ADHD, children, faith, illness

12 Times Local Churches Showed Us They Don’t Understand Neurodiversity or Mental Health

When I started writing this post, I had planned on calling it, “How One Church Showed Us They Didn’t Understand ADHD.” But, then I realized the problem goes so much deeper than ADHD, and the issues are far broader than just one church. There is a huge problem in the church of misunderstanding and even mistreating those with mental health problems. According to my count, we have experienced problems in thirteen churches over the last 20ish years. Some of those churches, we attended for years, while others we only attended once. All the while, my family has remained faithful to Jesus while often feeling rejected and unsupported by many of the churches that are around us. I am not saying there are no good churches out there, but I think there needs to be a whole lot more understanding and grace than my family has received from most congregations we have been a part of. Since approximately 25% of the population of the earth is neurodiverse (and 50% is introverted), it would behoove the church to learn about these conditions and open their arms and their hearts to those who desperately need support. Although many of these stories are frustrating and even upsetting, I didn’t write this to garner pity. I wrote it to raise awareness of how special needs families are sometimes –too often– treated in churches.

Here are my 12 times when churches made it obvious that they didn’t understand mental health or neurodiversity:


1. Postpartum depression.

After my second child was born, I developed some pretty serious postpartum depression. I started shutting down emotionally. I couldn’t feel anything. I had always wanted was to be a mama, and we had struggled to even get pregnant. Not even my babies who I had prayed so hard for brought me joy.

It got so bad that I started having episodes of paranoia. I thought someone had installed cameras in our house to spy on us. I was afraid people were following me. Years later, I would hear this called postpartum psychosis.

One day, I was driving down our local state highway with my babies in my car and felt the urge to throw the car into the oncoming traffic. I knew something was very, very wrong. I’m a very caring person who under normal circumstances wouldn’t hurt anyone –let alone myself and my babies.

I didn’t even hesitate: I marched into my doctor’s office and told her I needed help. She referred me to a psychiatrist who got me on a medication for the postpartum depression. I was so glad I had gotten help! I had heard the horror stories about moms hurting their babies and had no desire to become another statistic or cautionary tale.

What I absolutely did not expect was the backlash at church.

A normal person –upon hearing that someone was suffering from a serious and potentially life-threatening condition and they sought treatment –would be proud of the person and happy for them.

Nope.

I was told not to take medication because it was poison. I needed to go see a nutritionist that the pastor’s wife liked and stop the medication immediately.

I needed to pray more. My real problem was lack of faith they told me. I was enrolled in a discipleship class, and they wrote down in the church documents that I was a new convert. It didn’t matter to them that I had made a profession of faith when I was a child, had been baptized as a young person, and had already taken discipleship classes at other churches in the past.

Because, according to them, someone who was truly saved would never be depressed.

I remember looking at my husband and asking if he would have married me if I hadn’t been a Christian. He said wouldn’t have and that he had no doubt that I had been a Christian since long before I met him.

Needless to say, I did not heed their advice. I knew I needed that medication, so I took it.

The discipleship classes didn’t last long, because it was hard to keep up with all the studying and the discipleship classes with a newborn. Plus, I had a three-year-old on top of that. It was 35 minutes to church, class was an hour long, and it was 35 minutes home. My baby was nursing every hour and a half and wouldn’t take a bottle. I was not allowed to bring my baby with me to discipleship classes. No childcare was provided so I had to hire a sitter which I couldn’t afford and then rush home to feed a screaming, frantic baby.

This church’s response to me getting mental health help has always baffled me –even angered me.

But mostly it has motivated me to try to help Christians understand the truth behind mental health.

church-554114.jpg


2. Learning disabilities.

My preschool son was kicked out of Sunday school.

I was told my son was not welcome back in the 4-year-old Sunday School class until I taught him to write. I was accused of being a bad mother and a bad homeschool teacher because the other 4-year-old children could write their names and some could even write full sentences while he could hardly hold a pencil, couldn’t use scissors, etc.

Years later, I would discover that my son had dysgraphia. I didn’t even hear the word dysgraphia until he was about 10 years old. He would struggle with pain in his hand from writing and lack of fine motor skills for years. I knew something was not normal. If I tried pushing him to write, he would have panic attacks and cry because it hurt.

The Sunday school teacher would not listen to me explain the problems we were having. For being sensitive to my son’s needs, I was labeled a defective parent. We were excluded from children’s activities and gossipped about.

I was finally able to get my son back into the children’s program by volunteering to teach some of his classes. This was about 3rd grade. I ended up keeping him with me in the adult classes unless I was teaching the children’s class. We tried putting him back into classes more than once, but we only had one teacher for one semester who didn’t view him as a problem child and blame it on me.

The truth is that I worked really hard for my son. I wasn’t a slacker. I wasn’t shirking my responsibility as a teacher and a mother.

He was a good kid too, just a little high strung.

My son just had unique struggles that required grace and finesse to handle. Unfortunately, there was very little grace given to either of us.


3. ADHD.

When I was diagnosed with ADHD, I was 6 weeks shy of my 30th birthday, and I didn’t know a single soul who thought ADHD was real. I was incredibly excited about the diagnosis because it answered so many questions for me. It was life-affirming, validating, cathartic, and a huge relief to know that I didn’t just have fatally flawed character.

I looked around at my friends at church, remembering previous conversations about mental health, and decided that it was in my best interest to keep the ADHD diagnosis to myself. Most of these women didn’t even use medication or go to the doctor when they were very sick. This was the same group who had shamed me for using antidepressants.

Years later, I found out that another family had a child who was diagnosed with ADHD while they attended the church. They were advised to keep the diagnosis to themselves. ADHD was viewed as a character flaw, sin, failure to let the Holy Spirit refine you, etc. –depending on who you talked to.

Over time, the rest of my family –my husband and my children– would all be diagnosed with ADHD. The church’s bias was a large part of the reason it took me so long to start telling people about my diagnosis. If I couldn’t even trust my church family how would I trust other people with this information?

church members pews.jpeg


4. Giftedness.

My son’s precociousness and impulsivity got him kicked out of kindergarten Sunday school, too –this was a different teacher than the 4-year-old Sunday school class mentioned above.

But this was the real issue: because my son is gifted, he has often been held to a higher standard than other children his age and given even less grace. Most people do not understand that it is possible to be both intellectually gifted and developmentally delayed. Just because someone is highly intelligent doesn’t mean that they are able to control their impulses better or regulate their emotions in a superior way than other 5-year-old little boys. He often struggled with being upset when he didn’t get his way, but he was not given the same latitude that other children were given when they were upset.

In fact, ADHD and giftedness are often combined and are greatly misunderstood. I am so tired of hearing comments like “He is smart; he will figure it out,” as a dismissal of my children’s real, legitimate conditions.

Being intelligent doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with mental health problems or developmental disorders.

It just means that most people give you less grace.

Another bizarre instance of this: the midweek 4-year-old’s teacher refused to let him back in her class until he apologized for “lying.” His perceived offense? He believed he was older than Jesus. He believed this because Jesus’ birthday was in December and his birthday was in January. In 4-year-old logic, since January comes before December, my son thought he was older than Jesus.

He was four.

FOUR.

Timelines, dates, and ages are very hard to understand at that age –even for gifted children. I remember asking my mother if they had cars and electricity when she was little because I had a hard time understanding this concept in grade school. I remember being about 8 years old when timelines really started making sense to me.

But, nope. I was told I was raising a child who blatantly lies, and until I forced him to apologize he was not welcome back in her classroom. She wouldn’t even discuss it with me beyond demanding an apology.

I wish I could say I am joking.

Under no circumstances was I making my son apologize for being a child and having a child’s understanding of the world. So he stayed with me. This was one of many times we tried church classes again and decided the children would just stay with me.


5. Anxiety disorder.

I have written before about the difference between an anxiety disorder (a medical condition formerly called phobias in which your brain misfiled information) and anxiety (choosing to be fearful and not trust God which is a sin according to the Bible). These two things are not the same.

And yet, the pastor at one church we were attending –when he found out my husband had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder– took it upon himself to try to confront my husband about his sin of having an anxiety disorder. We had just started attending this church. We didn’t know the pastor very well, and he certainly had no gauge except his own prejudices to convince him that my husband was in sin.

I intervened as soon as I figured out what the pastor was intending to do and got us away from the church before he had a chance to engage my husband with accusations.

We never returned to the church.

My husband suffers from a number of mental health problems which significantly complicate our lives. Those who do not live with and love those who have severe mental health problems do not understand the impact it has on those who suffer from it and their loved ones.

The last thing we need is accusations coming from the place where we should be getting support.


6. Mood disorders and bipolar.

I looked at attending –but never actually went to– a church which openly considers bipolar and other mental health problems to be demon possession. I have also heard this point of view repeated by popular pastors who I respect and agree with regarding most theology, for example, John MacArthur.

The Bible doesn’t really touch on the topic of illnesses of the mind. Although there are instances of demon possession in the Bible, in no way does the Bible say that any and all afflictions in the mind are demon possession! That’s a ridiculous leap.

If that were true then I guess migraines are demon possession, too? What about traumatic brain injury? Fetal alcohol syndrome? Where do we draw the line if we start labeling mental ailments demon possession? Was my headache last night demonic?

That’s ludicrous.

I wish I could say that this sort of belief was uncommon, but it is not. In many churches, if mental health conditions are not considered demon possession, they are considered a sin issue. Since I have multiple family members with mood disorders, I find this very disturbing, especially for the children I know who suffer from these disorders.

It is hard enough to find acceptance outside of the church. Of all the places that someone suffering should find support and acceptance, it would be a church.

However, I have a friend with bipolar who gave up on churches two decades ago because she could find nowhere to attend that would not pass judgment on her for her disorder.

church-2755513


7. Personality.

Personality is just part of the way God created your mind to work. It’s not an ailment but definitely a function of the brain.

The same church that didn’t believe in ADHD or in treating postpartum depression treated my husband like he was ungodly for having an anxiety disorder –but it was more than that. He was ungodly for not looking like what they considered a godly man to look like.

A godly man to them was bold and forceful. He knocked on doors and handed out Bible tracts. He was willing to engage in verbal battles with complete strangers about the Bible even if that meant offending or upsetting them. He was gregarious and boisterous.

He also must have a wife who is timid and demure, which I am not –by a long shot. What is it about some men that makes them want weak women, resenting when God builds women into strong creatures who can stand up for what is right?

But I digress.

At this church, everything about my husband –even his very personality– did not line up with their perception of what it means to be godly. Neither did my personality. So they sought to change us by pushing, plodding, or outright criticism.

Eventually, he just stopped going. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident.

I am not even going to begin to address how often I have been mistreated at churches for not having a “right” personality to be a “godly” women.

This has happened at more than one church. I have even lost friendships over this issue.


8. Sensory Processing Disorder.

My husband and children have sensory issues.

For my husband, it is mostly noise related. He is incredibly sensitive to sounds and finds loud noises so disquieting that it can affect his sense of calm him for hours afterward. Unfortunately for us, we have really struggled to find a church who we agree with doctrinally that also offers a traditional worship service.

Many of the churches around here who offer traditional services do so because they believe that all forms of music except hymns are a sin. Churches like that are a kettle of fish we have nearly drowned in before and are uninterested in attempting again.

There are some local big churches that offer traditional services among all their choices but most of these are charismatic groups which we don’t agree with doctrinally.

While I realize that many children with SPD wear headphones in these kinds of services, I’d be hard pressed to convince my introverted husband who has social anxiety to wear a headset around hundreds of people. That would not be comfortable for him.

At one church we attended, the children would poke, push, and pester my son until he would have a sensory meltdown. They did this for their own entertainment. The parents told me I was overreacting when I intervened. This was “normal” behavior for children according to the parents, and I needed to accept that my children would be bullied and mistreated at church –after all that is how life is in “the real world.”


9. Introvertedness.

I touched on this issue in number 6. Introvertedness is not really a mental health issue but it is part of your brain make up. It is just the way you’re wired.

Either you get your energy refilled by being with people (extroverted) or you get your energy refilled by being alone (introverted).

Many church groups have a prejudice against those who are not naturally outgoing –especially if it is a man.

Verses in the Bible about women not interrupting a church service have been misinterpreted by some church groups as a call for women to not have opinions at all and let men have all the opinions. Consequently, if you are a man who is soft-spoken and kind, who respects his wife instead of steamrolling over her, who consults her in matters of life, and who cares about her opinions without trying to suppress and control her, you are viewed as less than.

This is especially true in some of the more conservative churches.

This is very frustrating for me as a wife because I have a fabulous husband who, in my opinion, other men would do well to imitate –I have never met a more kind and gracious man than the one I married. This is a strength, not a weakness.

Additionally, music leaders should note that those who are introverted do not wish to shake hands with five people and make small talk in the middle of the service on queue when directed by the music leader. Most music leaders are extremely extroverted and cannot fathom the stress this alone causes those who are not extroverted.

Don’t believe me? Ask an introvert.


10. Highly Sensitive Person.

Church is full of people.

People are full of drama.

All of them.

They cannot help but be.

Some even go manufacture more drama to keep their lives interesting.

Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is not a mental health problem, but it is very common with ADHD.

Being highly sensitive means that I cannot handle attending Sunday school, worship service, Sunday night service, Midweek service, and ladies Bible study. It is too much for me. In many churches, if the church doors are open, you’re expected to be there. But (not even accounting for my chronic illnesses), the stress of being exposed to people’s ongoing drama is often just too much.

A lot of people, especially physically and mentally healthy people, will not understand this.

Those of us with HSP take the emotional stress of other people onto ourselves because of our high sensitivity and the empathy that accompanies it.

Many churches actually increase drama (emotional music performances, prayer times, testimonials, videos of children dying in third world countries, drama presentations, committees to resolve conflicts in the church, pressure to take on more ministries, etc) to keep people interested and try to make people invested in the struggles of others, but this only further isolates those of us who are highly sensitive.

We are already invested in the suffering of others.

Most of those things are not necessary for the church to do its job of training believers in the Bible. Discipleship –which is the church’s main job– could be a very calming and life-affirming process. It doesn’t have to be dramatic.

You know how there are Facebook groups that are the “drama-free version”? I have said many times that wish I could attend the “drama-free version” of church.

pew church hymnal bible members christian faith.jpeg


11. The mental load of being physically and mentally ill.

Some time ago, I found a church that was over an hour away from us. It was very close to what we had been wanting both doctrinally and socially, so I called and talked to the pastor’s wife hoping that they would know of a similar church near us. She did not, and she strongly discouraged me from trying to attend their church because it was so far away from us.

I had spent an hour explaining about our health and mental health problems, how hard it is for me to be the mom of special needs children and wife to a special needs husband while chronically ill myself, and the toll that church had on us.

What she said next really surprised me.

She recommended that I join a local church and make it my mission to forcibly change that church from the inside out.

First of all, that showed that she really didn’t understand anything I had just told her about how sick I am, how absolutely debilitating physically and mentally health problems are, or how hard it is to be a special needs wife and mom.

On a daily basis, I can feel like I am drowning in the necessities of life without taking on any more.

While I wish this wasn’t the case, I am in a position of needing someone to take care of me –not in a position to wage war on a church body.

Second, I truly cannot fathom joining a church with the express purpose of causing problems and trying to change it. Paul has some harsh things to say about people who cause divisions in churches which is exactly what I would be. I have seen people join and church, try to change it, and the result is a church split that tears relationships –friendships and even whole families– apart.

Even if the mental load of being ill myself wasn’t extreme, even if the mental load of caring for husband and children with mental illnesses wasn’t extreme, I could never bring myself to sabotage a church that others had worked so hard to build –not even if I disagree with them doctrinally. The people who attend that church must find it is helpful for them or they wouldn’t attend there.

I would, in fact, be destroying their church family and their support system if I followed her advice.

There’s a verse in Romans that commands us to live in peace with all men. I take that verse very seriously.

I found the whole conversation with this pastor’s wife very upsetting. She treated me like this: if I really loved Jesus, I would be willing to do whatever it takes to force one of my local churches into my view of what a church should be. If I was unwilling or unable to do that, well, I guess that means that I don’t really love Jesus that much anyway.

