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joni1977's avatar

Please help! What are some inexpensive, but effective ways to help my child?

Asked by joni1977 (812 points ) February 17th, 2009

My son has ADHD. He’s on medication, but it doesn’t seem to be working because his grades are declining drastically! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so naive to think that there is some magical pill that will automatically sky-rocket his grades from failing to straight A’s. But at the same time, I don’t know what else to do in addition to the medication. He struggles with simple mathematics, has a very short attention span and he has a horrible time focusing on just one task. I try to work with him as much as a single working mother can and it does no good. He has an excellent teacher who also spends more one on one time than she has with him also. When I take him back to see his pediatrician, I’m going to ask for an increase in his dosage (as much as it pains me to see him on it) and a referral to a child psychiatrist – or a psychologist? In the mean-time, what can I do? I don’t want to see my child left behind. Just like any parent I want what’s best from him. He’s my only child and I don’t claim to be the best mother, but I do what I can. Some of you are way more experienced than I am. HELP!

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36 Answers

cdwccrn's avatar

Search the Internet. There is a large website written by a mom of an ADHD student that has lots of great teaching tools and helpful parenting ideas.
You will have to look for it- I don’t know the name of the site.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

How old is he, and has he recently had a growth spurt? His meds may need to be changed completely. The other part of ADHD that often gets overlooked is the need for developing personal management skills.

Was he diagnosed by a psychologist? I would be more inclined to go with a psychologist than a psychiatrist, because he needs to take ownership of the disability and development personal management behaviors. You need to learn how to manage the home environment to make it conducive for him to be successful. Often this means making accommodations in family behaviors to be supportive of your son, in terms of distractions, timing, scheduling, etc.

My daughter is ADHD and in college. It continues to be a challenge, but she owns it and advocates for herself.

Milladyret's avatar

@Marina : I agree.
And don’t forget to let him get enough sleep…

Less sugar and more Omega-3 are important, as well as loads of other things that can influence the brain. Many many good books on the subject, or you can ask your doctor.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong in medication as long as he needs them.

elijah's avatar

Hire a tutor, you can get a high school kid really cheap, and usually kids will learn better and try harder when it isn’t mom helping.

joni1977's avatar

Thanks for all your comments. They are a huge help. I’ve heard of the diet idea. He’s 9 years old and has never been a picky eater, so I will definitely look into that. He’s such a good child (and I’m not just saying that) and it kills me to see him struggle. Right now, I’m willing to try anything to help him improve. I know I need to work on my own parenting skills because I get so frustrated at times I lose patience. Now I’m starting to see a pattern. Whenever he gets into the anxiety mode, it triggers a trip to the bathroom. Never fails. He also had a problem with wetting himself – not getting to the restroom in time, that is. I really hope I’m not putting too much pressure on him. I will have this checked out during his first visit to the psychologist.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

You may want to subscribe to Attention magazine, which is the publication for CHADD. There’s lots of good information in there.

gimmedat's avatar

This must be very overwhelming and scary for you. You are doing the right thing, though, advocating for your son and being there to support him. If this is frustrating to you, imagine how he must feel. Relax, and realize that there are tons of resources available for the both of you.

First off, I noticed in your search tags that you listed “learning disabled.” Does your son have a verified learning disability for which he receives special education services? If so, I would request an IEP review to address the manifestations of his ADHD. If he does not already have an IEP in place, I would request whatever protocol get started to have him verified as a student with special needs. If you’d like more information, let me know and I’ll try to answer any questions.

Second, ADHD medications can be pretty tricky. So many factors can impact their efficacy. Have you looked at a time release medication like Strattera (sp?)? This medication is supposed to be pretty effective, especially in children where focus is a huge concern. It’s a single daily dose medication, might be something worth looking into.

