Thursday, August 9, 2012

How We Are Treating ADD Without Meds


Disclaimer: My blog is not a substitute for for advice from a healthcare professional. Always consult a doctor before making choices about treating medical conditions.

So, if you read my blog, Starting Homeschool, I talked about our struggle with our almost 5 year-old son with focus and concentration during school time.  I really wanted to find out if I could get this to improve without meds, so I did some googling.

These are the main 3 articles that influenced my strategy:
http://patti-livingwithadhd.blogspot.com/2011/06/another-supporter-of-protein-shake.html
http://www.scribd.com/doc/2280264/A-Recent-Study-on-Milk-and-ADHD
http://www.livestrong.com/article/74378-treat-adhd-caffeine/

The main points that I got from these articles lead me to conclude that:
1) milk proteins affect the attention spans of children suspected to have ADD
2) a small dose of caffeine can have the same effect as Ritalin on treating ADD
3) food with protein can help ADD kids focus
4) cereal and milk for breakfast (which is what we were eating almost every day) is not a good start for people with ADD

I would like to also mention that there are other very credible sources out there that suggest a complete change in diet.  While I think that is a really great way to go, I honestly don't have the time/money to put into that.  It just isn't the option that is going to work best for my family.  I have a family of 5 and one on the way, so there is no way I can cater all of our meals around one family member.

So, I was thinking about trying a protein shake with coffee, but I wasn't sure about using protein powder in a kids drink.  I suppose I could have shopped around for more options, but I didn't.  When I was grocery shopping, I had all the kids in tow, and I needed a quick solution.

So, here it is - our strategy in probably the simplest form possible:

1) We are eliminating milk, yogurt, and ice cream (except on special occasions) from our son's diet.
2) We are giving him 6 ounces of coffee in the morning.  I put a little almond milk in it and a little sugar to help minimize the bitter taste.  (Almond milk is even available at Wal-Mart, so no out-of-the-way trips to the health food store.)
3) I have begun cooking breakfast every day.  The main staples are eggs and some sort of bread.  On some days, we also have canadian bacon (on breakfast sandwiches) or turkey bacon.  One day we just did eggs and grits.  I am not doing things that are complicated, but I am sticking to some sort of protein and a carb.
4) No breakfast cereal.
5) We are limiting his sugar, mainly in the first part of the day.  After our lesson is done in the afternoon, I am okay with giving some sugary treats.  I am trying to be realistic about it.


And, that is it.  Some things to keep in mind here are:
1) I only do school in the morning, so if we add an afternoon lesson, I might need to give him more coffee.  I will tackle that if or when we need to.
2) This helps him focus on his work, but it does NOT stop him from jumping around and being hyper when it is time for play.  That is perfectly fine for me.  I want him to be able to expel energy when necessary.  My main concern was that getting through his lesson was like pulling teeth.  I wanted him to focus instead of being taken over by distractions, which is what was happening.
3) I am allowing him some milk products like cheese, but in small amounts.  I realize that I can't keep him from ice cream all of the time, so that is a special occasion thing.  In the meantime, we are allowing frozen treats that don't contain milk.  We got some Minute Maid juice bars, which are made with 90% juice.
4) We have been doing this for less than 2 weeks, so it will take time to know if these are lasting results.

The Results:

The first day I honestly didn't know if it was going to work.  I really didn't see much of a change.  But, by day 2 and 3, I saw a dramatic improvement.  He is now completing assignments in half the time.  He still has some distractions, but they are manageable.  I couldn't be happier with the change I have seen in him.  My mother-in-law saw both the before and after (because she substituted for me while I went to the doctor a few times), and she was also very amazed at how different and better he was at staying on task.

He is now completing his work at the same pace as his brother, who has never showed any signs of ADD.  I will post any updates if things change.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Magnetic Conduct Chart (Pinterest-Inspired)

I have been checking out things on Pinterest, and I decided to make a conduct chart for homeschool, inspired by some of the projects I have seen on Pinterest.  This could be adapted for a regular classroom as well.

Materials Used: 
Cookie Sheet
Designed Duct Tape
Puffy Paint
Glue Gun and Glue Stick
Yarn
Stick-On Magnets
Something To Adhere The Magnets To
(As A Marker For Each Student)

Okay, so when I started, I thought that I was going to just paint the cookies sheet with acrylic paint and then go over it with my puffy pens for the text.  Of course, I didn't factor in that I was using a non-stick cookie sheet.  So, that paint did not stick.  Epic Fail.  But luckily, I had some racing flag duct tape that I was able to tape on for the background instead - good save.

So here's how to do it: 
(Pics will be posted below.) 

1) Carefully apply your decorative (or solid color) duct tape to the front of the pan.  I pulled mine around to the back to make it look neat.
2) Write your text in with puffy paint.  Mine was kind-of old and didn't turn out perfectly neat, but I used it anyway.  I painted on the title, Conduct Chart.  Then, I labeled each conduct grade from highest to lowest as Super, Good, Fair, Needs Work, and Unsatisfactory.  Then, let it all dry.
3) Flip over the board, and hot glue the yarn on the back for hanging it up.  I added duct tape over that for extra security and neatness, but it probably isn't necessary.
4) Stick your magnets to your student markers.  The magnets I had were self-adhesive.  I bought these little, painted, wooden crafts to use for student markers at Wal-Mart along with the magnets on the crafts aisle.
5) Hang it on the wall, apply the magnets, and you're done!  Every student starts at the top and moves down a slot when appropriate.  At the end of class, record it as a conduct grade. 