And, that’s the real reason we never even visited her church. There was a great lack of grace in the way she conversed with me.

There was pity: she thought I was pitiable. There was no compassion and empathy. But, there was a lot of judgment, especially about things she really didn’t understand.

Plus, she was incredibly condescending –as if she was holy and godly –but I was the lowly ungodly person who needed to hear what she was telling me.

Hers was one of the most blatantly ableist attitudes toward those who have health problems that I have ever encountered in the church. I understand that she cannot truly understand what she has not experienced, but as a pastor’s wife, I expected more genuine compassion and understanding. When I called her, I was not even able to drive. I had already explained to her that I was nearly a shut-in at the time, but that did not increase her grace for me.

For those with autoimmune illness, the stress of trying to invade a church and win the battle to alter the course of an entire congregation would be so intense it may be enough to hospitalize them. It would certainly make them sicker because flair-ups in autoimmune diseases are triggered by stress.

She obviously had not even the vaguest concept of what she was asking of me.

I felt further misunderstood and isolated.

This one glimmer of hope that we had possibly found a church home that would accept up was squelched in the light of her judgments.

To ask for help and receive judgment –there is far too much of that going around.


12. Mental Health Denial.

Mental health denial is practically a religion unto itself. Many people who believe that mental health conditions don’t exist have no idea where those ideas even started or why they believe it.

Many Christians do not believe that any mental health conditions are real. I think I have encountered this at nearly every church I have attended.

Some believe it is sin or demon possession as mentioned above. Others believe that it is just an excuse to misbehave or to not have good character. Some believe it is a sign that you are not saved.

A popular opinion among Christians regarding children with mental health problems –especially developmental problems like ADHD and autism– is that the parents just didn’t spank the child enough. That seems especially popular among the more conservative and traditional groups who actually admonish parents to “beat the disorder out of them.”

Honestly, some of the most hate-filled comments I have received about ADHD and mental health have come from my fellow Christians, or at least those who are claiming they are Christians. Christian means “little Christ” or “Christ follower” so whether they are actually Christians would depend on if they are really truly following Christ. That is not something that I can really know.

What might come as a shock to most Christians is that the widespread hatred of mental health originated with a cultic group –Scientology– which has been single-handedly responsible for spearheading mental health denial in the USA and around the world.

Scientology believes that psychiatrists are evil because in their mythology, 76 trillion years ago psychiatrists participated in the mass genocide of aliens. They believe that the spirits of those massacred aliens now float around earth possessing people and that this –as well as nearly all evils in the world today– is a result of the psychiatrists and psychologist. They even blame the Holocaust and 9/11 on the psychiatrists and psychologists.

It is well documented that they have popularized the idea that these conditions are not real because it suits their purposes. One of those purposes, in their own words, is to destroy psychiatry. They wish to replace psychiatry with their unproven and unhelpful “treatments.”

I have yet to have a single Christian who objected to mental health conditions like ADHD come to me with any specific medical research that says it is fake.

Sometimes, I hear the argument that the Bible doesn’t mention it so it is not real. But the Bible doesn’t mention cancer, migraines, diabetes, or Down syndrome either. Are all of those fake too?

Because the Bible says that the world will hate us, some people who claim the name of Christ are quick to look for a conspiracy. I think there is a higher prevalence of conspiracy theorist in the churches I have been part of than any other group I have joined. But, Jesus said they would hate us because of Him. He doesn’t say they will make up fake health problems because of Him.

Do those who believe ADHD is a conspiracy really believe the government is using mental health misdiagnoses to persecute Christians? Even if we are following the Bible, being loving and kind and compassionate, some people will still hate us because they don’t want to see God’s light. But that’s not happening with those who treat mental health. There is no real evidence that Christians are being targeted in any way.

One must remember that while governments are only as good as the people who run them, they are ordained by God and He uses them as His instrument according to the book of Romans. Those who espouse the idea of a big government conspiracy would do well to revisit the passage in Romans.

The real truth about mental health and the church is that the church is woefully falling down the job. Those with mental health problems are often mocked, ridiculed, excluded, gossiped about, and sometimes even told they are not welcome. If it is not outright, often there is subtle communication that they are not welcome.

Jesus said what you do until the least of these you have done unto Him. How much more “least” can you get than those who are rejected by culture and the church alike? In other words, if you mock ridicule, exclude or otherwise mistreat special needs families, it is like you are doing that to the Lord, like you are mistreating Jesus Himself.

We are supposed to be known for our love for one another. We are supposed to treat even our enemies with kindness. But many Christians cannot even be nice to other Christians who have diagnoses they disagree with.

A mark of a Christian is the fruits of the Holy Spirit, including love, patience, and kindness. Those who truly understand God’s grace to them are quick to pass that grace on to other people.

Even people they don’t agree with.


In Conclusion.

With these sorts of attitudes toward those who are suffering, is it any wonder that those who have these ailments end up abandoning the church and practicing their faith in the quiet of their living rooms on Sunday mornings?

I wish I could say that the stories above are isolated incidents. I actually have many more stories but some of them I am not ready to share yet.

I wish I could say that the resistance my family encountered is disproportionate to what the average family with special needs and mental health problems encounters. But, that is not true.

My stories are not isolated.

There are even studies that show that children with autism and ADHD are being excluded from churches in the USA.

Similar stories are repeated by parents of special needs children with some amount of frequency. Heartbroken parents report stealing away for a midnight mass while their children are sleeping even though they are not Catholic because that is the only time they get to go and be in a church. Grief-struck moms and dads report that their children’s conditions make it impossible for them to attend church because the church doesn’t understand their kids or openly criticizes them. The adults that suffer from these conditions eventually give up hope that they will ever find a place that truly shows them the love of Jesus.

One man told me that if he had seen the love of Jesus shown toward those with special needs –the kind of love I described in one of my Facebook posts, he would ever have walked away from the church.

While some churches –particularly the charismatics– are catching up, many other churches –like the Baptists, just one example from my experience since we usually attend Baptist churches– are way behind in their acceptance of those who are different than what is “normal.”

It is my dream that all special needs families would have a church to go to, a church that aligns with their beliefs where their children are loved and accepted as they are with a spirit of compassion and grace.

I must have missed the passage in the Bible where Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me and forbid them not for such is the Kingdom of Heaven, except the weird kids –the kids with autism, ADHD, and bipolar–, not those ones.”

If He were here today, Jesus, who reached out to the broken and socially outcast of His time, would undoubtedly be on the frontline ministering to those who need Him –including special needs families.

So why aren’t we?

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

P.S. A heartfelt thanks to those Christians and churches who have embraced our family and all of its quirks.

Advertisements
ADHD, children, illness, myths

How You Should Respond to Special Needs Families

I couldn’t decide what to call this post: “Stop Shaming and Blaming Special Needs Families”? “She Said Coddling Causes Special Needs; This Was My Reply”? “How Not to Respond to Special Needs Families”? I settled on “How You Should Respond to Special Needs Families” after quite a bit of deliberation. I feel very strongly about this topic. Regardless of what we call this post, the fact remains that parents are being blamed for their children’s medical conditions.

This needs to stop.

{{FYI: This article contains snark. Consider yourself warned.}}

Last week, I found a comment on my Facebook page that was something like this:

“Children wouldn’t have special needs if you didn’t coddle them, and treat them like babies, and if you made them toughen up.”

Oh, really? That’s how it works, huh?

Okay then, let’s define what “special needs child” means –because that comment leads me to believe that maybe she really doesn’t know what it is.

“In the United States, ‘special needs’ is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.” (from Wikipedia, italics are mine.)

According to the commenter, I guess that means that my friend’s daughter who has Type 1 Diabetes is only sick because she’s weak? The fact that she’s been poking herself to check her own blood sugar levels since she was three-and-a-half years old is not a sign of her strength and fortitude? I guess this child has a life-threatening autoimmune disease because she’s been hugged and held too often?

I guess that means my niece who has bipolar would automatically stop having manic and depressive episodes and suddenly start understanding the consequences of her actions if we were just harsh enough in our treatment of her? If we just forced her to be normal? Maybe if we pushed her around a bit? Or chased her with a baseball bat? Maybe if we locked her in a closet? That would cure it?

