AD/HD

Clark Lawrence at CHADD of Columbus

I know this is a very late announcement, but Clark Lawrence will be speaking at the CHADD of Columbus meeting tomorrow, January 24, 2009 at 2:00 in Gahanna, Ohio.  His topic will be “Developing a Positive ADD Lifestyle”.  Clark is Director of the Executive Function Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A description of his topic:

Positively addressing adult ADD requires more than working on the problem areas (goal-setting, procrastination, etc); people with ADD also need to adopt a lifestyle that works with their ADD to overcome its effects -­ as opposed to continually working against their ADD. This talk will address the lifestyle problems of people with ADD and offer a vision and techniques to create a positive ADD lifestyle

The meeting is being held at Mifflin Presbyterian Church, 123 Granville St., Gahanna, OH  43230

Melinda had the opportunity to interview Dr Lawrence at the 2009 CHADD conference in Cleveland, Oh.  Here is the interview.

Clark Lawrence Interview

The Biggest Loser – of Important Items

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I prefer things neat and orderly. My family, on the other hand, casually consider themselves slobs and refer to themselves as “Slobonians”. Clutter doesn’t bother them, so it is very hard to motivate them to clean up and put things away where they belong. My youngest daughter has AD/HD and the impulsivity and inattention result in clutter, misplaced items, and zippers left unzipped on backpacks. I have found some of her things in the oddest places, and she has no recollection of how they got there. This week, while at my part-time job as a speech therapist, I got a text message on my phone from Beckie. She is taking a couple of classes at a community college and was texting me to accuse our dog of taking her calculator out of her backpack because it was missing and she knew it was in her backpack the day before. While it’s true that our recently rescued dog has yet to learn what he is allowed to chew on, I thought it more likely that she left her backpack unattended and someone stole the calculator from her backpack. In any case, it was distressing since it was an expensive calculator and…it was borrowed. I was not happy with having the expense of replacing the borrowed calculator and then having to buy Beckie another one since she will have more math classes to take in the future. A few hours later, Beckie sent me another text to let me know she had found the calculator. One of the other students in her math class had found it on the sidewalk the day before and recognized it as being Beckie’s calculator and returned it to her. Yea! Beckie admitted that she had left the zipper open on the pocket she used for her calculator, so it could have fallen out without her knowing it. Whew! What a relief. That is until my husband Scott got a call from Beckie’s cell phone in the afternoon, and it wasn’t Beckie calling him. Beckie’s cell phone had been found in the grass near the local elementary school and the person was calling to say she’d leave it at the front desk in the school office. Scott managed to reach Beckie at home, and she insisted that it was impossible for her cell phone to be found by a stranger when she was positive it was at her friend’s house. (Why would she leave it at her friend’s house instead of in her hand where I usually see it? Who knows?) Beckie reluctantly agreed to walk to the school and retrieve her phone, though she was still adamant it had to be some kind of mistake. Except that it was there, to her amazement, and she learned that it had first been found a couple blocks away from the school at a place she had not walked past that day. We are all mystified. I pointed out to Beckie that she had lost an expensive calculator and a cell phone in the same day, thereby making her “The Biggest Loser” in our family so far this week. Since this time both items were returned to her, I think she was secretly amused by the title. She was definitely angry when the calculator was missing, and if she had even known her phone was missing she would have been upset. Perhaps this will help her remember to zip up pockets and so on. Time will tell.

A Math Teaching Tip

Working with a variety of modalities also increases the likelihood of later recall of material. When we incorporate auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic input in subject areas where our children struggle to learn, we will also be helping them learn to pay attention for longer periods of time. With that in mind, I want to share with you one of my more successful teaching activities that kept my children engaged and made the material we were studying more memorable for them.

When my son was having trouble with the concept of “borrowing” in math, I lined up my children in place value positions, gave them Cuisenaire cubes and rods, and we acted out a story. I was the sheriff from Robin Hood (one of their favorite movies at that time) and came to collect taxes from the “ones” child. When she didn’t have enough cubes to pay her taxes, I showed her how to “borrow” from her neighbor and explained that she could only borrow 10 cubes from that neighbor. We did the same thing for the “tens” child borrowing from the “hundreds” child, and enacted several scenarios for practice.

