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ADDed Attractions October 2001
This month I'm excited to introduce Benjamin Polis. Benjamin has ADD and has just turned 20 and is the author of "Only a Mother Could Love Him. He currently has a website at www.addhelpguide.com which contains excerpts from his new book as well as teacher strategies.
Benjamin took the time to share a part of himself and his new book with my readers so please enjoy as you read about this author and his experiences with ADD.
Background on Author… When I was seventeen I was first asked to write this book on my personal experiences of suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I did not give the idea a second thought. The answer was a plain and simple, 'No!' I did not want to talk about it. I didn't even want to think about my personal experiences of ADD.
Why I did not want to write the book was that I was sick and tired of always being looked upon as that 'crazy little child' who seemed to be a burden on everyone. My school life was hell, not just for me, but for my parents as well. Not to mention the teachers who I challenged every day in the classroom. I hated the fact that I was different and at times even hated myself for who I was and what I was doing.
When gathering my research material from the many schools where I was a student I was embarrassed by a lot of the terrible things I had done. But at the time I did not know what I was doing. I was often confused, not understanding what I was doing. This caused a lot of depression in my early school days. As I got older it became a lot easier to deal with my problem. I overcome it in a number of ways including medication and self-taught techniques that I discuss in my book. Looking back on my short life at the age of nineteen now, it all seems like a far away story when I recall these things in my life. I still have no idea why I did these things that normal society sees as abnormal. If you or your child has ADD you will understand what I mean when I say abnormal behavior - those fits of anger and impulsive behavior that are unleashed on family members seem to have no reason or specific purpose. This must be very hard for parents to deal with and understand why their child is behaving in this abnormal manner. I hope my book will help people understand why your child acts in this uncontrolled way. It was not until I turned nineteen that I seriously considered the challenge of writing this book. After watching a story on children with ADD on the Channel 9 program Sixty Minutes I felt that I had to write this book to help other people suffering what I have endured throughout my life. However, again I put it off! One day it would happen, I thought to myself. I didn't have the time, I thought. I had study at university and I was going out all the time. But it was really just an excuse. I just didn't care enough, I guess.
A young boy down the road has ADD. For the past couple of years my mother has been saying, 'Why don't you go talk to the boy's mother?' I usually brushed it aside with, 'Yeah, maybe later.' Then one day I decided to talk to the mother and she was pretty upset with her son's progress at school because he was behind in reading and math etc. This was a shock to me. I did not understand what she was worried about because I could not read a short sentence until I was in Grade five. I told her this, along with other personal experiences.
It always seems to surprise people when I tell them things about my life at school and home. They often look at me with amazement and even confusion. I believe this is because now I do not act like a freak as my sister called me. However, I can understand where this confusion comes from. If you said to my parents when I was ten, 'Your son will pass Year twelve and pass it well,' they would probably have bet their house that this would not have happen. Or that their child would go on to university and write a book - they would have probably bet their life on that not happening. Well, it did and my book will tell you about this remarkable turnaround in my life and I hope it will help your child achieve the best results possible.
I have no accredited medical knowledge of ADD. However, I do not understand how so-called medical experts develop theories and strategies for parents with children with ADD. Their advice is often very useful. But, how can they really understand it without actually living with someone who has ADD or having it themselves? I am not knocking the medical experts because my doctor is an excellent one and does understand ADD in great depth. The strategies that I developed to help me, I believe, are invaluable in my remarkable turnaround from very possibly ending up in a child detention center and finally finishing school after attending six different ones to making it to university.
Brandi Valentine asked me if I would write an article on ADD and being a teenager. I felt that the best way to explain what it was like to be a teenager with ADD was to take some excerpts from my book. I hope you enjoy them… My First Year of High school…
My sister made the decision for me to be sent to a different Secondary College to hers. She was embarrassed to have me as her brother and did not want to have any social contact with me. I do not blame her for this because I did not have the best reputation in the area. My name did and still does follow me everywhere I go today, but I do not mind this. In fact, I get a real kick out of telling people what I am doing now, to see their faces change when I tell them I'm at university. Whenever people ask, 'Whatever happened to that wild son of yours?' both my parents have great pride in telling people, who had labeled me a loser all those years ago, that I am at university. My mother also finds it quite funny when mothers ask her what I am doing and she tells them. But for some reason they never tell her what their son is doing! Funny about that! Year Seven was most probably the worst year of my life. Once again I hated the school and the school hated me. This was the first time I started to feel totally embarrassed about having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. My mother told the school of my medical condition, hopefully to get a little bit of understanding when I played up. I openly admit that in Year Seven I was completely out of control. Failing every subject with flying colours!
