Tag: ADHD

The Outcome Was Not Hilarious

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There‘s a Facebook “ask your child these questions and post the results” quiz going around, and on a whim, I decided to ask my son for his answers. I thought it would be funny. A lark.

He was crying by the second question.

I really feel like I’m cocking up this parenting thing 98% of the time. Am I the only one who feels this way? I always feel like I’m failing at parenting, no matter how hard I try.

 

My son is diagnosed with ADHD. I am also. I’m his genetic link. This feels great, by the way—passing on a brain type to one’s child that makes life harder. No guilt associated with this at all. Nope. Nada. (Also, I’m sarcastic. Did I mention that sarcasm is my favorite defense mechanism?) So basically, I failed my son from the second he was conceived. I failed him in utero. Off to a great start.

Today, I started the meant-to-be-funny test verbally to see what my son would say. Here’s how it went.

 

WITHOUT prompting, ask your child these questions and write EXACTLY what they say. The outcome will be hilarious. 😂

Interviewed: M, 10.

 

Me: What is something I say a lot?

Him: I love you.

 

(Okay, we seem to be off to a good start. I am such a loving mother. Yay, me!)

 

Me: What makes me happy?

Him: When I do the right thing.

 

I looked at him sadly. His answer broke my heart.

My son then started crying. Tears rolling down his face. Because this is what it feels like to be a kid with ADHD.

This is also what it feels like to be an adult with ADHD.

You feel like your inability to control impulsive behavior, your easy distractibility, and your problem finishing things (on which you aren’t hyperfocusing) all make you a bad person.

Because your behavior is corrected constantly, you also feel like you’re failing all of the time. At everything.

 

Eventually, if you’re like me, you may become chronically anxious, overthinking and hesitating before every decision, because you’re so used to making the wrong choices.

You may often freeze from indecision and fear, lest you fail the people counting on you to do the right thing, one more lousy time.

You may worry they will stop loving you, or leave you, because you can never seem to make people happy, no matter what you do.

You may grow up feeling alone in the world, and unable to trust anyone, because nobody ever stays. You will then blame, berate, and emotionally beat yourself up for not being able to maintain a healthy relationship with another human.

 

It really sucks.

 

We try so hard to choose our battles and be gentle with our son, but the reality is that when someone is constantly impulsive—to the point of being a danger to themselves, or an annoyance to others—you have to say something.

Present parents teach their children how to behave appropriately. If these teachable moments are happening all… day… long… the emotionally immature recipient of your “life lessons,” no matter how gently you present them, starts to feel like a failure. Quantity trumps quality eventually.

And being human, you’re sometimes not as kind or patient as you should have been—especially when you’re correcting the same poor choice for the 100th time, and that behavior is something your child should have mastered years earlier.

Sisyphus has nothing on the parents of an ADHD-brained kid. We wish we were only rolling a damned rock up a hill all day. At least then we’d have the luxury of not worrying about how we’re making the rock feel as we roll it over and over again, and what kind of a rock it’s going to grow up into because of our ineptitude.

Having a child with a developmental delay is like having a toddler for 3 times longer than you should, and you will want to punch yourself in the face. Often. Sometimes a pillow in a bedroom behind a locked door will have to do, because we need faces to see, eat, communicate, and other important crap like that.

 

When I’m handling it well, I feel like there is nobody as patient as me in the whole wide world. I am the Queen of Patience. I am an angel in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to guide this child to adulthood with love and light and also a lot of laundry.

When I’m not handling it well, and I lose my temper, I feel like the shittiest human who ever walked the planet. I am the Queen of Shit. I am Satan in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to ruin the life of an innocent boy with snappish remarks and nagging and also a lot of laundry.

I know he’s just a kid, without the life experience or perspective I have, and of course he’s not going to inherently understand everything. He deserves the same chance to make mistakes and learn from them the rest of us received. So unfortunately, when I am not at my best, “Queen of Shit” is written on the sash I wear to complement my gown made from the tattered fabric of parental shame. I don’t deserve a tiara.

 

It’s a frustrating cycle, and it kills me because I was the same kid; misunderstood and angry all of the time. I still lack self-esteem. I still have a chip on my shoulder that flares up if I feel I’m being treated like I’m stupid—a bitchy, defensive chip that my husband “enjoys” dealing with on the reg. I still feel like I’m failing all of the time. And I so desperately want life to be better for my son.

God, I don’t want him to feel like I do. I don’t want anybody to feel like I do.

 

I asked why he was crying, and he said, “I’m crying because I don’t know what makes you happy.”

 

Oh, my heart. Ouch. And then I started crying. I opened my arms and he came over to the couch and jumped into my lap like we do at the start of every day.

I hugged him for a long time. I told him that he makes me happy because he exists, and not only when he’s doing the right thing. That I am trying to teach him how to be a good person when I correct his behavior, and making mistakes is normal because that’s how we all learn to do the right thing.

I told him I will always love him, and that even when he’s doing something that doesn’t make me happy, I love him just as much then. I told him I’m only trying to help him learn to make good choices, and that I will never love him any less, no matter what he does.

I told him he makes me happy just by being here.

 

I’m trying. I’m trying to make sure my son doesn’t feel like a failure. I feel like I’m failing at parenting while I try to make sure my child doesn’t feel like he’s failing at being a human.

I recognize the duplicity of the above process, but I don’t have a better solution.

 

Failing. Failing, failing, failing.

 

*****

 

After I dried his tears and told him the test was supposed to be fun, we continued. I wanted to salvage this moment. I wanted to lighten it.

 

Me: How tall am I? 

Him: 5’9″

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What’s my favorite color? 

Him: I don’t know? Blue or purple or something? 

 

(Close. Blue-green.)

 

Me: What is my favorite thing to do?

Him: Write on the computer?

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What makes you proud of me? 

Him: That you do everything for me. You’ve kept me alive for the last 10 years!

 

(Jesus. It’s nice to be appreciated, but keeping you alive is my job, kid. I feel kind of bad about his answer. I am officially promising Future Me will never guilt trip my son. Do you hear that Future Me? He appreciates you. Like, biologically. No guilt trips.)

 

Me: What is my favorite food?

Him: Burritos?

 

(Correct! Well, actually, my favorite food is artichokes, but they’re expensive, so bean burritos with cheese and green sauce are my number one comfort food. They have been since I was a kid in Phoenix.)

 

Me: Do you think you could live without me?

Him: No! I couldn’t!

 

(I smiled and kept it light, but seriously. What kind of a needy, Disney-movie-moms-must-die kind of question is this? My son freaked out recently, when, at almost-11, he saw the REAL beginning to “Finding Nemo” on TV. It was his first favorite movie, and I skipped past the “mom dies” beginning every time. Because damn, Disney. That’s some heavy shit to drop on toddlers. Stop it.)

 

Me: If I could go anywhere, where would it be?

Him: I don’t know? An island?

 

(Wrong, unless the island was never sunny and not surrounded by water, which would make it not an island. The vast endlessness of the ocean freaks me out, and I am extremely photosensitive. He got the solitude part right, though, if that’s what he meant.  I’d love a cloudy, cool climate and a house alone in the forest.)

 

Me: What is my favorite show?

Him: Your medical shows.

 

(Correct! I love all medical shows. If I could go back in time and change my college major, I would choose nursing instead.)

 

*****

 

This was the end of the test.

My son is a volatile, high-strung, emotional and extremely empathetic human, just like me. We feel everything in the world. It’s exhausting. The ADHD brain type doesn’t help.

So I should probably mention that I’ve also made him cry over his pancakes by jokingly making the Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup bottle exclaim, “No! Don’t drink my lifeblood, little boy!”

He’s run crying over to me after a group of shitty kids stomped a cool bug he was watching.

He cries over sad shows on television. He’s a sensitive soul. But still. Today was a reminder to be as gentle as possible with my son, as often as I can muster it.

 

What a hilarious outcome. Thanks, stupid Facebook quiz.

 

 

 

 

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Winning

(Random babblings from April 20, 2011.)

I really hate that I actually won something the other day, yet the title of this post looks like a Charlie Sheen reference. Give us back that word, damn it.

I won a call-in trivia contest the news has here every morning. It’s called “Watch 2 Win” and I watched and won. I was the 9th caller. Isn’t that funny? The fact that the answer was Robert Pattinson, the guy from the movie Twilight is only mildly humiliating because I won a $40 gift certificate to Charleston’s restaurant, suckas! Yeah, that’s right! Money makes humiliation less humiliating! And bonus: there is a Charleston’s near our house and we already like the place because I can get a good salad there.

It’s hard to find a good non-iceburg or non-Caesar salad in the Midwest. About a year ago, I decided to commit to eating a green leafy salad every single day, either for lunch or dinner. I am one of those weird people who loves vegetables and salad, so it didn’t take a huge effort, and I can honestly say that I eat a salad every single day. But it is even hard to find good lettuce in the grocery stores here. There is no Trader Joe’s with the wall of amazing bags of lettuce varities here. I’m lucky to find a spring mix in Oklahoma. Oddly enough, Wal-Mart sells a big clear box of organic spring mix at the cheapest price I’ve found.

Yay. Lettuce talk. This is an exciting blog, I know. Try to control yourself.

It doesn’t help that I’m writing this at 2 a.m. I can’t sleep, so I’m lying on the couch in the living room, pillow and laptop on my legs, typing this. It’s a living.

I say that a lot. It’s one of my favorite inside jokes between me and me. It’s a living. It’s funny because it’s not.

I don’t like to post blogs from this computer because unlike the desktop, where a red line will form under a word I’ve misspelled, I can’t figure out how to turn that function on in my laptop. It’s new and I’m not tech-talented. I’m naturally very good at spelling, but if I accidentally leave out a letter, that red line is convenient. Like above, I spelled “commit” as “comit” even though I know how it’s spelled. I know how to spell “commit.” (I am not afraid of commitment! STOP PRESSURING ME.)

