No, Virginia, I Did Not Cause My Son’s ADD

OK, a bit of a rant this time. I’ve been told on a number of occassions that ADD is caused by bad parenting. I can only hope that my own ADD***  child was so beautifuly behaved at that moment that it didn’t occur to the speaker that I happened to be one of those people. Every time it’s happened, I’ve been so dumbfounded that I couldn’t speak. So, now I’m speaking.

Side note – I hate the term ADD – My son can attend, he’s not deficient or disabled – but for the purposes of this rant, I’ll use the term, as that is what he’d be labled if he were in the school system.

Children who are on the spectrum, whether they are ADD or Aspergers or Autistic or who have sensory issues, are neurologically different from the majority of the population. They think completely differently, their brains are wired differently, they learn differently. But, this is not a disease. I did not cause it by eating the wrong things while pregnant, not disciplining enough, by letting him watch too much television, living to close to hydro wires, using formula….oh – the list of possible things I might have done is endless. As are the scientific studies showing the negative affects of any of the above. Kind of like those studies that claim that red wine is bad for you — oh no! Wait! now it’s good for you! — nope…bad for you again!

Hmmm…I wonder why my Dad, who lived in a fishing village in the northern part of Holland and wasn’t exposed to any of the above, had the same type of brain as my son?

From what I’ve experienced and read over the years, kids on the spectrum are a potpourri of issues – genetics is a definite factor. Then there are weird health issues like food allergies, yeast overgrowth, autoimmune diseases, migraines. The reason no one can get a handle on what ’causes’ these issues is that every child on the spectrum has his/her own set of issues that is unique to that child. There is no one cause. There is no one cure.

This, too, is assuming that spectrum kids have something wrong with them. That it’s a disease that needs to be fixed. These kids are brilliant – they are the Temple Grandins, the Steve Jobs, the Einsteins, the Dav Pilkeys of the world. The fact that they think differently, behave differently, and are unconventional are what make them such a gift to our world.

Maybe lets just try to make them feel better healthwise, encourage their fabulous brains, and start supporting their parents rather than pointing fingers.

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If any man wish to write …

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Just had a couple of thoughts that I wanted to share about writing – this is something that I tend to worry a lot about, and I think other parents of neuro-atypical kids do as well.

My 12 year old ds recently joined a really supportive online writing club (fantasy and gaming based) and he’s been dictating his written assignments to me.

The first thing that occurred to me as I’ve been working with him is that writing is so much more than the formation of letters on the page or spelling or putting thoughts on paper in written form. It’s about being able to communicate your ideas clearly. In addition, there is the craft of writing, which involves expressing thoughts in a pleasing manner. Neither of these require the mechanics of writing or typing. I’m absolutely blown away by the beauty of my son’s “writing” and by how much he has to say (now that I’ve found a topic that fascinates him).

The other thought that I had is that maybe these kids who write later are actually benefitting from the wait. My son has been verbalizing his thoughts and ideas for so long because he can’t communicate them in any other way. Without the restraints of spelling, punctuation, formation of letters, etc, his facility with words has blossomed. He is the king of adjectives and complex sentence structure. He doesn’t just state things – he states them so beautifully.

There is a strong possibility that he’ll never be able to physically write. I think I’m starting to be OK about that. I’ve thought a lot about introducing him to Dragon naturally speaking, but for now I’m content to allow him to explore “writing” through dictation, without worrying about the mechanics of the pen or computer. When he’s older and thoroughly confident with the writing process, I’ll help him explore ways to produce his written work independently.

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My journey to homeschooling…

My homeschooling journey started with my son – – my sweet, temperamental, square-peg-in-a-round-hole-world little boy.

We always knew he was different and suspected that he wouldn’t find schooling easy. I had even thought about the possibility of homeschooling him and his sister, but it really seemed like a pie-in-the-sky idea…kind of like my dream of living in a small town near family, away from the stress, noise and bustle of the city. Surely, with a child who challenged me consistently, I wouldn’t be able to manage to teach him myself. Despite my credentials as a teacher, surely school was the place to address his differences.

My son was luckier than some. He had a wonderful teacher – truly compassionate, loving, kind. One of those golden teachers who really want the best for the children in their care. He had the good fortune of having her for JK, SK and grade 1 – unheard of in the public school system.

It wasn’t enough. The cacophony of daily life was just too much for my child. The noise; the blinking, blue neon lights that buzzed constantly; the frequent transitions from activity to activity; the push to always do more, quicker; the boring curriculum; the even more boring readers he was forced by the provincial curriculum to attempt to read; the D he received for his inability to read in grade one…these all lead to him being utterly overwhelmed, to tantruming when he couldn’t explain what he was feeling, when he couldn’t get the excessive stimulation to stop. I suggested a quiet room and was told by the administration that was impossible (not enough resources or something). They suggested a tent in the room – utterly ridiculous – as if his difference made him insensible to humiliation. When my child ran away and then came home weeping that he didn’t know how he could live his life because it was just too difficult, my decision was made.

I now have a lively, happy boy who rarely tantrums. He continues to be frustrated when he struggles with academic things like writing. He continues to struggle in large groups. But we’ve talked to him about his difference. He understands both the difficulties and the amazing gifts his right-brained mind has given him. He’s a brilliant reader, a philosopher, a historian, a moralist. He is allowed to thrive, grow, learn, bound and leap at his own pace, in his own time.

Our son reminded us of what was important – our family, our spirits, the integrity of ourselves. We gave up that life in the city and now live in our small town. We are so blessed that my husband was able to continue his job from a home office. I now homeschool both my children and am so grateful for the opportunity to nurture these two vastly different human beings.

Life isn`t always easy and blissful, but it mostly is!

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It’s about individuals….

So here I am finally blogging about my life, my challenges, my expertise, my joys, my sorrows. Funny how I’ve always felt that I didn’t have anything really important to say to the world … something that would make the world the better for having heard it. Then my kids came into my life and started educating me on the reality of individuals. I’ve been a parent for almost 11 years and what I’ve learned is that individuals deserve to not only be valued, but treasured, nurtured and celebrated. This realization has led me to a life that is completely different from what I imagined it would be. I have become an advocate for the individual. Everywhere I go, I find myself talking about my children. It started with my first-born – a definite square-peg-kid in a round-hole-world. If you had him in your classroom he would be the one on Ritalin, tested, labeled, accommodated, tolerated and sighed over. Then came my second born – strong-willed, persistent, perfectionist, a mind of her own. She’d be the high achiever, but perhaps not terribly popular, because she does things in her own way, in her own time and when she darn well wants to do it. And so I’ve become a homeschooler – one who celebrates the differences, cheers the differences, stuffs down her own preconceptions about how children ‘should’ behave and learn, and nurtures, nurtures, nurtures these amazing individuals that have appeared in my life. Sometimes I’m a great mom. Sometimes I suck. But I’m always an advocate for a world where square peg kids can discover and celebrate their amazing-ness. That is my passion.

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