Tag Archives: ADHD

Doctor, Doctor

physician-symbol-hiThis is my final post for the 2015 Blogathon which was hosted by a professional freelance writing group to which I belong.

Thank you to those of you who hung on, read, liked and provided comments during the month. It was an excellent challenge but, truth be told, I’ll be happy to blog less frequently for the next little while.

Today my children and I had a doctor’s appointment. But, before I get to the crux of this post, let me back up for a moment… If you’re American (or, rather, if you’re not Canadian and not familiar with our medical system), you may think that finding a family doctor, booking an appointment, and seeking out appropriate medical treatment is easy-peasy. 

True, most medical appointments, treatments and interventions are “free” (paid for by tax dollars) but finding a family doctor in your area who is taking on new patients is no easy feat. And, booking an appointment with a doctor or specialist can take weeks or months. They’re that booked up!

My doctor works downtown and we are far uptown. Driving downtown, even for a short appointment, is a journey in itself.  Luckily, our doctor is an awesome woman whom we’ve seen for many, many years.  Today, it struck me how complicated medical intervention is for mental health issues.

What's around the corner?

What’s around the corner?

For example, let’s say your child has a broken arm: You drive to emergency, check in, have the arm x-rayed, diagnosed, casted and go to follow up appointments.

Or, let’s say your child has asthma. You have her tested, receive feedback, perhaps get a “puffer” or other medicine and learn to adapt. I realize it’s not always this easy but in many cases an injury or illness can be addressed directly.

Mental health conditions (for kids and adults) are generally never straightforward. Usually, other conditions have to be ruled out because there’s often no 100% accurate diagnosis. Then, even if a disorder is identified, say it’s ADHD or autism or schizophrenia or OCD, the treatment, counselling, meds, follow ups, etc. etc. are often tweaked and changed – possibly over the course of a lifetime.

“Wait and see” can be frustrating and tiresome for everyone involved. Sometimes a clean diagnosis (even for something scary) is less ominous than a “Well, we could try this but…” explanation with no real end in sight. Those of you who live with mental health challenges or parent someone who does will know exactly what I mean!

Advertisements

Because of your son…

This post on Facebook made my eyes fill with tears.

Parties can be hard. Even when you’re popular. They’re especially hard when you’re unpopular, different or shunned in some way.

The compassion of including a boy with autism to a child’s birthday party (and going so far as to make alternate arrangements to make sure he’s comfortable) certainly made this mom’s whole day – possibly her whole year.

While it’s easy to dismiss kids who may be hard to handle, disruptive or shy, please encourage your child to invite “outsiders” to parties and playdates. This simple effort can make a world of difference to another human being.

Perfect Teeth

perfectionMy son was just telling me he has “the worst teeth ever”. This is far from the truth – his teeth are only slightly crooked and will look fantastic once he gets braces put on in the next year or two.

I told him if he had perfect teeth he’d be too perfect as he’s already very handsome. I said this partly to boost his self-esteem but mostly because I believe it to be true: If someone looks or acts too perfect they don’t seem real to me. I have known people over the years who never seem to be in a bad mood and are always smiling or want to see the silver lining in every situation. While I appreciate this attitude for the most part, it can get tiresome. Someone who’s never down or feels guilty or grouchy is suspicious to me – what’s under the shiny coating?! It’s our human nature to exhibit a range of emotions.

How do you feel about looking on the bright side of life? Do you try to find the realism in all situations with your children and/or the young people in your life? How do you balance our quest for perfection with life’s hard knocks? I’m still trying to figure this out myself.

Shake It Up For ADHD

adhdAre you aware of the advocacy group CADDAC (Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada)? This organization (and its sister org CADDRA) is a useful resource for parents, families, psychologists, educators and those diagnosed with ADHD themselves.

Today, on the CADDAC blog, there’s a useful explanation of a new University of Mississippi study indicating that movement actually helps facilitate learning and growth for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. From the study: “Hyperactive movements associated with the disorder may allow children with ADHD to enhance their cognitive abilities.”

This makes sense in many ways as many of us (even those without ADHD) feel the need to stand up, “fidget”, tap fingers or toes, twirl hair, or bounce up and down to get our creative juices flowing.

Sitting still for long periods of time not only inhibits healthy development and may cause severe health implications but, for children with ADHD, it can cause stress and dissuade imagination and working memory. 

Is positive thinking the key for kids?

Here’s more from U of M: “By allowing the hyperactive behaviors to continue, children with ADHD are able to increase their arousal and remain alert in the classroom. Yet conventional teaching and treatment methods demand ADHD children remain still, and the ability to focus on the lesson is lost in the child’s struggle to focus on not squirming or fidgeting, said Sarver.”

These days, many educators and teachers (at least in our school board) better understand that occasional movement, special seating arrangements, more frequent “health breaks” and re-imagined dynamics not only allows all students to more fully enjoy school but allows those with ADHD to fit in, become more engaged and reach their full learning potential.

Mental Health Week 2013: Meds and Kids

Canadian Mental Health Week 2013

A Kids ‘n’ Mental Health Wordle for a Rainy Day in May

Greetings, Blog Readers. I apologize for the large gap in posts. I’ve been working a lot and getting up to speed on new content, technology, travel, etc.

Mental Health Week is almost over and I feel compelled to post something on this topic as it’s so relevant to my blog.

Recently, the topic of mental health & medication has come up. I’ve read quite a few blog posts and articles by those opposed to having children take medication for “minor” mental health-related diseases and syndromes such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and Asperger Syndrome.

Beyond life-saving results for some, prescription medication can have devastating side-effects. From lethargy to increased anxiety, dry mouth, trouble sleeping and decreased appetite (I sound like an announcer on one of those pharma co. TV commercials!), the vast majority of physicians and parents of children with mental health disorders consider medication very, very carefully before introducing it to their child.

