I have a new article published in ADDitude magazine.
Please check out this fine e-zine. It is a terrific source for help, strategies and support.
I have a new article published in ADDitude magazine.
Please check out this fine e-zine. It is a terrific source for help, strategies and support.
Link to Melinda and Josh’s article in ADDitude magazine.
Check it out!
From Melinda’s Facebook page
“I met you and Josh at the IAHE Convention in Indianapolis the end of May. I just wanted to THANK YOU for the break out sessions that you offered and for your book. My son has now officially been diagnosed with ADHD with Sensory Processing Disorder as I am reading your book I see so much of my son. Just change out the names and it’s like it’s his story. We are 10 days into homeschooling and we do have a lot to work through but I am praising God that out of 10 days, only 2 have been bad…the rest have all been good.”
I love my child’s high energy, enthusiasm, and joyful spirit. I don’t even mind that I will never have any family secrets, ever, because this innocent child will share our business with anyone within earshot and think nothing of it. Her openness reflects her optimism and her tendency to believe the best about others. This is another reason for clean living, because if you don’t have anything to hide then having a child spill the beans is no big deal.
My daughter’s activity level has often left me in open-mouthed amazement. To burn off energy, she will run up and down the stairs multiple times. She also likes to sprint around the block, and when we have inclement weather she will clear a pathway in the house so she can take off running and then slide across the floor in her socks. Like many individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) she needs to find outlets for her strong need for physical activity. Also true of many with ADHD, my daughter has had sleep difficulties and struggles to calm her body and mind so she can fall asleep.
Most of the time I not only accept my daughter’s differences, I delight in them. Over time I discovered that not all adults shared my appreciation for my wonderfully-spirited child. At homeschool group classes, I began to hear complaints about my daughter’s non-stop chattering and apparent inability to stop talking even when the teacher was attempting to give instructions. She was not deliberately rude or disrespectful, just uninhibited in sharing her thoughts. Every single one of them. This continual verbal stream was one of the ways her hyperactivity manifested, as if the words just built up inside her and had to come out or she would pop.
My daughter was also wigglier than most children her age, something I could easily accommodate during our homeschool day. It became problematic when we were out in public and she couldn’t sit still at a restaurant or stand quietly beside me during homeschool field trips. I remember a very patient AWANA instructor chuckling as he described how my daughter would slide back and forth on a bench while reciting her memorized verses. She moved around while she was learning the verses, and she moved around while recalling them. She was consistent, and fortunately had a leader who was able to enjoy having her in his group.
My daughter’s sensory processing difficulties along with her ADHD impulsivity made it a struggle for her to regulate herself to maintain the calm yet alert state that is optimal for learning. At one homeschool group gathering, I could see that she was talking continually and was starting to elicit clearly unappreciative glances from nearby adults. Not wanting to squelch her ebullience, I sought a way to help her quickly and unobtrusively so she would not be embarrassed. Scanning the table laden with potluck offerings, my gaze fell on a basket of dinner rolls. I quickly snatched one up and extended it to my daughter, asking if she needed a roll. I figured if she was chewing a roll it would give her a few seconds to take a break and maybe relax and slow down a little bit. I think it would have worked if my daughter had gone along with my plan, but instead she blurted out, “Hey! Are you just trying to get me to be quiet?” So much for subtlety.
At home my daughter could wiggle away as long as she was getting her schoolwork done. It’s distracting, though, when a child is in constant motion in a group setting. Have you ever noticed how distractible children always seem to find each other in a crowd, and then escalate the other’s behaviors? This happened often while we participated in homeschool group activities. One strategy I used to help my girl was our “meatball hug”. She would sit on my lap and pull her knees to her chin, and I would wrap my arms around her and gently squish her while rocking back and forth. She loved this, and it didn’t draw negative attention to her. Once she outgrew my lap, the meatball hug had to be more of a roll. Her father or I would give her arms and legs little squeezes as if we were kneading dough, or capture her between us to roll back and forth like a squeeze machine.
