiatrist to get some answers.  Originally it was not clear if the behaviors were related to ADHD or just anxiety or a combination of both.  We tried anxiety meds first, but that didn't quite solve the problems... so we tried ADHD meds instead, but that didn't quite solve the problems either.  We ended up using meds for both anxiety and ADHD and that seemed to be the magic combination for my son at the time.  We had no reason to believe that he had food allergies or sensitivites at this point.

Then my sister was diagnosed with a number of food allergies and in a quest to find a cookbook for her, I ran across a special cookbook for kids with ADHD.  As I started to research this diet and the science behind it, it made sense to me.  I started seeking out recipes and ran across several Yahoo groups and several wonderful blogs of parents who were already doing the diet and sharing all their converted recipes.  I decided it was worth a shot to give it a try and so we started by eliminating gluten & dairy from my family's diet.  I located a doctor in our city who was helping parents with this type of intervention for kids with ADHD, Asperger's and Autism and with his help, we discovered additional food allergies/sensitivities and eliminated all known problem foods.  As part of this we also began making all our food at home which removes all the processed foods, preservatives, food colorings, etc. which can also cause problems for many kids today.

Fast forward back to the present... my son has been on his special diet for 2 and 1/2 years now and it isn't very complicated, it has become second nature to cook differently and our entire family is healthier because of it.  We make most of our own meals at home which saves us alot of money on eating out.  We had taken my son of both of his medications the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and he was doing well without them.  My son ended up transferring schools this year due to a change in school boundaries and I think the stress of the changes affected him.  We ended up taking him back to the psychiatrist because we were seeing some of those old behaviors and the doctor said it sounds like his anxiety has relapsed.  We started him back on anxiety meds and he is a different child.  His teacher is amazed at the change in him at school and I no longer get daily communications regarding problems from the teacher.  The interesting thing is that he is not exhibiting the significant focus issues that he had in 1st grade.  He is on the same anxiety med as back then, but there is no need for the ADHD stimulant medication this time.  He is able to focus and complete his work at school.  The only difference now is his diet.

When we were first starting out with the food allergy/sensitivity discovery, I read a book that I highly recommend to any parent contemplating a change in diet.  Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Kenneth Bock.  Doctor Bock explains the science behind the food sensitivities and how it can affect our children and their behavior.

If you are thinking about taking the plunge and trying a removal of gluten & dairy from your child's diet, I highly recommend the book The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) and Other Interventions by Barrie Silberberg.  I wish I had this book when I first started, it would have made my life alot easier.

With that all being said... I do not believe that diet is the ONLY thing that has helped us overcome the focus issues.  He has gone to countless OT appointments to help with many different challenges.  We have done Brain Integration Therapy which has helped in certain areas.  We have done biofeedback.  He receives assistance at school through interventions as needed.  We are also supplementing key things that we found him to be low on like Vit D, B12, and Folate.  Overall we have done many different things to help him be successful at school and home and his diet is just one piece of the puzzle.  As parents of kids with ADHD, we have to have alot of different tools in our toolbox, and this is just one tool that I find useful in helping my son.

I encourage you all to do your own research and decide for yourselves if diet will help your child.  There are several different diets that can benefit ADHD symptoms.  The one advice I would give is, don't give up too soon!  If at first it seems that the diet isn't working, stick with it for several weeks and allow them to rid their systems of all the things that were causing a problem before you decide if it is working or not.  Sometimes things get worse before they get better - kind of like an addict going through withdrawls.  Keeping a food journal is also very helpful.  Remember it can take 24-72 hours to see behavioral effects from a food that is eaten and with a food journal it will be easier for you to track down any behaviors related to food.  Best of luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tips for educating students affected by ADHD

Oh how I wish that I could share this very practical blog with every parent and teacher who has a kid affected by ADHD!  If you are looking for practical ways to help your child, OR for that matter, ALL CHILDREN, then you have got to check out this blog.

Then when you are done with this entry, check out the other entries on the blog. It will be time well spent!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Anxiety Sucks!

I just have to tell you that anxiety really sucks!  We finally got in to see the psychiatrist and I took the following list of concerning behvaiors to share with him so that I wouldn't have to tell him all these "bad" things in front of my son and make him feel even worse about himself.

- Meltdowns when he doesn’t get his way.  This can happen over the smallest of things.  Little things get blown way out of proportion.
- Impulsivity – no control over his actions when upset, will say inappropriate things or act out.
-  Lack of focus – has a hard time starting a task and staying on task – easily bored with school work. 
- Poor self image and lack of self confidence – will often feel like everyone hates him at school and when he gets in trouble at home, he immediately says we hate him when he receives consequences for his actions.  Many times when he starts to get out of control, we ask him to take some time in his room to calm down, he refuses and then when we insist he go calm down, he escalates and yells and stomps up the stairs saying we hate him.  Sometimes when he is really upset, he says he wishes he was never born or that he would just die.
- Aggressive – He either tries to hurt a classmate or his brother or makes threats to hurt them.   He has been suspended twice this school year 2010-2011 – first time for choking another child who was picking on him, second time for threatening to hit another child that was annoying him.
- Homework is a daily battle – he doesn’t want to do it, takes forever to get it done, and requires a significant amount of redirection to get it done.  It is often a source of frustration and meltdowns at home.

I also received feedback from his teacher with what they were seeing as his biggest challenges at school... "We tend to see cycles of highs and lows.  Days of extremes…a day in which he is respectful and on task, and then other days he is defiant and hyper-sensitive to others.  So, we’re seeing emotional swings at the extreme ends of the spectrum.  Academic frustrations don’t seem to be the root cause of the behaviors.  We’re specifically concerned about interpersonal relationships and being accepting of consequences."

The psychiatrist took one look at the long list of behaviors and said "sounds like he has relapsed into an anxiety condition".  He suggested trying the same med that we used before for anxiety since it seemed to work well and it has little to no side effects.  It was hard as a parent to accept the fact that he needed to take medication again, but we are so desparate to help him, we just had to do something!  Anxiety sucks and I feel so bad for my son when it seems no matter what we try and do to help him, it just doesn't help.

I realized how bad the anxiety really was when we (the Special Ed teacher, his teacher and I) were all trying to be encouraging to him and tell him he can do it... it back fired and caused him to have an awful day after almost a week of really good days.  It was like the pressure was too much and when one little thing went wrong, it just went downhill from there and he couldn't bring it around.  The school has been fabulous at trying different things to help him and working with the teacher and supporting her as well.

Things are turning around now that he has been on the medication for a little over 3 weeks now.  At home we are seeing less meltdowns and they are not as intense when they do happen.  I also received a wonderful note from his teacher this week when I checked in with her... "These past couple of days have been markedly better overall…he just seems more compliant and, overall, is following through on assigned task certainly much better than before.  To me, he seems to be getting a general look of calmness in his demeanor…like he doesn’t look so aggravated to have to be sitting in school."

I am so relieved that the medication is working and helping him.  He even told his teacher that he feels more focused and it is easier to stay on track.  Anxiety has a way of making everything you do more difficult... who can focus and stay on task when you are worried all the time?  Have you ever lost your keys and been fractically looking for them, feeling anxious about finding them, and you can't think about anything else?  That is what it is like all the time when you have anxiety, you just can't focus on anything else than what you are worried about... anxiety sucks!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Groundhog day...

Have you ever had one of those feelings like you have been there, done that, lived through something already?  Just like the poor guy on the movie Groundhog Day where he has to live the same day over and over again.  You know that you have done so much to make things different, make things better, fought so hard... and then to find yourself basically right back where you started is just agonizing! 

This school year was going to be different, this school year was going to be the best one yet... and in a matter of days and weeks I feel like we are right back where we were 3 years ago when this all started in 1st grade.  He is impulsive with his emotions and actions, he can't focus and doesn't care.  All the accomodations aren't helping.  He hates school, he thinks that everyone at school hates him.  He is having meltdowns all the time and we never know what is going to set him off.  Homework is our daily hour of frustration and tears.  He throws a fit every time he doesn't get his way.  He is rude and disrespectful and gets in trouble on a daily basis.

What changed?  What happened?  Where did we go wrong?  I have been racking my brains trying to figure out what is different now than just a couple of months ago - why have we regressed so far back?   He knows he should make a different choice and is very remorseful after an incident, but he can't stop himself in the moment - his impulsiveness cannot be controlled.  It is as if he has no control... something is not right in his brain and it is just not working the way it should.  When I talk to him after an incident he is upset because he is out of control and he can't stop himself.  My heart just breaks... I can't imagine feeling so out of control and how scary that must be for him. 

We are going back to the basics... retesting his neurotransmitters to see what is out of whack and needs to be adjusted.  I have even thought about medicating him again to bring him back to a baseline so that he can cope through this situation and get things back on track.  There are a couple of things I am going to look into this time... chiropractic sessions, a special Doctor of Osteopathy that has some different methods to help, and probably will go back to doing biofeedback to help him get in touch with his emotions and triggers and how to handle situations differently.

I know that everything happens for a reason and this too will work out in the end.  I have faith that God will bring the right resources at the right times to help us through this rough spot.  I am just hoping and praying that tomorrow will be the day that I wake up and don't have to re-live my own "groundhog day" again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Starting the school year off on the right foot

I recently attended a training session on IEP's put on by the PEAK Parent Center and I had a big "ah-ha" moment. I realized that too often when I approach a person who will be working with my son, I basically start with the laundry list of challenges that he has or the negative side of his ADHD and basically give them the impression that my child has alot of issues and problems. If I was my son's teacher, I would be dreading having him in my class and assume that he is going to be a problem child. I have sabotaged him so many times without even realizing what I was doing. I guess I just thought it better that the teacher know everything so they can respond appropriately to help him. During this training, the speaker asked what we would tell other people about our best friend? Would we talk about all the bad qualities of our friend? NO! We would talk about all the good qualities of our friend and so we should do the same about our children.