I guess that means that my friend’s son who is nonverbal with autism would suddenly start speaking if we stopped coddling him and treating him like a baby? He’s only struggling because we aren’t being hard enough on him? Maybe a little cruelty would cure him? Maybe we should scream at him and intimidate him into talking? You think that would work?

My son with ADHD, an anxiety disorder, and learning disabilities –maybe I could just beat the brain development problems, panic attacks, and handwriting struggles out of him, then? Pshaw. Why should we make sure children feel safe, secure, and loved by their families anyway? When he has pain in his hands from handwriting, maybe I should just tell him that if he doesn’t do his assignments I’ll really give him something to cry about? I’m sure that a good beating will solve his learning disabilities? And make his anxiety so much better too, right? You think so?

I guess my friend whose child has severe, life-threatening allergies would just keep breathing if we force fed her the thing she’s allergic to? After all, isn’t she just being weak? And we are just allowing the allergic reactions to happen by treating her like a baby? I’m sure she just made up the anaphylaxis –and that two-week hospitalization was the child manipulating the hospital staff? There’s no possibility that the medical doctors actually know what they’re talking about, right?

Here’s the reality:

Parents don’t willy-nilly decide their child is a little snowflake and label them “special needs” for the fun of it. No one does this for the kicks. Professionals —medical, mental health, or developmental professionals— they diagnose these conditions.

They diagnose these conditions because they’re REAL and because the child has an actual, factual, legitimate medical need that most other children don’t have.

We get a diagnosis to help our children. It is anything but fun and games. Don’t you think that if these conditions could be fixed with a little “tough love” we would have done that already?

Having a special needs child is hard, far harder than most parents could imagine. We try everything we can think of, often grasping at straws and faint hope, existing on a wing and prayer trying to find answers for our kids. No parent wants their child to be sick or to have an autoimmune disease or a mental health disorder or developmental disorder or a learning disability. Like every parent, we want healthy children, and often we mourn our children’s diagnosis and the struggles we know that they will face –not the least of which is cruel judgments from small-minded people.

We get the diagnoses because we are trying to help our struggling and hurting children.

Parents should never EVER be shamed for seeking medical treatment for their children’s legitimate medical conditions.

And, sorry, but no other person gets to decide what is a legitimate condition and what is not.

And, you know, reading an article online explaining some journalist’s opinion about a medical condition does not make you an expert in that condition.

We are experts in our children’s struggles because we live with it and study it every day as we try to help and care for them.

If you can’t be supportive, keep your mouth shut.

Our lives are stressful enough without the ongoing drama caused by people who have no idea what they’re even talking about.

These children are not being coddled or given crutches. We are treating children with legitimate medical conditions. We are guiding and loving them with dignity, kindness, and grace. The same way any human should be treated. We are choosing to believe them and to help them where they struggle –as any decent parent would, as any decent person would.

Shame on those who try to would belittle, shame, and bully parents into not getting the best medical care they possibly can for their child!

Shame on those who would try to make parents feel like failures because their children have medical conditions!

Shame on those who would disparage a parent for looking out for the best interest of their child!

A child with a broken leg needs a crutch. If he is denied a crutch when his leg is broken, that’s abuse. That’s traumatizing. That’s wrong.

The same is true of ANY child with ANY medical condition.

Unless you have a special needs child, you do not know the immense pain and struggle these families face. The parents learn to be hypervigilant –always watching for their child’s medical needs. Often, the parents develop PTSD from the ongoing stress of caring for these children. These kids fight harder every day to exist, and be, and function, and go on than you could imagine in your wildest dreams.

All the while, these parents are fighting against the cultural biases that their children’s medical needs are illegitimate.

They hear accusations that most people would never dream of saying to a parent of a child with leukemia, for example, because that’s generally thought of as a “real” diagnosis.

Frankly, the level of prejudice against special needs families in our culture never ceases to amaze me. It is getting better with time, but we have a long way to go toward cultural acceptance of children and families who do not fit nicely into a box.

Instead of criticizing, blaming, and belittling, you should be admiring these families.

Admire the child who doesn’t give up when faced with far harder circumstances than most adults will ever face.

Admire the mother who keeps on fighting for an accurate diagnosis and treatment for her struggling child and refuses to give up.

Admire the father who endures a manic episode or autistic meltdown with grace and calmness while keeping the child he loves more than his own life safe.

Admire the parents of a violent child with multiple mental health disorders who keep loving the child through the violence, through the struggles, who fight for that child’s health and mental health even if it means the hard decision of institutionalization.

Admire the siblings who sometimes get the short end of the stick because mom and dad put so much energy into their struggling sibling –but they keep loving their sibling anyway.

Admire the families who get up every day and fight the same battle they fought yesterday with the same tools that may well have not worked yesterday, but they still keep fighting.

Admire the adults with these diagnoses who lived through a generation that blamed these legitimate health conditions on the person suffering …and yet they came out the other side. They didn’t commit suicide when they felt abandoned by the world. They didn’t give up –or at least they didn’t give up forever. They turned around and decided that no other person should ever feel like they felt and made it their life’s goal that others shouldn’t suffer in silence as they did.

To the original poster: Why would you choose to turn a blind eye to the needs and suffering of those around you? If you choose to ignore, attack, and marginalize these amazing, strong, brave, resilient, noble, victorious, fighting special needs families all around you, maybe you’re the one who truly needs a doctor.

I suggest a psychiatrist.

Because mentally healthy and emotionally stable people don’t behave like that.

I pity you because you have missed the beauty that these special needs families bring to the world.

And, I’m sorry for whatever happened to you that makes you feel like it is okay to spread toxicity and hate when you could spread kindness and joy.

At the end of the day, let’s try to leave the world a little better than we found it. A little kindness could make a huge difference in our world.

A little kindness could make an already-horrible-day a little more bearable for a family struggling to keep their head above water in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their day-to-day battle.

To you who are wondering how best to respond to families of special needs children: listen to them, believe them, support and encourage them if you can.

And, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

To you who fight this battle every day for your children:

I see you.

I understand.

You are not alone.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

If you found this post helpful please consider sharing it. Thanks!

 

ADHD, charts, children, homeschooling

How Do Executive Function Problems Affect My ADHD Child?

#ADHDFacts

#DrBarkley

#GraceUnderPressureBlog

#ADHDAwarenessMonth


If you or your child have ADHD, you have executive function issues.

ADHD is basically all about problems in executive function.

What is executive function?

“Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Higher order executive functions require the simultaneous use of multiple basic executive functions and include planning and fluid intelligence (i.e., reasoning and problem solving).” –from Wikipedia

How executive function problems affect someone varies by the person.

For instance, I don’t struggle with time management as much as some of my ADHD friends. I struggle in some areas, like keeping on a strict schedule, but I don’t struggle to arrive places on time or to make plans.

Some ADHD people have a hard time thinking up creative solutions, but that is one thing I am really good at.

So, while ADHD does involve executive function, how it looks in each person is as individual as the person themselves.

The following chart lists the various areas of executive function that could be deficient in an ADHD person.

How Do Executive Function Problems Affect my ADHD Child

It was very helpful for me to identify which areas I am good at and which I am not.

There are some of these areas that I am not struggling with which was very encouraging for me.

It also helped me to see these all written out because I was able to look at this chart and see how my children struggle compared to how I struggle.

At least if I can identify the problems, I can give them more grace and help in that area. If I can identify the issue in myself, then I can realize when one activity is going to cause more stress than another.

You can download the PDF of this graphic here: How Do Executive Function Problems Affect my ADHD Child PDF.

Follow this link to read a detailed description by Dr. Barkley of the 7 areas affected by executive function.

To learn more about executive function, take a look at these posts:

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Age?

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Tank?

For additional posts on ADHD:

What You Need to Know About Your ADHD Child

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

17 Things Your ADHD Child Would Tell You if He Could

10 ADHD Statistics Parents Should Be Aware Of

ADDitude Magazine Endorses Homeschooling When Public School Isn’t Working

Start Here to Learn More About Homeschooling an ADHD Child

So, You Want to Homeschool Your ADHD Child


 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I cannot diagnose your child or offer you medical advice. A lot of the ADHD information on this blog comes from Dr. Russell Barkley’s videos –many of which are available on YouTube. There are many links in this post to more information about these topics, but since I am not a scientist or a researcher, I am unable to provide you with double-blind studies. I am just a writer and artist making articles and graphics based on information I have seen and read from ADHD professionals in an effort to raise ADHD awareness. I encourage you to look into these ideas yourself and follow the links provided. You can see more of those videos from Dr. Barkley at the bottom of this post.


