Stop Trying to Convince Me My Daughter Doesn’t have Autism Spectrum

Dear Well-Meaning Acquaintance,

Please stop trying to convince me that my daughter does not have autism. I know that you are trying to give me hope that she is “normal” or “will grow out of it.” But I know that she isn’t, and she won’t, and I’m tired of having to run through all of her symptoms to convince you of her diagnosis.

“But she’s so smart!”

Yes, in some ways she is very smart. Autistic doesn’t mean stupid. At barely 2 years old she can count to 20. She knows the alphabet and can identify letters on command. She can read a few simple words such as “mama.” She knows shapes and colors and animals and is very good at memorization tasks.

She also can’t tell us when she’s hungry. She struggles to say 2 syllable words and can’t form multiple word ideas. She doesn’t understand waiving “hi” or “bye.” She doesn’t understand the words “happy” and “sad.” When you exclaim that she can’t be autistic because she’s smart, you force me to explain all of this to you, and to remind myself of her deficits instead of celebrating her strengths.

“She’s so young, how could you possibly know that at this age?”

Yes, she’s young. She was diagnosed at age 22 months, by a team of 4 professionals who specialize in developmental assessment. Since that time we have gotten opinions from three speech/language pathologists, two pediatricians, one board certified behavior analyst, and one developmental psychologist. Every single one of them agrees: she has autism. We, her parents, also agree with the diagnosis. Recognition of autism at this age is increasingly common, and yes, we’re sure. Your doubt doesn’t give us hope, it gives us fear that people won’t take her needs and diagnosis seriously because she’s “too young.”

“I saw her make eye contact! She engaged with me! She can’t be autistic.”

Yes, she can be. Autism usually comes with significant impairments in social interaction, including eye contact, and our daughter is no exception. Yes, she makes eye contact with adults fairly often, but it’s still significantly less than typical children her age. It’s also a skill we’ve been actively working on. She initiates play interactions with adults. Again, this is a major skill we have built with her and we are very proud that she does this. She does not, however, initiate social interaction or make eye contact with other children. She does not respond to her peers when they speak to her or try to play with her. It’s heartbreaking to watch. Again, in trying to give me hope, this objection instead forces us to explain these deficits rather than rejoice in her progress.

“She seems fine/happy/normal to me.”

She is fine, in her own way. But she does have autism. She seems happy now, in her own world playing. But when we go to change her clothes, or remove her shoes, or if her food touches other food, she’ll melt down. If we touch her food after it’s served, she’ll melt down. If we move a toy from it’s “correct” location, she’ll melt down. If we place her on her chair, she’ll melt down. If we put mittens on her, or a hat, she’ll melt down. I don’t want to have to explain to you all the ways in which she is not fine or normal, I’d rather be able to enjoy the fact that right now, she’s happy.

So what should you say when I tell you that my daughter has autism? You could start with “It’s so great that you got the diagnosis early! You must be a great parent.” We also love to hear “I can tell you’ve been working on her skills, she’s doing great!” You can ask us what kind of treatment she’s getting and what progress we’ve seen. You can ask how we cope with the condition. You can offer support if you want to. Or you can just say “Oh, she has autism? OK.” and leave it at that. Just please do not question the diagnosis, because we’re sure and I shouldn’t have to justify it to you.


The Parents of a Child With Autism


Source: breaktheparentingmold

4 Tips I Wish I’d Known About Parenting a Child With ADHD

mother and daughter sit together next to a lakeParenting is not easy. And (shh), it is not always fun. It can be grueling and, at times, seemingly impossible. There are days I want to put up a sign that says, “Gone Fishing. Or to Trader Joe’s. Or to pee. In Iceland.”

The thing is, parenting is isolating at times – no matter how much you love your children and adore motherhood. Having a kid with special needs can really throw you into a corner all alone. It doesn’t matter what the specific need is; it can be terrifying and trying along the way.

Here are four things I wish I had learned 12 years ago about parenting a child with special needs.

1) It is not easy; maintain your sense of humor.

My oldest daughter and I have a special relationship. We get each other. We love each other so intensely it is often suffocating (for both of us).  She is fun, bright, passionate, funny and wants to be with me always. She also has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We have all had to learn to laugh (with her) because otherwise we would cry. If we find humor in everything else, it makes the painful parts a little less painful.

