succeed in school and at home

This is Part 2 of Strategies and Tips to Help children with ADHD. If you missed Part 1,  read here. I hope you find these tips helpful in your parenting journey:

parenting tips for children with adhd

1- Be open and honest with your child about their struggles so there is no shame associated with it. Just as a kid with a broken leg wouldn’t be expected to run a marathon, children with ADHD needs compassion, empathy and support for what they find challenging. Having open lines of communication is crucial. Brielle is aware of her challenges, which include focusing and impulsivity, but she understands that who she is as a person is what defines her. While struggles are important to address, it is just as important to emphasize your child’s strengths! Remember to emphasize their skills as well.

limit screen time and help with emotional regulation

2- Limit screen time. Now I understand we all need a break, and there are times that we put our kids on the iPad or TV as a lifeline, so we don’t lose our minds. However, children with ADHD tends to be so enthralled with the stimulation from the screen that it becomes a huge battle to take it away from them. Children with ADHD become hyper-focused on what fascinates them, and the transition from screen time to no screen time is incredibly hard for them. My daughter acts possessed after I take away the iPad. On the weekends, I allow her to pick between the iPad or TV for thirty minutes each time. I set a timer on her iPad that goes off in thirty minutes. I then give her ten-minute and five-minute reminders.

Limit Screen Time

3- Discuss strategies in advance to use when your child has difficulty regulating emotions. I created a “calming corner” for my daughter that is comprised of a bean bag chair, a weighted blanker, squeeze ball and some books. Make a chart of different options/tools your child can use, and place it in various locations throughout the house that are easily accessible. Encourage your child to use the tools when needed.

4- Stay calm. I know how hard that is, believe me! However, if we want our children with ADHD to learn strategies to emotionally regulate themselves, we have to model how we emotionally regulate ourselves. It is okay to let your child know that you need to use one of your tools, and model the importance of self-care and emotional well-being.

educate yourself about adhd and advocate for your child in school

5- Advocate for your child with ADHD, and make sure your child has a 504 plan or an IEP (Individualized Education Program). As I discussed in 6 Parenting Tips and Strategies for Surviving Motherhood, it is important that you are on the same page as your child’s teacher and school.  Strategies need to be implemented in the school as well as the home to set your child up for success. It is important to communicate with your child’s teacher on a regular basis.

6- Educate yourself about ADHD. Join support groups. Read literature about it. Speak to your child’s pediatrician, psychologist and any other related professional to discuss possible options. Knowledge is power. You want to know all pertinent information to make an informed decision about what is best for your child. Have an open mind, and be willing to explore different options. If medication is suggested, find out about all possible side effects and be in constant communication with the psychiatrist. There is no shame in your child needing medication, but make sure you are well-informed before choosing any option.
7- ADHD can accompany other issues such as executive functioning delays, processing issues, anxiety, or autism. Make sure your child has a comprehensive evaluation so you are in the best position to help your child. As I mentioned in the last tip, knowledge is power.
8- There is no one size fits all solution. Be humble enough to seek help and gather information from others, but also trust your own intuition. Nobody knows your child better than you.

Take time for self-care and learn from mistakes

9- Take time for yourself! We love our children so much that we often take our own well-being for granted. You are in a better position to support your child when you aren’t pouring from an empty cup. In order to properly care for your child, you need to love and care for yourself.

10- Mistakes are inevitable. Parenting is a challenge with any child, and children with ADHD require extra support. There will be times where you will say or do the wrong thing. Own up to your mistakes. Set a good example that flaws are part of life, but we can learn and grow from them.

love and accept your child for who they are

Love and accept your child for who they are As parents, we have a responsibility to support our children, advocate for them, and love them for who they are, not the labels they have. Teach your children to accept themselves and to love all parts of themselves.

Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and fan. Try to instill in them that although some things are challenging for them, they are capable and wonderful just as they are. As in all aspects of life, some days will be easier, and some days will be incredibly challenging. The journey of parenting is a bumpy road, but I feel blessed to be along for the ride with my daughter.

6 strategies and tips for parenting a special needs child

parenting my special needs child

Parenting my daughter who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is the greatest responsibility I have ever had. Although it is my job to help my daughter to learn and grow, she helps me to learn and grow as well. The truth is, the image I had of parenting is not reality. The smiling faces on Facebook and Instagram capture mere moments of real-life. It is easy to look at others and think that you are the only one who struggles. That is simply not the truth. I am a parent of a special needs child. 

