504 Plans and your ADHD child

I’ve referenced my daughter’s 504 plan before on the blog and it’s possible that some of you don’t know what that is. As with any child who has problem in the classroom, there are ways to make sure that accommodations are made. The goal is to help the child be successful. Lots of people know that IEP (Individualized Education Plans) are available and they can sometimes cover ADHD under the category of OHI (Other Health Impairment). Often though, schools will tell parents that their ADHD child doesn’t qualify for an IEP.

I’ll be honest. As a former teacher, having students with accommodations can be challenging. One child can have multiple accommodations which require the teacher to modify how the child learns and if you have more than one child in a class… well, it quickly becomes a lot of work. School districts have been known to keep things like 504 plans on the hush-hush because it’s easier for the teachers and the staff. I definitely don’t have that problem with my school district and my daughter has a plan that we modify as needed. If you aren’t so lucky though, there are some things that you should know.

  1. 504 refers to the law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) that prohibits discrimination against people with a disability. Essentially, the child needs to have a disability (ADHD is classified as one) and the disability must interfere with the child’s ability to function in a general classroom. Most kids with ADHD are going to have trouble with normal classroom rules and requirements. It’s just how ADHD is.
  2. There are fewer rules governing the 504. IEP’s have very specific requirements regarding what the school must do, how the document is formatted and there are rules about changing it. Those rules don’t apply to 504 plans, which can make things tricky. You have to stay on top of what’s going on in your child’s classroom. 504 plans are usually written documents (although nothing says they have to be, you want this in writing!) that outline what supports are going to be given to the child, and who will implement those supports. Keep in mind that as a parent, you will likely have things that you need to do (sign behavior charts, send in prize materials, fidget toys etc).
  3. You should get a written document outlining your rights as a parent. Read that document and make sure you understand it. Ask questions if you are unsure about something. You need to advocate for your child in this situation. If you don’t nobody else may and that isn’t going to end well for your child.
  4. You can request evaluation for an IEP without getting a 504 plan. In order to get a IEP, you need to make a written request to the school district to have your child evaluated (this is free). You can find sample letters here: Sample Letters from Understood. The school district will then have 60 days to respond to your request. They will have a professional evaluate your child and present you with the results. You can also have a private evaluation done but you will have to pay for it.
  5. What kind of accommodations can you have in a 504 plan? Pretty much anything as long as all the parties are in agreement. You can see some ideas here: Accommodations. Think about what you know will help your child and see if your child’s teacher has any ideas. They have had lots of students, generally, and may have ideas that you haven’t thought of.
  6. There are special education advocates who can help you if you are struggling. I am lucky that I haven’t needed any help so far. I have a background in education so I have some knowledge of the process and the school has been incredibly helpful. That’s not always the case though and you may need somebody on your side who knows the ins and outs of the process. Keep in mind that they are not free and you need to find out what their fees may be. It would also be helpful to find out what kind of experience they have. There are certifying organizations but almost anyone can call themselves a special education advocate.

If you are trying to navigate this process, I get it! It’s hard and frustrating at times, even when you feel like you know what you’re doing. If you need more information, there are places to go for help. Understood is an incredible resource. WrightsLaw is also helpful, although their website can be confusing. ADDitude has plenty of resources and there’s also CHADD. There are resources out there. If you need help, it’s available. I have more resources too, so feel free to ask in the comments if you can’t find what you need on one of the sites I linked to.


Why I run (it’s #somuchgood)

So, let’s do story time because it’s a good time for that. Before I get into story time though, Happy Hannukah! Now… story time.

Once upon a time, I was an overweight kid. I was not terribly coordinated and I was very good at school. I was the last kid that got picked for any team in gym class (with good reason, I will add. I wouldn’t have wanted me either, honestly). The fitness tests that we had to do were a kind of torture, where I did my best to do the mile run over the entire gym period. To be clear, that would be about 40 minutes. I can walk really, really slow. Once I got out of high school, I was mostly relieved that I didn’t have to take anymore gym classes. Not the best choice on my part, I realize now, but I wasn’t interested and gym class had done nothing for me in the previous twelve years. On and off, over the next few years, I’d make attempts at running. Odd considering my avoidance of it in gym class but I felt like I needed to do something to get outside and feel better. Running seemed like a good way to do that. Plus I grew up in Massachusetts where the Boston Marathon is a holiday. Usually, I’d run for a couple months and then quit although to be fair, I also lived in a climate where it snowed in the winter.