I had lined them up in birth order with my youngest, Beckie, in the ones place. My middle child, Beth, was in the tens place. Josh, as the oldest, was in the hundreds spot. I recently asked my children if they remembered doing that activity, and they responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Josh also pointed out to me that a variation of the activity has continued over the years, because Beckie asks to borrow money from Beth, who in turn asks to borrow from Josh. He blames me for this generalization of a skill learned in those early years of our homeschooling. Before you feel too sorry for him, I want to point out that I’ve also taught him how to say “No” nicely to refuse requests.

Geography: She’s having none of it!


I’ll admit that I’m not strong in geography. I have a feeling that my children learned as much from the PBS show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” as they did from me. But I’m o.k. with that. As long as they learn it, I’m happy. I do have some good geography materials by Cindy Wiggers, and I made it through all of the U.S. Geography book with my children. At least at one time they could name the states and capitals, and they know how to label mountains and rivers on maps. My daughter Beckie and I are currently working on world geography. I am learning it along with her, since if I ever knew this information the files must have been deleted somewhere along the way. (When this happens, I blame one of the car accidents I’ve been in for killing off some brain cells. They’ve been minor accidents, but I think whiplash and trauma might have messed with my brain for stuff like geography.) While we were learning about North America, we pulled out maps and had the globe in front of us. I would ask Beckie to locate various landmarks, oceans, etc. Following along in my curriculum instructions, I asked Beckie to find Nunavut. Beckie, whose AD/HD manifests in both a short attention span and a tendency to blurt things out, is not good at hiding her frustration. She glanced at the globe for a few moments, then informed me that she didn’t see “None of it”. Ah…and did I mention she has auditory processing difficulties as well? Being the adaptive instructor that I am, I showed her the spelling of “Nunavut” and encouraged her to look pretty far north on the globe. With that support, she was able to find it but continued to tell me that she could find “None of it” for several other items that day since she was amused by her own misunderstanding and pun. At least she’s having some fun during a subject that does not hold her attention easily.

See? I’m not dumb!

Have you ever heard your kids say something like, “See? I’m not dumb!” ? I don’t know if there’s a connection to learning disabilities or not, but I’ve heard this type of statement from all three of my children at different times. It bothers me, because I have never told them or believed that they were “dumb” and in fact I went out of my way to be sure they knew I thought they were great. Sure, AD/HD has its challenges and my children may not always present as if they are on the ball. But I, the mother, never waivered in my belief that they brought a lot to the table even if what they brought was not traditionally appreciated! And how can I explain my “neurotypical” daughter also trying to convince me that she’s not stupid even when I never thought she was? Maybe it’s just a manifestation of self-doubt and a glitch in self-esteem that everyone experiences at times. Yesterday, I was talking with my daughter about her struggles with math, and she quickly pointed out that she got an A in English, adding “See? I’m not dumb!” Let me back up and say that I told her I knew she could do the math and was smart enough to understand it. I told her that her teacher was new to teaching this course and that sometimes the way information is taught can make the subject matter more difficult. I encouraged her to take advantage of the math lab, where she might find someone who could explain how to solve the math problems in a way that made more sense to her. I encouraged her to problem solve how she could help herself, and reminded her that I was proud of how hard she’s working. Hey! That could be in a parenting book! Except…somehow Beckie was still worried that she didn’t measure up in my eyes. When my children imply that they think I might have the opinion that they are dumb, I feel both surprised and saddened. I want so much for them to know I love them no matter what, and when they make statements like that I feel like I have failed them somehow. Then on top of that guilt, I feel dumb for not communicating my unconditional love to my children. So I ask them, “Do you know that I love you no matter what?” and they tell me yes and we hug. See? I’m not dumb, either!