 

You can also download a pdf worksheet to evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment is helping his or her symptoms here.

If you found this information helpful, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog and follow my Facebook page.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

ADHD, children

10 ADHD Statistics Parents Should Be Aware Of

As part of ADHD awareness month, I have been posting ADHD facts regularly on Facebook. More than once I have been asked if I could back up my facts with studies and data. For some of these facts, I was able to find data; others I only have videos or articles by experts. I hope you find this information helpful. Please consider following the links and looking into the sources yourself.

An educated parent is better able to help their child.

Statistic adhd


1. ADHD is the most treatable condition in psychiatry, and yet 40% of ADHD children and 90% of ADHD adults are not recognized and treated for their ADHD meaning that the issue is under-treatment, not over-treatment. [source]


2. 80% of people with ADHD will be on medications at some point in their life which is a good thing because ADHD is a neurogenetic disorder and ADHD medication is an effective, proven neurogenetic therapy making medication completely justifiable. [source]


3. Less than 20% of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed and treated.
[source]


4. Approximately 2 million children in the USA have ADHD which means that in a classroom of 30 children, at least one will have ADHD. [source]


5. Only 50% of young children with ADHD are receiving services for their ADHD. [source]


6. At least 50% of ADHD children have a comorbidity or additional psychiatric condition. [source]


7. About 80% of ADHD patients respond positively to the medication. [source]


8. When ADHD people use stimulant medication it lessens the likelihood that they’ll abuse drugs and alcohol not increases it. [source]


9. ADHD people often use drugs and alcohol as self-medication which would likely be reduced if they were medicated properly. [source]


10. Exercise helps ADHD more than any other psychological disorder, so everyone who has ADHD should be in an exercise program of some kind. [source] and [source]

For my ADHD boys, I think Fruit Ninja on the Kinect was the best exercise program of anything we tried.


BONUS:

11. 50% of ADHD people who take medication are completely normalized meaning that the medication allows them to function like a neurotypical person. [source]

12. 50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability. [source]


I hope you find this information helpful!

You can download the printable PDF of this image here: ADHD Statistics That Parents Should Be Aware Of.

You can also download a pdf worksheet to evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment is helping his or her symptoms here.

If you found this information helpful, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog or follow my Facebook page.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

PS If you enjoyed this post, there are many other posts on my blog about ADHD such as:

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

17 Things Your ADHD Child Would Tell You If He Could

Start Here to Learn More About Homeschooling an ADHD Child

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Age?

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Tank?

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A DOCTOR or mental health professional. I cannot diagnose your child or offer you medical advice. A lot of the ADHD information on this blog comes from Dr. Russell Barkley’s videos –many of which are available on YouTube. There are many links in this post to more information about these topics, but since I AM NOT A SCIENTIST or a researcher, I am unable to provide you with double-blind study reports. I am just a writer and artist making articles and graphics based on information I have seen and read from ADHD professionals in an effort to raise ADHD awareness. I encourage you to look into these ideas yourself and follow the links provided. You can see more of those videos from Dr. Barkley at the bottom of this post.

ADHD, children, homeschooling

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Tank?

#ADHDFacts
#DrBarkley
#GraceUnderPressureBlog
#ADHDAwarenessMonth

Executive function is defined as “self-directed actions needed to sustain problem-solving towards a goal.”

“Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Higher order executive functions require the simultaneous use of multiple basic executive functions and include planning and fluid intelligence (i.e., reasoning and problem solving).” (from Wikipedia)

ADHD is an executive function disorder.

Because of the asynchronous growth in their brains, ADHD people struggle with executive function.

It is a daily struggle.

Since so much of life requires executive functions, it is easy for those of us with ADHD to deplete our executive function ability –or our executive function tank.

Different activities can either fill or tax our executive function. When the tank runs out, the ability for self-restraint is gone resulting in blowups and meltdowns –even in adults with ADHD.

“The executive function has a limited fuel tank, and you can spend it out real quick. Every time you use an executive function and you use it continuously, you empty the tank. And, if you get to the bottom of the tank, in the next situation, you will have no self-control. This is the ADHD child after school. It [the executive function] is gone, and you want to do homework? You’re out of your mind! So, you’ve got to refuel that tank, and that tank has a very limited capacity.” –Dr. Russell Barkley

What taxes the tank? How can we refuel the tank?

What Is My Child's Executive Function Tank-

You can download a printable PDF of this graphic “What Is My Child’s Executive Function Tank” by clicking here.

The most useful perspective on ADHD is to view it as a chronic disability.

“ADHD is the diabetes of psychiatry. It is a chronic disorder that must be managed every day to prevent the secondary harms it is going to cause, but there is no cure for this disorder. They [those with ADHD and their loved ones] need to view ADHD as diabetes of the brain. It’s a chronic disorder.” –Dr. Russell Barkley

Like with any disability, those with ADHD will need the support from those around them to succeed.

I hope this chart helps you better understand what is going in with your ADHD friends and family.

You can learn more about executive function on this post:

What Is My Child’s Executive Function Age?

To learn more about ADHD in general, there is a great video at the bottom of this post. The video is a 3 hour long series by the wonderful ADHD advocate Dr. Russell Barkley.

What You Need to Know About Your ADHD Child

Many of the ideas in this post have come from Dr Barkley. The concept of an executive function tank came from the video in the bottom of this blog post:

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

I hope you find this information helpful. If you enjoyed this post, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook.

You can also download a worksheet here to help you evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment plan is working.

Please remember to give your ADHD loved one or friend lots of grace. They have a brain that works differently than the brains of neurotypical people.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

Disclaimer:
I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I cannot diagnose your child or offer you medical advice. Most of this information comes from Dr. Barkley’s videos –many of which are available on YouTube. There are many links in this post to more information about these topics, but since I am not a scientist or a researcher, I am unable to provide you with double-blind studies. I am just a writer and artist making posts and images based on information I have seen and read from ADHD professionals in an effort to raise ADHD awareness. I encourage you to look into these ideas yourself and follow the links provided. If you Google “Executive Function + Dr. Russell Barkley” there is a lot of information available online.

ADHD, children, homeschooling

Determination Is Not the Key to Your Child’s Success

Every few months, a new post or video will emerge on social media and be mass-shared by homeschool moms across the country and the world –usually citing research (or just opinions) about the key to your child’s success.

They usually involve something like determination, grit, not giving up, or stick-to-itiveness.

All variations on the same theme.

There is more than one problem with this theory.


1. It is not true in the neurotypical world.

Even for those without ADHD, all you have to do is look around and see that sheer stubbornness –or what we call determination if we are being nice– is not the answer to all of the world’s problems.

And it’s surely not the key to success in any given situation.

I have often been told that if I wanted to, I could cure my autoimmune disease, that I am sick because I do not want or try to get better.

This is lunacy, but it is a common way to approach problems.

“Just try harder!” is a common theme in our culture –from conferences to motivational wall hangings, we rally around the idea that we can single-handedly conquer the whole world if we just try and never give up!

And, yet, I am usually the most stubborn and determined person in the room –I am definitely the most stubborn person I know.

My determination has neither healed me or made me not sick to begin with.

My stubbornness does keep me hoping when others might have given up on getting better or even committed suicide.

So, it is not useless.

But, it is not the answer to the illness.

It is not the key to my health success.

Many people think that sheer determination or grit is enough to guarantee them success.

This is perpetuated by famous people saying ridiculous things like “No one believed in me, but I was determined to succeed –and I did. Never give up on your dreams!”

And, then you contrast that with the people you see show up for TV talent-scout shows like American Idol.

You see people who are very self-assured on that show –I am not sure if I have ever seen people more determined to succeed than I have on that show.

In fact, I have seen people –who are actually way more stubborn than I am– try to get on to the show and fail.

Why?

Because they lack talent and ability.