By the time my son was born in 2008, I was living a disaster. I hated my job but felt like there was a way to make it better (if I could only find what that way was!), I was overweight and generally miserable. That was also about the time couch to 5K took off. So I decided to give running a try again. After all, now I lived in a climate where it would be possible to run outside almost year round. I made some progress but was never very consistent. I tried but couldn’t quite figure out why I wasn’t very motivated. My problem, primarily, was that I was slow. Who am I kidding? I still am! But slow, when you are running is kind of a horrible thing because there are people who run much faster than you and they are going to be the people winning races. Good for them. Stinks for you. I mean, I wanted something to show for my effort!

The first medal I got was for a 10K Turkey Trot. Everyone got a medal for participating which made me feel proud because I had something to show for the work I had put in. Races with medals tend to be very long though and on the expensive side so I didn’t run a  lot of them. And then running took off. All of a sudden, everybody was getting sneakers and running was a thing! Virtual races started to appear and I discovered that I could get lots of medals for a reasonable price and run when I had the time, instead of trying to find races that I could attend. This was a pretty neat thing and it made me happy but I felt kind of blah about it. I mean, I paid somebody for a medal and they sent it and the world went on. Someone was making a killing on these, I thought to myself. Then I found a wonderful little place.

Random Tuesday was something I stumbled on by accident because I’m a nerd and facebook has crazy algorithms for ads. Here were people like me, who loved some geeky things and also liked to run. But more importantly, they found a way to make those lovely medals even more special, because the money goes to charity. Every event has a theme and a charity sponsor. It’s all kinds of awesome.

So what’s the moral of the story? Do your thing. Love your thing. Find a way to make your thing do good in the world. And if you can’t, find the people who figured out a way to do just that.

ADHD, Healthy Eating

ADHD and food (or how to get your kid to eat)

So stimulant medications can do a great deal to help people who have ADHD, allowing the brain to work the way it should or at least a closer approximation to neurotypical. Unfortunately, there are side effects. Aren’t there always? *sigh* One of the most common, especially in children, is loss of appetite. Most adults I know are quick to respond how great that would be. And yeah, that might be true if you have twenty pounds to lose. However, hyperactive kids expend a lot of energy to start with and also have the energy expenditures associated with growth. Add in loss of appetite and you have a recipe for underweight kids.

Que my little one. We have been battling weight loss. She is almost nine (in March). She has just hit the four foot mark. She weighs a touch over 46 pounds right now. Not heavy enough, honestly. She probably has close to zero percent body fat. She is made up of a lot of muscle. She can flex with the best body builders. She is also always cold (no fat) and you can see a lot of bones that I wish you couldn’t see that well. If you have a kiddo with the same problems, you may be wondering what to do about it. I mean, how do you get a kid to eat who isn’t hungry, especially one who rarely slows down? I’ll offer up my tips and tricks so far and what we’re working on to try and increase her weight.

  1. Snacks. We’re told from a young age that a person should eat three meals a day. Well, to heck with that. I try to get her to eat small portions much more frequently. I aim for six meals. Really, it’s more like snacking all day. This includes at school, a process we’re working on. I’m trying to get it added into her 504 plan. If you don’t know what that is, I’ll post about it soon but for ADHD kids in schools, they can be great.
  2. Finger foods. Be careful with this because it’s very easy to give your kid junk food all the time. Finger foods are good though because they’re portable. Veggies are good, as are things like protein bars. Watch sugar content in everything though because things like that like to have loads of extra sugars. Nuts (if they aren’t allergic) are also a great choice.
  3. Shakes. Carnation instant breakfast, protein mix, whatever you can use to create a healthy but calorie loaded shake is fair game.
  4. Which also means nix the low fat stuff. Your kiddo needs the fat for brain development. Just choose healthy fats. Whole milk, whole milk dairy products, etc. Most of them taste better that way too. If you’re really adverse to it for the rest of your family, buy your kiddo their own stuff. It really is better for you though. We have been taught that fat is bad but it’s not. It’s moderation of fat and the right kinds of fats that are key.
  5. Healthy carbs. Whole wheat bread, brown rice, and pancakes with whole wheat flour are all good ways to up the calorie content and still have healthy food. Include some eggs with the pancakes and you have a very healthy and calorie dense breakfast.
  6. When all else fails, make them what you know they’ll eat. With picky kids who are very low weight, it’s not always worth it to fight for the healthiest or best options. Not in the moment anyway. Yes, I want my children to learn to eat healthy foods. That is a long term goal, however, and in the short term, I need her to gain weight. If that means she eats a lot of macaroni and cheese then that’s what she’s getting. I’ll buy the healthiest option she’ll eat and do what I can to make it better but sometimes it’s better to lose the battle and win the war.

I have a bunch of posts I’m working on. Soon there will be more content!


What I’ve learned from minimizing

So it’s been awhile since I talked in death about my minimalist adventure. Part of that is because the bulk of it is done and there isn’t as much to talk about. The other part is that I’ve been reflecting on where I want to be with my minimalism. At what point is it enough? How much do I still need/want to pare down? And probably most importantly, how much is spending too much or have I really stopped over buying? I thought I’d take a moment, now that the year is close to an end to talk about things that I’ve learned in this process and where I think I’m going from this point.