I didn’t know how much I counted on those little red lines until I got the new laptop. Can’t beat lying on my back, propped up on pillows, typing in the dark living room, however. The clock says 2:22. And I just typed “The cock says 2:22.” No shit. Which would be a very different (yet much more interesting) type of blog. See? I need the red lines.

***

So I guess you’ve probably figured out that the tornado didn’t get me the other night. We had a fun time hanging out in the bathtub, my son and I, while the husband hovered in front of the television, watching for tornado news. He’s 6’5″ so he doesn’t climb into closets and bathtubs unless we see the tornado. Poor tall guy.

The sirens went off, but they always go off here if conditions are right for rotation. So eerie, the sirens. In Kansas they never turned on the sirens unless a tornado had been spotted on the ground, so that’s what I got used to growing up. It freaked me out for my first year in Oklahoma, the way they ran the sirens every time a tornado was possible, because in my head, there was one on the way to suck me up.

I moved from Phoenix to Kansas as a kid when my mom re-married, and the tornado watches on the television scared the crap out of me. I would pace from window to window, watching the clouds in terror. I have had tornado nightmares ever since, and still do every few months. I mean, what a horrifying thing. A giant swirling vortex drops from the sky and pulverizes everything in its path? That is just really not cool.

When we moved to Kansas, it was also discovered that I was deathly afraid of fire. Not like, healthy respect for something hot, but “my parents yelling at me for being ridiculous, trying to get me to come within 25 feet of the camp fire to toast marshmallows with the family” afraid of fire. I think I probably died in a fire in a past life. Or, I’m a huge chickenshit in this life. You know. One or the other.

I recently realized I’d passed on my fear of wasps to my son. I tried not to do this, and I’m not even one of those girls who is afraid of bugs, mice, or snakes. As I discussed above, I grew up on a farm. I can pee outside. And I’m not even super afraid of fire anymore. But wasps creep me out. I think it’s the fact that they can sting, fly and hover. The way they hover in the air around us seems so aggressive. Plus I’ve been stung a lot. It hurts. It makes me feel nauseated and weird. My sister threw up once after being stung a few times by a wasp that flew up her shorts, so I wonder if we’re not a bit allergic.

My son screams and runs when a wasp is within 100 feet. Just freaks out. Cries, even, just from the fear. Or maybe he’s just picking up on my fear. He’s one of those kids that is really sensitive and empathetic beyond his years, just like I always was. It’s a gift/curse. I could already tell he got it from me at the age of two, when he would give toys to other kids to make them happy and extend a hand to help kids up at the playground.

Other moms, moms I don’t know, will say things to me on the playground like, “My child would never do something like that at this age. He’s so sweet.” If he accidentally hurts me being clumsy, I have to play down the pain and pretend I’m okay or he’ll burst into tears because he feels so bad.

It’s odd, because most of the things I read tell me I’m supposed to have trouble teaching him empathy at this age, but I’m already having to teach him how to distance himself from the suffering of others. There is so much pain in the world that it will take over your soul and wear you out if you’re an empath. You have to learn how to not let pain have its way with you, or you’ll be crying all the time. It’s taken me 30+ years to figure that out. I hope I can help my son figure it out sooner.

Anyhow. Rather than buying poison to spray on his playset where the wasps were trying to build nests, we decided to tackle the problem organically. We bought a bird feeder, a bluebird house, and a purple martin house, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work. The backyard is full of birds all day, and we haven’t seen a wasp since. I can’t believe it worked so well. Go nature!

***

Jesus. I am really babbling. Whew. If you’ve stuck with me for this long, you deserve some sort of prize. How about some goofy pictures I took of myself yesterday in a grody clay face mask? I took them while I was sitting in this exact same spot, so they kind of count as a daily portrait, right? I promised to take a daily portrait, but I just haven’t felt like being on the Internet much lately. I’m barely even on Facebook. Just not feeling it. Ever go through a phase like that?

It’s 3 a.m. now. Time to pass out. xoxo.




Gifted Children: 10 Signs Your Kid is Super Smart

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Gifted children often go unidentified, leading to boredom and frustration in the classroom, which can appear to be ADHD or other behavioral disorders. These improper diagnoses can prevent intelligent kids from reaching their full potential academically, as well as disrupting their emotional growth and well-being.

When smart, sensitive children are treated as troublemakers because they have different needs or require extra mental stimulation, this condemnation from the authority figures in their lives can lead to feelings of rejection and a defiant attitude, turning the negative labels into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This problem makes it very important to recognize gifted children as soon as possible, with many schools now performing intelligence tests (such as the OLSAT) on the entire student population, beginning as early as 1st grade.

Below are 10 signs to help you know if your child may be intellectually or creatively gifted:

 

  1. A Restless Brain—

Gifted kids have trouble focusing on subjects that don’t interest them, and much of the time when this happens in a school setting, this disinterest stems from the fact that they are being forced to sit through and “learn” concepts along with the rest of the class that the gifted child has already mastered.

 

  1. Many Questions— 

When a child asks questions constantly, especially about the way things work, this can be a characteristic of giftedness. If they seek knowledge beyond the basic answers, or want to study very specific concepts, this can also be a sign of an extremely bright young mind.

  

  1. Endless Energy—

A gifted child often has a body that races along in an attempt to keep up with their rapidly moving mind. This constant mental and physical movement can lead to difficulty sleeping, which you may notice during infanthood; or in the form of an early end to daily toddler naps. It can also lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD in a child not kept intellectually challenged.

 

  1. Super Sensitivity—

Along with advanced intelligence, gifted children may also show sensitivity beyond what a child in their age group normally possesses. These kids may still be of average maturity for their age while empathetically advanced, causing them emotional issues that may incorrectly present as behavioral disorders.

 

  1. Perfectionism, Please—

Gifted children hate making mistakes, and will often set overly high expectations, becoming agitated and upset when they don’t achieve them immediately. If your child gets frustrated, angry or gives up easily when not instantly good at something, this may be the cause.

 

  1. Natural Leaders—

If you’ve noticed your child tries to dominate the situations or manage groups in which he or she is placed, this can be a sign of intelligence. While shy children can be gifted too, it is very common for smart kids to be opinionated and outspoken, causing them to be seen as leaders by their peers.

 

  1. Intense Focus—

The same gifted children who become unfocused and disruptive when bored by topics they’re not interested in will show an amazing power of concentration concerning anything of interest to them.

 

  1. Advanced Language Skills—

Precocious early reading abilities and a large vocabulary for their age are two common signs that a child may be gifted.

  

  1. Challenges Authority—

With a quick-moving, inquisitive mind comes the need for answers, which can directly clash with the “shut up and do what I say” approach of many authority figures. Rather than robotically doing as they’re told, gifted children are often labeled as rebellious because they question how things are done.

While children definitely need to learn to be respectful, and that there is a time and a place to ask questions or challenge the system, many people misinterpret the curiosity and problem solving skills exhibited by gifted kids as disrespect, not realizing the child is simply using the intellect beyond their years with which they’ve been gifted.

 

  1. Unusual Interests—

Gifted children are known for finding something that fascinates or challenges their mind, and wanting to delve deeper into the subject than what would be average for their age. They may also start odd collections of things typically not considered collectible.

 

 

While there is no universally accepted definition of gifted, generally students who score 130 or higher on IQ tests, show consistently high academic achievement, or test 2 or more grade levels above average for their age are considered intellectually gifted. Children who show advanced artistic or musical talent may also be considered creatively gifted.

No matter what the definition may be, it is clear that gifted children have different psychological and educational needs that should be addressed and supported by the parents, teachers and other adult advocates in their lives as early as possible. If you believe you may have a gifted kid, communicate with your school’s administrators to ensure your child receives the academic and emotional encouragement they need to thrive.

Living with ADHD: Tips to Help Your Child Succeed at School

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If you are parenting a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), then you know how exhausting it can be to stay on top of their performance in school, and to help their neurologically atypical brains retain information.

The educators at your child’s school can be your best supporters, and under Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, they are required to work with parents to meet the needs of children significantly affected by ADHD. This means you will need to set up a meeting about your child’s ADHD to find ways to help them learn.

Below are some accommodations and teaching tips used to help kids with ADHD achieve success in school:

 

1. Paint It Positive—

For the psychological well-being of your child, it’s extremely important that you don’t describe their condition in a negative manner, and instead present it to them in a positive way. (Example: “You have a really fast brain… like a race car!”) Remind them that everyone learns differently… and that’s okay.

Be sure teachers are also treating kids with ADHD as “quick-brained” kids who learn differently, and not isolating them from the other kids, so they don’t feel ostracized or flawed.

 

2. Praise is Powerful—

Kids with ADHD often suffer from low self-esteem because they feel like they’re constantly failing at the things all of the neurologically typical children around them can do.

This makes it crucial to give them positive reinforcement for appropriate classroom behavior whenever possible.

 

3. Accountability for Actions—

It is important that kids are not allowed to use ADHD as an excuse for bad classroom behavior.

Even if the impulse control commonly exhibited by kids with this condition caused them to do something without thinking, there still need to be clearly defined and consistent consequences.

 

4. Selective Seating—

With the high distractibility factor of ADHD-brained children comes the need for a learning environment with the least amount of external stimulation possible.

Seating by windows, doors, pencil sharpeners and other concentration-breakers is not recommended.

Placement as close to the teacher as possible, facing forward is best, but if the classroom is organized in groups or tables, be sure to seat them near a well-organized, obedient child to provide a positive behavioral role model.

 

5. Simplify Steps—

One of the hardest things for an ADHD-brained person to do is remember more than a few steps at once. Be sure to deliver instructions one at a time, and repeat if necessary.

Because they are so easily distracted (when not hyper-focused and ignoring all around them), those with ADHD neurology can have very limited short term memory, so adjust classroom lessons and homework accordingly.

