Archive for the 'ADHD' Category

Nature therapy

I’ve started walking. Every day. And not just regular city walking, but deliberate, mindful walking. I go fast, for at least fifteen minutes, usually closer to forty. And I head directly to the closest green space.

At my office, that’s the park by the Hudson. Even in the cold, in the spitting snow, I’ve walked. I hit the cobblestones, hear the lapping water, smell the wet loamy earth, see the stalks of the leafless trees and something in my soul releases. I can breathe.

At home, I hike through residential streets to Prospect Park. I find the lake, the ducks, the crackle of sticks and dirt under my shoes. I see the sky–blue or gray or masked by rain–and I can breathe.

Now, I see that my body was on to something.

The difference between natural and urban landscapes is how they command our attention. While man-made landscapes bombard us with stimulation, their natural counterparts give us the chance to think as much or as little as we’d like, and the opportunity to replenish exhausted mental resources.

–“How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies“,


Morning comedy routine

Charlie: Where’s my birthday?

Me: You mean where is your birthday party?

Charlie: Yeah.

Me: At the zoo.

Charlie: When?

Me: On Sunday.

Charlie: When’s Sunday?

Me: Well, today is Monday, so…

Charlie: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…

Me: Sunday. So in one week.

Charlie: What?

Me: Your birthday party.

Charlie: Where is it?

Me: At the zoo.

Charlie: When?

That’s when I laugh because this could go on all day.


After a few weeks of under-motivation (I blame reading the completely absorbing Clash of Kings mixed with the winter blues), we made it out to the NY International Children’s Film Festival.

Marvin was one of my favorites. It’s about a boy who is born with a hole in his head. One day, when he has a cold, he sneezes out his common sense and spends an adventurous day looking for it.

At one point, he deliberately misses the bus because he knew it would be better to hop on one foot the whole way instead. He ends up at the zoo, making friends with animals and getting into scrapes, and then, when he finds his common sense, he realizes it was the best day he’s ever had and decides to remove his common sense again, when the notion strikes.

Marvin’s adventures reminded me of the choices Charlie often makes, the ones that seem to make no sense. (I can just see him deciding that hopping on one foot would be much better than taking the bus.) And I thought, maybe that’s what it’s like for someone with ADHD. Roaming around looking for “something,” finding other things instead, making choices others don’t understand, but having fun all the same.

A Personality Test

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter

In a new parenting class I’m taking (Calm and Connected: Parenting Children with ADHD), the Keirsey Temperament Sorter was part of the recommended homework.

The goal was to take the test once for what your kid would answer and once for yourself. Seeing our differences–and our similarities–laid out in such a positive way was really cool. We are both Idealists, but he’s a Champion and I’m a  Counselor. It was reassuring to see our traits described as strengths when it’s so easy to forget to see us both in terms of our weaknesses.

Now I want everyone to take the Sorter so I know what type they are!

You can find out your temperament here.

Saying yes to violent video games?

Ready to game?

We’ve been trying every promising trick to improve my kid’s working memory, auditory processing, language development and other brain skills. Motor coordination, pre-frontal cortex and visual acuity, spatial reasoning, decision-making–all of these have been bandied about as delays that may need attention.

Then I read this:

“In neurological terms, action games seem to ‘retune connectivity across and within different brain areas’…That means gamers ‘learn to learn.'”

–“Brain-Changing Games” by Lydia Denworth, Scientific American MIND

It seems first-person shooting games improve attention, spatial reasoning, visual acuity and decision-making. They can also be addictive and lead to an increase in aggression.

As if the kid didn’t have enough screen time already, I’m actually considering introducing him to more video games. I just wish I could find a first-person action game that wasn’t about killing people.

The ADHD Kid’s Bill of Rights


After yesterday’s post, I found out that my kid’s para actually didn’t know about his diagnosis of ADHD! That’s my lesson learned: Don’t think that telling the half of the IEP team that you see on a regular basis means that the other half of the IEP team also knows what’s been shared.

When I mentioned that the loud time of day during drop-off really highlighted his ADHD symptoms, she said she didn’t know about his attention problems. And though she has more than twenty years of special education experience she said she’s never worked with an ADHD kid. Then she said this: “He’ll just have to learn to tune it out. I hear all of this, and I can still focus.”

Oh, dear.

I explained then that actually he CAN’T learn to focus. That’s actually what ADHD means. It would be like telling me to learn to see without my glasses. (Come on, girl, see better!)

So I found a copy of the ADHD kid’s bill of rights that I’m passing to the para today. I first saw this during a talk by Cindy Goldrich from PTS Coaching, but I found the version below online. We’ve hung it in every room of our apartment.

The ADHD Child’s Bill of Rights by Ruth Harris

Help me to focus. Please teach me through my sense of touch. I need “hands on” and “body movement.”

