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Finding the Gift Journey
I would love to tell you I’m a well put together mom who has everything under control. That I never lose my temper and forever patient. Somedays, I feel that way, but others I’m hanging on by a thread. On those off days, I just give up and take everyone to the movies. My youngest boy Christian has ADHD and from this, I would have to say that every day is a different adventure. Here is the good news, as time goes on, our ability to stay on top of things more and more are becoming a reality. Both of us feel we are doing good and arein control of our lives as we as a team perseveres. Christian is more independent and happier then he ever has been. Why? He found his gift of music; writing songs and singing them has brought great joy to his life. As Ishare a little of our story, try to see if you can relate to it at all. It’s my hope that our story will help many more who have children with ADHD.

When my little boy was in his 2nd year of Kindergarten, because he went twice, I was optimistic that an extra year of kindergarten was going to solve all his problems. Then half way through the school year, I saw my son starting to slip in his academics. It sometimes would take him an hour and a half to do his homework that should just take 15 minutes. He would come home in tears from school, because someone said something to him that was mean. When he got home he just wanted my attention all the time, interrupting my conversations with other family members, or wanting a hug. I was continually putting out fires trying to keep people and family members from losing their patience with him. His problems increased from not pronouncing his words with clarity. Driving him to speech therapy twice a week was adding to my frustrating. There were days that it seems like my son can’t remember 8+1 or the spelling words we have worked on all week long. I tried to be patient and give him the time he needed to have his brain click on. The problem I was facing was I had a family that also needed some of my time. Icould see signs that Christian was smart, intuitive and creative. He has a sweet disposition and literally won’t hurt a fly.

My son already had an IEP for his speech issues. So I tried to talk the school into testing him for ADHD. They told me to arrange it through my own doctor. My doctor told me it would cost a lot of money and the school will do it if I persisted. I knew I had to go at it a different way than before. Clearly the school didn’t want to spend the money testing my son for ADHD. So I worked with the Utah Parents Center to find out my son’s rights. I had to put a request in writing that was the first step. The second step was to get his teachers to recommend he get tested for ADHD and then it usually happens quicker. So I went in and started talking with his teachers. A month later, the special services lady saw me in the hall and said,“I think we should test your son for ADHD.” I said to her, “What a great idea!”What I was really thinking was something else. I have learned when it comes to working with my son’s school; gentle persistence works better then a slug hammer.

Of course he had ADHD; I would love to tell you that just knowing he had ADHD fixed everything. It didn’t! What it did do was point me in the correct directionto start working on finding special help. There is no quick solution for my son, no pill that solved all his problems. It was a beginning and we started down the path.

9% of Children in America have ADHD. That is about 5.2 million. Many kids that have ADHD suffer from low self-esteem, because of their academics, and social problems that come from having ADHD.

The next question was, should I or shouldn’t I put him on medication. At first I was against it, I didn’t want my son taking medication every day of his life. That just can’t be healthy. As my son and I sat at the dinner table trying to get through his 1st grade homework listening to other kids play outside, I knew I needed to take the next step. Christian was wondering why he wasn’t playing with the children. My frustration level was going off the charts, because he couldn’t focus. I started thinking this is not healthy for him either. I am frustrated, he is not learning, he is sad, trying to stay focus, trying to learn, crying because he is still doing homework and everyone else is playing. So I started the trial and error of medication. We first tried Concerda 18. Which helped, he still had anxiety, and sensitivity issues. He still wasn’t concentrating as well as we all had hoped and some days he cried a lot. He still spoke out of turn and had other social issues that were still present. So we tried other medications and finally settled on Concerda 27. Finally, I decide that itwas the best of all of them. It didn’t solve all his concentration issues, but it helped. Most importantly Christian was still Christian. The medication did not change his personality. With that now behind us, I found he got through his homework faster and I had more patience. He was starting to learn at a far faster pace than before. That gave me hope that my son would be okay. That he would be able to get through school and go to college one day.

With this new found hope and strength we were finally progressing along. Christian was doing four days of speech therapy a week. And one day on the way home from school, he asked me,“mom is there something wrong with me?” Why I asked him? “Well, I go to speech therapy all the time, I have an extra class at school and I don’t have any time for friends.” I’d have to say my heart suddenly broke. What can I do to help my child feel normal?

That is when “Finding Their Gift in ADHD” kicks in. As a parent with an ADHD child, I’m looking for ways to think outside the box. The normal academic approach is very different and far less creative in solving the problems attached to ADHD. Instead of after school speech therapy for Christian, I put him in singing lessons. He loved it! It was not therapy, it was fun for him and he was enjoying it.

I made a list of things that would help him become more mainstream in school. When he accomplished one, I would set a goal for another one.

When it comes to your own child, make a list of the deficiencies you see and what your goals are to improve them. Limit them to a workable number. Here are mine and Christian’s that we set.

Sitting close enough to read numbers and sentences off the black board at school so he can concentrate better.

Body coordination and concentration at the same time

Learn to concentrate on the subject at hand.

Make friends

Have goals in speech therapy- Speak with better sentence structure and cognitive thought.

That was enough to start with. I could have written a list four pages long, but that was not realistic. Look at your list and get creative. I would have loved to get an expert to help me with all his issues, but I couldn’t afford a therapist with my crappy insurance.