 

6. Orderly Organization—

Kids with ADHD are known for being disorganized and forgetful due to their distractibility and impulsive nature, making it hard for them to think beyond the moment.

These qualities are caused by a developmental delay in the prefrontal cortex of the brain: the part that controls executive functions, such as impulse control and focus.

This means they will need help remembering what to take home and bring back to school, with plenty of parent-teacher communication. A written system to remember important work or due dates can help, as can a list posted in their locker to be checked before leaving school every day.

For older children, an extra set of all textbooks to be kept at home can help eliminate the issue of forgetting to bring books home for homework.

 

7. Remembering Routines—

Getting into a routine can be helpful for any child, but for the ADHD mind, routine is necessary for remembering important daily tasks. Forming regular habits can eventually train the brain to better recall what needs to be done every day.

In the classroom, giving the ADHD child a set schedule and sticking to it will help them feel less anxious about what is expected from them.

If this weekly routine can be written down for them to reference, it will help eliminate worries about forgetting something important.

 

Kids with ADHD have trouble sitting still, exhibit impulsive, distracting behavior, and have trouble focusing or paying attention; all of which can make them very difficult to teach.

But with up to 12% of the school-age population diagnosed with this condition, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there are many ways for you and their teachers to help your child thrive. With your help, and the support of professional educators, your ADHD-brained child will be able to find success at school.

Music Matters: Using Music Therapy to Help Children

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Popular amongst psychological professionals for decades, music therapy is a respected treatment for children with learning disabilities, physical, emotional or behavioral disorders and atypical neurology. With music therapy, kids have been shown to heal faster, overcome anxiety and improve socially.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act, music therapy has proven so valuable for assisting children with disabilities that it is an official special educations service that can be provided by the school if it is determined that a child may benefit from it.

 

Below are 6 different ways music therapy can help children, and how it works.

 

1. Music Therapy Can Help Kids with Autism—

Autistic children can sometimes have trouble communicating, making eye contact, and socializing. Music has been shown to pull autistic kids out of their private worlds, allowing them to better connect as they bond over music.

Music therapy can help kids who with communication hurdles by allowing kids to engage with others, especially when allowed to play musical instruments themselves.

By making socializing fun, music takes the anxiety out of interpersonal interaction for many children.

 

2. Music Therapy Can Help Kids with ADHD—

Music is naturally calming, no matter what the style, as long as the listener finds it pleasant.

Kids with ADHD often experience anxiety because memory issues and being unfocused/easily distracted can lead to learning and behavioral problems. Music therapy can be a great way to calm anxious or frustrated children.

Multiple studies have found that music therapy also improves motor skills and attention in kids with ADHD, which can help them fit in socially and perform better intellectually.

 

3. Music Therapy Can Help Kids with Mental Processing—

Music playing in the background while kids work on math problems and language arts has been proven to allow children to more efficiently process information, with classical being the most beneficial genre.

Music can also improve memory by giving students something melodic and memorable to mentally link to what is being taught for better retention and recall.

 

4. Music Therapy Can Help Kids Physically Heal—

For a sick child, the hospital can be a sterile, cold and scary place. Fear raises anxiety and stress levels, which has been proven to be extremely detrimental to the healing process.

When compared to anti-anxiety medications in studies, music therapy proved more successful for calming hospitalized children by distracting them from unpleasant procedures and their intimidating environment.

In a recent study, children receiving music therapy during bone marrow transplants actually produced white blood cells faster than kids who didn’t receive music therapy. (Source: University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.)

 

5. Music Therapy Can Help Kids Express Emotions—

Children with emotional disorders and/or kids who have been traumatized at an early age can have trouble expressing their feelings because what they’re trying to process is so overwhelming.

Without the life perspective of an adult, children often don’t know how to adequately put into words what is bothering them, even when talk therapy would be highly beneficial.

Music can help kids identify with a feeling, rather than a verbal definition, giving them an outlet to express emotions that doesn’t force them to put their problems into words. This process can be extremely cathartic by allowing kids to work emotional issues out of their systems via music.

 

6. Music Therapy Can Help Kids Feel Good About Themselves—

Being allowed to bang on a drum or play an instrument can be empowering for a child, fostering creativity and raising self-esteem by making them feel accomplished at a new skill.

When allowed to play instruments with a group of children, kids who might normally be shy or insecure may feel accepted and more confident, helping them to assimilate smoothly with peers and make friends faster.

 

The benefits of music therapy are evident, and the profoundly positive effect it has on kids has been widely studied and documented. Music therapy continues to grow in popularity both in health care and psychology, validating it as a useful treatment and creative way to help children thrive.

Fitness Faux Pas: 5 Ways You’re Doing the Gym Wrong

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Every day, I go to the gym after I see my son off to school. I’m diagnosed with ADHD and generalized anxiety/panic disorder, so after I have a green protein shake and my delicious daily Xanax, I go to the gym. This allows me to burn excess energy, get the positive endorphins flowing, and work off anxiety.

And every day, the people in my gym unknowingly cause me some of the anxiety I’m there to alleviate.

I’ve been working out at home and in gyms since I was 14, and am well-versed in proper weightlifting form. I’m one of those wacky people who’s always loved to exercise, probably because it corrects a lot of my brain chemical imbalances and raises my low self-esteem. (Let’s hear it for body image issues! Woo! No? Just me?) If I start my day with a good workout, I have a better day. It’s guaranteed. So not going to the gym isn’t an option.

Because of the aforementioned anxiety disorder, I belong to a smaller gym. I chose it because I can see the exits from everywhere in the gym, and the front is made of glass. If this sounds odd to you, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of generalized anxiety and panic disorder (similar to PTSD), and you’ll understand.

(I don’t like crowds, I need a clear escape route wherever I go, I have an overactive startle reflex, and I trust no one. Xanax literally gave me back my life; at least the life outside of my home.)

But the people. Oh, some of the people in my gym. Just… wow.

I should say that most of the people in my gym are nice, have great manners, we say hello, and they’re lovely humans. But there are a few that stress me out on a regular basis, and those are the people I’d like to discuss here.

With this in mind, I want to send out into the intellectual ether a list of annoying gym habits, so people may nod their heads in agreement with me – or will please stop doing these things if they recognize themselves.

***

 1. The Super Slammer— 

Hi, Meatbird. May I call you Meatbird? No? Okay, sorry. It’s just that you seem obsessed with amassing flesh on your upper body, while completely ignoring the lower half. Your workout regimen is giving you the appearance of a bulky, top-heavy bird, and calling you “Turkey” seemed rude. Forgive me. I’m probably just being bitchy because I’m jealous of your delicate ankles.

Anyhow… Chad. Todd. Blake. Whatever your name is. If you could stop slamming the weights down after every… single… one… of the 5 reps you’re barely able to do because you’re lifting more than you can handle, that would be great. (<— Say this in the classic “Office Space” annoying boss voice for extra points.)

Because firstly, you’re scaring the ever-loving shit out of everyone in the gym who isn’t looking in your direction when you loudly drop the weights. Yes, even the people who don’t have anxiety disorders.

And secondly, those who are knowledgeable about weightlifting realize that controlling your repetitions on the way down is just as important for muscle-building as the upward movement.

In short: You’re being such a loud jackass that I can’t even drown out your crashing noises with my headphones cranked to the max. Stop it. And learn proper weightlifting form, brah. You look like total newb.

 2. The Heartrate Hog— 

Hi, Lady at My Gym Who Wears Jeans and Does the Crossword on the Recumbent Bike for an Hour. I just wanted to let you know you’re being rude.

“Why?” you may ask. Or not. I don’t care. I’m going to tell you either way. You’re being rude because there are only 2 recumbent bikes in our smallish gym for middle-aged people like myself who trashed our knees via youthful running, and can now only do knee-friendly cardio. Since we can’t fit a swimming pool in our gym, this leaves only the bikes for bunk-kneed folks like me.

Except… when you monopolize 1 of the 2 bikes while the other is in use to pedal so slowly you’re able to legibly write words across and down. Then, this doesn’t leave any bikes at all. Just you. In your jeans and cardigan. Doing the crossword. For an hour.

It’s sometimes written via signs on gym walls, but mostly it’s an Unspoken Rule of Gym Club (it’s the second rule, actually… I’m breaking the first rule with this article) that if all versions of a cardio machine are full, polite gym members limit their cardio to 30 minutes per machine.

Did you know this? Of course you didn’t, or I’m sure you would stop your rousing hour-long game of newspaper trivia to let someone else have a chance to bike.

In short: Why you don’t spend your gym membership money on a recumbent bike for your home, and give those of us who want to break a sweat a chance to do some fucking cardio? Thanks.

3. Just the Pro-Tip, I Promise— 

Hi, Brian. I’m calling you Brian for this article, because that’s the actual name of the guy at my gym who used to give me constant pro-tips. Because of this, all pro-tippers will forever be known as Brian to me. Sorry, nice Brians of the world. It’s not your fault. Brian at my gym ruined it for you. Blame pro-tip Brian, other Brians.

Even though I don’t know Brian at all, Brian likes to walk over to me while I’m doing leg lift machine reps and give me amazing pro-tips like “twist your legs from side to side to work all the muscles.” I stupidly tried it. This resulted in my wrenched knees becoming so painful from twisting them while lifting that I couldn’t walk the next day.

Brian also gave me a pro-tip that involved my neck muscles, which are easily hurt ever since I was rear-ended by a distracted driver doing 50 MPH as I waited for a light to turn green. I told Brian this, but he assured me that no, it wouldn’t hurt my neck. That pro-tip set my fitness regimen back about a week as I waited for my strained neck muscles to heal.

Now I ignore Brian, and all the other pro-tip givers trying to “help me” (read: boost their insecure egos by condescendingly trying to teach someone who already knows how to exercise).

In short: Unless I’m paying you to be my personal trainer, get the fuck out of my face and let me work out. And save your ego issues for your therapist, unless you’re going to pay me to help you with those. Brian.