That demonstrates to us that determination alone is not enough to get us from where we are to success.

Whatever success is –but we will discuss the nature of success later.

A wise friend brought this quote to my attention:

“Every corpse on Everest was once a very determined person.”

That’s kind of morbid to think about, but it is extremely true!

You could be the most determined, the most stubborn, and the most talented, and still have the weather shift suddenly and lose your life, never reaching your goal.

Sheer determination is not enough.

But, we don’t like to think that there are any factors that are out of our control: sorry for the reality check, but there are factors out of our control.

What if you want to fly to the moon without a spaceship and you are determined to do it?

I remember a kid in grade school who thought if he just tried hard enough he could fly –after all, we were regularly told that we could do anything if we just tried hard enough.

Stubbornness is not the only factor in the equation that leads to success.

It simply is not and to say it is, is to short change those who are genuinely trying.


2) It is not true in the neuroatypical world.

“Neuroatypical” means those who do not have typical brains, those of us with non-normal brains.

It includes ADHD, autism, and many other disorders.

I have ADHD and lead ADHD Facebook groups, so for my purposes, I am focusing on ADHD in this post.

Let us suppose that you have a child who was born without a leg.

The key to his success at walking is most definitely determination, right?

By sheer determination, he will turn into an amphibian and grow a new appendage, right?

No?

NO.

Absolutely, a child cannot have success when the success is stolen away by something out of his control.

Just like the hiker on Everest may not have success because the weather is out of his control.

Just like the child without a leg, an ADHD child is missing components to his success because his brain has developed differently than normal people –something totally out of his control.

For some ADHD people, that difference in how their brain develops makes it easier for them to be successful.

But in most ADHD people, those differences –while it may appear less significant compared to the missing leg– are significant and impactful.

Nearly every ADHD person I know who has attended a traditional school has gotten a report card that read something like this:

“Smart kid; would be successful if he would just tried harder.”

“Try harder” statements induce sinking-into-despair feelings for all ADHD people.

It makes the pit of my stomach feel hollow, and depression starts to creep in.

If only it were that simple.

If only “be the most stubborn person there” would guarantee success.

But it doesn’t.

What makes the child born without a leg able to run?

A prosthetic.

A crutch, if you will.

An accommodation.

More than likely, every ADHD person who has ever been successful had some kind of accommodation.

Often, someone saw the genius in a gifted young person and was willing to put up with their unkempt nature, disorderly spaces, and scatterbrained ideas in order to see the results that emerge from the beautiful mind that laid beneath the chaos.

Einstein was such –a beautiful mind beneath the chaos.

Don’t believe me?

Google “Einstein’s desk the day he died” and see if that doesn’t scream chaos to you.

Accommodation can come in many forms: medication, coping skills, understanding family, and friends –just to name a few.

But “try harder” does not work.

“‘Work harder and you can get better at it’ doesn’t always work for people with neurological* disorders.” –Amythest Schaber from Ask an Autistic

*ADHD is recognized as a neurological disorder.

If you expect your child to succeed by sheer determination, they will turn on you just as if you had asked a child who has no leg to run.

That’s cruel.

We shouldn’t do that to anyone, let alone our children with developmental and neurological conditions.

If you do, your child is justified in his anger toward you just as he would be if he was asked to use a missing limb.

So what is the key to success?

I don’t know.

Talent, support, and inclination all play into it.

For instance, I will never be a mathematician –no matter how determined I am. I have dyscalculia (a math-based learning disability), and numbers are like Greek to me —even the ones that aren’t actually written in Greek.

I don’t care what anyone else says: I think Satan put letters in math to mock me.

I can improve my math to some extent, but I cannot change that I am handicapped by the limits of my brain’s capacity to learn in this area.

I am not inclined toward math, but I am very inclined toward writing and art.

It is likely that I will find greater success in things I am inclined toward, but that’s not guaranteed –remember our American Idol example?

All those people who are turned away in the first few episodes think they are inclined toward music.

But, our ears tell us differently.

When it comes to special needs kids especially, I think we are missing the point if we focus on success.

Success is this arbitrary, out-there-somewhere idea that means something different to each person and is never quite obtained.

I think we need to focus on improvement.

Instead of saying “Are they as good or better than everyone else out there?” we should be asking “Are they better than they were before?”

Instead of pitting children with neurological disorders against neurotypical children –which isn’t a fair comparison –we should ask ourselves if they have improved from where they were.

Improvement should be enough success for us.

You ruin the joy of improvement and discovery if you measure yourself against other people’s stride or against your view of perfection.

I don’t want my child with dysgraphia to write better than my friend’s daughter who sells art with beautiful calligraphy.

To place that expectation out there would be unreasonable.

I just want him to improve from where he was 6 months ago.

Holding out a standard that is unobtainable in front of a child and defining it as success, expecting them to achieve it, and making your approval of the child based on the acquisition of that goal is psychologically and emotionally damaging.

Don’t do that to your ADHD kids.

Don’t tell them that all they need to do is try harder.

Trying harder won’t help.

Instead, find ways to support and accommodate them, and you may find that they surpass even your expectations.

For more information about how to accommodate ADHD children, please see this post which discusses medication pros and cons and other options to help ADHD.

For more information about enjoying the journey of learning without getting caught up in the goals, see this post.

For a video that explains why ADHD people have brains that are developing differently and what to do about it, see this post.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

children, faith, parenthood

6 Reasons I Don’t Let My Children Work Problems Out on Their Own

I was a young mom with a toddler and a preschooler –the youngest of all the moms in the group– and a few of the older moms in the group ruled the roost.

They instructed the rest of us that when our very young children went outside to play, we were not allowed to check on them, not allowed to be outside with them, and not allowed to correct them.

If a child came inside and said “Tommy is being mean,” or “Amy hit me,” one of the older moms would tell the children to go back outside and work it out themselves.

If they came in again or if a mom dared to try to help them, one of the older moms would glare, lecture, and scold either the parent or the child.

This was a group of Christian homeschool parents, and I was completely blown away by the hands-off mentality and lack-of-concern attitude by the other parents –not to mention the adults who were basically bullying other adults.

I’m pretty assertive, but the older moms were absolutely firm and criticized anyone who went against them.

The children –dozens of them– would be out there for sometimes hours without any adult supervision.

There was no easy way to keep an eye on my children from inside the building; the play area was really just a 4-foot strip of bark dust and bushes at the back of the lot which was not visible from any of the windows.

After a few playtimes, I realized this was not going to work.

My 2-year-old was being bullied regularly because he couldn’t say his consonants yet, and the children would pester my 4-year-old son with ADHD and SPD until he had a sensory meltdown.

I put my foot down and started either keeping my children inside with me or standing alone outside to supervise the children while they played and the other moms ignored their kids.

It was hard enough to tell my little children that they couldn’t play with their friends, but I was treated like I was crazy and overprotective by the other moms who refused to step even outside onto the porch to oversee their own children.

I’m glad I was overprotective and trusted my instincts because –years later– I found out that younger children were being molested by older children in that back lot while the older moms intimidated the younger moms to keep them from being “overprotective.”

The resulting social interaction –having the children unattended outside for an hour or more and tell them to work it out on their own– was bullying.

It was really unbelievable to me, completely avoidable, and minimized once I was out there overseeing the children’s interaction.

Eventually, some of the other younger moms caught on and started bringing activities for their kids to do inside where they could see them, and they would play nicely on the floor with my children.

The rest of the ladies played along with the older moms, leaving their children to be bullied and mistreated.

Unfortunately, it was too late to protect some of the little kids who had already been touched inappropriately before their mothers chose to keep them inside.

The older moms were furious that we moms were not conforming to their hands-off approach to motherhood, and they tried many different tactics to try to get us to send out children back outside even telling us that we were wronging our children and depriving them of important childhood development by insisting that our children stay with us.

I’ll never get it.

I’ll never understand how you can expect your 2-year-olds through 6-year-olds to learn to healthily interact without you there to oversee and instruct them.

The older moms were using bully tactics to try to force the younger moms to allow a public school, playground-style social interaction –which included bullying and intimidation– to be forced on their children.

Isn’t this part of the reason they aren’t in a brick-and-mortar school?

So that we don’t have to deal with this nonsense?