The need to calm down was not always apparent to my daughter, but she recognized our family code, “Do you need a roll?” as a signal to try and tone things down. Your family might find a different code and use other strategies to support your child. I personally will never hear the question “Do you need a roll?” without thinking of my wonderfully vibrant daughter who did, in fact, need some rolls now and then.
Motivation is such a wonderful thing. It gives us energy to pursue our goals. Motivation can urge us onward toward of a myriad of accomplishments. It makes us excited to achieve and keeps us on track and purposeful in our actions. When one is motivated, there is less need for external prompting because there is an inward drive and desire that needs no supplementation. If only we could bottle it up and pull out motivation to dole out as needed!
Homeschooling a motivated student is exciting and rewarding, providing a sense of the joy of teaching and affirming our efforts to help our children learn. If homeschooling is supposed to be a wonderful experience, why are so many of us lamenting the fact that our students not only do not eagerly pursue learning opportunities but appear downright unmotivated and reluctant to learn?
If a motivated student reassures us that we are successful teachers, then the converse is also true. A reluctant, unmotivated student can cause us to question our ability to teach our children well. This doubt can lead our thoughts down other paths, where we wonder if we are up to the calling of homeschooling and if we will somehow be holding our children back if we continue. Before you go too far in questioning your ability to homeschool, please allow me to share some of my experiences as a homeschooling mother of a very reluctant, unmotivated student.
I am not a high-energy, easily-excited mom. Nevertheless I worked hard to be enthusiastic when I presented lessons and I tried to make the work engaging and interesting for my children. Imagine my dismay when day after day I called my children to the table to begin our school work and without fail the first words out of my son’s mouth were, “How long is this going to take?”
He asked me that question no matter what the subject matter was, and in fact without even knowing which subject I was about to introduce. In response, I would plaster a smile on my face and try to exude exhilaration for the lesson. I tried to be funny. I worked at being more animated in my presentations. I used up a lot of energy, as if I were auditioning for the role of inspiring homeschool mom. Inwardly, I berated myself for my inability to stimulate a love of learning in my children.
I have always loved learning new things, and I had carefully selected my curriculum. Night after night I strained my brain to come up with something I could do or change that would eliminate the reluctance my son felt toward schoolwork. I was beginning to despair. I had a heart to homeschool my children, but I questioned whether I had the energy and ability to do the job for the long haul.
Then, one day, the circus came to town. Yes, I thought about running off to join it, but once again I didn’t seem to have the right skill set! I was already abysmal as a performer, judging by my child’s desire to get schoolwork over with as quickly and painlessly as possible despite my antics. So I took the children to see the circus, hoping that at last my son would be adequately engaged and intrigued by the novelty of the acts.
My son watched the tigers with great interest. He was so intent while watching the trapeze artists that I’m not sure he even blinked during their entire act. Just as clowns appeared in one circus ring and horses began trotting around a second ring, my son turned to me and said something that changed me forever.
“Mom,” he asked, “When can we go home? I’m bored.”
Of course he had told me on many prior occasions that he was bored. All this time I thought it was my fault for being inadequate as his teacher. Hearing him say he was bored at the circus astonished me and gave me a valuable insight that helped me realize more than ever that homeschooling was the best option for my family. When my child informed me that he was bored at a three-ring circus, at first I was just plain shocked. Once the shock wore off, a sense of great relief came over me because I realized that even if I chose to wear feathers and swing from a trapeze while teaching, this child would become bored within about 15 minutes!
The difficulty my son had with school was not because of any lack on my part as a homeschooler. Rather, it was the way he was wired that led him to be easily bored and inattentive. Once I realized that the attention and motivation challenges were essentially stemming from inside my son and were not due to my ineptness as his teacher, I was freed up to concentrate on ways to help him learn to motivate himself and deal with his frequent feelings of boredom. I began to focus less on critiquing myself and instead became more observant of my son.
I noticed that there were certain times of the day when my son was more alert, and that it did not always coincide with my own states of alertness. I observed that when he was physically active for a short burst of time he was then able to attend to his lessons for longer periods. My son showed me that when he was emotionally upset or over-excited about something that we tended to have less productive days and my attempts to push him usually backfired. As my self-doubt regarding my ability to teach my child receded, I was able to direct that mental energy into finding out what my son truly needed.