I Love Someone With AD/HD


I picked up a button at a conference because it caught my eye as I was walking past. It reads, “I love someone with ADHD”. Having a husband, a son, and a daughter who all share that diagnosis I placed the pin on my nametag to wear for the rest of the conference. In reality, there are many people in my life who have been diagnosed with AD/HD and I do love them. But I thought it would be interesting to see which of my three family members would:
1. Notice the button and actually read it.
2. Ask which “someone” the button represented.
Once again, my family surprised me. They all noticed the button and read its message, though at different times throughout the day. When my husband, Scott, read it he sighed and hugged me. When my son, Josh, read it he grinned and hugged me and said, “I love you too, Mom.” When my daughter, Beckie, read it she beamed with pride and gave me a hug. I guess this means I’m doing something right and my family feels secure in my love for them since they all three assumed the message was about them!

The CHADD Conference

I just got back from the CHADD Conference (Children and Adults with AD/HD) yesterday and it was great to attend some sessions and connect with old friends. I did a video interview with Sarah Wright, one of the authors of the book Fidget to Focus. I also interviewed Kathy Kuhl, author of Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner and Clark Lawrence of the Executive Function Center. I enjoyed re-connecting with those folks and it was a blast to interview them considering I have absolutely no expertise with any videos other than my home videos! I suspect it is far easier to interview than to BE interviewed, but all of my “subjects” were informative and appeared relaxed. I also got a kick out of meeting Kim, who approached me the first night there to tell me she had seen the video I did with my daughter about the Sock Boxes for ADD-Friendly sock organization. A few others recognized me from this blog or other conferences where I’ve been a presenter and were nice enough to make a point to come over and say hello. I met Deisie from Chicago, who sat with me through two sessions and then came to my panel presentation the next day. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up presenting at CHADD in a few years herself. I answered a question in Chris Dendy’s session and she said she liked my idea and might use it in her future presentations. How cool is that to have someone you admire (and her books are on my shelf) like your idea enough to use it? Woo-hoo! I left the conference motivated to keep advocating for our children with differences and with a few new ideas to work on to add to my skill set when working with these kids. I heard stories that helped me keep things in perspective. Things with my children could be worse. Things with my children could be better. I’ll keep working to support and encourage them as we teach each other through life. Stay tuned for those author interviews as a future blog posting.

It’s So Obvious (to our kids)

Have your kids ever given you an incredulous look because the answer to your question is so obvious – to them? I’m pretty sure I’ve given that kind of look to my children many times, even though I know they are outside the box kind of thinkers. In fact, I’m not sure they know there even is a “box”. Some things just seem so apparent to me that it’s hard to remember that my kids don’t approach life in the same way I do. Our kids can feel that same kind of frustration if we don’t immediately understand their way of thinking when something seems very obvious to them. A few days ago I was preparing to do some school work with my Beckie, and she was flitting around the house burning up some excess energy. I called her in to the dining room, and she came right away. I turned my back to take our books off the shelf, and when I turned around she was gone. I arranged the books for the first subject of the day and called Beckie back into the dining room. She popped right over, but when I leaned over to clear some space on the table for our globe, she darted off again. This yo-yo action in and out of the room happened several times within a couple of minutes. I called her back, and asked her why she kept leaving the room when she knew it was time to do school. That’s when I got the look that said, “Why are you asking me a question when the answer is so obvious?” I waited for her reply, truly not knowing the answer, and she simply sighed and said, “To dance!” She said it in that way kids have of letting you know you should have known the answer but they will try to patiently explain it for you. I think that’s a good reason and a way for hyperactivity to be expressed in an acceptable way, though it explains in part why school sometimes takes us longer than I expect it too. In fact, if we didn’t actually have to get anything done, I might have joined her in dancing.