Third, a child psychologist with experience in developing family plans around children with ADHD would be a huge benefit. With input from you, your son’s teacher(s), your son, and other members of the multidisciplinary team, the psychologist can teach and help foster life skills that will serve invaluable as your son goes through school. There are all kinds of tools a psychologist has access to that will allow the team to target strengths and deficits your son exhibits. Please don’t just rely on the advice/treatment of your pediatrician.

I think that the one thing that always changes my outlook when I get frustrated with whacky kids is thinking, “All children do well if they can. For whatever reason, this kid has low frustration tolerance and problem solving ability, what can I do to make it better?” When I change my perspective, it gets easier. Good luck.

joni1977's avatar

@gimmedat: well it hasn’t been established that he has a learning disability, just a disorder – if there is a difference. But I’m not ruling that out either. And yes, I know it stresses him beyond my comprehension, which is probably why he has to go pee when he’s caught in an adverse situation. You’re right, RELAX is the keyword. I know my intolerance and impatience is not helping him any, but there are times I feel I’m at my wits end. Also, his pediatrician isn’t much help anyway. She doesn’t like to see him medicated anymore than I do, so thank goodness her only role in this matter is to prescribe the meds. It’s tiresome, but I can’t give up. Thank you so much! We will be seeing a psychologist asap.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

How was your son diagnosed? By whom, and what criteria, and how long has he been on medications?

joni1977's avatar

He’s struggled from day 1 (pre-K) and at the urging of teachers and principals I finally took him to a psychiatrist when he started 1st grade and that’s when it all started.

tinyfaery's avatar

Contact your local DCFS. It will take time, and it will be frustrating as hell, and you’ll have to learn how to insist, but there are lots of resources out there for you and your son. Unfortunately, it sounds like your son need services that typically cost money. Everything is a business you know.

Start at the school. Ask for an IEP. He will be assessed academically, socially and psychologically. Again, Special Ed. can do a lot to get your child the help he needs.

Good Luck!

gimmedat's avatar

This is what will probably happen, and what I would start tomorrow:
1. Get with the school counselor or administrator to inquire what steps you need to take to get your son tested to determine if he qualifies for special education services. They will probably tell you that you have to go through a couple of meetings before a permission to test can be signed. Go through the process and sign the consent to test.
2. The school psychologist will conduct a battery of academic, social/emotional, and behavioral assessments that will measure your son’s functioning within those areas.
3. A multidisciplinary team will meet to go over the results of the testing and determine whether or not your son qualifies for special education services. The testing will show if your son has a specific learning disability, say in math or writing. The testing will also indicate if he has manifestations of a behavioral disorder. All of the testing is free and conducted through the school district.

Please don’t think I was getting down on you. You have to have a ton of courage to recognize within yourself and your son that you need help. Your son is lucky that you’re there for him!!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

That’s young. I think you will get a much more comprehensive plan from a psychologist that specializes in attention deficit issues. You may want to check out the CHADD sites and see if there are any recommendations for psychologists in your area. Lots of times, relief comes in the form of several coping strategies. The psychologist may want to do a series of tests that perhaps the psychiatrist did not do. It’s well worth the expense, because it often turns up other issues that affect management strategies. For example, high energy gifted kids are often diagnosed as ADD or ADHD in school settings because they cannot sit still. Or they don’t do worksheets well because it doesn’t fit their learning style.

joni1977's avatar

@tinyfaery & gimmedat: I don’t mean to sound like I’m in denial, but to the contrary, he’s a VERY intelligent boy. It’s just getting him interested and focused is the problem. I’ve seen his potential and so has his teachers. I know Special Ed is not the right choice for him…

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Sometimes traditional school settings label gifted kids as ADHD because they don’t fit “the program.”

