A Tale of Two Afterschool Programs, Part 2

As I recounted in Part I of this series, I came to the conclusion last fall that the after school program my son was attending was not suitable for him, and probably not for any child who was imperfect in any way. It certainly was not suitable for a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Lawrence was not happy there, and I was concerned about what the impact of the constant reprimands and punishments would be. I felt that if Lawrence was always seen as the bad kid he might eventually decide that it wasn’t worth even trying to behave.

In addition, the lack of a clear disciplinary process and escalation of issues seemed very unprofessional. I felt that the people running the program were well-meaning, but ill-equipped to handle even minor conflicts. And with ADHD, even if the child is taking medication, you’re always going to have a certain number of conflicts.

via Lessons in Addressing ADHD and Discipline – In School – ADHD.


Managing Depression During the Holidays

Right before I got diagnosed with depression, I suffered through the most horrible Christmas ever. On the surface, everything was fine. I spent Christmas Day with my family as usual and a couple of days later my best friend got married in a lovely ceremony and reception. But the moment I was out of sight on my way home from my parents’ house, I burst out crying and cried for hours. And I was only able to endure an hour of the wedding reception before escaping. Thankfully, by the next holiday season my depression was controlled by antidepressants and I truly enjoyed it.

The holidays put a lot of demands on everyone, but are exponentially more difficult for someone with depression. Getting through the usual day to day can be painful, and the holidays add a lot of things to the mix like stress, emotional upheaval and unhealthy (although delicious) food and drink. However, there are a few steps you can take to boost your physical and mental health. Even if the steps don’t boost your mood, they should help to immunize you against some aspects of the holidays that can make your depression worse.

  • Prioritize sleep at the top of your list. Sleep is very important when you’re under stress, and sleep deprivation is not good for people with clinical depression.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol is a depressant, pure and simple. It might stave off the blues for an hour or so, but will not do you any favors. Its siren song promising temporary oblivion is very tempting, but it’s really the last thing you need.
  • I know this comes as a shocker, but foods high in fat and sugar and not much else are not good for you, and that’s mentally as well as physically. And this is coming from someone who won’t eat vegetables unless they have butter or sauce on them. For one thing, if you’re eating a lot of sugar and fat you’re not eating the good nutrition that can help stave off depression. Second, how irritable do you feel when that sugar high wears off? Not a good look for someone who is clinically depressed to begin with. I know that those holiday foods are yummy and everywhere you turn, but limiting yourself to just sampling those less than healthful foods is a good idea. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on appetizers and dessert. And remember, alcohol has a lot of sugar in it.
  • Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, can be quite rejuvenating, particularly in households where there’s a lot of activity or out-of-town company. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk or find a quiet place to enjoy for a bit. The sounds of silence will be music to your ears.
  • Getting together with family over the holidays can raise a lot of issues. If you’re in therapy, you might want to discuss with your therapist how you should defuse some potential problems. Be honest with family and friends about how you feel. Don’t be afraid of bringing everyone down with your mood; your family and friends may be worried about you, and you will all feel better if there’s an open line of communication.

Social Anxiety During the Holidays

We spent Halloween at my sister’s house this year. Every year, most of the houses on the block she lives on decorate their garages as one of the locations in the Harry Potter books. The crowd that comes is by now completely insane. You can barely move through the street (which is blocked off). Whenever we go there for Halloween, we help to pass out candy as the crowds move through their garage.

My son, who is almost seven, wanted to help pass out candy. While my interaction was limited to saying, “Hi, cutie,” to some of the tinier Trick-or-Treaters, Lawrence kept up a running commentary. “Wow, great costume.” “Oh look, the good and bad Spidermans together” and, after he was released from the bathroom (he accidentally locked himself in with the quirky antique lock), confiding to visitors that the night had been great except for his “bad bathroom experience.” I’m sure they assumed he had had a bout of diarrhea after eating too much candy or something.

Events like this are why we call him our “little cruise director.” The kid was born with the gift of gab, almost unshakable self-confidence and a need to interact with other people. He gets that from my husband, the ultimate extrovert, not from me. I’m the opposite of both of them in anything to do with interacting with other people. Although I’m articulate in general, I freeze up in certain situations and am perfectly happy with a minimum amount of social interaction.

As you might have guessed, parties and similar social occasions are torture for me. For some reason, my normally healthy self-confidence takes a hit. Everyone seems to be in little cliques and I start getting flashbacks to birthday parties that I was invited to when I was younger. I think in most cases the child’s parents made them invite me because the whole class (at least the girls) was invited or because they were friends with my parents or something. I was painfully shy and somehow ended up being the butt of jokes. I don’t know if my shyness was a result of my depression or a part of it, but either way it meant that most social gatherings were something I endured instead of enjoyed.

Of course, this is the time of the year for parties and gatherings. If you’re like me, you’re anticipating them with the same pleasure that you would a root canal. But there is something you can do to make the experience easier – volunteer to help out.

If your employer’s holiday party (which, in many companies, is essentially mandatory) is usually on your most-dreaded list, volunteer for the party committee. You’ll get to know your co-workers during the meetings and you’ll have something to do during the party. I was on the holiday party committee during my first year at my current job, and was happily ensconced at the crafts table helping people make Christmas ornaments during most of the party.

If you’re at someone’s house for a party, volunteer to come early to help set up, and/or help with cooking and serving during the party. You’ll have won the goodwill of the host/hostess, who you very possibly don’t know that well, you will have something to do instead of sitting in a corner feeling awkward, and you will have some handy conversation openers, “Some cheese-puffs? They’re made with seven different kinds of cheese and they’re yummy.”

If you have the same kind of wonderful childhood memories that I do, remember that things are different. Grownups are not as openly cruel as children and less inclined to try to kill the weak or sick member of the herd (don’t ask me why, but that’s what children en masse taunting one child reminds me of). Definitely less Lord of the Flies and more Martha Stewart. During the holidays, most people are enjoying themselves at social functions, and want you to also.


Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

I’m reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to my son Lawrence before bed. Actually, he’s reading it to me, which is very exciting. He’s doing really well. I only have to help him with about one word out of ten. I read way ahead of my level when I was his age, and it seems that he’s going to be just as good.

The thing I’m noticing, though, is that while he’s reading, he’s wiggling around on the bed, almost falling off sometimes, although his eyes are fixed on the book. Come to think of it, he does this when we’re going over flash cards at the dining table, wiggling around on the chair. He also, which I’ve never seen in another kid, jumps up and down in place when he’s playing a video game, usually when he’s at a part that’s particularly difficult. Continue reading


Does my son have ADHD?

Around January this year, my husband and I got the dreaded summons from our son’s kindergarten teacher to meet with her about a problem with Lawrence. It was not a complete surprise – she had told us that she had some concerns. Lawrence was having some mild behavioral problems, in that he was having trouble conforming to the classroom structure.

I knew what she was talking about. I had observed him myself in class, when I took the morning off to help with the Halloween party. He ran everywhere in the room instead of walking. Unlike most of the other children (there were a couple of boys who acted like him), he fidgeted and talked out of turn.

There was some good news. He was that he was doing well academically (and in fact his grades even improved as the school year went on). The only area he was having a problem in was handwriting. He was far behind the other children. Incidentally, my husband and I both had problems with our handwriting in school. Continue reading