I decided to put together a "Profile" for my son with ADHD. This is a concept that I had read about last year in an article in the CHADD Magazine, where you give your child's new teacher something that helps them to get to know your child better and states what works well for them.

The point of the "Student Profile" is to give the teachers a proper view of all of our child's strengths and then positively state effective strategies for the areas where they need help. What a difference that might make in our children's school lives if we begin to approach things in this manner! So I would like to share with you the "Profile" I put together and have given to my son's teacher.

At the top of the one-page Profile you can include information like your child's name, age, grade, date of birth. Names of the parents and siblings. Any basic information that the teacher might find helpful.


Areas of Student Strength/Interest:
- Andrew is friendly and outgoing and has a great sense of humor. He is intuitive and enjoys helping others. He makes friends easily and loves to be part of a group. He values strong relationships with adults.
- Andrew is very bright and typically scores high on assessments. He enjoys a good challenge and friendly competition. He works well with a schedule and warnings for transitions.
- Andrew knows a lot about dinosaurs and animals. He loves the outdoors, camping, fishing, and anything related to nature. He takes very good care of our garden at home.
- Andrew loves science and hands on experiments. He likes to understand how things work.
- Andrew is very creative and loves to tell stories.

Successful Learning Strategies/Modifications/Accommodations Needed:
- Planner & Homework reminders help ensure that work is completed and handed in on time.
- Transition warnings are helpful when moving from one task to another.
- Have students work in pairs or groups when possible.
- Use peer supports.
- Give subtle cues & reminders to maintain focus: touch shoulder, gentle tap on desk, ask him a question.
- Ask him to be a helper with the class assignment or another student.
- Give him time to calm himself when frustrated or upset.
- Have him restate the objective of an assignment.
- Wait 10-15 seconds after giving a direction before repeating and use touch the second time.
- Give movement/heavy lifting breaks when needed – errands (box of books) to the office, library, other teachers, etc.
- Allow him to take tests first thing in the morning.

Communication Strategies:
- Email works best for communication, phone calls are always welcome. Frequency based on an as needed basis – recommend at least once a week to ensure that Andrew is being successful.
- Andrew is most responsive to parental coaching when he can remember what happened and we prefer to talk to him that same day.

Positive Behavior Support Strategies:
- Andrew responds well to a token rewards system and parents are willing to provide rewards and motivation as needed.
- Encouragement and positive praise in the same way as given to others.
- Springs Ranch Psychologist had lunch with him once a week to check in with him and reinforce his successes and provided guidance in challenging areas.

Grading and Assessment Accommodations:
- Andrew sometimes needs extra time for classroom tests and CSAP testing.

Important Family/Health Information:
- Andrew has food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, citrus, garlic, almonds. These are NOT anaphylactic type reactions, but can cause an upset stomach, and behavior issues.
- We enjoy spending time together as a family going on bike rides, camping, fishing, watching movies, playing games, and always try to eat dinner together each night.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jiffy Potatoes - Allergen Free!

Jiffy Potatoes is a recipe that my Grandma Peterson used to make at all our holiday dinners... it is the creamiest potato casserole you have ever tasted and you can make them up in a jiffy! Since we have food allergies now, I wasn't sure we could EVER eat Jiffy Potatoes again... but thanks to my Vitamix blender, we are now able to eat Jiffy Potatoes (Allergen Free) for our Easter Dinner tomorrow.

Here is the original recipe (in case you don't have food allergies)

Jiffy Potatoes - Original Recipe
2 lbs frozen hashbrowns (country-style diced) - thawed
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can cream of celery soup
minced onion
shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients in a 9x13 pan. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and melt. Serve and enjoy!

Here is my NEW and IMPROVED ALLERGEN FREE recipe:

Jiffy Potatoes - Allergen Free
2 lbs frozen hashbrowns (country-style diced) - thawed
2 1/2 cups milk substitute, divided (I use unsweetened original hemp milk)
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp butter substitute (I use Earth Balance - soy free)
4-6 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 onion, finely diced
6 mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp onion salt
Daiya Cheddar Cheese (

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Saute celery, onion, and mushrooms in butter until soft (approx 10 minutes) stirring occassionally.
3) While the celery, onions, and mushrooms are cooking, drain and rinse the raw cashews and place them in the Vitamix blender. Add 1 cup milk and blend until smooth (approx 2 minutes).
4) Leave the cashew mixture in the blender and add the celery, onion, and mushrooms to the blender and blend slightly to break up the veggies and incorporate them into the cashew mixture.
5) Combine cashew mixture, 1 1/2 cups milk, apple cider vinegar, fresh parsley and onion salt.
6) Spread potatoes out in a 9x13 pan and pour mixture over them - stir slightly to coat.
7) Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour
8) Top with Daiya Cheddar Cheese and melt. Serve and enjoy!

Note: You could try this recipe with another type of blender or a food processor, but I found that it doesn't quite make as smooth of a cashew mixture. If you are not using a high powered blender like a Vitamix blender, I would soak the cashews longer or overnight to make them softer to work with in your food processor or other blender.