4. My Long Lost Relative— 

Hi, My Long Lost Relative! It’s great to meet you!

What do you mean, we’re not related? I don’t understand.

No, I’m not crazy, I promise. It’s just that you left so much DNA via the oily rivulets of fluid dripping down the seat and back of the weight machine you last used, that when I sat in it, I figured we became automatic Sweat Siblings.

So what you’re saying is that we’re not Sweat Siblings now? Darn.

I’m disappointed because I was hoping that you could be the younger Sweat Sibling. And then cleaning repulsive human secretions off the weight machines would be a chore our Sweat Mom would make you do. You know, since you left them there and all.

In short: You’re disgusting. See all the free paper towels and bottles of cleaner our gym has conveniently placed in all areas? Use them, you horrifying perspiration beast.

5. The Lazy Lifter—

Hi, Lazy Lifter! Yes, you. I’m talking to you.

“But I’m at the gym… how can I be lazy?” you ask?

You’re lazy because you come to the gym, in theory, to exercise, and then despite the signs asking you to rack your weights, you still leave them on the bars and machines for someone else to take off.

I notice this most often when I walk over to use the leg press machine and there are 4 heavy weights on the bar – on each side – that have been left by the last user. This makes me worry that someone is still using it, and also, that I’m going to pull that pesky weak-ass neck muscle I mentioned above as I unload the 8 large weights you left behind.

This is equivalent to getting a glass of milk and leaving the carton out for the next person to put into the refrigerator for you.

This is equivalent to taking a big dump in a toilet and leaving it for the next person to flush for you.

This is equivalent to being an inconsiderate asshole who leaves weights on the machines for the next person to take off for you.

In short: There’s no short version of this one. If you don’t know what I’m asking you to do, you’re as dumb as the weights you don’t put back where they belong.

***

This concludes my current list of top gym etiquette frustrations, with a bonus shout-out to the guy who “saves” machines by putting his gym bag on the one he’s not using at the moment, like we’re in a high school cafeteria rather than a gym.

Also: An extra-special bonus shout-out goes to the large man who was at the gym the one – and last – time I tried to go at 4 a.m. to avoid the crowds (and be guaranteed a precious recumbent bike).

When it was just you and me, alone in the gym, sir, and you growled in a disturbingly sexual way while lifting weights, and then counted your reps out loud in a raspy serial killer voice behind me, I decided I’d never go to the gym in the dark again. Thanks for the extra terror-calories I burned that day, dude. My hot bod will totally be worth the nightmares.

*Cool photo at top by SandyJo Kelly, via Flikr Creative Commons.

Public School and the Island of Misfit Boys

on_the_island_of_misfit_toys_by_guttergoo-d4iimum

 

It’s often discussed amongst parents and teachers that our public school children aren’t getting enough exercise to work out their “kid energy.” We older folks remember having multiple recesses, while simultaneously wondering why obesity is becoming a problem for our country’s youth.

P.E. and the liberal arts classes that teach children creative thinking — a trait every bit as valuable as math skills and English rules — are now referred to as “specials” at my 9-year-old son’s school, and rotated throughout the week. This means the kids only get one of these types of classes each day. When I was a kid, we had daily P.E. and music or art multiple times per week.

~

I recently went to my son’s school to eat lunch with him, where the kids are allotted exactly 20 minutes to file into the room, wait in line to get their school lunch, or find a table and start eating a home lunch. I almost always pack my son’s lunch because he tells me this gives him more time. Never enough time to finish his lunch, though. He always brings the unfinished part home to eat after school.

The sweet little girl who sat next to me was trying to quickly eat the apple on her lunch tray. She told me, “I always try to eat as much of the apple as I can before they give the 5-minute warning, then I hurry to try to eat the rest of the lunch.” I watched her throw away half of the uneaten apple, with the rest of her unfinished lunch. She wanted to eat the healthy apple. She was unable to eat it. This is ridiculous.

~

I know you’re probably thinking at this point, “Well they’re kids… they’re probably talking rather than eating during the 15 minutes they have in which to eat after settling down at a table with their lunches.” And I thought this too, since my son always brings home part of his lunch uneaten. That’s why this visit was so shocking for me.

Because, no. It turns out my son’s cafeteria has two teacher’s aides who walk around with microphones to silence the children who’re constantly reminded to quiet down, and rushed to eat, with the last 5-minute warning being a period of complete silence. I watched a table of 8 kids try to eat their food, and only one of them was able to eat the entire meal. (He was shoveling food into his mouth, which seems like an unhealthy habit to force a child to establish.)

~

As we sat in silence, with the kids trying finish their lunches, I wondered why I was there. It was the opposite everything my childhood lunches had been: we’d had time to socialize and chat with friends while enjoying a meal. We were always able to finish eating, with time to spare.

As the microphone-carrying women admonished the children who dared to talk while eating, the room felt militaristic and creepy. And despite the “prison guards” with their amplification devices, most of the children still didn’t finish their meals.

The kids then ran outside for the one recess they get per day. That’s right, you heard me: one chance to exercise, one chance to work off some energy so they might be better able to sit still in class. That’s it. One.

~

My son is officially “twice exceptional,” which means he is of gifted intelligence combined with atypical neurology. He is diagnosed with ADHD, and on an extremely low dose of ADHD medication, which makes me wonder if, were he allowed to have more recesses and daily P.E. like we were as kids, he might be able to handle the rigid structure of the public school system without medication.

We’ve tried to take him off his medication, and he can’t handle it, however. He has the energy of a joyful puppy, and he needs chances to burn it off in order to focus. But he’s not getting any guaranteed chances beyond that one recess.

I don’t understand why I can see that more physical activity would help all children – male or female – do better in school, yet school officials don’t seem to get this. Every country ranking above us in global education prioritizes physical activity as an important tool for helping kids learn, and it’s proven to work, yet we, the overweight Americans are moving in the opposite direction.

~

There are 3 boys in his class, my son tells me, who are allowed to stand while doing work. While I applaud his teacher for offering a solution to this problem, I don’t understand why my son’s school doesn’t recognize that so many children having excess energy and causing classroom disruptions could be drastically reduced by giving the kids more opportunities to exercise.

My son knows 2 other boys on ADHD medications, and boys tend to (very much in general) be more immature and therefore hyperactive/impulsive than girls, but this need for more exercise and creative free play time applies to girls as well, obviously.

I was a little girl with both-undiagnosed gifted intelligence and ADHD, for example, who sat bored and restlessly staring out the window. Teachers wrote on my report cards that I “daydreamed too much in class,” yet even then, I was getting much more daily exercise and liberal arts classes (that we’re slowly eliminating and calling “specials”) than today’s youth.

I feel that my son, all our sons, and all our daughters, are not being given enough chances to move around, and be silly, goofy kids during the school day.

I’m dismayed that my son’s school lunch time feels like a boot camp meal.

And most of all, I’m extremely displeased that so many parents of hyperactive kids are forced to medicate our children to boost their immature prefrontal cortex development and executive functioning… simply so they can attend an unrealistically restrictive public school.

~

I understand the physiology behind ADHD and don’t deny that my son has a neurological developmental delay; but considering that a minimum of 10-11% of the population has ADHD (this number is only the percentage of the officially diagnosed), I think it’s time for the schools to change the way they teach our children. And I’d like this change to start with more physical activity. More free play, socializing, and recess, so our kids can better learn when it’s time to sit still and focus.

Why? Because I shouldn’t have to take my son to a behavioral therapist, a psychologist, and feed him scary medications just so he can fit into a rigid and intellectually inhibiting system that sets up smart, inquisitive, energetic kids for failure, no matter how hard they try.

~

My son is advanced enough that we were offered the chance to move him up a grade, but because his ADHD neurology makes him unable to conform to the behavioral expectations of a higher grade, this is not an option for us.

So he is bored, and when un-medicated, disrupts the other children by talking out of turn and not sitting still. He then gets in trouble and feels like a bad kid for something he can’t physically control, so the cycle of low self-esteem and anxiety progresses… along with our therapy expenses.

Much like the misfit toys featured in the popular “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special we see every winter break, my son doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. There is no place for him in the current public education system, yet when I discuss homeschooling him, he cries and begs me to not do it, because he’s so gregarious and outgoing, and would miss his friends.

Because we can’t afford private school, we are officially out of options.

~

Structure is important and necessary, lest the classrooms become chaotic, and I applaud all good teachers for their patience and everything they do. This is not a teacher-bashing piece, but instead a cry for help aimed at the public school system.

In short: My child doesn’t attend a military school, but it feels like it, and I think that’s wrong. Our young public school kids are being forced to conform to what I believe are near-adult behavioral expectations, and this causes them – and their parents – unnecessary anxiety, and hampers the educational process.

If anyone reading this has the power to change the direction of public education, please consider refocusing on more opportunities for physical exercise, such as multiple daily recesses, and more emphasis on music, art, and physical education classes. These were once important parts of our public education, and most of us who remember having them don’t understand why they’re being taken from our children.

The next time you’re contemplating how to fix our obviously broken and underfunded public educational system, giving children more opportunities to be kids every day would be a great starting point. They’ll have the rest of their lives to be adults, after all.

***
~

*Cool artwork at top copyright CJS 2011 a.k.a. guttergoo at DeviantArt.

Victim Impact Statement

kindergartenT

Me, age 5.

When I was 15 years old, my biological father viciously beat me up via repeated closed-fist punches to both sides of my face, eyes, and mouth. He has grossly downplayed his brutal actions over the years by lying to our family, as many shame-filled, violent offenders do.

I am writing this Victim Impact Statement because I am tired of explaining the ways in which my father repeatedly punched me in the face to people who wonder how I could possibly have an anxiety disorder or PTSD.

If a stranger had jumped anyone in an alley to beat them as severely as my father did me, no rational or intelligent person would be surprised to learn they had an anxiety disorder from the experience.