Just as it was essential for my well-being to accept the hard truth about my childhood, awareness and acceptance are of paramount importance when raising a child. The road to acceptance was not an easy road for me. When I enrolled my daughter in a Montessori Pre-K, the teachers and director voiced a lot of concerns about my daughter’s inability to do things that other kids were doing. I believed that the large class size and lack of warmness were the cause of everything. When they suggested she had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I scoffed. I was her mother, and my daughter was FINE.

adhd and SPD

adhd and spd

When we put her into a smaller school, she adjusted well. Still, transitions were very hard for her; she would raise her hand and give answers that had nothing to do with the questions, and she often rolled around on the floor at school when asked to pick an activity at the learning stations. Brielle knew her numbers and letters, could write paragraphs, and was reading, but she couldn’t focus in large groups and was always losing her belongings.

She was well-behaved at school, but at home she constantly threw tantrums and had no ability to self-regulate her emotions. Despite being 4, I couldn’t take her to any stores because she literally touched everything, and she would not sit still and follow directions. She would squeeze the cats, fall up and down stairs, and sought out constant movement. Nothing I tried seemed to calm her down.

Despite my background as a Speech-Language-Pathologist, I had blinders on when it came to my own child. I wanted desperately to believe that I could somehow make it better on my own. I thought if I tried harder or did more, I could somehow make the problems go away. There came a point when I had to admit that an assessment was needed. Her health and happiness were more important than my denial.

My daughter was diagnosed by an Occupational Therapist with SPD, and two years later she was diagnosed with ADHD, executive functioning issues, poor working memory, and auditory processing issues. I went from being in denial that there was anything wrong, to demanding an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) be made for my child. I learned some valuable lessons along the way, and my hope is that I can make the road less bumpy for others:

strategies to help parent a special needs child

1- As parents, we must look at hard truths. It is better to err on the side of caution and get your child assessed ASAP rather than hope it will all go away. If there is a problem, the earlier there is intervention, the better. If there is nothing wrong, then you have nothing to lose by getting your child tested.

2- Labels should be used to help your child, not to define your child. Brielle has learning issues, but the labels associated with those issues do not define her. Who she is as a person is what defines her. Brielle is loving, bright, sensitive, and funny.

advocate for your child during the iep process

advocate for your child during the iep process

3- You must be your child’s greatest advocate, ally and supporter. Involve yourself in every aspect of the assessment and intervention process. For example, I observed every Occupational Therapy session, and I implemented each tool at home.

At the beginning of last year I started homeschooling my daughter. She had a psycho-educational evaluation done over the summer that determined she had ADHD. Subsequently, I found out that I could request a meeting with the Student Support Team (SST) at the public school because we pay taxes to the county. I fought for Brielle to get a full evaluation so that if she were eligible, she could have an IEP. I brought a list of my present and future concerns and was adamant that she needed testing for executive functioning and auditory processing. When they determined she indeed had weaknesses in those areas, I researched IEP goals for those delays as well as accommodations that she needed. I made sure they were all implemented into the IEP.

I planned to have Brielle virtually attend Georgia Connections Academy, but I insisted that she get less screen time and only go online when it would be small groups. She does not focus in large online groups. They were unwilling to cooperate, so I am continuing her education with Bridgeway . I want to put her in an environment that sets her up for success, so I will continue to be her teacher until we find a school that is a good fit for her.

Stand up for your child and make sure they get the proper support and intervention. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. If you do not fight for your child, then who will? It is necessary that your child gets the proper support to thrive.

communicate with your child and their teachers

communicate with others

4- Be open and honest with your child about their struggles and their needs. Having an open line of communication is necessary so there is no shame about it. Brielle understands that she difficulty starting and focusing on tasks because of her ADHD, and we have discussed strategies to help her. She knows that she can ask for a break if she needs to “let her wiggles out”. I have taught her various breathing exercises to help her “calm her mind”.

She will sometimes ask for a squeeze if she needs that pressure on her body (for sensory input), and she has a weighted blanket that she uses at night. When Brielle gets exasperated because she doesn’t understand something, I encourage her to try her best and I try explaining it to her in a different way. I also try to use as many visuals and manipulatives as possible to aid in her comprehension of tasks.

Brielle’s Kindergarten teachers thought she couldn’t grasp addition and subtraction number bonds; by the end of homeschool last year she was doing multiplication, division, and fractions. She may have different learning needs than others because of her ADHD and SPD, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t capable of learning. I won’t allow her to believe otherwise.

parenting a child with adhd and spd must vary on the child

5- Make sure to emphasize your child’s strengths. Brielle has a poor working memory, but her long term memory is amazing. She can recall in vivid detail incidences that took place years ago. Her hyperactivity has an upside as well. She never tires. Make sure your child knows that for every challenge there is also a strength.

6- Parenting must vary based on the child, NOT the other way around. In order for our children to grow up and be confident and self-sufficient, we must give our children what they need, not what we want them to need. Brielle has difficulty playing by herself and she is very accident- prone. I need to keep an eye on her because she is incredibly impulsive. She has difficulty playing independently because of her ADHD and SPD, so I give her options of what she can do when she has “quiet time” (time where she plays by herself), and she chooses what she’d like to do.