Making the Most of Your Time

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NASB)
When you are homeschooling a special needs or struggling child, you are not always on the same timeline as others. The curriculum you use needs to be adapted and usually one of the biggest modifications involves time.
Our children with various challenges and differences do not develop at the same rate as those who are typically developing. They need more time to learn skills and retain information. They may mature more slowly and need additional practice and support to progress. My son could take two hours to do an assignment I thought should take twenty minutes, and it was the same way with chores. Other children have medical issues like seizures that can interfere with their ability to remember previously learned skills. They need to re-learn information, and that takes time and makes the rate of progress variable. So given those kinds of situations, how can we make the most of our time and be good stewards of that resource?
One lesson I learned about my use of time was that I really needed to focus on my goals for each of my children. Once the goals were in the forefront of my mind, it was easier to eliminate things that were not conducive to helping achieve those goals. When everything is treated as being equally important, there is no priority and the important issues may get pushed aside by lesser matters.
With my son, Josh, it became clear that he was not going to be able to do many different subjects in a single day and finish all of his work. Although he didn’t need as much sleep as I did in those early years, I didn’t want him spending all day and then the evening trying to get his schoolwork done, struggling all the while. I homeschool for many reasons, including helping my children develop a love for learning. Spending too many hours on school tasks seems like a good way to achieve burnout for all of us. My husband and I agreed to focus on the basics with Josh, and limit the amount of time spent on highly structured learning tasks.
I had to pare down my long list of what I would like to do and instead think realistically about what I could do each school day. Because Josh and his sister, Beckie, had learning challenges I had to eliminate some of the supplemental material I had originally planned on and limit the work to the core essentials of their education.
In addition to recognizing the best way to invest our time, we need to try to teach our children to make the most of their time. Many kids live in the moment, which is a perspective that has blessings of its own. Without losing that ability to fully experience life as it happens, we need to gently guide our children to consider future events and plan for them in a thoughtful manner. This does not come naturally for most children, and there may need to be consequences that occur as part of the learning process.
Here is an example from the Boring family homeschool: I have a lesson planned and go over it with the kids. They start goofing around, are not working on their assignment even though they know what is expected and are capable of completing the work. I do not mind spending more time on a lesson if my children do not understand something. However, when it is clearly a matter of choice and they are choosing to be silly, they are wasting their time and mine and there will be consequences. I think that the children should experience the consequence of their poor decisions so that hopefully they will make better choices next time.
With that goal in mind, we started “homeschool homework” when the children were wasting time. I would set a time limit for a certain assignment, and if they did not complete it within that period, they had homework with Dad when he got home. This kept them accountable to Dad, and kept them from more play time until their homework was done. This worked well for us since my husband did not have to plan or teach the lesson but could just follow-through with what I had assigned.
Making the most of our time will be manifested differently for each of our families. We all have limitations and demands on our time. Finding balance, remembering our goals, and investing time in our children will allow us to experience the satisfaction of time well spent.

Auditory Processing Train of Thought


My son, Josh, needed increased response time when he was younger. When asked a question, he took longer than most to formulate his responses, so often he was skipped over in a group setting. The teacher or coach would ask him something, get no response for several seconds, and move on to someone else. Part of the problem was that Josh gave no indication that he’d heard the question. He did not change his facial expression or otherwise let the speaker know that he was actually thinking about what had been said. It was frustrating to Josh to know the answer but have such a limited window of opportunity to express it that he often was unable to reply in the time allotted. I worked with Josh to develop a few strategies to let the speaker know that he had heard and was processing what was said to formulate a response. The first strategy was to hold up one finger in the “wait a minute” pose, to indicate that he needed a little more time. This was probably the easiest to implement, since it did not require an oral response when Josh was already struggling to formulate a verbal answer. The next strategy was to actually say something like, “Give me a minute, please” or “Could you repeat that?” (This was much preferable to saying, “Huh?” which happened so frequently when he was younger that I screened his hearing multiple times!) This strategy let the speaker know that Josh was intending to answer, and the repetition often helped him and gave him a little more time to process. Josh also learned the strategy of asking for clarification, by simply asking “Are you saying ____?” or “Is this what you mean?”. It’s also important to teach our auditory processing strugglers to use verbal strategies when they are on the phone, because obviously visual cues like the upheld “hold on” finger won’t work. Once when I was on the phone with Josh I asked him a question and he was quiet for so long I wasn’t sure he was even still on the phone. I asked if he was still there and he told me, “Yes, Mom. But my train of thought is still boarding.” I’ve also noticed that Josh’s train of thought will sometimes derail entirely if he is interrupted during the boarding process. When that happens, often by well-meaning people trying to help him out or speed things along, Josh’s train has to go back to the beginning and start all over again. So instead of moving things along more quickly, it actually backfires and takes even longer. This is where it’s helpful to teach our kids the gestural cues as well as verbal scripts so they will be less likely to be interrupted and the train of thought can actually leave the station.