I will be sending anyone who wants to understand from where I’m coming to this writing from now on, because I’m creating a personal boundary I’d like all to respect.

Every time I am forced to discuss my father’s violence, it makes me think about a bad experience I’d rather not relive via repeated dialogue.

I refuse to deny what happened, because facts are facts, and it very much affected me, both emotionally and physically. To deny it is to deny the truth, and I won’t do that.

The truth is that my father should have been in jail for what he did, and had I called the police, he would have been. And he knows this. Not because I would have been lying, but because I was unrecognizably bruised and swollen, bleeding, covered in my own blood—and he didn’t have a scratch on him.

But I accept that it happened, and also that I can move forward into wellness, even if nobody believes me.

I would like to officially invite all doubtful people to join me here in Acceptance World. Because Denial World is not a place in which anyone can heal. And Nobody Believes Me Even Though I Have No Reason to Lie World invalidates me and hurts my feelings, so I’m not letting anyone send me there anymore.

You can believe me or not—that’s your prerogative—but my truth is no longer on trial.

I am not awaiting your verdict.

You can, however, consider yourself a part of a very disturbing problem if you believe the grown man who beat up a 15-year-old girl was in any way justified for this horrendous action.

If anyone needs further confirmation, I am still in contact with many school friends who saw my swollen, beaten face, puffed-up lips with cuts inside that bled if I smiled, two bruised eyes with one swollen shut, and chipped front tooth. The same friends who saw me drink my “lunch shake” through a straw for a week until the inner mouth cuts healed enough to stop bleeding, allowing me to chew again.

My science teacher was so shocked by my post-beating appearance she called Child Protective Services, causing a social worker to come to our home, who offered to drive me away on the spot. This means my abuse was legally recorded by my school and the Arizona Department of Child Safety (teachers are legally required to do this).

There is also an impartial non-relative witness to the event: my former stepmother, who screamed at my father to stop punching me, cleaned up my bloody, swelling face, and disposed of my blood-soaked clothes.

It turns out mouth cuts bleed a lot. Until my father repeatedly punched me in the face, I didn’t know this. I’m getting ahead of myself.

I think what I’m mostly trying to ask of you is please, stop blaming the victim. Start believing the victim.

(Also, please realize the victim doesn’t consider herself a victim and hates that label because it implies weakness and she’s one of the strongest people you’ll ever meet, but can’t think of a better way to say the above. Thanks.)

Below, I’ve written for anyone wondering, exactly what happened. Not “my version of what happened” but what actually happened.

You may have been given a different version of the events by the man who beat up a teenage girl, and I would like you to please use basic common sense and realize the person with nothing to hide and everything to lose is telling you the truth, not the man who is rightly ashamed of beating up a girl.

I am not afraid of legal repercussions or slander charges as I write this, because I know I am telling the truth and have nothing to fear. My father has lied to my family over the years, describing what was actually 6-7 sudden, hard, closed-fist punches to my face as “a slap to the mouth” to make me look like I’m exaggerating.

He recently confessed to his sister that yes, he actually did punch the shit out of me, but then lied about the circumstances, prompting her to tell me I deserved to be beaten up, as if there is ever a justification for a 36-year-old man to beat up a 15-year-old girl.

(I can forward you the email in which she admits he told her he beat me up if you still need proof.)

She stupidly believed his lies, once again. Yes, that’s right. She believed the person with every reason to lie—the man trying to make something he did look less disgusting or somehow justifiable—over the person with no reason to lie. She abused her daughter, too, so I think she’s hoping that by justifying my father’s violence, she can justify her own.

I now realize they are both very sick, psychologically damaged people, and am officially done trying to salvage a relationship with either one. I will explain this further below.

Because of my father’s fists punching my eyes, my optic nerves are permanently damaged with no other explanation. My eye doctor has confirmed that being beaten to the point of having swollen shut, blackened eyes without medical treatment is likely the cause, as I have no other glaucoma symptoms. (He couldn’t figure it out until I finally shared that I’d been punched in the eyes and face repeatedly without medical/anti-inflammatory treatment. This can cause permanent nerve damage.)

I have to get the chipped tooth my father’s fist knocked out replaced whenever the composite filling falls out.

I will pay for my father’s violence for the rest of my life financially and physically. I’m working with psychological professionals to heal the emotional damage, because that is the only thing I can hope to lessen.

chippedfronttooth

On the way to get a chunk of front tooth my dad’s fist knocked out replaced a few years ago. Again. No, he’s never offered to pay for this, even though he caused the damage. A real stand-up guy, right?

 ~

I share my story because I’m one hundred percent tired of discussing it and trying to convince even my own family members that this happened to me. It did. I have no reason to lie. By ending contact with my father for my emotional and psychological well-being 10 years ago, I lost a large financial inheritance… and it was worth every penny.

Because love is what matters in this life, not money. On your deathbed, the amount of money you amassed means nothing. The difference you made in the world, and the kindness you’ve shown others is all that matters.

At least, that’s what I believe will matter to me. Was I a good, honest, compassionate person with integrity? If I can answer yes to this question, I will be satisfied with my life.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, I am not seeking pity, and I am aware that worse things happen every day all over the world.

And this fact doesn’t negate what happened to me, or make my feelings about it any less valid.

Below is a detailed account of my father’s abusive actions, and the psychological impact his violent, sudden, and completely unjustified attack had on me.

~

My biological father was sitting in my newly-painted stark white bedroom – the one he’d destroyed in a fit of immature rage while I was at school that day. Every music poster I’d saved to buy had been torn down and destroyed, all color and life drained from my room via coat of white paint, creating what it already felt like to me anyhow: a prison cell.

The latest thing I’d done to piss him off was bleach my hair white blonde against his wishes because I wanted to look like a Madonna album cover. It was the late ‘80s, and I thought her hair looked rad. My father, upon seeing the hair color I’d secretly bleached told me the next morning before school I looked like a cheap whore. I told him I thought it looked cool, and assumed our latest conflict was over… until I came home to my completely-stripped-of-all-personality bedroom.

~

When my father walked into my Benjamin Moore Jailhouse White-painted bedroom to lecture me, I’d been sitting on my bed listening to a record. He lectured me about my disobedience, this time in reference to my bleached hair, although there’d been previous incidents that contributed to his worn patience with me.

I’m diagnosed with ADHD, and have always had extra nervous energy to burn off every day. Sometimes I’d catch myself rocking in place, or tapping a foot without realizing I was doing so. Unfortunately, this was a foot tapping time.

My dad noticed I was tapping my foot to the beat while he lectured, saw it as an act of defiance, and lost his temper.

~

He had a sudden, flash, blackout rage-type of temper. When he got back from Vietnam, I experienced it in the form of hitting, smacking, and having to go get the belt.

One cruel memory that stuck with me was when he snapped each of my individual crayons in half and dropped them, one by one, into the kitchen garbage can while my mom and I begged him to stop. My sister had left them on the floor, and not me, but I was punished anyway. He smiled as I sobbed.

Another disturbing memory involves his arriving home, taking off the black horrible-smelling socks in which he’d worked construction all day in the Phoenix heat, holding me down, and putting them over my mouth and nose. I would nearly suffocate trying to not breathe the horrible smell, and would struggle—little girl versus large man. If I peed my pants or accidentally kicked him during these struggles to escape, he would smack me as hard as he could. It would sting like bees wherever he’d hit me, so being 5 or 6-years-old, I’d sob until he told me to shut up or he’d “give me something to cry about.”

Luckily my mom divorced him when I was 7, remarried when I was 8, and moved us away to Kansas. My biological father still managed to occasionally smack me on summer vacations with him, but at least the majority of the year was spent far away.

~

But now I was 15, and once again unsuccessfully living with him. My father’s well-known temper this time culminated in his grabbing the record spinning on my player, and snapping it in half in front of me.

“There! NOW will you pay attention to what I’m saying?!” he yelled.

The nervous foot tapping. Whoops.

I told him to stop breaking my records. He grabbed another from the pile, pulled it out of the jacket, and snapped it. Then another. And another.

I’d already lost every music poster for which I’d saved, and was now watching my record collection disappear, one snap at a time. I wasn’t a rich kid, and had saved every allowance or bit of birthday money to buy everything I had. Often I skipped school lunch so I could save the few extra dollars per week that allowed. I knew I’d never replace everything in my room he’d destroyed that day.

Desperate to get him away from my quickly-depleting record collection, I ran to the living room to grab one of his records, holding it in the air, poised to snap, just as he’d destroyed mine. It was an album by The Beatles. The difference between my father and me was that I couldn’t do it.

He yelled at me to drop the record, and I replied, “Then stop breaking my fucking records!”

My mom told me later when I spoke to her on the phone about the beating that the f-word had triggered him to smack her across the face when they were married, too.

He dropped the record he’d carried out of my room to punch me repeatedly in the head and face, three or four hard, closed-fist punches with his right, then three or four blows with the left. He was an equal opportunity abuser, according to both sides of my now-swelling, bleeding face.

The attack was so sudden and vicious, one blow after another, that it took me a moment to stop trying to defend my 15-year-old self from a man with weight machines in his garage and a history of hitting women and children. I think I tried to block with my arms. I should’ve run after the first punch. It just happened so fast. There wasn’t really time to react beyond instinct.

Punchpunchpunchpunchpunchpunchpunch, his fists rapid-fired at my head like gunshots.

I finally ducked, turned, and ran for the front door, blood pouring from my mouth because my teeth had been knocked so repeatedly against my gums that the area above and below inside my lips was shredded. My peach sweater and white skirt were blood-soaked from the gushing mouth cuts, and the skirt proved a traitor, allowing my father fabric to grab, preventing me from fleeing.

Thwarted from escape, I curled up into a ball, trying to protect my head and face, and my father kicked my curled-up body, sneering at me, “Stop being so dramatic.”

