oh the distracted brain

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I just need to write it down. If I write it down I will remember it. If I look up I will see it.

Yet, the cat jumps on the table. The dog walks by. What was that out the window. Is that  a fly in the light? Why do flies go into the light fixture? The cat saw something out the window. What is that cat looking at? Why is that bird walking on the ground and not flying.

There are pieces of paper  saying FOCUS lying around my house. I randomly find my daughter has written on our message board, “FOCUS on your homework!”. It breaks my heart to see these. I know how hard she struggles. I even know the thought process behind them. They were my thoughts not too long ago.  The signs of a distracted brain.  I probably have more patience for this behavior than my mother did. It’s my behavior.

I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when I was five. I struggled through elementary school until fourth grade. I had an ESE teacher that just got me. She understood and taught me so many little tricks. My parents were not interested in medicating. They chose to work on compensatory skills. I never understood why they would not let me just medicate. If there was a pill that would help, why not. I did medicate for several years after I turned nineteen. The only problem was , once I got the ADD better under control, I had issues with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I ended up treating for the OCD as it was more intrusive. I saw a therapist for several years and learned a lot about myself and my behaviors.

I finally understood why my parents did not want to medicate until my daughter began to show symptoms. I worried about her having it from the minute she was born. I remembering asking her pediatrician how can I prevent her from getting it. What do I need to do? What do I need to feed her? Should I start the ADD Diet now? He suggested we watch sugar intake and make sure she got plenty of DHA and Omega Fatty acids. He followed this up with but nothing will prevent it. I can’t tell you how deep the feeling of failure was then, and she wasn’t even showing symptoms then.

Fast forward to kindergarten and she spent the first four months telling us she had belly aches, or headaches. She was often in the clinic for them. We assumed it was just nerves. All these new things she was doing at school. We finally took her to the doctor and found that she most likely had a problem with lactose. Within days of eliminating lactose the headaches and stomach aches disappeared.  That was when we started getting familiar notes. She wasn’t focusing on her work, frequently distracted, often talking. I remember those notes. I remembered dreading taking them home. She doesn’t seem as bothered by them as I was. I have yet to have her formally diagnosed. Mainly, because I don’t want her labeled like I was. I was not made to feel like I was smart, quite the opposite. I was so stupid I could not focus on a simple math problem. The fact that I loved to read, had a great imagination was never mentioned. I never want my daughter to feel she is stupid. It is the most horrible feeling in the world.  She goes to a Montessori school and surprisingly she thrives there. We still get told she likes to talk. She still has issues focusing. I truly believe it’s the ability to be mostly independent in her learning environment that helps her the most.

I do use some of the compensatory skills I learned.  Some I use with my daughter now. We cover all but the problem she is working on. We play a game that if she looks away from her paper her eyes will melt from lava. We use rewards. We challenge her to see how much she can get done. Most of her teachers have been very supportive of our decision.She has learned so much faster, how she learns than I ever did. She understands she can’t sit down and just do work. In fact, she often stands. I have also found her reading her book while moving a hula hoop around her waist. I was told by one  teacher, I should just give in get her diagnosed and medicate her. The thing is, It is not a magic pill. I know this from experience. There are also side effects. She won’t suddenly be able to concentrate. It is so much more complicated than that. It is so much more than that. She does get a daily supplement for brain health, a mixture of DHEA and amino acids. We treat the anxiety that ADD brings with magnesium. It is to the point now she knows when she needs to up her dosage of her supplement. She knows when she needs a glass of natural calm, the magnesium we use. She is listening to her body and her brain at so much younger of an age than I ever did.

On the other hand, I can understand my parent’s frustration with me just as clearly. I will tell her go brush her teeth. She sometimes gets a few feet before getting distracted. Sometimes she actually makes it to the bathroom but I catch her just staring in the mirror.  If I take the time to ask her why she is just staring in the mirror. It is often, ” I was just wondering why I have blue eyes or brown hair.”  or “I was just wondering what I would look like if I was a boy.” There is no point in getting mad. It is just how her brain works. In her mind she has done this thinking for seconds when actually minutes have passed.