1st - Read things off the black board and understand what he was looking at. Improve physicalcoordination and finger strength. As I was helping my older son practice the piano, I began thinking. Piano lessons will teach Christian how to follow the music with his eyes and improve his finger strength. It was similar to writing down what he saw on the blackboard. It was something his brother was doing, so Christian would think that was cool.

2nd -Body coordination and concentration. Christian with his kind heart and being picked on at school needed to protect himself. What can I find that will do all this for him? Karate! I had to find a really nice Karate Teacher that was patient with Christian. I did and we were off and running with this new thought.

3rd - Friends. He needed Friends. I made time whether he finishes his homework or not he needed to have play time. I would haveplay-dates and tried to have people from school come over to the house. As those friendships got stronger less kids picked on him at school. He had someone to hang out with and to play with, to protect him. It took effort and time but it worked.

4th Speech therapy. He was getting speech therapy at school. So I supplemented after school speech therapy with singing lessons.

Between homework, singing lessons, karate lessons and friends. My plate was full and I was out of money. Plus, I still had my older son to pay attention to and addressing his reading issues he was dealing with. Life did get better and Christian began improving. My son was learning. He was doing better in school. His anxiety began to go down. His friendships developed and his school friendship became stronger and more protective. Every year I made a new list. Some get carried on from year to year and others get replaced withnew goals.

Then Christian's life changing event happened. With his limited piano ability, his love for singing and incredibly imagination he wrote his first song, “Space Bear”. This simple song changed Christian’s life. We brought it to his singing coach who added some instrumentals to Christian’s tune. We entered it in the school art contest and it won 1st place. He was asked to sing live at the awards ceremony. Little did I know, Christian loves the stage, loved performing and has calmness in the spot-light. He told me mommy, I found my gift. When we were going back east to visit family, Christian wanted to wear his space suit on the airplane. I brought my video camera and filmed a little footage of what I thought a cute music video would be,“Space Bear” materialized. Our first music video was born that summer.Christian loves dressing up in costumes, so he went to his singing lesson one day as a ninja. “Trevor” Christian said, “I want to write a song about Ninja’s.” For the next hour Christian and Trevor figure out this Ninja song. After they recorded that song, Christian and I made a video for it and put on YouTube. We would record about 4 to 5 songs a year. Christian’s self-esteem went through the roof. Now it wasn’t what is wrong with me, but mommy, I have a gift and people love my music! I am going to be a rock star! In the winter of 2013 Christian released his 1st album “My Imagination”. He was invited to sing, “I’m a little leprechaunlive on,“Good Things Utah”.

There are some benefits on having ADHD. These kids have gifts, because they are so creative. So many of our nation’s heroes were ADHD. The list really goes on and on, but a few notable people were, Walt Disney, Alexander Graham Bell, Elvis Presley, and Ansel Adams. I love this quote from Albert Einstein, “Intelligence is not measured by knowledge but imagination”.

Find out what your child has an interest in. Many times the gifts are lying in science, painting or music. My recommendation is to point the child in a direction and see where it goes. If the interest level is there, let the child pursue it. Always make time for your child to play with friends. This is very comforting to him or her. Don’t make your child stay within where you think the lines or boundaries lie or only play the music that has been written in the song books. Let them have time to experiment with sounds and colors. Let them shoot 100 pictures on the camera without help from you. Then be super positive with what they show you. Listen to their stories and even write them down. Embrace their creative minds and encourage them to find out what they are good at. It really changes a kid’sself-image, especially one that feels he just doesn’t fit into certain groups at school. Remember they are constantly told they are doing it wrong. Give them room to be creative without judgment.

Join Groups.

At first the thought of joining a group scared me. How will the leaders handle my son? How will the kids in the group like my son? My first experience with Cub Scouts was not great. I think I could write a hilarious book about my year as a tiger scout mom. My older son had the best leaders in the world. But Christian’s, Wow! Christian actually got along better with them than my husband and me. However, I like the premise of Cub Scouts. It was just what Christian needed to see and be part of. The next year we moved to a Cub Scout group in my neighborhood. Perfect. It had structure, but not too much, he was learning cool stuff, they had fun awards and the neighborhood kids where getting to know Christian better. Join some kind of group almost anything will work, choir or science. Expose your child to a group setting that is not school. They learn so much about social behavior from them.

With his love of music and new friends Christian was well on his way. But we were not where we needed to be. The next year after talking with other parents, therapist and reading ADHD websites, I learned what I could ask for at school. When I walked in to the next IEP meeting I was informed about Christian’s rights. I worked with a team of specialist to getthe services that my son needed to succeed. For instants, Christian loves getting good grades, but since he works slower than his peers his spelling word list is less. If he has trouble with a test they will read the test to him. His tests are not timed. He gets out of school early, so he can go to “Kumon” tutoring in order to get him on grade level in math and reading. These people have done a marvelous job getting Christian to focus and be responsible for his work. This helps me to have more patience with him at home and more free time for my other children.

Having a child with ADHD can be really fun. Christian laughs, sings, dances and tells wonderful stories. He has a loving and giving heart. Even though some days he and I are still frustrated and overwhelmed with homework, we get through it easier than before. We have learned to balance our lives better and take time to have fun. Most Importantly, I feel now that Christian has found many gifts, because of his wonderful imagination that comes with ADHD.