Being dramatic? That was when I heard the screams. I hadn’t realized they were coming from me until he spoke, snapping me back to reality, and stealing the protection of psychological dissociation from my traumatized brain.

I remember looking up into the light coming from the beautiful etched glass panels in the front door my dad and his current wife had picked out through the one eye that hadn’t swelled shut. I was groggy and confused, wondering why I hadn’t made it to the other side. I didn’t understand why so much warm liquid was running out of my mouth.

~

My stepmom had my infant half-brother in her arms when my father started punching, and now that she’d found a safe place for the baby, she ran to where he stood over me and the puddle of blood forming on the concrete beneath. She yelled at him to stop, to leave, to go to his sister’s house down the road, but he wouldn’t, instead storming down the hallway to their bedroom to cool off.

She took me into the guest bathroom where I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror.

I looked as if I’d been in a car accident, my face ballooned round because my cheeks were swollen and bruised, my lips huge, both eyes rapidly bruising, with one closed. One of my front teeth had a big chip missing, I’m assuming from his wedding ring.

All of the teeth in my mouth were loose enough to wiggle for a week afterward. I remember lying in my bed afterward, testing them one by one. I worried they were going to fall out from the trauma.

I remember being amazed by how the numbness from the extreme facial swelling took away the pain.

I’m positive I had a concussion, because all I wanted to do was go to sleep, and my brain had been sloshed around via repeated punch to my head.

My stepmom kindly cleaned me up, put me to bed, and disposed of my ruined, blood-stained clothing.

They would be divorced within a year or so. I wasn’t surprised, and always wondered if watching her husband beat up a 15-year-old girl showed her exactly what kind of man she’d married. I also want to tell all family members who don’t believe me to ask her what happened that day, as her son is fully grown, married, and no longer very much in touch with our shared biological father.

I would never have asked her to talk about my beating while my brother was in my father’s care out of protection for him. She couldn’t jeopardize her son’s safety, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to do so. In case you’re wanting to blame her, I also want you to know that I don’t and never have blamed her. She had an infant son to protect, and any action taken to legally or criminally prosecute his father could have been dangerous for her child. As a mother, I understand completely that she couldn’t risk her son’s future.

I only blame the adult man in his mid-30s who thought that violently beating up a 15-year-old girl was morally or legally acceptable under any circumstances.

But now, my former stepmom could talk, if asked. She has no reason to lie, after all. She’s not related. I would challenge every disbeliever to ask her if my words are true. I have to wonder if maybe, since some family members have written me off as “histrionic,” they’d believe someone with no reason to lie.

Or would they still defend a grown man who beats up teenage girls?

What a sad question this is, in a culture full of victim-blaming, to wonder if a girl beaten up at age 15 by an adult male will ever be able to convince her relatives, the people who are supposed to love her, that she has no reason to lie.

There’s a magazine cover floating about our media right now with 35 women who’ve experienced the same shameful phenomenon.

~

To this day, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t call the police on my father, because then at least there would be photographic proof to show family members who still can’t believe their relative could be capable of such brutality, and wrongly assume I’m being hyperbolic.

If I’d just made it out the door, to the road, to the neighbors’ house for help, my father would have been in jail for assault and battery when the police saw the blood-soaked and badly beaten teenage girl, and her completely unharmed father. I looked like I’d been hit by a truck; he didn’t have any injuries at all aside from sore knuckles. It was a clear case of assault and battery: a “no-brainer,” to use a trite term.

My father would be a mugshot on the local news if he did today what he did to me back then.

I also wish I’d called the police because if I had a photo of my face to show, there’s no way any rational, compassionate human would decide that I “deserved it” or that my father “deserves love and forgiveness,” as I’ve been told by family members. They would recoil in disgust, and likely feel stupid for suggesting I forgive him.

If he was a stranger who had turned my face into someone bloody, beaten, and unrecognizable, they’d only want justice for me.

If a man did to their child what my father did to me, they would be filled with rage on behalf of their child.

But because it happened to me, their empathy disappears.

Except for my violent, child-beating father. Everyone feels incredibly sorry for the man who beat up a teenage girl. So much empathy for my abuser.

I want to ask my family, where is the love and understanding for me, when they ask me to forgive someone who’s brutally beaten me without remorse? My father not only never apologized for the damage he did, but is still lying about it.

How can they not see how hard it is to forgive someone who won’t even acknowledge they’ve harmed you?

Why do the people who are supposed to love me care more about the feelings of a man who violently beats up teenage girls? He doesn’t care about my feelings or forgiveness, so when asking me to forgive him, perhaps ask yourself, why is it so important to you? And please don’t give me some “enlightened” answer about how it will heal me because my healing journey is my own, not yours.

I tried denial disguised as “embracing positivity” for decades, after all, when I had a relationship with the man who caused so much damage. I tried to be the Forgiving Good Daughter. We spoke on the phone, had occasional visits, and guess what? It didn’t change a damned thing. In fact, it was harmful to me. The pain was still there because he never apologized, and he is still, to this day, justifying his actions with lies.

So my dad deserves forgiveness and empathy for beating me bloody at age 15, and I deserve none?

I’m supposed to magically heal and forgive a person for violating me, even though he refuses to be truthful about or acknowledge what he did?

Are you really going to pretend a grown male in our society didn’t know that violently beating up a 15-year-old girl was wrong, because, as one family member actually told me recently… that’s just how he was raised and he didn’t know any better?

Because of course he knew better. He still knows better. And the fact that he won’t tell you the truth means he has no respect for you, either, by the way. He’s lying to you, because that’s what people who are ashamed of what they’ve done and realize they’re in the wrong do: they lie.

Stranger hurts family member: everyone wants justice. Family member hurts family member in the exact same way: everyone wants silence. I will never understand this phenomenon. Wrong is wrong.

Abusers often downplay their violence to make the damage less damning, attempting to make themselves look less horrible, and to make their victims look histrionic. This is a known fact about violent men, making it especially disappointing when female family members don’t believe what happened. They of all people should be emotionally savvy enough to know this.

I was recently told by my father’s sister, for example, because he told her I yelled “Fuck you!” and hit him—two things I never did—that I deserved to be beaten, and that any person in our family would have done the same.

The fact is, she’s a sadistic idiot, at best, for believing a grown man’s weak attempts to justify beating up a teenaged girl—especially considering that he’s lied to the entire family for the last 20+ years, including her, telling them that he’d “only hit me in the mouth” before only recently confessing to her that oh wait, yes, he did violently beat me up, followed by the fake justification given above, as if there is ever justification for a man to repeatedly punch a teenaged girl (or to beat anyone not attacking them, for that matter).

Rather than explain to her that she was stupidly believing lies he’s created to make himself look less awful… again, I instead gave up on her. And him. Forever. She also violently beat her own daughter, and actually sent her 16-year-old daughter to live with our grandfather, the pedophile who molested her daughter while fully aware of what he did to her daughter—so I’ve finally had to accept that my father and aunt are very sick people with whom I have no desire to communicate again in this lifetime. They were both abusive, sociopathic, terrible parents – so of course they want to rewrite history. They’re ashamed of themselves, as they should be.

I’m not engaging with either of them anymore because he’ll obviously never tell the truth, and she’ll keep defending his violent behavior in an attempt to justify her own. And I don’t have time in my precious life anymore for ridiculous, toxic, lying people—related to me or not.

~

Fortunately, I have multiple friends with whom I’m still in touch who saw my face when I returned to school a few days after the beating who can back up my truth. This helps, knowing there are people in the world who believe me because they saw the damage, even if my own family won’t listen. One is a close female friend of mine who cried because she barely recognized my battered face.

I told most who asked that I’d been in an ATV accident because I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me, but one teacher, a smart woman who saw through my story, called Child Protective Services and reported the obviously beaten up teenager sitting in her science class.

The social worker came to our door and had me sit in her car to talk separately from my father. She asked if there was anywhere else I could go, but at that point I felt like I’d ruined relationships with every available adult in my life, so I told her no. I felt like I was a bad kid, and must deserve the painful thing that had happened to me.

As an adult, of course I realize I should have called the police and pressed charges, but I was 15 and scared. I felt alone in the world. I begged her to let me stay, even when she told me we could drive away and she’d send the police back with me later to retrieve my belongings. I truly felt everyone hated me, and that I had nowhere else to go. She ended up giving me her card, making me promise to call her if it happened again or I changed my mind.

~

Despite all of this this, 8 months ago, I tried to reach out to my biological father in forgiveness, for my own peace.

I realize now I don’t forgive him at all, because I would never do to a child what he did to me. A better word than forgiveness would be acceptance. I accept that what happened, acknowledge that it shaped me in many ways, refuse to let it define me any longer, and will stop allowing it to negatively impact me as much as possible.

So I extended the olive branch to my father via letter telling him I forgive him and would like to have a relationship on whatever terms he’s comfortable, trying to find peace. I even apologized for the abrasive way I cut him out of my life 10 years ago because I expressed my anger in an unkind way.

That’s right—I apologized to my father for expressing anger at him for beating me up and never apologizing to me for it or acknowledging it. I apologized to him. And I had no expectations of an apology or anything from him, I was simply trying to move forward. I wanted to permanently place my pain behind a brain door labeled “This Bad Thing Happened” and get on with life. Acceptance. Peace.

And guess what, all you “positivity” hashtag-sharing people telling me to forgive my father because it will heal me, and he’s a good person, and surely it couldn’t be that bad, and blah, blah, blah…?

My loving, kind, poor, misunderstood, teenage girl-punching father blew me off.

He never answered my letter. So because I took everyone’s advice and tried to forgive the man who violently beat me up, never apologized, has lied about it to everyone for years, then admitted to doing it but still tried to justify beating up a 15-year-old girl… now, I am more hurt than I was before.

Yup. I gave him a second chance to hurt me, and he took it.