Mine are in kindergarten, so they aren't getting "real" grades yet.  But, I am recording it in a grade record book every day as A, B, C, D, F.  When we finish with our first workbook, I told them that they will get a pizza party.  At the pizza party, I will give them an award for good conduct as long as they have a good conduct grade average.

Here's the pics:






Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Starting Homeschool

So, we officially began our adventure in homeschooling this month.  Here's some background info: Kyle ad I have been throwing the idea of homeschooling around for several years without committing to it.  It has been one of those things that we weren't sure it would be possible to pull off.  So, we didn't commit to it at first.  In the last 2 years, it has appeared more and more possible.  Then, the question was (and still is): Can I pull it off?  Well, now it is a reality.  I am trucking through it and taking it day-by-day.  I think that it is best to focus on what I can do now rather than what I am unsure of for the future.  So, as of now, we are a homeschool family.

We decided to start a month before public schools, because I am unsure of how things will be when the new baby arrives in October.  I am pretty sure we will need to take some time off, but I don't know how long. 

Anyway, I began with our reading and writing curriculum.  That is our main focus right now.  I am working with both JM and S, even though JM is the only one that will be eligible for kindergarten this year.  (His birthday is right near the cut-off date for entering kindergarten.)  S is really only 13 1/2 months younger than JM, but that means that he would technically be 2 years behind if he were in traditional school.  The reason I am doing this is because S is very verbal and has shown good language skills.  The only thing that he is behind on is writing, because that requires more refined motor skills than the average child his age.  I am not concerned about that, though.  My plan is that I am not going to push him.  I am going to give him the work and see how much progress he makes.  I really think that by next spring he will be very close to the same level of skill in his writing.  But, if he isn't, I will repeat whatever lessons I need to repeat with him.  It's no biggie. 

I was also a little concerned about by putting S in school early because of the issue of maturity.  Is he mature enough to sit and do the work?  After all, he is still only 3 years old until October.  I have heard from many sources that it isn't a good idea to start them too early, because they just aren't ready for sitting, listening, and working.  This was something that concerned me.  But, so far, he has been able to keep up.  Plus, student conduct is something that I have to teach JM, too.  That is a work in progress.  While this may not be the ideal situation for everyone, for me, I think I am making the right choice by starting S early.  That is one great thing about homeschool - you have the flexibility to work with your children's strengths and weaknesses.

And speaking of weaknesses... that brings me to JM.  I have known for a long time that he has a very difficult time concentrating and staying on task.  I also know that I have been diagnosed with ADHD as a young adult.  So, it is highly likely that I will pass that along to one or more of my children.  We have really been thinking that JM does have ADHD and isn't just an overactive 4 year old.  Now that we have started homeschool, we are pretty sure that's it.  The first few weeks were pretty tough, because getting him to focus on the pages that bored him was like pulling teeth.  He had a comment, or he had to go to the bathroom, or he just wanted to stare into space, or something over there was more interesting than his paper.  Kyle and my mother-in-law saw it firsthand too, because they each did a substitute day for me when I had to go to a doctor's appointment.  Even though JM's skills were excellent, getting him to use them to actually complete a task was difficult.  S was passing him up in the time it took to complete his work.  Faced with this reality, I knew that I was going to have to find some way or ways to deal with this.

As a personal choice, I would rather not be medicated for ADHD myself.  Although I was on the medication as a young adult for a period of time to help me with college, I just didn't like the idea of being on meds constantly.  Don't get me wrong, the meds helped tremendously, and I think they are great.  I just don't want to be on them, and I would rather not have my kids on them either, if I can avoid it.  But, they have to be able to complete their work.  So, I decided to do some online research to see what alternatives there are to treating ADHD with medicine.  I hadn't closed my mind to meds however, but I wanted to see what I could do at home to try and improve the situation first. 

Well, I have implemented a few techniques this week, and I am happy to say that they have been highly successful!  This is only the beginning, so I am still in the trial-and-error phase, but honestly, I couldn't be more pleased with the improvements I have already seen.  I was really surprised when JM started finishing some of his papers before S.  Anyway, that is all I will say on that for now.  I will post a blog soon with the exact changes that I have made, so stay tuned.

I started homeschooling this month with apprehensions, honestly.  I knew JM's attention span was probably going to be an issue.  I also knew that S was going to struggle a little more with fine motor skills.  Then, there is maturity.  I knew that it was going to be a transition for them to learn that, for this time of the day, we will be in a classroom and there are different expectations for students in a classroom.  So, this has definitely been a challenge.  But, I feel like I have the God-given strength to face the challenges.  This is where we are for now, and I am going to put my best into it.  I went into it without a lot of special materials and supplies - just my curriculum.  But we are adding things as they are needed.  Somehow it seems to be working out.  I am good with where we are at.