2) Find support.

For years I did not share my daughter’s issues with anyone – not even her teachers. Sure, they knew she had ADHD and understood the impact it could have on her life at school. But no one knew about the difficulties she had at home: the meltdowns, difficulty reading social cues or how she would not go to sleep at night. I was sure all of this was because I was doing something wrong. Then one day, after a really rough night, I broke down to a friend. Lucky for me, I chose the right friend; as it turned out, her child had similar issues. We vented, shared stories and became each other’s main means of support during the hard times. To this day, we laugh together, cry together and offer each other tips.

My other lifesaver has been our cognitive behavioral therapist. She has helped my daughter become aware of her behavior and work on regulating her emotions. She has assisted me and my husband in coming up with a behavior plan based on incentives. She has helped us understand the psychological and physiological characteristics of kids just like my daughter. It actually felt better to know our child is not entirely unique; it made us feel less alone.

Online support groups for parents are also helpful. There is a whole world of parents who are experiencing the same issues that you face. You can validate each other, mentor each other and explore your options together.

3) Tune out your critics. Trust yourself.

My harshest critics are often those closest to me. “She has tantrums because you are so strict with her.” “Why aren’t you enforcing more rules and limits?” “Why on earth are you not medicating her?” “Why did you medicate her? Poor kid!”

It was hard, but I had to learn to feel confident in my own parenting. As I relied more and more on “the experts” and my fellow parents to guide me through the rough patches, the more I was able to tune out my critics. I have learned to parent as I see fit. Oh, my critics still criticize, but I am more capable of ignoring them and carrying on. I have watched my daughter thrive and blossom as my husband and I learn to parent with confidence.

4) Advocate. Advocate. Advocate.

You are your child’s greatest advocate – and at times, maybe the only one. Even with the neuropsych evaluation in hand, you may have to gently (or not so gently) remind the teachers your child needs modifications and/or differentiation to meet goals and expectations.

When a teacher says, “Your daughter had a lot of trouble focusing on math today,” I ask, “What came before that block?” When they reply, “English and science and a double block of reading,” I know to ask, “Was there any gross motor movement? Any breaks? Was she given any time at all to get up out of her seat and even socialize?”

I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I’ve been the teacher with 28 kids in my class. I have seen how hard it can be to take every single child’s needs into account, but it is still so important for teachers to do this!

It is your right – perhaps even your job – to keep your finger on the pulse of your child’s life at school. If he/she is not successful, ask yourself: why not? A simple tweak, like walking around the school after half an hour of work, could be just the trick your child’s teachers may have overlooked. No one is a better expert on your child than you are. I should add that you will have many a teacher who has your child’s best interests at heart. We have had plenty of those! Be sure to let them know how much it means to you!

Every family has ups and downs. Every child has good days and bad days. Sometimes it feels like we families with children with special needs have more rough days than “normal” families do. But I assure you, this is not true. What I have learned since I started opening up is that no family is “normal.” And we are so lucky.


Source: themighty

4 Sensory Activities to Explore With Your Kids

child smelling a flowerIn 2015, my daughter was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD). It impacts a child’s ability to process a variety of senses like taste, smell, touch and hearing. Every child with SPD is different, and their interaction with their senses is unique.

The SPD Foundation defines it as “a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses.”

For some families, receiving help and a diagnosis can be tricky. In Canada, where I live, it seems some doctors and therapists shy away from the official diagnosis of “sensory processing disorder,” while other doctors have little knowledge of sensory issues and may brush it off as typical childhood behavior.

It wasn’t until my husband and I became connected with a pediatric occupational therapist that we really became knowledgeable about the condition itself and found resources to help our child.

One of the ways we have been encouraged to help our daughter integrate her senses is by introducing various sensory activities into her daily life.

Truthfully, all of us can benefit from sensory activities to either calm or energize us, depending on what we need.

Patricia Wilbarger, an innovative occupational therapist, coined the term “sensory diet.” The concept of a sensory diet is that, similar to our unique nutritional requirements, some of us also require a specialized sensory activity plan. The goal for this daily plan is to help children and adults remain focused and organized throughout the day. Sensory diets are created for children with SPD, autism and even adults with dementia.