And great advice, everybody. Thanks for your help. #positivity #forgiveness #bullshit

Sorry for my bitterness. I know the people pushing positivity and forgiveness were only trying to help.

But I would like to ask anyone who blindly does this to please realize you don’t know the details of personal relationships, so this advice can possibly harm, rather than hurt. Sometimes a person seeking emotional wellness needs to close the door on a toxic person and move forward, not try to embrace the toxicity.

So this was obviously disappointing and hurtful for me—my lifelong deadbeat, unsupportive dad once again not being there for me—and there might have been some closure to be found if my father and I could have put this behind us.

But as my husband always says about my biological father: What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?

~

I am now done trying to maintain a relationship with him out of some sort of “good daughter” guilt trip-expectation society places on people who’ve been harmed by relatives.

This double standard is one of the weirdest aspects I’ve noticed about my father’s violence. If a stranger had violently beaten me the way my own father did, my entire family (and most members of a civilized society) would want justice. But because I’m related to him, this somehow means I’m supposed to forgive and forget about pain this person has inflicted on me without remorse or apology? This makes no sense to me.

And it goes against the principles of basic biology to harm one’s own offspring. The number one priority of any mammal parent is to keep their progeny safe from danger. Because I know firsthand how worthless it makes an emotionally underdeveloped psyche feel, I will never understand how a parent can hit a child. My son is nearly 10, has ADHD neurology, and it has never once occurred to me to smack or slap him, much less punch him. The thought makes me physically ill. My job is to protect him from the danger, not BE the danger.

Another odd phenomenon I’ve encountered is the idea that being beaten up by someone I know—by the person who should be protecting me from such things—is somehow less traumatizing than a violent beating at the hands of a stranger, rather than more traumatizing.

A stranger doesn’t know me, so it’s not personal if they hit me.

But growing up feeling physically unsafe around the one person in the world who should have made me feel safe?

That’s worse than anything a stranger could have inflicted upon me.

~

As I was telling my psychiatrist about the recent discovery about my eyes, I embarrassingly started angry-crying, because this permanent optic nerve damage was completely avoidable had my father acted like an honorable man instead of a malicious bastard.

My doctor asked me if I have bad dreams or relive it, and I told him I relive it whenever I talk about it too much, and yes, which recurring nightmare would you like me to share, because I have five?

I confessed that I often have to sleep with a hunting knife folded up in my hand because I never feel safe.

I think every noise or creak of the house is someone breaking in, and patrol windows in the dark, trying to protect my son from unseen dangers.

Sudden noises have me shaking in an adrenaline rush of terror, I can’t be in crowds, and I always have to be facing a clear exit in restaurants.

If my son playfully sneaks up behind me, I have to hide the anxiety attack-tears he causes because I don’t want him to feel guilty for something “normal” moms can handle.

I’m damaged, and I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Spending the earliest, most formative years of your life being afraid of a parent who should be making you feel safe and loved will do that to a person.

Being violently beaten up by your own father at 15 will also do that to a person.

Because Child Psychology 101. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

My psychiatrist then diagnosed me with PTSD, and gave me an antidepressant he said is commonly given to people with PTSD.

Desperate to pull myself out of the pool of anxiety, fear, and sadness I’d felt since I found out my optic nerves were damaged, I tried the SSRI antidepressant. It made me feel even more anxious and scared, and after giving it a week, I stopped taking it because it was making everything worse.

My doctor told me I’d done the right thing the next time I saw him and prescribed another antidepressant in case I wanted to try a different one, but we both agreed that I should probably stick to only anti-anxiety meds. I never filled the second antidepressant prescription.

I am currently seeking a behavioral/talk therapist to help me learn how to avoid being “triggered” or upset when discussing violence.

~

What I would like anyone reading this to know is that I’m not crying or upset as I type, I’m actually calm, because writing is cathartic and soothes me. I’m not wishing to be considered a victim by sharing the truth about a bad man, and don’t want pity. It makes me furious to think of someone feeling sorry for me, actually.

I would also like to make it clear that I recognize someone always has it worse. There is nothing I loathe more than a Compassion Competition, so telling me things like, “At least you didn’t have THIS happen to you…” only makes me think you have problems with which you need to deal and are living in denial, or perhaps that you are lacking in empathy.

Because yes, I get it: of course there are one million worse things that might have happened to me. But that doesn’t make the pain of what happened to me any less valid. Pain is not a contest. And neither is empathy.

I also want people to understand I write about painful things because reading about similar experiences from other people has made me feel less alone, and like someone else in the world understands. I’ve experienced a lot of gaslighting from family members who’ve chosen to believe my father’s downplaying of the facts over the truth—all doubts that could be erased in seconds had one person snapped a picture of my face after he violently beat me up.

And no matter what anyone thinks I did— no matter what a sad old washed-up piece of shit whose three children barely speak to him has to say—this 15-year-old girl didn’t deserve to be brutally, repeatedly punched into permanent facial damage for any reason. There is no justification and no excuse for what my father did to me.

I am not my PTSD and I’m not my anxiety disorder. What I am is a good-hearted person who had a crummy thing happen to me that I’m actively trying to work through and move past for emotional wellness.

Thank you for listening, and especially for believing people like me who have no reason to make up stories.

Dear Diary #572

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572. That’s a random number. I don’t know how many times I’ve actually taken to the Internet to ramble about the mundane details of my life to nobody and everybody, depending on how bored the people of our fine planet may be, but it’s probably not in the 500 range. I’m a liar. Sorry.

I call these ‘Dear Diary’ entries because they’re extremely random, and make me feel much like a 13-year-old girl whining in my journal. It’s a living.

I’m writing. I haven’t done this in a long time. I’ve had a bad case of the why-the-fuck-should-anybody-care-about-your-stupid-life writing yips, and I’m trying to move past it. I write words for me, just like I used to write songs for me. It’s cathartic. If someone wants to read it, cool. If not, also cool. I used to not give a shit what anybody thought because no matter what, I was being authentic. I wrote songs because I had something I needed to get off my chest, not to impress anybody else, and I need to get back into this mindset.

This is not a fuck you mindset, just to be clear. It’s a fuck me and my stupid insecurities mindset. Fuck me. Stop caring what people think, you big dork, I say to myself. It’s only life. Don’t take this, yourself, or anything too seriously. Someday none of this will matter, so don’t let it get inside your head and matter now.

Nothing matters. Say it with me, kids. Nothing matters. And everything matters. All at the same time. Nothing and everything matters. Now who wants cookies?

This is also why I turn off the comments beneath my writings. Because I’m not writing to chat about or listen to notes on my feelings, and I’m definitely not wasting precious time responding to trolls. I’m writing because I feel better inside after I write. The end.

And because hot damn, I need a creative outlet. A stress outlet. A nervous energy outlet. A pull-up-the-lid-and-let-out-some-psychic-steam-before-I-explode outlet. Kindergarten through high school, I took dance classes or danced in my bedroom until I was soaked with sweat, sang in every choir class I could take, and I sat in my bedroom endlessly singing to music. In my 20s, I lifted weights, I ran miles, I learned guitar, I wrote songs, played guitar and sang in bands… and then I had a child. Insert screeching brakes noise.

My musical life stopped as my child and heart grew. But my brain never stopped moving. And my brain will slowly drive me crazy if I don’t give it anywhere to go. My brain is a hyperactive child tugging at my sleeve trying to show me all of the things in the world while pulling me in infinite directions all at the same time. My brain never stops. Viva la ADHD.

My brain then demanded I start writing words because pretending to be a poorly-aging rock star in crap bars doesn’t work so well with the whole breastfeeding and being the mommy thing. And I suck at drawing, painting, and art. So words it is, for my much needed creative outlet. Lucky you.

***

I’m about to take an Internet hiatus because the political screaming and racism all over social media and news sites has been doing my head in. I hate to hide when I need to be a voice, but I’m no good to anyone when I’m an anxious mess. And if I see one more hilarious hashtag with the word “matter” and ANYTHING in front of it except “blacklives” I am going to throat punch someone. People’s children are dying and that shit’s not funny. Check yourself.

Another stressor: my husband is in the process of scheduling hip replacement surgery, so I’ll need to be strong as he goes through the operation and months of physical therapy afterward. I’m going to be single-parenting while taking care of my healing life partner and two cats, and I don’t see anywhere jacking around on social media sites can reasonably fit into that schedule. Without the throat punching feeling, I mean.

***

I take these breaks to secure peace of mind from time to time, but this is the first time I’ve decided to put my computer away and completely abstain. No email checking. No Facebook. No news sites. Nothing.

I have a cute little writing-only laptop I use to work on the book a chapter at a time (you know… THE BOOK all writers are working on forever), and it doesn’t allow the Internet, so I’m going to write on that. Only that. I’m forcing myself to be productive and stop playing in the comments sections of Facebook, hoping for peace and productivity. Fingers crossed.

(Humiliating aside: I once said “Fingers crossed!” in a meeting with a college advisor who happened to have a hand condition. It looked like a possible thalidomide-related issue, as her fingers were fused, leaving her two on each hand. She typed faster than I do, and I was genuinely impressed. And then, because I’m an awkward idiot, I used the term “Fingers crossed!” about being able to finally finish my degree, and then I died inside a lot. We exchanged a look. There was a pause. And then I died inside some more. And this is why I don’t like to leave the house. Because I should probably not talk to anyone ever.)

***

My husband isn’t 70, by the way. We’re both middle-aged. We remember where we were when we first heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” song. He was really active in his youth, damaged his hip joint, and that caused a bad condition called avascular necrosis. (You know… the Bo Jackson/Brett Fav-rahh thing?) A lot of football players and people who throw their bodies very hard at not-soft surfaces have his issue.