We have never told her it is a disorder. We use the term distracted brain, or that is just how your brain works. Everyone’s brain works a little differently. We have never told her it is a disability or let anyone else tell her. It is not a disability. It is just the distracted brain. It has advantages that other brains don’t. The distracted brain often is more creative, more flexible and is often thirsty for knowledge.  The problem is, most people don’t acknowledge that. It takes more work to find what works for her, that is most certainly true. It reminds me of a quote I saw recently. ” What is best for the child is not always what is most convenient for the parent. ” Bonnie Bedford. It most certainly would be more convenient for me to medicate her and just move on with our lives. It is most certainly a lot more work to figure out all the little nuisances of her brain. However I know from experience that it is possible to retrain your brain. It is not easy. It is not fast. She however has the advantage of someone who understands and can guide her to the right ways to retrain her brain. It won’t ever go away, but it is possible to “ride herd” on it.

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4 responses »

  1. That is such a hard choice to make but you are working so hard to help her adapt. I am so glad that you are getting support from her teachers as well. That would be extremely hard to fight against opposing opinions…it shouldn’t be their opinion to have in the first place.
    Good for you.
    My distracted brain is due to medications and it is hell beyond hell, and like you, and like you are teaching your daughter, you learn ways to adapt. Notes. Notes. Notes!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So wonderful to read this, my middle daughter is 7 and has ADHD with High Functioning Autistic Traits. Her teacher last year has been less than understanding or even helpful. But in order for her to successfully do her reading homework we get the rebounder out and she bounces while she is reading and reads beautifully. My daughter lives in the world of Faries and Butterflies, where everything outside the window is just fascinating to watch. In many way’s I envy her, she has the most wonderful and utterly delicious imagination. My argument with her teacher is, why can’t she tap her foot when she reads? Who is it going to die if she likes to read in rhyme? She is a beautiful wee lass, and isn’t doing any of these “annoying” things on purpose. I have taught her a special “wiggle” that she does when she needs to sit and concentrate on something. This seems to help her “noisy brain” calm down for long enough (around 20 – 30 minutes) to do whatever it is her teacher is asking. I have chosen not to medicate, for a myrid of reasons. I get a lot of grief over that choice, but at this point I stand by that. She is happy, and has friends and loves school. I can’t ask for much more. Oh and by the way, I write notes in order to remember things, then I loose said notes.

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    • Ha ! I can’t tell you how many notes I have lost.

      Yes Having been medicated and as it did allow me to concentrate it crushed my creativity.The very thing I wish to nurture the most in her. We don’t medicate but we will use natural aids.I don’t want to call them remedies as that is not really what they are.

      I have yet to have a teacher that had those issues but she is ina montessori school. However I did spend a year trying to convince her teacher she does have attention issues that she was falling through the cracks.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So much of what you’ve written here, Erin, is very familiar to us.
    I didn’t find out I had ADHD until I was about 38 years old. I saw myself in the psychologists’ reports and classroom behaviors of my students who had it. I would see those TV commercials and magazine articles about “do you have adult ADD?” and answer yes to everything. Long story short, I asked my primary care doc for a referral to someone who diagnoses and treats ADD/ADHD to get evaluated and sure enough, that’s me!
    My husband also has ADD, although he was never “officially” diagnosed. He’s more of a self-diagnosis with professional input that corroborates.
    As for our daughter…well you know the genetic odds were already stacked for her. We saw signs of it in her in her infancy already. By three we were certain and had her evaluated. She was diagnosed by 5. Early, but when you know you know. We understand people who don’t want to “label.” I think we feel differently than many. We want it. That “label” helps people understand why she does the things she does, why she needs certain accommodations or helps for certain tasks. Our thinking is if she were a diabetic, that label would be crucial; we feel similarly for ADHD. We’ve had teachers who were less than understanding with her (to say the least), but we’ve had more who were happy to be informed and brought on board so they could help her. We don’t stand for anyone treating her as less than. We advocate for her and are teaching her how to advocate for herself. The things she knows how to do and the way she understands herself, her mind, her body at this age – it’s amazing to us. Like you said, this child has the advantage of parents who know, who have (and do) live this every day and so she is armed with strategies to help her far earlier than we ever were. She has parents who get why she does what she does. Doesn’t make it less frustrating – when she does the dance around in the mirror thing (yup, just like yours), it drives me crazy even though I completely understand it. But it’s all part of the learning process for all of us. In a house where all three people have some version of ADD/ADHD (all different sub-types), life is never dull, that’s for sure!
    I could go on and on…I won’t. I’ve taken enough of your comment space. You’re doing all the right things – keep on supporting her and teaching what you know and learning new ways to manage it together!

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