Looking back on it now, I believe there is a good reason for my behavior and dismal academic record. In primary school, everything was in a repetitive format. Being told when to sit and when to stand up is perfect for a child like me. However, at secondary school this routine that is easy to comply with and understand was gone. I had to organize myself to get up in time and catch a train and a bus. When I did finally get to school (usually late) I then had to get my books and find my class. Unlike the stability in a primary school, you change classrooms every period. I would forget books, homework, sports clothes and so on and continually draw-unwanted attention to myself because I was totally disorganized. This is why I believe that if your child does have ADD you must train your child in primary school to learn to become more independent, better organized at school and home, to take care of themselves. If you do not, they will be overwhelmed by the lack of a routine in secondary school and their academic progress and behavior will suffer.
This is exactly what happened to me. One day in a French class we were doing a test and I couldn't answer even the first question. I sat there thinking, 'I am so dumb!' After five minutes of just sitting, boredom set in. Like any other ADD child, I started to amuse myself by annoying the person next to me, then the teacher. I asked if I could shut the windows because it was cold, which it was not, but I was amusing myself. I climbed up onto the windowsill to shut the top window. Everyone was looking at me and I love an audience. So I pretended to fall! As I was falling, I grabbed the roof rafter and swung back and forward a couple of times. I then impulsively pretended to fall again, but this time I was not pretending. I fell and accidentally kicked a boy in the head. In trouble again! The teacher yelled at the top of her lungs, 'Go to C3!' the time-out room when you were removed from class. I don't know why they didn't just send me there and leave me there because I spent most of the year there. In the past couple of years I have spoken to a number of past students and they all say the same thing. 'I loved going to C3 because you were always there and would amuse me.' In the time-out room we had to write in a book what we had done wrong. These past students also said they loved it even more when they read the C3 Book. It was a detailed record of all the things I had done, a record of all the less memorable achievements in life. During Year Seven I faced my first challenge in taking medication. Every morning my mother made my breakfast. Neatly laid out was food, Ritalin, asthma tablets and two types of asthma inhalers. This was my daily routine and still is today. It does not worry me that I have to do this every day. It has been a part of my life since I was eight. The way I see it, I need to take asthma medication every day so I don't die, so there is no difference in taking Ritalin to stop people wanting me to die! That's a joke! The problem was my lunch time dosage - I didn't take it! This was a big problem during school and even in year 12. My mother put the Ritalin in a small film canister with my lunch, because I was embarrassed, and if anyone asked what the tablet was for, I would say it was for asthma. At school I developed such a sneaky technique of taking my Ritalin at lunch time people never asked or even saw me take it when I was taking it right in front of them. My friends always used to drink my cordial from my school bag and it used to annoy me, because I had no liquid to swallow my tablets. It is pretty hard taking tablets with water from a water fountain. In theory, this should have worked, but it didn't. After being confined in a classroom for a couple of hours I was like a caged bull. When the bell went I burst out of the classroom and hit the oval to burn off energy. It was time to run, play and sometimes fight.
Claims that Ritalin suppresses appetite are pretty much true in my case. I rarely worried about lunch at school because of the side effects of Ritalin. That's not 100 per cent correct. When I take Ritalin I lose my appetite for normal food, such as the lunch my mother made for me. I would often buy more exciting things from the canteen and in doing so forget or not bother about taking my medication. This side effect of Ritalin is somewhat strange. I feel hungry because I am weak and have hunger pains but I won't eat. I eat a little, but I find myself picking at my food and often either throw it or give it away. The consequences of missing my lunchtime medication usually resulted in my behavior becoming erratic and uncontrollable in afternoon classes.
I hope you enjoyed my excerpts from book. If you would like to read more excerpts you can do so by going to my website: www.addhelpguide.com
If you would like to purchase my book you can contact me via:
Look for more from Benjamin in Novembers edition of ADDed Attractions.
We all know that the treatment of choice for ADHD is a combination of medication and counseling. The medication increases brain activity and thus improves functioning. What I am going to discuss today are the purposes for the counseling component.
My first goal when I counsel ADHD families is to educate children and parents about ADHD. I use my 10 video lessons (http://www.adhd1.net) to help me accomplish this. Understanding the disorder helps parents make informed decisions. It also aids them in better differentiating between misbehavior and ADHD related problems. It allows them to feel more comfortable with the medication when they understand the disorder and the purpose of the medication. It gives them the information they need to explain what is going on to skeptical relatives and friends.
The children also need to understand the disorder. Understanding ADHD allows them to blame ADHD for historical inadequacies. This is probably better than their previous conclusions since so many children with ADHD decide that they are bad, stupid, crazy, lazy, uncontrollable, unlovable, etc. This education helps achieve a second counseling goal of improving the child's self-esteem, which is so frequently damaged.
While encouraging the child to blame previous problem behaviors on ADHD, I simultaneously discourage them from continuing to use ADHD as an excuse. It is important that children take responsibility for their behaviors. On the other hand, we simultaneously want to make their environment more ADHD friendly so that they have a better chance of succeeding. Helping families develop ADHD friendly environments is a third goal of counseling.
Setting up reward programs; improving family communication; constructing external reminders such as signs around the house; developing consistent family structures; reducing family arguing; practicing personal problem solving strategies; developing reasonable expectations; if necessary, reducing the amount of time spent daily on homework; having more family fun; helping parents to stop taking the problems personally; etc. are all ways to help make the environment more ADHD friendly.
Another counseling goal is to educate the children and parents about medication. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking of the medication as a good pill or a smart pill. We discuss the fact that there is no medication that will make them smarter or keep them out of trouble. Although the medication does help improve concentration and reduce impulsivity, the children must try in order to improve. I want children to take responsibility for any improvements since this can also help improve self-esteem.
I think that some children resist the effects of the medication if they believe that we are trying to control them. That is why it is essential not to tap into their oppositionality with regards to medication.
Another goal of the counseling is to educate siblings about ADHD. This can help them better understand the problems. We want the siblings to be our allies in treatment, and we do this by involving them in the treatment process.
A major counseling goal is to repair what is broken. ADHD can impair the relationships the child has with his parents, siblings, teachers, and peers. It is important to try to repair these. ADHD can also strain the relationship between the parents. It is essential that the parents are able to work together as a cooperative team in order to cope better with the problems.
Another goal of counseling is to determine whether other family members also need treatment. Every full sibling has a 40% chance of having the disorder. It is not unusual for the primary care taker to be depressed, and so this also needs to be explored. Parents might need marital therapy if the problems are affecting their marriage.
This article is not all-inclusive, but it does provide information about the importance of the counseling component. My puppet, Elwood, and I will be at ChADD in Anaheim on the October 18th, 19th, and 20th. I look forward to meeting some of you.
In November, I will be taking Elwood to Japan where I will conduct a workshop on using ventriloquism to counsel and educate young children at the Japanese Ventriloquist Festival in Tokyo. I will also be lecturing on ADHD and showing my video lessons at Gunma University which. I am really excited about the opportunity to share some of my ideas with Japanese parents and professionals. Feel free to learn more about my ADHD video curriculum for children and families at http://www.adhd1.net.
Samuel R. Caron, Ph.D. Dr C & Elwood
Friends. As many of you know, I watched the 2 World Trade Center buildings fall before my eyes. I watched the first plane flying over my head while walking to work. By the time I got to my office, I already knew that plane had hit the North Tower. As I watched out of our office window, I saw the fire raging, I then witnessed the second plane flying into the South tower. It has changed my life completely. My partners largest client was one of the hardest hit company's, who lost 700 out of their 1000 employees in the devastation. My partner spent last week going to one funeral after another, for the people we placed at that company (we are an executive recruiting company). None of the people we placed at that company survived. I'm sure all of you watched the President of that company on TV, crying his heart out about the horrendous loss of life his company and about the devastation our country just experienced. So, needless to say, my mind has been somewhat distracted. But at least a dozen times in the past 12 days, I thought about my child's educators, and what they did to my child, and how un-American it was. My friend asked me a simple question, do you think they would have done that to my son (broken so many of the codes found in IDEA) , if we had just gone through what we did as a nation on Sept. 11th. 2001. My instant answer was, I don't think so. They would have been more respectful of the law, given the hate that was spewed upon us all. No one was immune from watching our family of Americans die just because we are a free and democratic society. Whether it is here in New York or in Kansas, or Milwaukee, or Tucson or your home town. Americans are showing their patriotism, at rallies across this country. To think that today, a school's special education employees would deny a child in need of special education help, would almost seem to be sac religious. I thought about converting the patriotic feelings we all feel, into help for our kids. I asked myself a thousand times whether it would wind up cheapening what many who died, did for our country. The hero's of our country today are government workers, police, fire, emergency medical technicians, and regular citizens who were ready to fight with the terrorists to make sure another building would not be brought down. I asked myself, what teachers would do, if given the choices our New York Firefighters made. Would they be there for our kids? My simple answer is they absolutely would be there. I don't think anyone would question, America's teachers trying to protect their students if attacked. We have witnessed teacher heroes recently at various schools around the nation. So, the next simple question I asked myself, is what if we parents of children, asked the same patriotism we are experiencing today, of our teachers towards our children with learning and behavioral differences. Mind you, I am not asking for you to go waving the flag in the face of your special education department. What I am saying, is sitting down and writing a letter, or ask for a meeting with the Special Education department in your school, and ask them for their help. Tell them you understand the desire to keep costs down and maybe denying a few children on the fringe of needing help, the real help they should be given. Tell them you understand that maybe the school administration is giving them pressure to keep the amount of children granted special education help, to smaller numbers. But it is also all right to tell them, that in this time of uncertainty, and sadness, and potential for war, that we cannot let even one child down. Remind them that they cannot use as an excuse that we are short a teacher or two and therefore they cant grant your child help. Or them telling you that they don't believe in ADD. Ask them if it is worth letting your child fail, to prove their point. Remind them that Our President told all of us that he will not leave one child behind. So ask them, "If their prepared to leave your child behind"? Ask them if denying your child help, after the medical diagnosis of a brain disorder is right, moral or American, to not help? Let them know that although they may think your child may not need the help, you and your doctors feel is absolutely necessary, ask them to be kinder, and more understanding and yes, more American than they were on September 10th, 2001. To please write an IEP to help make sure your child has every opportunity to be the best he/she can be. Let them know that granting help to your child, would be an act of kindness, and compassion and a total act of humanity. As well as an American Act of honor. As I said before, I questioned whether using the American horror we all went through, as a way to secure help for our children. I asked some people who are involved in special education what they thought of the idea. Their response was very telling. They all said "What could be more American then granting a child educational help"? How could anyone be as heartless to turn down a cry for help from a parent or their doctor? My friends recommended that we tell our educators that every child of someone who died in our national horror, is being granted a full scholarship to college by New York State, The State of New Jersey, and companies willing to foot the bill. Would it be OK with them to have your child come up short of being able to graduate high school, through no fault of their own because they weren't granted the special ed. help they needed and is provided for, under law? For me, I would not be able to understand, them turning any child down. This is a different America then 12 days ago. Today, the order of the day is helping the next guy. No matter what the cost. Our older children are heading off to war. We need to be doing everything we can to help our next generation be as great as they can be and to PROTECT OUR KIDS FROM THE BAD GUYS. Isn't granting educational help, protecting our kids? Let your educators know that they would be doing America proud by helping our kids. Let that be their thought for the day, the month, the year and forever.
Best Steve Metz
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