There are no regrets. Seriously. When I started getting rid of things, a part of me worried that I would regret getting rid of things, that I would suddenly discover that I needed them once they were gone. The answer is emphatically a no. I can’t think of anything that I got rid of that I have needed. In fact, I can’t even really tell you what I’ve gotten rid of. I can tell you that I have decreased the number of bookcases in my home significantly and I have not missed any of the books I got rid of. I was looking at what I have left yesterday and thinking about whether or not what I have is what I want to keep. I was looking at DVD’s for the same reason the other day. I have a box that is headed for donation and I’m trying to make sure that it’s got everything that I want to have gone in it. I’d like to start the new year with the right amount of stuff. Which brings me to my next point.

I’m still not sure what too much stuff is. I have started taking a hard look at what I have and thinking about it all carefully. I have worked on making my wardrobe what I would like it to be. Now that the things I never wore are gone, I have realized that there are things I need. I’ve been slowly filling in the holes but it’s a process. When I buy something I want to make sure that it’s exactly what I want. I have started replacing some of the older stuff in my kitchen and I’m still decreasing in that area too. The same problems have arisen as with my wardrobe where I’ve discovered things that I should have but don’t. I have been very deliberate about what I buy though and have given thought to each item. Instead of doing giant declutters I do small replacements. An item gets updated and the old one gets removed. Little by little, progress is being made and I’m getting closer to the home I want.

Decluttering has made me see that my home is in awful shape. This is kind of a sad but true statement. The walls haven’t been painted in years because it was too much trouble to move furniture. There are cobwebs in places that I couldn’t reach because of stuff. In some cases, the stuff hid just how bad the mess really was. That has meant that I have been tackling some big projects and the place is starting to look better little by little. I have patched holes in walls, started repainting areas and have a list of things that I need to work on. There is still a lot that I need to work on and as I continue to get rid of things, I see where the improvements are. I also have a wish list. For example, I’d like a stackable washer and dryer so that I can use part of the laundry closet for storage of cleaning supplies. Then all of those items would be in the same space. That’s a long term goal I suppose, but still on my list. Ultimately, I’d like to redo the entire kitchen so that the space is more usable. The same is true for a couple of spaces in the house.

Cleaning is easier. This one should be kind of obvious.

And lastly, you can’t declutter for other people. This is a sad fact but is also something that I have had to contend with. We have a box of cords in our bedroom. I don’t think anything in that box has been used since we moved here but still it sits there. My husband does not see this project the same way I do. So I have had to work around his things. This means that there is a lot of stuff that I feel like we could get rid of and really make our home a place of peace but it’s not mine to get rid of so it has to stay. This principle holds true for children as well. While my kids have moved toward my way of thought and both of them have made progress, the decision still has to be theirs and sometimes that’s very hard. Even after I walk them through whether or not something is truly of value, sometimes they still keep things that I would not. That’s their choice and I have worked hard to respect those decisions.

So there you all have it. An update into the crazy decluttering that I have been working on. I’m sure there will be more in the future. I have a couple of posts in my head, so hopefully, there will be some more updates in the near future. Until then, keep decluttering!

Books, Running

Running and reading

I have been trying to get my lazy butt back onto a schedule, where I actually exercise. I’ve found that I really need to schedule the time because even though I feel like I have lots of it, if I don’t schedule the time it somehow slips away. This is something I’m still working on. At any rate, I have picked a race because if anything will motivate me, it’s the fact that I dropped some change on a real race.*

*Side note: my virtual races are awesome but sometimes I don’t use my time as well because I know I can run them whenever. When I have a fixed date that I have a particular distance that has to be run that’s a different story.

I digress. In an effort to move a little faster than my slow-even-though-I’m-faster-than-the-people-who-don’t-do-anything way, I decided to look at some of my running idols. People that I admire, although I could never consider running with them because their easy run is faster than my all out sprint. I got three books to work on my running. Meb for Mortals, Strong, and Let Your Mind Run.

Meb for Mortals is very much a training type book. It’s written by Meb Keflezighi, who won the Boston Marathon in 2014. He talks about how he trains in details talking about food, training, and stretching. I love it for the detail he goes into. He talks about the importance of recovery and there is a lot of information in there that I need to process. Some of the things I do but there’s a ton I can learn, technically.

Strong is written by Kara Goucher. It is less of a reading book and more of a journal. She talks about the mental aspect of running and if I’m honest, as much as I love running it is a huge mental game and I know after having read some of this and the next book that I am defeating myself with my own brain. She walks you through setting goals and learning positive self talk. It is a place to start and I am excited to sit and start writing in this one. I haven’t yet though because of the next book.