So that our children are not exposed to this very unhealthy version of socialization?

The children of the bully moms grew up to be —imagine this— bullies.

Their mothers acted as if this was a healthy way to interact.

They may have taken their children out of the public school, but they still considered the public school social environment –which breeds antisocial behavior– to be normal.

I do not.

At all.

I homeschool for many reasons, and one of them is to get away from the unhealthy social environment.

I have special needs kids who are currently 12 and 15 years old, and they still often need me to be an arbitrator for their disagreements.

They are still –even now– struggling to find healthy ways to interact.

I think that so few adults know how to interact in a healthy way that they don’t even realize that how their kids are interacting isn’t healthy or biblical –just read public Facebook comments from those who claim to be believers and you’ll see what I mean about adults not interacting in a healthy way.

I remember asking my mother when I would stop being the arbitrator between my two children, and she told me “When they turn 18 –if you’re lucky.”

She also told me, “It’s part of your job as their mom.”

I am really glad she told me that because for a while I was starting to doubt myself. If you are told you are crazy long enough –no matter how confident you are– you begin to question your position.

We left that group a long time ago –we stayed too long, honestly, hoping we could make it work– but the things I observed in that extreme version of the let-them-figure-it-out-themselves approach to parenting left a huge impression on me and left me determined that I absolutely would not be using that method to train my children.

The following are 6 reasons that I absolutely refuse to let my kids work it out –which in most cases just means fight it out:


1. They lack the maturity.

Particularly kids of the age mine were at the time –between the ages of 2 and 4 have no concept of compromise.

For most kids, that won’t hit until ages 9 or 10 when they become socially aware –longer if they have special needs.

If you think children of any age are able to handle conflict resolution, take a look at your average interaction between high schoolers –that is telling, isn’t it?

Some children may develop this earlier, depending on personality and maturity.

Our children might be able to handle conflict resolution by age 16, if they are trained to do so, if they are taught to be unselfish, considerate, aware of other people’s needs –at the same time learning to stand up for themselves and for what is right– and if they see it demonstrated in their everyday lives.

We parents need to learn to be conflict resolvers ourselves so that we can model that behavior to our children.

If we can’t do it, how on earth do we expect them to?


2. It breeds bullying.

If you leave kids to themselves to work out problems, it just means that the biggest, baddest, most assertive, most aggressive, or most unkind kid wins.

This teaches our children that there is no reason to stick up for what’s right because whoever is the worst is going to win anyway.

Is that really what I want my children to learn?

That there’s no justice?

That no one will help them if they’re standing up for right?

That doing the right thing doesn’t matter?

That they should just roll over and let whoever is the worst person in their midst win?

That I won’t come help them if they need it?

This is absolutely not what I’m trying to teach my children and is the main reason that I will not force my children to resolve problems without adult help.

This is absolutely what my children learned in their limited interaction with the above-mentioned group.

It took some unlearning, but we did get past it.


3. It breeds anger and resentment.

If your child is being mistreated, they come to ask you for help, and you turn them away, why wouldn’t they be angry?

You are supposed to help them: that is your job.

You are also supposed to protect them: that is your job.

But in this environment, they are made into victims –unless perchance they happen to be the biggest and the baddest, and then they learn to walk all over anyone who they think is less than them.

You think bullies are happy?

They are the angriest and most unhappy people you will meet, just spreading that anger onto others.

It is bad for everyone involved.

Neither the winning or the losing child has matured through this process if they are left to themselves.

It has only left everyone wounded and hurting.


4. It’s unbiblical.

We’re supposed to raise our children up in the admonition of the Lord and teach them how to follow Jesus.

We should not expect them to figure out how to interact in a healthy, mature, and biblical way on their own.

Why would there be a command to raise them up correctly if it was going to happen without us intentionally doing it? Without us involved?

Even if we verbally instruct them to be kind before sending them out, more than likely they will not be able to do that without our guidance –especially in the beginning.

Even with our guidance and example, it may take years for them to learn.

Because, well, they’re kids.

They may me be able to handle situations maturely, but at what age will vary by child, so pray for wisdom before turning your children lose to resolve their own conflicts.

Until then, what they need is their parent with them step-by-step not only being an example but being a guide.

That will feel like you are a referee.

That’s okay.

That’s part of being a parent: it’s in the job description.


5. It’s unwise.

Proverbs says that a child left himself will bring his mother to shame.

If that’s what Solomon –the wisest man who ever lived– believe would happen if children were left to themselves, what makes us think that leaving them to figure problems out on their own will have any positive result at all?

The children in the story above, particularly those who were raised to be bullies, did not learn how to interact in a healthy way on their own.

They grew up to interact in unhealthy ways just like they were trained.

It was unreasonable for those women to think that they could leave their young children to train themselves and not have it bring about shameful and unfortunate results.


6. It makes our children think we don’t care.

Is it a lot of work to be a constant moderator?

Yes, absolutely!

It is a lot of work, and I think that’s why some moms choose to let their children fight it out.

But it was the work we took on when we had children.

We do not get to ignore or abandon that responsibility simply because we don’t like it.

How are they going to learn to interact in a healthy way with people that they disagree with if we are not teaching them?

If they are not seeing us resolve problems in our own lives?

If we are not helping them resolve problems in their lives?

Our children should never come to us for help and get either the direct or implied answer that we don’t care about them.

That is not okay.

If I absolutely cannot deal with the squabbling, I am not above threatening them with life and limb that if they know what is good for them they had better sit on their own ends of the couch and be quiet until I am done cooking dinner and then we will figure it out.

But I will never intentionally communicate to my children that I do not care about them or their struggles.

If I choose to communicate that I don’t care when something small comes up, then when something big comes up they will not turn to me for help because I have already communicated that I am not reliable to help them.

I’m not saying that you should never ever let your children play without you right there, but that you should encourage them to come to you with problems they can’t resolve so that you can guide them –and you may need to do some eavesdropping to make sure the conflicts they do resolve by themselves are being resolved in a good way.

A society without rules and arbitrators results in anarchy and chaos; the same happens in the home.

If adults can’t exist without rules and arbitrators –imagine a world with no government or laws, where you just took revenge when someone wronged you– how can we expect our children to function without them?

Without rule of law and arbitrators, children will become little anarchists because then we are training our children to take matters into their own hands — that’s exactly what happened in the group I was part of.

It’s not good enough to just have rules; someone actually needs to make sure those rules are understood, accurately applied, and followed.

In this group, if anyone tried to make sure the rules were being followed they were labeled a tattletale or a bad parent, but in the real world, this is expected: you call the police if someone is breaking the law by stealing or threatening bodily harm.

So why would we not expect our children to live by that same concept?

Part of the problem with the public schools, in my opinion, is that there are (some) rules but no one –or perhaps not enough someones– there to make sure the rules are applied correctly and followed.

And, we wonder why the schools are breeding anarchists and people with anti-social behavior. We wonder why the schools aren’t producing good, law-abiding citizens.

I know, parenting is really, really, really hard.

It is probably the hardest thing you have ever done, and that means you are probably doing it right.

I am through most of my parenting years since my youngest is entering his teens in a few months.

And, although I don’t deal with meltdowns, spilled milk, or playground arguments much anymore, we certainly have our rough days.

They still struggle to get along sometimes, and I still struggle and strive to continually point them back to the Bible for our answers to how people ought to interact.

The following are a few of the verses I have used recently in my childrearing:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…. Romans 12:3

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. Philippians 4:5

Let us be diligent to train our children up in the way of the Lord, not to leave them angry and bitter —which is one of the only New Testament commands to parents.

Let us to be good examples in our relationships, and to try to always point them back to Jesus.

Let’s guide them by our example and oversight so that they can –Lord willing– have healthier-than-average relationships in the future –relationships that honor the Lord.

When in doubt, check your parenting against scripture.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

ADHD, art, children, homeschooling, illness

Art Therapy: A Simple Method to Deal with Stress

If you have ADHD, anxiety, adrenal problems or if you are basically living and breathing, you probably deal with stress and difficulties processing that stress.

This can be especially true for people who don’t have neurotypical brains because our brains are already a little off and prone to misfiling information.