Mine had an IQ of 132 on the WISC III in second grade, but couldn’t write a word.

gimmedat's avatar

Oh, then 4. If your son qualifies for special education services, the team will write an IEP, with specific objectives and accomodations meant to serve your son’s individual needs.
5. If no verified disability is determined, request a 504, which is essentially the same as an IEP, and gives students who do not qualify for special education services access to the same kinds of accomodations. A 504 can be written and implemented when a medical need can be proven.

gimmedat's avatar

The suggestion of special education doesn’t mean that your son isn’t intelligent, it means that your son has not been successful in imainstreamed classes and might benefit from differentiated instruction and accomodations.

tinyfaery's avatar

You think special ed is just for stupid kids? It’s for kids that need emotional help, kids that have diagnosed behavior and psychological problems, as well as kids with Down’s and Autism. Plenty of kids in Special Ed. have high IQs. Ugh!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

No, in our school district special ed is not quite so broad. Most students are mainstreamed in the classroom.

joni1977's avatar

@tinyfaery & @ gimmedat: then I apologize for my ignorance. I never said Special Ed was just for stupid kids, I just don’t think my son belongs there. I really want to do what I can to help him and after the proper procedures and tests, it’s recommended, then by all means I will do so.

tinyfaery's avatar

See No Child Left Behind as it pertains to Special Ed.

gimmedat's avatar

NCLB??? Noooooooooooo.

tinyfaery's avatar

I know it’s absolutely counterproductive, but for now, it’s the law, and it can be used to
one’s advantage.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

What grade is your son in now, and how do they teach math? Are there manipulatives in the classroom, or is it worksheet based?

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve been told that kids with ADD or ADHD tend to be visual learners. Kidspiration is a software package created by the parent of an ADD kid. The parent also has been diagnosed with ADD.

The software is a different way of relating to data and to organizing your thinking. It doesn’t require the linear approach that most of us are comfortable with. It allows kids (and adults) to organize their ideas in a chaotic way.

I have not tried it yet, although we’re supposed to get it for our son, who has not been diagnosed with ADD, but who is not a linear thinker, and may be a visual thinker. So I can’t vouch for it. All I know is the theory.

joni1977's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock: I know I’m going to be lashed for this, but he’s in the 3rd grade because he’s already been held back once (in 1st grade), which is why I’m doing any and everything possible to prevent this from happening again. It’s not that I wasn’t doing anything before, it’s just that I thought by now this would be a passing phase if I worked with him hard enough…

Darwin's avatar

My son, among his other problems, has also been diagnosed as ADHD. We got him started in Special Ed. in second grade because, in our district at least, SpecEd kids have access to what they have called a “Resource Room.” It has some other name now, like “Learning Center” but it is the same thing. It is in essence a class of two or three students at a time and focused on whatever particular subject is the difficult one. My son went to resource classes for reading and math.

A lot of kids with ADHD have problems with noise. If your son has an IEP it can specify that he can take tests or do concentrated work either in a separate and quiet room or with noise-blocking head phones. If need be, your son can even be assigned a paraprofessional to help him focus and to redirect him.

I also strongly recommend that you get a good psychologist. Such a person can help both you and your son develop coping tools to deal with ADHD. These can be ways to break tasks into smaller segments which you can then check off a list when they are finished, reward systems that help him have a reason to work hard at focusing, and other methods of coping. Your pediatrician can continue to prescribe the ADHD meds, but if they don’t seem to be working you may want to find a psychiatrist who is more familiar with the effects and the pros and cons of other ADHD drugs.

Also, many ADHD kids love the computer and do well with it, especially since many of them have terrible handwriting and spelling. Thus, a program like the one daloon mentions could be a good thing. My son loves computers and actually got started on them when he was three. ADHD kids also often like adrenalin rushes. Sometimes getting them involved in a very active and fast moving sport such as soccer or basketball can help their self-esteem as well as release pent-up energy and so make it a bit easier to focus.

And as you already suspect, as kids grow the amount and sometimes the type of ADHD medication needs to be adjusted. So far for my son the best one is Metadate, a time-release version of Ritalin. Adderall and Stratera did nothing for him, although they work well for other kids. Psychiatrists are often more up-to-date on these drugs than are pediatricians, but you may want to talk to your pediatrician to see if she follows this research or if she would refer you to a good psychiatrist.