I need to know what comes next. Please give me a structured environment where there is a dependable routine. Give me an advanced warning if there will be changes.

Wait for me, I’m still thinking. Please allow me to go at my own pace. If I rush, I get confused and upset.

I’m stuck ! I cant do it! Please offer me options for problem-solving. I need to know the detours when the road is blocked.

Is it right? I need to know NOW! Please give me rich and immediate feedback on how I’m doing.

I didn’t forget, I didn’t ‘hear’ it in the first place! Please give me directions one step at a time and ask me to say back what I think you said.

I didn’t know I wasn’t in my seat! Please remind me to STOP, THINK and ACT.

Am I almost done now? Please give me short work periods with short-term goals.

What? Please don’t say “I’ve already told you that.” Tell me again in different words. Give me a signal. Draw me a symbol.

I know, it’s ALL wrong, isn’t it? Please give me praise for partial success. Reward me for self-improvement, not just for perfection.

But why do I always get yelled at? Please catch me doing something right and praise me for my specific positive behavior. Remind me (and yourself) about my good points, when I’m having a bad day.

I may be hard to live with, and have ADHD, but I still have feelings and would have never chosen to behave like I do sometimes.

(Reprinted on from Newsletter of The Delaware Association For The Education of Young Children, Winter 1993-94) © 1991, Ruth Harris, Northwest Reading Clinic


Don’t take it so personally

Don’t take my picture!

During the holiday school festivities I had a chance to chat with Charlie’s para (an aide who helps him negotiate the school day). She’s a lovely lady, with kids of her own, but the part of our conversation I’ve found it hardest to forget was when she said, “Oh, I know when a kid’s an only child. They’re the spoiled ones.”

As any parent knows, a negative statement about your kid, or about your parenting style, feels very personal. It was if she’d punched me and then said, “You suck.”

After I could breathe again, I asked what she meant by spoiled. (I have definite ideas about what that means!) It seems she didn’t mean he was having trouble sharing or taking turns; he was being “resentful” of her help, saying “I can do that!” or “I don’t need your help.”

We’ve been working on that rude tone of voice for a few weeks now. He picked it up suddenly, right after school started. It especially comes out when he wants to do something independently but doesn’t realize his skills aren’t there yet. He gets frustrated and reacts by blaming the nearest person without thinking things through.

Taking a cue from our ADHD research (he needs to have social cues spelled out for him; not considering consequences is part of his wiring) and from the techniques we’ve learned in a parenting skills class for disruptive behavior, we point out the problem behavior, ask him to re-do it correctly and praise him when he gets it right. Especially when he gets it right without prompting.

So yes, the para is right. The rude voice is annoying. It needs to be addressed. But treating him as “spoiled” is not treating him in the right context.

My son’s neurological make-up causes him to be over-reactive. The positive side of this trait is that he’s very energetic, enthusiastic and curious. The negative is that he can also be very angry, frustrated or sad. His high emotions can carry him away. Meltdowns are common in our house—and sometimes in public—even though we’ve found ways to make them shorter and less frequent.

Getting angry, yelling and punishing him actually make his disruptive behavior worse. Stricter is not better. Being too relaxed or inconsistent, even with things like free play or bedtime, make the disruptive behavior worse, too. Lack of structure is not our family’s friend. It’s a thin line to walk, especially when very few parenting books address how differently a parent must handle an ADHD child.

We work hard. He works so, so hard. It’s very dispiriting to have all that hard work dismissed.

But I’ve come to realize that just as there will always be people who believe that if he just “tries harder” he’ll do better, there will always be people who think his disruptive behavior is caused by bad parenting. There will always be people who say we’re too strict, or not strict enough, that we “let” him scream and cry, that a “good” kid wouldn’t act that way.

These people are wrong. And I intend to keep on parenting the kid I have–not the kid they wish I had.


Anyone who lives with someone with ADHD knows how important routines are. They are the difference between a smooth morning and one filled with screaming rage. And I’ve come to rely on routines to get my kid to do what needs to be done, even when he really, really doesn’t want to.

But this week, I’ve learned how important routines are to me, too.

School and my office have been closed for three days now–number four tomorrow–and our regular modes of travel have been cut off. What is usually a rocky, but basically efficient ballet of getting ready, getting where we need to be, getting home, getting things done has become a blob of unstructured time.

We’re getting up later, eating at odd times, not making plans. This has turned my mind to mush!

That saying–“If you want something done, give it to a busy person”–must be true. I’m less busy and suddenly I can’t get anything done! I have bits and pieces of work that flit in and out of my inbox but can’t really be finished until the office is back online. I have home projects that are taunting me. Everything feels out of sync with the usually solid reality of my to-do list.

Tonight, we trick or treated, and saw neighbors. Things seemed almost normal. Maybe that means routines (and my brain!) will be coming back soon.


I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
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