In addition to my great revelation at the circus, over time I became more and more convinced that homeschooling was ideal for a learner like my son. I could accommodate his needs and give him the attention he needed to stay on track and learn. Each year of homeschooling I was better equipped because of the previous year’s experiences. My son came to understand that even when I didn’t understand some of his challenges I would steadfastly believe he was capable of learning, and I would never give up.
There will always be people with more impressive credentials, but we do not need to compete with them. As homeschooling parents, we are more invested in our children than anyone else. We have the motivation to help our kids, year after year, to teach them and show them love. Homeschooling can be challenging, but it can instruct the teacher as well as the students as situations arise. In my case, I always tell people that with all the learning and motivation challenges I faced, my children made me be a better teacher than I wanted to have to be. In the end, though, I am a better teacher and mom because of the things I learned while homeschooling my children.
There is a commercial advertising a credit card company that ends with the question, “What’s in your wallet?” While this is an interesting question, at my house I am more likely to hear, “Where is my wallet?”
Life with the distractible and disorganized can be discombobulating. I live with three family members who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and due to challenges with inattention and forgetfulness often items get lost or misplaced. Sometimes my kids will ask me if I’ve seen something that’s gone missing. Since I like things to be organized and put away in a logical place, there are times when I can locate the missing object because I put it away instead of leaving it out where it was dropped.
I have systems for cleaning and organizing. The problem is with implementation and cooperation from the rest of my family. I have a strong need for things to be put away where they belong so I can find them when I go looking for them. Just last night I pulled out all the ingredients to make a delicious smoothie, but when I went to get my smoothie maker only part of it was in the cupboard where I keep it. I had a blender base with the pitcher and a lid, but the ball on a stick part used to help move the mixture around in the pitcher was missing. I looked in all the places I could think of putting it, but only one place really made sense to me and that was to store all the smoothie maker parts in the same location. My husband came into the kitchen and joined me in the search for the missing part.
After looking in the same places I had looked, and striking out just as I had, my husband began looking in places that made no sense to me but just might contain the lost tool so they warranted a look. Even then we could not locate our smoothie tool, so we…looked in all the same places again! I’m not sure why we do this, as if the missing item that wasn’t there previously will somehow show up if we look again in the exact same place. This strategy was also unsuccessful, so we moved on to asking our children if they knew where the missing piece was hiding.
This is not generally a good strategy, either, because we are talking about distractible people who misplace things all the time and absentmindedly leave things in odd places. But it was worth a shot, since we had nothing else to go on at that point. Both children stated where they might have placed it, but neither actually remembered doing so and the item wasn’t where they suggested. This time, my husband decided to try substituting a silicon spatula in place of the missing tool, with the result that we had delicious smoothies with bits of a chopped spatula mixed in. I think I swallowed a piece.
Those types of lost items are frustrating and inconvenient, but not nearly as alarming as missing driver’s licenses, phones, or my personal nemesis the missing wallet. Not my wallet. Remember, I have a “wallet place” where my wallet lives and is predictably located when I need it. My daughter and husband have misplaced their wallets multiple times, though, and it sends me into a far greater panic than they experience. While my mind is racing with all the possibilities and security risks, they are unsystematically roaming the house looking in odd places for their wallets. Sometimes they leave the house for a minute and I realize they are checking the car to see if it’s there. Or maybe on the sidewalk, or in the grass, or…well, you get the idea.
My daughter will, at times like these, casually ask me if I’ve seen her wallet. She acts like it’s not really a big deal because it’s bound to turn up sooner or later, and she really believes that! Hunting for her wallet is like a treasure hunt and is only mildly irritating if she doesn’t find the wallet. I, on the hand, begin mentally listing all the items that will need to be replaced or cancelled.
My husband is more subtle about searching for his missing wallet or other items, and rarely asks me to help him look anymore. The reason he doesn’t bother seeking my assistance is because I’m not much help at finding whatever he has lost. I look in logical (to me) places where I would leave my wallet, for instance, and since I have a “wallet spot” I don’t have too many places to look.