Good luck! I have known some very successful adults who were ADHD. One in particular was a co-worker who broke all her tasks down into short sections, made a list of them, and then checked them off as she completed them in random order. By the end of the day she invariably got more done than anyone else in our workplace. Another became a surgeon and a marathon runner.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@joni1977, my daughter repeated 3rd grade. She resented it for a long time, but I still maintain that it was the best decision that we could have made. At 19, she’s still a bit delayed. It’s probable that your son had a growth spurt and the medications aren’t doing it any more. Having a 504 through school is a good idea, but not relying entirely on the school psychologist for a plan is also a good idea. You will want to have continuity with a psychologist outside of the school setting because school will not be able to fix it all.

My daughter is a solid B-C student, which doesn’t reflect her content understanding of subjects, and is a freshman in college. She’s thinking seriously about switching to a vocational training program for next year because she likes working with her hands, and is physical learner. She has auditory learning problems, which means lectures are the kiss of death for her.

Good luck. CHADD can be a really great resource.

joni1977's avatar

@Darwin: Yes! The smoke alarm or any other loud, high pitched noises drives my son nuts! And he loves anything action packed like car racing and he loves the computer and his PlayStation2. He spends hours on both and I don’t always object because I’ve heard this actually helps develop skills.
@Alfreda: I have done some research on CHADD, it’s excellent!

Thanks again to everyone, this info is really reassuring.

Darwin's avatar

@joni1977 – my son repeated kindergarten so he, too, is a year behind. Now he is in middle school and we are struggling to get him into high school. His only easy A classes have been Career Investigation (computer modules with hands-on activities involving plumbing, electrical circuits and other visual projects) and Computer.

Judi's avatar

My son was diagnosed with ADHD and he was really bi-polar. No one want’s to “label” a kid with that, so they try hard not to. If he has some other psychiatriac problem meds for ADHD could actually be making matters worse. He needs to see a good specialist. Make sure he see’s a psychiatrist who can adjust and monitor his meds. He also needs counseling to help him navagate his feelings and develop stratigies for being a “square peg in a round hole.” Schools are getting better at making modifications for these special kids, bit they are under funded and already stretched to the max.
I am so sorry you are going through this. I sense the urgency in your words. He is lucky he has a mom who cares so much.

Judi's avatar

@joni1977 ;
Re: the IEP. They may call it “Special Ed” but the first letter in IEP is INDIVIDUALIZED. When my very bright son was in school they threatened to put him in classes with the special ed kids if I insisted on an IEP. I caved and took what they call here in California a 504, but that was a joke too. My daughter is a fairly new teacher and she promises me things are changing. (My son is now 24.) If I had it to do over again I would ask for an IEP and insist that it be INDIVIDUALIZED to accomodate my bright child with an emotional disability.

jqlyn's avatar

I have been a special education teacher for 7 years, in NY and Oregon. Most special education programs in public schools don’t work. Teachers are over burdened with paperwork and too many students on their caseload. That being said, I have tried from my first day teaching to find something that will work. The only thing that I have found to work for most children is movement and massage therapy. That is why I have become a massage therapist. I now work with children that are having difficulties in school and in social situations combining behavior plans, movement and massage. If you can’t afford to go to a massage therapist, you can do the massage yourself. I have taught many parents to do this. If you are not sure what to do, go on line, youtube, or check out the Liddle Kidz foundation, they specialize in pediatric massage, where I earned my pediatric certification. If you have other questions let me know.

joni1977's avatar

@jqlyn: Hmmm…thanks for answering! Because, as old as this question is, I am still looking for and welcome new and inexpensive ideas. This sounds very interesting and I will definitely look into it. Thanks again!

jqlyn's avatar

Your welcome, just let me know if you need anything else. I have some links on my site fluidequilibrium.com

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