Many questions abound:

  • Do the pros out way the cons?
  • Will medication make the child’s life easier and better?
  • Does the child (if she’s old enough to understand) want to take the medication to increase quality of life?
  • Is this a “forever thing” or can he eventually be weaned off?
  • Will “talk therapy” combined with medication improve the situation even more than taking meds alone?

What are your thoughts on children and mental health medication? Do you have any experience with improvement or devastating effects? Did therapy help more than meds for your child? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Mood River: Highs and Lows of Mood Disorders in Children

The murky waters of mood disorder

The murky waters of mood disorder

Recently I asked “Ashley” to share advice on my blog. Ashley is a colleague and parent to an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Mood Disorder.

 I have learned a lot about mood disorders and was blown away by her candor.

1) Can you describe “mood disorder” and its symptoms?

Last spring, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and we put her on a stimulant. She began having rages, getting verbally aggressive (threatening to kill people) and physically aggressive (biting, hitting, kicking) family members to the point that she left bruises and other marks. We took her off the medication and the rages decreased for a while, but returned along with ADHD symptoms that interfered with school.

We tried another stimulant and the rages increased. Her pediatrician suggested that because she was raging on stimulants that he highly suspected that she had a mood disorder.  At his suggestion, I read the book The Bipolar Child and cried because the symptoms described in the book were almost a verbatim description of my daughter. 

2) Why were you surprised by this revelation?

I was surprised that the way that bipolar presents in children is very different from the way it looks in adults. Some of the symptoms that resonated with me:

  • severe irritability
  • night terrors
  • raging
  • oppositional behaviour
  • rapid cycling (going from giddy to irritated very quickly and back again)
  • sensory issues
  • carb cravings (my daughter would binge on sweets and bread)
  • hyper-sexuality

Another trait exhibited by my daughter was that she didn’t show her rages and violence to anyone outside the family and I was her main target.

3) Please provide some insight into the relationship between ADHD and mood disorders and how they’re sometimes confused.

According to the book The Bipolar Child, one-third of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually have early onset bipolar. Many symptoms of bipolar overlap with ADHD, such as being impulsive, emotionally volatile, hyperactive and distracted. When I was reading Bipolar Child for the first time, the description in temper tantrums between children with ADHD and children with mood disorders was what finally convinced me that my daughter was bipolar.

Bipolar temper tantrums can often last for hours, can involve destruction or violence and are typically triggered by not getting what they want. The book described that ADHD tantrums typically last 20-30 minutes and are caused by sensory or emotional stimulation. I thought about the previous evening and how my daughter had spent over two hours hitting us, screaming and chasing after us and realized that my daughter was bipolar.

4) What advice can you offer parents?

My biggest advice is to find support. I found the forums and support groups at The Balanced Mind to provide me great information on both the medical side and the coping side.

At first I was really scared to tell anyone about my daughter’s diagnosis and even more about her repeatedly hurting me. I would wear long sleeves to cover the bite marks and bruises and worry that someone would see. But then I shared with trusted friends what we were going through and was very surprised that instead of judgment, I received love and support.

My other advice is to find the right team of doctors and therapists. It took several tries to find the right fit for our family and my daughter’s situation, but we finally found a neuropsychiatric that has been lifesaving for us. We also began working with a behavioural therapist to help our whole family learn strategies to deal with the bipolar symptoms.

5) How do you and your family (and your child) best cope with this mental illness?

When she is raging, we try to remind ourselves that this is the bipolar talking, not our daughter. We also make sure that every member of our family gets time to enjoy the things that make them happy and get a break from my daughter. We also all meet with a therapist to talk about our feelings of living with the disease in our family.

6) Anything else you’d like to add?

If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, get him or her evaluated as soon as possible. Life has gotten dramatically better once we found the right medication and have begun learning to understand the disease.

 —

 

SNAP to it!

Stop Now and Plan program logoWhat if, when confronted with a stressful or contentious situation, instead of instinctively fighting or fleeing, we made the decision  to SNAP – stop now and plan?

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Alas, if it were, there were be a lot less brutality and trauma in this world. SNAP was developed in the 1970s at the former Earlscourt Child and Family Centre, Toronto, Canada (now called the Child Development Institute). The program teaches children to come up with positive and proactive strategies and is aimed primarily at kids under the age of 12 who experience behaviour issues.

A more formal definition from the SNAP web site: It is a cognitive-behavioural strategy that helps children and parents regulate angry feelings by getting them to stop, think, and plan positive alternatives before they act impulsively.

More key info:

  • SNAP is available across Canada and is utilized by social workers, psychologists, parents and teachers in Australia, the U.S., Sweden and the Netherlands.
  • Its emotional regulation techniques are universal but social workers do tweak the program to accommodate clients in different regions/cultures.
  • Dr. Leena Augimeri, SNAP’s co-creator, explains that behaviour can’t be changed overnight but the techniques help clients to “slowly undo and unwind”.
  • The program is free of charge for clients who meet the SNAP criteria!

“Families are the key to success,” explains  Dr. Augimeri. However, she understands that sometimes “families are depleted and have nothing else to give...” Based on this, SNAP staff work with what/who they have in the program.

I was wowed by the awards and honours bestowed upon SNAP and its creators.

  • Just recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented SNAP with the inaugural Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. SNAP won in the category of Social Innovator in Ontario.
  • Last month, Dr. Augimeri was the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth Manson Award for Community Service in Children’s Mental Health from the Department of Psychiatry at The Hospital for Sick Children.

If you know a child who fits the criteria outlined in the SNAP model, I urge you to read up on this fantastic program. If it’s not available in your area, try asking your local social services agency to adopt it or contact the CDI or Children’s Mental Health Ontario for more information.