Family Coach. Mom. Teacher. Lover of Life.

Posts tagged ‘ADHD’

ADHD Brain: no place for the mundane

Did you see the article called A Natural Fix for ADHD by Richard Friedman in the NY Times on Halloween? I saw it because my child’s curriculum assistance teacher sent me an email saying “It soooo makes me think of Fiona…especially when they mention the nomadic people. We are just talking about her traveling the world.” This post could go on to tell you how much I love Fiona’s curriculum assistance teacher. The fact that she is reading and thinking about my daughter at 11 pm is so telling to me, and I see why Fiona has success at school in great part due to her teacher.

Instead, however, I’m focusing on the content of the article and how it soooo makes sense! And it gives me hope for a very bright future for my daughter with ADHD and anxiety. I thought this was a great read and helps me see how my daughter is going to be able to create success for herself in adulthood. In fact, I can totally see how my kiddo will benefit from ADHD once she gets to choose her own environment. That is the take away I got from this article-ADHD is really hard for kids because they have to go to an institution that quite frankly is boring for their brain and body. At least that is true for Fiona. School and the mundaneness of life are quite boring to her. There are exceptions. She loves project based learning where she can incorporate her love of technology, such as the math project where she gets to put pictures of her beloved Anime characters on a poster.

The other aha I took from this article was a better understanding of Fiona’s total all-consuming desperate attempt to always be online. The section on technology makes so much sense as she is truly caught between two worlds; one with immediate gratification and intense imagery and stimulation (digital world) and one that is, well, not that. No wonder this kid complains daily about going to school. It is painful for her. She doesn’t fit in; she feels as if she doesn’t belong.

A poem on Fiona's Instagram account. One of many.

A poem on Fiona’s Instagram account. One of many.

A poem Fiona wrote during a sleepless night. One of many.

A poem Fiona wrote during a sleepless night. One of many.

Fiona has the type of brain and body that was essential back in the day of nomadic hunter and gatherers. In fact, that’s probably how our side of the family survived all these years in the first place. No offence, but my folk are not the super sharpest tools in the shed. We are, however, great at adaptability and work well with the land and hunting and gathering. (Well, not me. I would more likely starve to death than kill a live animal to eat. But then again, I’m the exception of my family in other ways as well, seeing as how I actually finished high school and excelled in academics. But that is another story for another day.)

I tell Fiona so often that it truly does get better. The older she gets, the more choices she has. Just this week she got to select her options for alternative high schools. She wants to learn welding at the career technical school. Doesn’t really fit with my ideas of how I would plan her life, but I love that she so clearly understands herself, and understands that she would be so much more successful in a school where she gets to use fire and hot metal to create art at school. And truthfully, that sounds so much better to me than having sitting in a math class, even one that let’s her print out anime pictures. She’s not made for sitting and listening. That’s what I love most about her, and what I want so most for her is to find an environment where her talents and natural abilities can shine, where she can be engaged, and .

A Word from My Daughter

I write a lot about my 13 year-old daughter, Fiona, and her struggle with mental illness. She actually does a lot of writing herself, so today I share with you something she wrote for her school newspaper.

green ribbon


By Fiona Allen

About 40,000 people will commit suicide this year. That’s the same amount of people that will die of breast cancer this year. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2030 suicide deaths, which are most commonly caused by depression, will outweigh the number of deaths from stroke, cancer, accidents and even war.

Today I am here to talk to you about mental health awareness and the lack of it. We talk about breast cancer often. You probably know the awareness ribbon is pink. Right? But can you guess what color suicide, mental health or self-harm ribbons are? Not very many people talk about mental health or suicide. The ribbon color for suicide is yellow. The awareness ribbon color for mental health is green, and the awareness color for self-injury is orange.

The reason that we don’t have much awareness for mental health issues is because it’s taboo to talk about mental illness in our society. Is also seen as “not a real issue”. Mental illness is an illness just a serious-if not more serious-than other illnesses that receive a whole awareness month.

Kids all around us that are our age are suffering and dying from mental illness on a daily basis. In fact about every 15 minutes somebody dies from suicide, and that does not include the kids who are passing away because of anorexia or those attempting to kill themselves. It’s a scary thing to look at. It’s scary to think about too, but I challenge you to look at it and to make a stand about it.

If you suffer from a mental illness you can get help and get treatment. If you’re feeling like you’re going to kill yourself please, PLEASE call this number-it’s the national suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about your feelings. I know it’s so hard because I’ve been through it before myself. But I know you can do this.

I would like to challenge all of you guys out there to spread awareness for these horrible disorders. I challenge you to wear a ribbon or a shirt that’s one of these colors (yellow, orange or green) every Tuesday. In our school we need to not only stand up against bullying, but we also need to stand up for mental health disorders.

I also challenge you to try to make somebody feel better. Be kind. Be friendly. Just try to lighten up someone’s day. And I challenge all those folks out there that are suffering to stay strong. You can do this. I’m so proud of you.


Please let me sleep, Mom!

I suspect anyone that has to wake up teens already knew this, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends a later school start time for middle and high school students. This is because of the natural sleep cycle and schedules of our busy teens. Lack of sleep = public health and academic performance issues. And this is for typical students. Many students with mental health issues have additional issues when it comes to sleeping.

AAP sleep recommendation article

I find this interesting because at an IEP meeting for my daughter yesterday the LEA said, “perhaps you could try giving her an earlier bedtime so that she can get more sleep”. Hmmm…wonder why I (nor her therapist nor the medical doctor) never thought of that. Oh wait…that was the 1st thing we tried back when she was a preschooler. And in elementary school. Every single year.

My daughter has had sleep issues since, well, since she was in my womb. That child has a natural nocturnal sleep pattern, and her ADHD and anxious brain will just not let her rest. I get it. I have the same brain. It takes me an hour to get to sleep most nights, just like it does Fiona.

I am usually the consummate professional that can understand people sometimes have a lack of information. But this made me mad! First, I’m a psychologist with a PhD and I am a parenting expert. Not that that even matters because truth be told, all parents know their children. What parent wouldn’t start with an earlier bedtime? This vice principal was outside of her knowledge base, and I got mad when something as easy as an earlier bedtime is the solution being offered. And I told her such. In fact, I might have mentioned that she might need to get a bit more training on adolescent brain development. I might have said a few more things, but I can’t remember it all clearly now.

You should know that this reaction stemmed from my request for a later start time accommodation for my daughter. Fiona has always had sleep issues, but it is really catching up with her this year. She is stick, tired, and sick and tired of school. I have a letter from the doctor documenting the medical concerns. More sleep might be just what she needs to be successful. My thinking was that if we all want Fiona to be successful, then perhaps a modified schedule could be a first start.

The answer is no. It can’t be in a formal IEP. She can have an excused absence if she is sick. Next.

Fiona's Haiku: These are the kinds of things she writes in her room as she is trying to sleep.

Fiona’s Haiku: These are the kinds of things she writes in her room as she is trying to sleep.

What did I learn yesterday? There is room for education on the importance of developmentally appropriate practices and mental health realities for all of us that work with youth and their families. And when it comes to my kids, I recognize that I may have a bit of a temper if you question my kid or my parenting. But then again, I do have red hair.