I encourage her to be her own friend and give her lots of positive reinforcement when she keeps herself occupied and plays independently. I believe in her fully, but I also needed to adjust my idea of how she should be. Brielle is Brielle, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.

awareness and acceptance 

awareness and acceptance

Awareness and acceptance- the key ingredients to parent a child with special needs. They have helped me to be the mother and person I am today. I am far from perfect, and that’s okay. I am aware of who I am, and I am aware of how special my daughter is. The sky is the limit. I am honored to be along for the ride.

 

Surviving Motherhood

We are survivors. As women, as people, we have all had to survive different obstacles in our lives. Of course, the degree of survival differs from person to person, but we have all had struggles in one way or another. For me, I had to survive a traumatic childhood and create strategies to have a loving, healthy relationship with my daughter. I believe that these parenting tips and strategies are helpful regardless of your specific struggles.

parenting tips and strategies

These are the 6 parenting tips and strategies that helped me become the mother I am today:

1-As a scared new mom, and even after all these years of parenthood, I often have NO idea what I am doing. If someone tells you they have all the answers, I have a bridge to sell you.  You can read parenting tips on the internet every day, and you will still not have all the answers. Each day it is my first time being a mother to my daughter at that age. Children do not come with a “how to” manual, and each child is different. What I do know is what NOT to do. I have a list of things that I will NEVER, ever do because those were horrific things that happened to me.

Awareness is key in implementing change. So I faced every horrific thing my mother did to me. I allowed myself to feel the helplessness, the sadness and the pain. If I allowed myself to stay in denial, or to convince myself that it was somehow justified, then how could I stop it from happening at my own hands? I used my own childhood as a roadmap of where I would never allow myself to go.

2-For many of us, toxic and dysfunctional relationships are all we know. It is crucial that we learn new and healthy ways of parenting. Don’t be afraid to get help! Read those parenting books (and roll your eyes at the things you know wouldn’t work for your child), phone a friend (or two, or three) when you are having a bad day or you need some advice on how to proceed. Read that self-help book (or two, or three) that you’ve read so many times that it is hard to make out the words. Reach out to your spouse or find a good therapist. It is okay to ask for help.

3- Kids will trigger the daylights out of you, and it is essential that you take time for your own well-being. Parenting is hard! Scream into a pillow. Write in your journal. Talk to yourself in the mirror. Be your greatest friend and ally. Take the time to work on healthy coping mechanisms, and cheer yourself on for all the progress you have made. Remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

On particularly stressful days I make sure my daughter is safely occupied, and then I go into my bedroom, lock the door, and vent (sometimes to my husband, and sometimes I am a frazzled woman talking to myself). My daughter knows that sometimes Mommy needs a time-out too. We openly talk about our feelings, and she knows that feeling overwhelmed or frustrated is not something that only kids have to deal with.

4- We will all make mistakes. As long as we are not abusing our children, mistakes are natural, normal, and par for the course. Accept responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them, and grow from them. Be willing to apologize to your children and recognize when you have done something wrong.

Parenting Tips

Many of us grew up feeling that we had to be perfect or had a caregiver who never admitted any wrongdoing. I am definitely a work-in-progress when it comes to expecting perfection from myself. I associated saying or doing the wrong thing with shame, because I was often shamed for my mistakes. If I don’t want my daughter to expect perfection from herself, I realized that I needed to set the right example that nobody (myself included) is perfect.  There is no shame in making mistakes. I can be a great mom and still mess up. I can be the parent and still apologize if I do something that I regret.

5- Just as our children need a parent, so do we.  When we were children, some of us did not get the love and compassion we needed from our parents.  If we did not receive support and kindness from our own parents, then we need to be our own parent.

How do we do that? Talk to that little child inside of you. Tell your inner child everything you wish you had heard from your parents and validate your inner child’s feelings and experiences. In order to love our children in healthy ways, we need to learn how to love ourselves.

6- Unconditional love. The two most beautiful words in the world (in my opinion). What so many of us craved, but never received, was unconditional love. Give your children that love. Love them on the good days, and love them and support them on the difficult ones.

My daughter never doubts the love I have for her. She knows that no matter how I am feeling and no matter what she says or does, that nothing can ever change the love I have for her. She knows that to the point where she rolls her eyes when I say it to her. My daughter knows that no matter where life takes her, I will always be waiting for her with open arms and an open heart.

 

 

Ian S. Thomas wrote, “Before your children came, they were told that you would love them, so whatever you do, however you treat them…to them, it is love.” Being a parent is the greatest responsibility one will ever have. We know better than anyone how significant our role is in our child’s life. It is the greatest challenge and the greatest joy to be a parent. Remember to honor both, and you will be able to navigate the bumpy road of parenting.