This is because pretty much, when you beat the shit out of any part of your body, the tissue dies. Avascular = blood flow. Necrosis = death. Damaged bone loses blood flow, and the bone eventually dies. So my husband is on crutches and in pain. He had an MRI that revealed his hip has withered away and he needs the replacement he was hoping to stave off until retirement, which is over 20 years away. Didn’t quite make it. (He’s 6’5″ and gravity is a harder on his bones.)

He had a surgery in 2001 where they drill into the bone and try to make it grow back stronger, to no avail. He was on crutches for eleven months after that surgery. (He learned to play guitar and cook really well during that time, from which I now benefit.)

We checked out his MRI, and rather than looking smooth and round like the hip ball joint on the other side, his right hip ball looks like the surface of the moon. After mice have chewed on it. Giant space mice, I suppose. Anyhow, it looks bad. So the main body part thingy that holds him up on the right side is crumbling, and he can barely sleep because what used to be an often-pain is now a constant-pain.

It’s hard to watch someone you love in constant pain. I’m moving into depression when I need to be not-depressed for someone who needs me, because I will not selfishly make my poor husband’s dying hip about me. I’m really fighting the urge to slip back into the “my mom has stage 4 cancer” depression cocoon I crawled into a few years ago to join my good friends Netflix and too many carbs in a melancholy quest towards unnecessary weight gain. This means I’m drained, pissed off, and looking for an excuse to take out my frustration on anyone who fucks with me… and it’s definitely time to get off social media. (At least I’m mature enough to recognize this about myself, even if I can’t quite fix it. Sadly, this is progress for me.)

My Depression Netflix Jam was all seasons of Gilmore Girls during my mom’s cancer battle; this time I’ve been enjoying House, M.D. when wallowing freely about the cabin. I have been on my own financially since barely-17 and could never afford cable, so I didn’t bother with a TV. This means there are many shows and culturally significant events I completely missed. Thusly, I’d never caught an episode of either of these shows before Netflix. God bless Netflix.

With the need to be stronger than usual, getting away from the soul-draining bigotry, xenophobia, and other awful stuff online seems like a step in the right direction. I’m also grabbing naps without guilt where I can, and getting to the gym for gentle cardio. I might start yoga again. I’ve been reading a lot. I’m doing things that build me up, because the world seems to want to tear us all down right now, and I can’t handle that.

***

I’ve been spending a lot of time putting articles I wrote and sold when I worked in native advertising on this site because I have them on an external hard drive, but nothing lasts forever. I want to have them safely somewhere else for storage, and also, if I decide to write for a similar company again someday, I’ll have an easily accessed example of my “articles for people without much time to read” here for them to peruse.

I used to call them “articles for dummies” because the format is so basic: bold subheadings, numbered lists, titles that let the potential reader know there won’t be a huge time commitment involved if they click, etcetera. That’s the point. But they convey information I avidly researched and tried to present in a somewhat interesting manner, so I don’t consider them articles for dummies: I consider them articles for busy people.

You say “clickbait,” I say “people don’t want to spend 30 minutes reading long essays anymore… deal with it.” Technology is rapidly changing the average American attention span, whether we like it or not. (I actually don’t like it, but I accept it. I rebel against the dying of the attention span by reading multiple books a week and raising a child who loves to read.)

The job was great training for me, because as I’m sure is apparent while you skim this hot burst of my current brain steam, I’m a rambling writer. I write very stream-of-consciousness style, and don’t bother editing if it’s not a professional piece. But the native advertising job forced me to write within a 700-1000 word format, and it was excellent training. Concise has never been my strong suit. I can admit it. (I can also pose the question, “Why does everything need to be concise?” Can’t a girl ramble once in awhile without being shut down? WHATEVER, OPPRESSOR.)

***

My son has been nominated for the National Elementary Honor Society, which is really great because it’s not only offered to kids who get straight As; they have to meet behavioral standards as well. He’s working grades above average in all subjects, but this can often lead to boredom and disruptive behavior, like not being able to sit still or talking out of turn. So I was more impressed by the behavioral standards being met than the academic requirements. I tell him all of the time that there are many people out there with smart brains, but the person who works the hardest will win the job over the big brain every time. Work ethic > intelligence.

His teachers have also had to ban him from the computers because he hacks into them and changes the code. And they’ve told us verbatim that the FBI or CIA need to recruit him now because he’s so smart. I should feel proud, but I’m a little bit scared because we have no idea how to navigate the “learning about the online world versus keeping our child safe” conundrum. So that’s not causing me anxiety at all. Nope. No red wine being consumed in alarming rates in this house. Not here.

Anyhow… that’s my latest. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re well, friends.

xoxo.

 

P.S. I took a stupid Facebook quiz recently, called “What Is Your Subconscious Hiding?” and I got this:

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I laughed pretty hard at this result, but probably for the wrong reasons.

Join me?

 

 

 

 

Strategies for Success: Helping Kids with ADHD Develop Math Skills

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Every person learns differently – some kids are visual learners, some auditory, some tactile – but children with ADHD have difficulty focusing, sitting still, and are easily distracted, sometimes making it feel impossible to teach them anything.

This impulsive, fidgeting behavior can make it seem as if ADHD-brained kids aren’t listening, frustrating the teachers, parents and other adults in their lives trying to help them master the math concepts crucial to their continuing education.  But people with ADHD have drastic and consistent differences in brain scans from those without ADHD, making it important to remember that ADHD is a physiological condition that involves the frontal cortex part of the brain, which controls executive functions like impulse control, memory, and distractibility. (Source: PubMed.gov.)

Children with ADHD are often extremely intelligent, but because they lack the ability to focus or memorize at neurologically typical levels and don’t behave in an age-appropriate manner, they are sometimes dismissed intellectually. This is why untreated ADHD can lead to trouble in school and low self-esteem, even when children are very bright and trying their hardest, despite neurological limitations beyond their control.

One of the toughest aspects of continued mathematical learning is that it is cumulative, becoming more difficult as those with ADHD progress in school. When the core concepts become longer, with more steps to remember, it’s hard for an ADHD-brained person to complete complex tasks.

Fortunately, there are many ways to work with the very different ADHD learning style to help these kids succeed. Below are 5 professional educator-recommended tips and methods that have been shown to help kids with ADHD learn and retain mathematical knowledge.

 

1. Make Use of Movement—

Kids with ADHD often describe their need to wiggle as an uncontrollable urge akin to an inner itch in need of scratching via movement, and are given “fidgets” such as plastic, textured items to quietly play with in an attempt to channel this nervous energy in a less distracting manner.

But what smart teachers know is that all kids – even those without ADHD – can benefit from the chance to work out excess energy at every available opportunity. Rather than giving kids something to play with in their laps to hinder big movement: embrace it. Work movement into the math lessons. Use the classroom space as a big board game, for example, and have kids move from desk to desk after solving equations. Let the kids get up and have a dance break or do jumping jacks between assignments.

Most importantly, never, ever use the removal of recess as a punishment, as this only leaves kids with ADHD full of energy and less likely to behave the rest of the day, which is completely counterproductive.

 

2. Taking the Time—

Kids with learning disabilities that involve memorization problems can become stressed out by timed tests, further hindering recall, and creating negative results like low scores and anxiety.

A simple and fair solution to this is to give kids with ADHD the same amount of time for tests and assignments as other kids, while allowing them to get up and take breaks to work out excess energy and refocus.

Using a timer or watch that can be stopped and started will ensure that kids who require breaks aren’t given an unfair advantage over kids who’d rather work straight through to the finish.

 

3. Perfect Placement—

For those who are easily distracted, location is everything. A seat near a window can greatly hinder the focus of kids with ADHD, as can a chatty classmate or a seat near the pencil sharpener.

To allow for the best possible focus during math assignments, and especially during testing, place kids with ADHD in the quietest area of the classroom, and consider placement up front near the teacher to help them listen and learn.  Some schools will even provide a portable cardboard “office” with a back and sides called a study carrel to sit on a desk for kids with ADHD (this can be written into an official 504 Plan, an IEP designed especially for kids with ADD/ADHD), blocking out all distractions for better student concentration.

 

4. Handwriting Helps—

One of the most common issues faced by kids with ADHD is trouble with handwriting. This task requires attention to detail, patience, and concentration, which impulsive and energetic kids can find difficult.

But 25% of all math errors can be traced to poor or unreadable handwriting, making it very important for kids with ADHD to practice writing neatly, as hard as this can be for them. (Source: FamilyEducation.com.)

Kids can practice handwriting by tracing over numbers you’ve written lightly in pencil. Also consider using paper made specifically for handwriting practice, because this will give them dotted lines to use for extra guidance.

 

5. Same Sheet for All Steps—

Following multiple steps, and moving back and forth between tasks is extremely difficult for those with atypical neurology. Because their memories don’t retain information as long as typical brains do, having a separate answer sheet or place to show their work can seriously sabotage kids with ADHD.

By keeping questions and answers within the same space on the paper, you will make it easier for kids solving intricate math problems to stay focused and less likely to become distracted.

Also: If there are formulas involved, expecting ADHD-brained kids to memorize them is unrealistic, and pointless when you consider that in the “real world” application of math or statistics, there is no reason a person in a career field that requires formulas can’t look them up.

 

Recent EEG brainwave tests published in the journal Biological Psychiatry showed that the brain scans of teens with ADHD were consistently different enough that someday the analysis of brainwaves may help doctors diagnose and properly treat those with this condition. (Source: Medical News Today.)

Brain scan differences prove that kids with ADD/ADHD perceive information and learn differently than other kids. When teaching mathematics, or any other subject to kids with ADHD, keep in mind that ADHD is a very real and physiological issue. Kids with ADHD are not being defiant or not listening; they have a biological difference that can be treated with behavioral therapy and medication, making it understandably difficult, yet extremely important to remain patient with them.

If you find yourself becoming exasperated, take some deep breaths, and consider trying some of the helpful math skill-building tips for kids with ADHD listed above. Kids with ADHD may have to try a little harder, or take a different path on the journey to mastering math concepts, but they can do it.