Even when my husband doesn’t come out and say that he’s misplaced something of importance, I can recognize the signs. He enters a room scanning it like a secret service agent taking everything in at a glance. Then he moves around the room, picking up papers and small portable items while surreptitiously looking under and around them. He never panics, and never tells himself not to bother looking in strange places because he knows the missing item could be anywhere. While I fret about possible identity theft, my husband remains unruffled as he continues his quest for the missing wallet.
I no longer reach the panic stage as quickly as I used to, because more often than not my husband and daughter do find their missing wallets. Rather than berate themselves for having lost them, they congratulate themselves on another successful recovery. I would like to avoid the stress of “Where is my wallet?” but I do admire the resiliency of my family members who just don’t sweat it when these events happen. They take it in stride as casually as a driver stopping for a red light, doing what the situation calls for and moving on.
Speaking of moving on, I just heard my husband in the next room quietly asking himself, “Now where did I put my keys?”
I am quite confident that he will find his keys, no matter how strange a hiding spot they are in, because his experience and resiliency will win out. Keys, your time on the loose is limited. Give yourselves up! You will be found.
In the last six weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at three different state homeschool conventions. At each conference I attend, I share information about learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorders, and Auditory Processing Disorders. More important than the facts I pass along are the real-life stories from my own family experiences. I share what didn’t work as well as what worked at least some of the time. I share some of the failures and frustrations as well as our hard-won achievements.
When my first two children graduated from our homeschool in 2006, we declared our school colors to be black and blue. We were the homeschool of hard knocks! Not only did my children struggle with learning, but I struggled to try to find better ways to teach them. One of the biggest benefits for those attending workshops for children with various special needs is to look around and realize they are not alone. There are others striving to teach children with challenges, and others who understand the difficulties families face when their child has to work harder than most for every small gain they accomplish.
What has always amazed me is how God has prompted me to share some of the hardest, most unimpressive movements of my life and that is what people are blessed by in my workshops. Sure, I offer lots of tips and practical strategies, but what people connect with is hearing a speaker who admits to not having it all together but never gave up trying. My son is a young adult now, and he comes to conferences with me. People look at the two of us as survivors, who dealt with a lot of learning challenges and came out intact. Now Josh can share his perspective, and give parents insight into why their children may act the way they do.
I’ve never had all the answers to the challenges my children faced. What I did have was a commitment to help them grow into the unique individuals God intended them to become, equipping them as best I could. Sometimes I was out of ideas for how to teach a given topic, and my kids still weren’t “getting it”. All I had to offer was reassurance that I would keep trying to find ways to help, and would not give up on them. I would be the knot at the end of the rope that they could hang onto. The message was: Mom doesn’t have all the answers but Mom will always be there with you, coming alongside until we figure something out.
Don’t underestimate the power of just being there for your children. You don’t need to know all the answers, but your kids need to know you haven’t given up on them. It’s in the safety of knowing your love is unwavering that your children find the courage to try again, fail or succeed, and try some more. Our children are far more than what they can or cannot do, and they each have something to offer. This overall supportive attitude has a far greater impact than the best teaching strategies in the world.
Years ago I had a man in his 30’s come up to talk to me after I presented my workshop, “Helping the Distractible Child”. I don’t remember which conference it was, but I will forever remember what he said to me. He explained that as a child he always had difficulty paying attention, and was constantly getting in trouble as a result. He thought he was smart enough, but couldn’t sit still and had trouble completing assignments. He tried hard to comply with the demands put on him, but always felt like he was a disappointment to his parents no matter how hard he worked. “I wish I’d had a mom like you,” he said. “One who could see the strengths and work with me.”
One day all of our children will be adults. I challenge you to be that Mom, the one who never gives up on her kids no matter what. Be that Dad, who is consistently there for his children regardless of their struggles. Be that husband or wife who sticks around during the hard times. Be that person, so that one day your adult children will be able to say, “I’m so glad I had a Mom (and Dad) like you.”
My apologies for not posting yet this month. I have been battling the flu since February 1st and the germs seemed to be winning for awhile. I’m making a strong comeback now, though!
Do you have a child who has difficulty following novel directions? My son, Josh, has ADHD and auditory processing difficulties. He has significant learning challenges and struggles to remember what he hears. He has a tendency to take things literally, with sometimes interesting results. Other times he draws the wrong conclusion and inadvertently changes the expected outcome. For example, once I found a recipe that sounded interesting. You put all the ingredients for an omelet into a sealed ziploc bag and cook it in boiling water. I thought this would be great, especially for those of us who have picky eaters, because everyone could choose which ingredients to include. My husband and I could include onions in ours, but our daughter has not yet learned to appreciate onions so she could omit them from her omelet. I compiled a few different omelet variations into separate ziploc bags and made sure they were sealed tightly. I put the water on to boil, and went into the next room to work with my daughter on a computer assignment. Josh went into the kitchen and shouted to me that the water was boiling. I asked him to carefully put the bags into the boiling water for me and to use the tongs that were sitting on the counter. Using one of his strategies, Josh requested clarification that I wanted all the bags put into the water. I confirmed that and a few minutes later went to check on my omelets. Surprise! What I found looked more like egg drop soup than omelets. At first I thought the bags must have split open while they were boiling. Then I saw the emptied bags off to the side and realized that Josh had meticulously opened each one and poured the contents into the boiling water, thus defeating the attempt to keep the ingredients separate for different omelets. Josh saw the flabbergasted expression on my face and asked if something was wrong. I explained that when I had asked him to “Put the bags into the water” I meant the entire bags. Josh said he thought about it, but that idea didn’t make sense to him and he had never seen me put any bags into boiling water so he decided he was supposed to just dump everything in. I thought I had been clear in my instructions, but I told Josh I would try to be more specific in the future. He grinned at me and said, “Never underestimate my incompetence, Mom!” I love that kid and his sense of humor.
My daughter, Beckie, is an amazing girl. She has worked through most of her sensory processing and auditory processing difficulties. She is funny, kind, and is doing well at her part-time job teaching martial arts. Beckie also has a diagnosis of ADHD, combined type. Girls are less likely than boys to be considered hyperactive, but my Beckie has that component with a capital H. I love her energy! Even now that she is an older teen, her hyperactivity is still apparent. Beckie has learned strategies to help her focus over the years, and she knows ways to help burn up her excess energy. She teaches martial arts for several hours each week. She rides her bike or walks to neighborhood destinations. When she was younger, Beckie used to race cars from our house to the end of the block, running barefoot down the sidewalk just for the pure joy of it. At home these days she listens to music on her iPod and paces or runs through the house. Our first floor is structured in such a way that Beckie can basically run laps around it. Since we have hardwood floors, she can also get a running start and go for a nice slide across the floor. It’s kind of hard on her socks, but that energy has to be expended somehow and the sliding across the floor is relatively tame. We laugh together about the time I asked her if her hair dryer had stopped working, because she was running around the house with her hair only halfway dried. Beckie explained to me that her long hair takes several minutes to dry and she had to take a break from the monotony of drying her hair so she could move around a bit. Her attention span is short, but intense. She studies very hard, but not for hours on end. After concentrating for a period of in-depth studying, Beckie tells me her brain needs to take a break and do something different for awhile. I’m actually glad that she recognizes what she needs and finds strategies that work for her. Is she distractible with a short attention span? Yes, but she can focus and sustain her attention when needed. Is she hyperactive? Absolutely, but her extra energy is often a plus. There are times when Beckie acts impulsively. For example, she walks into a room, sees me there, and grabs me for a hug. Sometimes she will spontaneously start giving me a back rub as she is going by, and it is the best 10-second back rub I’ve ever had! True, it only lasts a few seconds before she is on her way, but I do enjoy those brief moments. Beckie faces challenges from being so energetic, impulsive, and distractible. But it’s not all bad. There’s something wonderful about Beckie’s ability to spontaneously show affection and respond with enthusiasm to so many different things. She is growing as the individual she is meant to be, without the burden of trying to completely change her natural inclinations.