Let Your Mind Run is by Deena Kastor and is very much in the style of Kara’s book. She talks about how her talent was part of her success but that she never would have become the runner she is without learning how to change how she thinks. I am loving this book. It’s written as a memoir and is interesting to follow her path from running in high school to becoming a professional runner. Her self discovery is amazing and it complements Strong beautifully. I’m hoping to take the two books and begin to learn how to stop getting into my head.

In January, I run the Hot Chocoalte 15K. I am excited and after reading these books, i hope that I’ll be a little better prepared to do the best job that I can.


She can when she wants to! (External Motivation)

So, if you have worked with a child with ADHD, then you are probably aware that when they have an interest in a task, they can complete it without issue. However, if they aren’t interested then they typically shut down and avoid the task. Most of the time, this gets them labeled as lazy or defiant. That’s not it though. The issue is in their brain.

There isn’t enough dopamine in an ADHD brain. Dopamine is what makes us have internal motivation. It’s the internal carrot that we have that allows us to complete a task that we know we should. If that system doesn’t work, there is no carrot. If there’s no point in doing a task, would you do it? Of course not! As adults, we have a much better understanding of the reasons why we do tasks, even ones that are less than rewarding for us. People with ADHD, especially kids, don’t have that understanding and there’s no way for them to become internally motivated. So what do you do?

You create the reward system.

I know. This goes against all the typical advice. If you reward kids for doing things then they will always expect a reward! You don’t have a typical child though and the typical advice isn’t helpful in this case. Let me tell you a secret. Your child will never develop that internal reward system, so if you don’t create one then there isn’t one at all!

Now I’m not saying that you should go out and buy your child a new toy for doing their homework everyday. That wouldn’t be helpful. What you need to do is think about what your child loves and then implement a system for them to earn those things. It can be totally free. Maybe it’s time playing a video game with dad. Maybe it’s going for a run with mom. Maybe it’s a movie night at home. And they don’t get it for doing one thing. They get it for doing many things over a period of time.

You will need something to give to your child. A sticker works or a small pebble like you can buy in a craft store. You can use popsicle sticks. The item doesn’t matter. Your child needs to be able to collect them and you need to decide how many they need to earn their reward. It is extremely helpful to start out with small numbers to earn a reward and slowly push up the numbers that they need as they become more successful.

I will say that this idea is from Dr. Russell Barkley. He’s an expert on ADHD and I have listened to multiple lectures on YouTube and read his book (Taking Charge of ADHD). I have learned a lot from him. He also suggests that you can take away items for poor behavior. I haven’t needed to do that but you may need to for your child. Also, keep in mind that this is a learning process for your child and they are going to test the limits. Whatever rules you set, you need to hold to for this to work. There may be a lot of push back at first but if you keep going, eventually there will be progress. Consistency is key!


Declutter update

So, it’s been awhile since I hit a point where I felt I was mostly done decluttering. It has been months since I had to do a large declutter, for sure. I’ve been spending time organizing the things that are left.

For example, I bought a bookcase for my son’s Legos and got them sorted into smaller bins. That’s a huge step, since before he had 1-20 gallon bin full of Legos. As I have decluttered, I’ve discovered that I have more storage and organization items than I really need. Imagine that! A couple of years ago, there was never enough. Now I have to much.

I have slowly started looking at organization in each area and determining how I really want thinks organized. This process is done very deliberately. Once I’ve thought about how I want something stored, I look at my excess organization items. If I have what I need, then I use it. I’ve gotten pretty creative in that area, making things work in ways I never thought about before. If I truly don’t have what I need then I look to see if I can find it. After, I’ve considered options carefully, I will purchase something and organize.

After having done this a few times, I’ve found more things that I am not using and I almost always have a donation box going now. It fills very slowly, usually but when it’s full I bring it to a donation site. I try not to keep anything for more than a couple of weeks. I don’t need things lying around my house not being used.

The end result is that I have more storage space in my house than I thought! I used to complain all the time about not having enough space. The house I grew up in had a basement and an attic and this house only has an attic. However, there’s almost nothing in the attic and there is space in most rooms of my house. I try to keep a one in, one out rule. I’ve found some things needed to be replaced. As I replace them, I get rid of the old items. I just recently got a new set of kitchen knives to replace the cobbled together set I had before.

The decrease in clutter has made it easier to clean and now I’ve started working on home renovation projects. I can easily see what needs to be done and I have the space to do it. I’ve started looking at creating some worksheets and guides to help you work through this process. As soon as I have the first one ready, I’ll post about it. And as always, I’ll keep you updated about the process and where I am in it. It’s always changing and it’s been fun to see how life has changed as things have cleared out.