Many anxieties (for example, phobias) comes from the brain not filing information properly. That’s how something as nondangerous as a housefly could cause a panic attack in someone with that phobia: houseflies got misfiled in the brain as dangerous.

Those of us who are neurodiverse also have a greater possibility of having PTSD than neurotypical brains because PTSD involves the misfiling of information in the brain during a stressful situation. We already have issues with misfiling information due to stress and executive function, so it is quite understandable that we would be more susceptible to PTSD.

As part of the treatment for my low adrenals, my doctor suggested that I try art therapy to lower my stress and the tax on my adrenals. However, the art therapy instructions she gave were very nonspecific and abstract.

I don’t deal well with abstract. I’m going to blame that on being a Highly Sensitive Person, but it could just as easily be something else.

No matter the cause, I deal better with more concrete ideas.

I read as much as I could find on art therapy online and came up with my own method that seems to be helping me.


Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m not responsible for problems that occur as a result of using this method. These problems could range from remembering things that make you angry or messes from children having art supplies. Proceed at your own risk.


Some people actually go to college to teach art therapy, and I’m sure they would balk at this.

I’m not saying it’s the right way; I’m only saying it has worked for me.

The purpose of this method art therapy is to help you let go of things that stress you.

Anything that helps you to that end, even if it’s not the same as what the professional would do, is a good thing in my book –provided that it’s both legal and moral, that is.

True clinical art therapy is much more involved than what I’m doing.

Some versions I saw online also involve emptying yourself and letting your spirit guide show you what to do. As a Christian, I won’t be following any spirit guides, but I do pray during the process. If you aren’t religious you can just as easily skip the prayer part.


What you need:

  • A sheet of paper (such as computer paper but any will do)
  • A variety of color crayons or pencils
  • A pen (black works best in my opinion) or a regular #2 pencil

Parts of this activity I have actually been doing since I was a child –minus some of the angry scribbling.

It is simple enough that a child could do it, and I think a child understand it.

This video explains the process including how to adapt it for kids –even special needs kids.

This is one of the first times I have made a video, and I apologize in advance for all the times I say “Umm.” I am obviously not comfortable with the medium of video yet, and I smiled at my own discomfort when I replayed the video. I had also hoped to be able to caption the video for my hearing-impaired friends, but my computer was not cooperating. I may be able to do it sometime in the future but not today.

If you have any questions about the video or the method I use, please ask! I am happy to help.

I hope this was helpful in learning to de-stress.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

children, parenthood

I Burned the Babywise Book

Yes.

I actually did.

I burned the Babywise book.

15 years ago an adorable little boy was born with a full head of jet-black hair and deep-set dimples.

I wanted nothing more than to be a mom, and I was so happy to finally hold my baby.

But, something wasn’t right –or at least not normal– from the beginning.

If you’ve had a baby with special needs or who otherwise wasn’t “normal,” you probably noticed from early on.

He cried whenever I put him down –even as an infant. He was colicky, with constant tummy problems, and wanted to nurse nonstop.

He couldn’t sleep unless I was holding him.

So, I held him.

A lot.

Basically, all the time.

I even slept on the couch with him snuggled in my arms so his dad who was working swing shift at a lumber mill (which is some pretty intense manual labor) could get a good night’s sleep.

I was hardly sleeping. I couldn’t keep with house clean. I learned to cook and wash dishes with him in-arm.

Out of desperation, I drove almost two hours to get a baby sling to wear him –this was way before babywearing was even a thing here.

I was so worn out.

I tried everything I could find from those baby tablets that were supposed to help with sleep problems to something called Gripewater.

Nothing worked.

Around the time I thought I had tried everything, a friend gave me the book Babywise.

She swore by the book, and her 2-week-old baby was already on a schedule and sleeping regularly and predictably.

Well, goodness, if it works that well it’s worth a try, right?

So, I read the book and proceeded to try the advice given.

My son cried for hours.

Hours.

Not just cried: screamed.

I did what the book said, and it didn’t work.

I called my friend back and she said, “Oh, well, you just didn’t let him cry long enough.”

Really?

Well, I’m no quitter. On average, I’m the most stubborn person in the room.

So, we did it again.

He cried for over 4 hours one night. I sat outside his bedroom and sobbed.

I was 21 years old, this was my first baby, and I am the first to admit that I really had no idea what I was doing.

But, I knew deep in my soul that this was not right.

My 4-month-old deserved better than this.

This was bordering on child abuse.

Infants cry because their instincts tell them to cry in order to communicate that something’s wrong.

Not because they’re manipulative or disobedient.

I picked up my screaming baby, nursed him until he was calm, and put the book away.

I never used a single thing taught in the book again.

A few months later we moved to a lovely little wood-heated cottage on a long country lane. I was unpacking the books onto our bookshelf after the move and spotted the Babywise book.

“What a load of crap.” My then 22-year-old self grumbled to the empty room. “Way to make me feel like a complete loser: ‘You can’t even get your baby to sleep right.’”

I almost put it in the donate bag. My hand hovered —Babywise in hand– over the bag for a moment.

Do I really want to burden another mom with this trash hogwash advice?

Then, I jumped up and shoved it into the wood stove, slamming the heavy iron door behind it.

“That’s what you can do with your Babywise.”

I returned to my unpacking and soon heard my son stirring in his crib in the other room.

He did learn to sleep in his own bed.

Eventually.

In his own time.

He was six months old before he would sleep without me holding him.

That does not make me a failure.

It makes me the mother of a child who had unique needs that did not fit nicely into a formula.

not a failure babywise post


I am not a failure. I am the mother of a child who has unique needs that do not fit nicely into a formula. —Sarah Forbes


 

Today, he doesn’t have any sleep problems.

But he does have ADHD, a handful of learning disabilities, an anxiety disorder he inherited from his dad’s side of the family, and possibly some things we haven’t diagnosed yet.

Also, he has food sensitivities like I do. But, I wouldn’t learn about his sensitivities –or mine– until more than a decade later.

I am pretty sure the food sensitivities are what caused his ongoing upset tummy.

When he was ready, he started sleeping on his own.

No amount of pushing before he was ready helped.

This has been true his whole life.

I tried potty training him at age 2 when my friends were training their toddlers.

Completely and totally futile.

He potty trained when he was ready.

At age three and a half.

I feel like my whole motherhood with him has been learning to let go and let him be his own person.

On his own schedule.

My second born did most (but not all) things on schedule –or even early.

If I’d had him first, I’m sure that I would have thought all those moms with fussy babies were just doing it wrong.

I cringe when a neurotypical, healthy mom tells a mom who has health problems and special needs (or a family history of it) that if she just followed a schedule and did the Babywise thing her baby would sleep and be happy.

That’s not necessarily true.

For many of us of, it is not.

If Babywise worked for you, I’m happy for you.

More power to ya!

If not, it’s okay: you’re normal –most parents I talk to say it did not work for them.

If it didn’t help, feel completely free to burn the book.

I promise you won’t be the first.

By far.

And, your kid will still grow up to be fine without it.

He will grow up to be himself in his own time and in his own way.

Just like mine did.

Blessings,

Sarah


Because my children need to be able to develop at their own rate, I have chosen to homeschool and let them not only grow at their own rate but learn on their own schedule too. You can read more about that here:


There Is No Behind in Homeschool


So, You Want to Homeschool Your ADHD Child


The Challenging Child


The Testimony of a Strong Willed Child

 

children, faith

Post Revisited: Leading Your Children to Jesus

I don’t think there is a topic more dear to my heart and nothing bring more joy to my heart than seeing my children follow Jesus. This post discusses my concern with my own ability to point my children to the Lord and some resources I found to be very helpful.

 

It’s hard for parents to teach their children solid Bible truths when so few of our churches are actually biblically educating the parents.

Over a dozen years ago, the responsibility of raising two small boys fell heavily on my shoulders. As the stay-at-home parent,  I spent the most time with them and would be doing the most teaching.

I felt that I had a limited knowledge of solid Bible doctrine, so how could I be sure that what I taught my children was accurate? I felt that way even though I had been homeschooled in a Christian home and had read through the Bible more than once before I graduated from high school.

This is when I went searching for resources that could help me learn Bible doctrine as I taught my children.

 

I hope you find the post helpful and encouraging.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes