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!

 

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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

children

Endorsing Courtship: Why We Courted and Plan to Use Courtship with Our Children

My husband and I courted.

Or at least that’s what we called it.

 

Die hard courtship enthusiasts insist that we did not actually court because my father didn’t choose my husband for me and we were allowed to be alone sometimes.

Proponents of dating argue that it was courtship because my husband and I never went on a date together –out to dinner and a movie by ourselves– and because our fathers were involved in setting standards and expectations.

I finally started telling people that it didn’t matter what you called it as long as your relationships are God-honoring.

I mean, that’s what is most important, right?

As a believer, isn’t the most important thing –the whole reason that we would alter from what is standard American dating behavior– that we make choices that align with scripture, are wise, and ultimately honor the Lord?

And everyone seems to have a different definition of what dating/courtship looks like.

I actually call it betrothal when the father picks the husband for the daughter –and I am very opposed to this idea especially since the guys my dad would have picked for me would possibly have been strangled before we could ever get to the wedding day!

(Betrothal is part of middle eastern culture but is absolutely not commanded in scripture; to say it is, is to say that a story is a command which is very very bad Bible interpretation. Courtship is also a choice and not required biblically. It is only one method to try to align our lives with the Bible.]

We were young when we got married: My husband was not quite 19, and I had just turned 20 the month before.

More than one person pulled me aside and said that we were too young and needed to wait, but we proceeded with our parent’s blessings.

We plan to have our children court as well.

As I mentioned, there are many different definitions of courtship, so let me describe what courtship means to me –and what it does not mean.

I know people who courted and it looked like this: dad picked the husband-to-be.

They were basically committed to marriage before they even knew each other and some were even married before they had ever had a chance to have a conversation alone or without someone else listening in.

They were not allowed to hold hands, embrace, or kiss before they were married.

Now, I see the reason for that if you are saving yourself for your wedding night and admit that embracing and kissing made it harder to wait (but not impossible because we did wait).

The biggest issue is that in these cases was that the couple really did not know each other before they got married.

In my opinion, the purpose of courtship is to get to know each other with the intent to get married.

[This is the reason I am opposed to normal dating: you don’t really get to know each other only the best parts of the person.]

If they are not getting to know each other then the point of the courtship is missed.

And if the father is choosing the future husband, that’s all kinds of wrong.

Many times, I have heard of the father choosing someone like himself and failing to recognize sins in the future son-in-law’s life because the father deals with the same sins (alcoholism, pornography, homosexuality, etc).

If she has a say in who she courts and she also has right of refusal if during the courtship process the relationship has issues, then this is a more healthy way to address courtship.

Although one goal of courtship is to avoid heartbreak, some heartbreak will happen when you are trying to deal with sinners in relationships.

Better heartbreak at 19 years old before you are married, then 25 years of married misery, 6 kids, a bunch of abuse, and a divorce later.

Yes, courtships relationships can and have ended in divorce.

That’s just the reality of life in a fallen world.

Courtship doesn’t save a relationship from every trouble.

But hopefully, it gives it a firmer foothold, a better foundation.

As stated above the purpose of courtship is to get to know the person, and when done right it does a better job of this than dating because in stereotypical dating you put your best foot forward –like never even letting him see you without makeup or in a bad light at all and there’s a whole bunch of pretending.

Whereas in courtship you spent time together as families and in groups allowing you to see the prospective mate in their natural setting reacting to real life situations.

[I know some people do the that and call it dating, but I was referring to stereotypical dating.]

This makes it easier to spot issues and harder to gloss over those issues.

Courtship also means that you wait to have sex although the level of intimacy varies between couples.

There is no assumption of waiting in the world of dating.

It really matters how much closeness you can handle and still wait –since waiting is biblical and part of the goal.

For instance, we were fine holding hands and even hugging, but kissing proved to be a bit too much and resulted in us spending a lot of time apart during the last month of our engagement in an effort to not cross a line we couldn’t come back from.

[Not waiting to kiss was important to my husband who didn’t want our first kiss to be in public in front of 500 people like I had originally wanted.]

It was a miserable month, honestly.

But, it was absolutely worth waiting for marriage for intimacy.

Many people –even Christians– seem shocked that we waited.

I have actually had Christians ask me “Do people still do that?”

Yes, they do.

Because the Bible commands it.

It is not easy, but it is a command.

To me, courtship looks very different than dating.

It looks like the parents involved in the relationship, watching for potential issues (this requires good relationships and may not be possible in all situations).

It looks like the couple is old enough and mature enough to handle the topic of marriage and act on (ie old enough to get married).

It’s not just having a good time and a hook-up.

It is always a relationship with the intent to marry.  

You stay in groups and rarely alone in an effort to keep your actions toward each other aligned with scripture.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a private conversation –my future husband and I even talked about sex during our courtship (which may shock some people).

You don’t spend time alone with other people of the opposite sex because you are trying to avoid the appearance of evil (this is true for us even after we got married: I don’t spend time alone with other men except like my dad and brother).

My husband and I were sometimes alone: we worked on the cottage we were going to move into after we got married and sometimes were alone. We sometimes drove from my house to his house without anyone in the car, but generally, we did have someone else with us even if it was one of his grade school siblings.

Exactly how courtship is done varies, and we may end up having slightly different standards and methods with our own children than what our parents had, but I still think it is a good system with good goals.

You can even call it dating if you still have the same goals: to honor the Lord with your life.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes