Thursday, July 26, 2007

ADHD survival kit

At the end of Kindergarten K. was diagnosed with ADHD and then a year later with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I wasn't sure until recently whether the second diagnosis replaced or added to the first. According to the doctor we're working with both.

I was actually relieved when we got the autism diagnosis. Autism is more debilitating and less treatable, so why was I happy?

Because people take it seriously. People still have the impression (either conscious or subconsious) that ADHD stands for Adamantly Defiant, Hardly Disciplined.

Funny - 30 years ago psychiatrists were told autism was caused by "evil mothers."

This summer I've been taking my kids to every church daycamp I can find. It's a bitter-sweet experience: I get a break, but I also have to explain to stranger after stranger what's different about my child. I tell them about high-functioning autism, not ADHD.

But it's there nevertheless. When I have to say, "K., do you want a snack?" 7 times before he looks at me, that's the ADHD. When he responds like a parrot with "K., do you want a snack? K., do you want a snack?" that's the autism. When he runs up and down the hall, that's hyperactivity. When he throws his body into the wall at the end of it, that's sensory input seeking associated with autism.

Here's what I recommend for an ADHD parent's survival kit:

*tons of patience! ADHD is a disease of inefficiency. Homework, bedtime snack, and the walk to school will take 3 times as long as it should. When you want to scream, remember underneath that infuriating wandering turtle is the baby you watched as she slept.

*an open mind. Try medication, try removing food colouring from his diet, try different routines, tones of voice, and reward system. Most won't work, but don't give up.

*thick skin. Strangers will walk by you and your adorable little whirling dervish, muttering, "There goes a posterchild for Ritalin," whether he's on it or not. And an equal number of strangers will tell you ADHD doesn't exist, Ritalin is really cocaine, and your child just needs a good spanking. Ignore them. Or ask if they'd like to babysit.

*a great resource teacher. School is tough. A resource teacher is your advocate, adviser, and support system leader. Mine believes in K. even when I doubt.

*faith that your child is doing the best they can. You may wonder why they can focus on video games for hours but can't look at their math sheet for more than 30 seconds at a time. Are you that different - How long can you watch movies compared to how long you can concentrate on filling out your tax forms? Their brain make-up makes it that much harder.

There's so little known about ADHD but if you want to watch a good documentary go to

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christians - scared or scary?

Last week on The National (CBC News) Mark Kelley did a special feature called "7" - on his week exploring Christianity in Biblebelt USA. (What - he couldn't find enough Christians in Winkler or Red Deer?)

He visited youth rallies, mega churches and a Christian theme park. I think he would have gotten a better view of Christianity if he'd been to a prayer meeting. Not the "bless grandma and puppy" kind, but the ones where someone forgives, confesses and finds healing from anger, fear or addiction. Although I think he saw a smidge of that sense of community and emotional impact surrounded by weeping people as actors portrayed Jesus' crucifixion. Or maybe he was joking. Watch the clip and decide for yourself:

He admitted he was exploring Christianity because sometimes you have to "face your fears." Kelley's fear: Christians were out to change his world.

He discovered: Christians are more scared than scary. I'm not scared, just sad.

When Kelley asked Christians, "What do I need to know?" They told him, "Christians aren't stupid or backward." They never mentioned Jesus, prayer, Scripture, or the difference God had made in their lives. Here's a man who needs Jesus' peace and we're doing personal image management?!!

Jesus never said, "Go share the bad news." Why are we attacking culture when we could be using it to share God's transforming love? Kelley was most impressed by the church that made the movie, "Facing the Giants," film about courage and teamwork (rather than on the evils of wild living) because in his words, "Christians are better off building bridges than bombing them." Aren't we all!

The Christians Kelley interviewed (even the debate team) had spent so much time preaching to the converted they had no idea how to explain their faith outside a church. They spouted cliches, criticized Hollywood, and preached against pre-marital sex and swearing but never said WHY sex was worth saving or what it meant to have a "God-shaped hole in your heart." Frankly I was embarrassed to watch Christians from the lens an outsider and realize that we have never learned to hear ourselves from other points of view.

Kelley (and I) was impressed by the "XXXChurch" preacher who went to Porn conventions and handed out free Bibles with "Jesus loves porn stars" on the cover. He was disgusted with the Christian filmmakers who made their own boring, clean, low-budget, out-of-touch movies and refused to work on the set of a film that involved other lifestyles.

No kidding - Christians will never have an influence on culture if we isolate ourselves in subculture! We hide at Christian concerts, Christian bookstores, Christian colleges. (I'm pointing a finger at myself here since I work for all of the above!) Why aren't more smart, talented Christians in Hollywood, Harvard, and MTV where people will actually see them?

The Christians Kelley met were afraid of temptation, persecution, controversy, ridicule, losing the next generation to pop culture, declining church attendance, etc. They were defensive, threatened, timid. (I'd like to think Canadians Christians would be a little more gutsy and articulate but it could just be the deadly sin of pride talking...)

I'd like to ask Kelley's Christians: If we really are in a relationship with the Creator and Master of the universe, what do we have to be afraid of?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

a divine arrival time

July 10 was quite a day. First, I turned thirty-somethingelse surrounded by friends from church. All of whom are older than me, which softened the blow.

Second, my friends returned from Ethiopia with their 8-month-old baby girl - for whom they've waited two years - to an airport full of pink balloons and cheering friends.

She's finally here!

It was one giant Kodak moment: Her 5 and 7 year old brothers waiting nervously at the bottom of the escalator and then glowing with pride as they rubbed her little head. The baby meeting grandpa for the first time and reaching out to stroke his cheek. The beaming grins on her parents' faces. The other children adopted from her orphanage who came to greet her. It wasn't just a part of Ethiopia touching Canada....

....It was a little of Up There come down here. We were easvesdropping on a heavenly moment - and not just because the brown-eyed bundle resembled an angel.

Because that's the kind of reception God gives each of us.

Birthdays are a reminder of my mortality. (I send out my love to the coffeeshop clerk who saw the photos of my kids in my wallet and told me I look too young to be a mother.) Another year of my life is behind me and I'm another year closer to heaven. And when I do pop up in God's presence he probably won't be holding pink balloons or a Kodak, but I do believe he will beam as he shouts:

She's finally here!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Angeline-a ballerina?

When I asked my husband the other day what God was doing in his life he said, "Focusing me."

Once again opposites attract: God just happens to be un-focusing me. And it's about time I joined him in his work.

For the past two years, I've been very focused on developing my writing skills and getting my name out there. When I was resting from my writing, my hobbies were blogging, emailing, trying to come up with an idea for a novel, and reading other people's writing.

I think it's time to diversify! So I've signed up for something that will do absolutely nothing to improve my skills or reputation as a writer. In fact I've registered for something that I'm sure to stink at.

Modern dance.

All the creativity, grace and beauty in my body is confined to my finger tips on a laptop, clarinet, and the occasional frying pan. (I make a mean ham and cheese omelette.) Once you get my arms and hips involved in the creative process it's not a pretty sight.

(Although I must say I did master the achy-breaky-heart linedance of 1991. Seven friends and I performed it, wearing garbage bags covered with purple balloons, to the California Raisins "Heard it through the Grapevine," in front of 300 strangers my first week in colllege. And no, I wasn't inebriated. I was completely lucid, which makes it all the more sad.)

I'm looking forward to doing something where there's no pressure to succeed. I might even learn to laugh at myself.

All I'll have to do is listen to everyone else and join in!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Parting is not sweet sorrow

Friday was a day for goodbyes.

I walked K. around the school to deliver his homemade cards to each of the teachers who touched him in grade 2. It was hard (for me) not to cry as he said goodbye to his librarian and principal who are transferring, and his morning E.A., retiring after 22 years at his school. And as I watched the gym teacher crouch down to his eye level, put her arms around him and tell him how proud she is of him, I got choked up about the future.

The school board voted to review the school for closure. That means a year-long process of exploring options, making arguments (while desperately trying to discern the superintendent's political agenda!) and above all, maintaining a sense of security and cohesiveness in a school that feels like it's tottering on the edge of...we're not sure what. Closure? Change? A new specialization? An exodus? A revival that will outshine Sister Act?

If only I knew how to teach the students to sing "O happy day" while dancing hip hop...

As I wrote in "Losing Mrs. L.," K. already said goodbye to his afternoon E.A. in February. Without another one-on-one worker in the afternoon we feared how he would manage. Would he have meltdowns? Would he be able to concentrate on his own?

We were pleasantly surprised. He learned to be more independent and spent more time in the classroom instead of his "office." In all areas except math and social skills he's at grade level. And while K. occasionally says he misses Mrs. L. he hasn't gotten emotional about it since the week she left, which gives me hope that he'll get through the current (and perhaps future) goodbyes.

Sometimes I'm not so sure about his mother. She seems to be growing more resistant to change and more tired of goodbyes.

In the middle of goodbyes there was one hello: Pumpkin the hamster joined our family.