Our daughter doesn’t require a “strict” sensory diet, however, she has benefited from regular sensory activities to encourage sensory integration. We have noticed when we encourage her to engage in sensory play, she experiences a calmer and more fluid day.

I encourage you to try out some of these activities and pay attention to your child’s behavior and response.

1. Encourage the same physical motions every day.

Experience a smoother transition from activities when involving your child in physical sensory tasks that help them move from one activity to the next. These are called “proprioception” activities, which help children in a variety of ways, including understanding their daily schedule or soothing them at night.

Some of the ways you can do this is by having your child help to set the table before dinner, carry an armful of books to their room for story time and lie on the couch with heavy weighted blankets for quiet time.

2. Involve your child in daily tactile sensory activities.

Throughout our day, we touch a variety of objects with many different textures. Over time, we become accustomed to these sensory experiences and hardly notice them as we get older. For children with sensory processing challenges, something as simple as picking up a wet grape can be challenging and overwhelming.

Involve children in regular daily sensory activities to integrate these senses. This includes having them help you wash and dry their dishes, giving them daily sensory activities like playing with playdough, sand and sensory bins and having them help with food prep.

3. Introduce different foods into your child’s diet.

A common challenge for parents of children with sensory issues is getting their kids to try new foods. In fact, most parents around the world can relate to “picky eaters,” and most would benefit from researching sensory input and gentle ways to introduce new foods.

Instead of force feeding, consider challenging children to try out new flavors and tastes.

Many occupational therapists believe that allowing a child a small sip of a bubbly drink, like water with a bit of seltzer, will help to wake up the senses in their mouth.

Afterwards, offer your child a mix of new and familiar foods and encourage them to touch, smell and lick the food. Even if they don’t bite and chew the new food being introduced, they were able to have some kind of interaction with it.

One way we have helped our daughter introduce new foods into her diet is through food chaining. By identifying a type of food your child really enjoys and finding different versions of that food, you’re able to open a child up to new textures and food experiences.

For example, our daughter loves whole-wheat bread. We try to offer her whole-grain crackers, pitas, tortillas, chips and rice cakes. Having her branch out and try new foods that are similar to her comfort food gives her courage to continue to branch out and try new things.

4. Explore different scents with your child.

Spending time identifying and exploring different smells with your children helps to encourage the integration of their olfactory system.

Try going on a walk and smelling flowers that you pass by or having children smell different foods and spices in the kitchen. Looking for new smells will encourage a sense of exploration in their young minds.

Help them to identify smells that may seem foreign to them, like the scent of a distant campfire or the earthy scent of the air after a night of rain.

There are many fun ways to explore different scents, but try and keep it to natural smells as artificial fragrances can do more harm than good.

Regardless of whether or not your child has sensory processing disorder or difficulty integrating their senses, all children can benefit from a daily schedule that involves different sensory inputs.


Source: themighty

10 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Children

What do children know that adults seem to have forgotten? Children are more confident, more courageous and enjoy life far more intensely than adults. Sometimes it feels that we spend our entire lives trying to return to who we were as children. Here’s what we can learn from our younger selves to bring more clarity and joy into adulthood.

1. Every day is a fresh start.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” – L.M. Montgomery.

Wasn’t it alway amazing how the end of a school day always felt so final, so finished? The break between June and September seemed like a lifetime. Because when you are young, every day feels like an eternity and a new day means new opportunities to make new friends, explore new adventures, learn new things. Children don’t carry baggage from one day to the next. They start fresh, always.

2. Creative pursuits are fun and good for you.

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

How often do you see children losing themselves in a creative project for hours at a time? Drawing, playing with clay, building a sandcastle with meticulous attention to detail. For some reason, as we get older, we stop seeing creative activities as worthwhile. How many adults, aside from artists, draw on a regular basis? How many play with clay or finger paint just for the fun of it?

3. Be courageous.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin.

Sing out loud. Dance when you feel like it. A child’s life feels limitless because they are not confined by fears of failure or humiliation. They march forward with hope and determination because they don’t know any better. They haven’t been beaten down, they haven’t experienced failure. They embrace life and all it has to offer with open arms.

4. Laugh every day.

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

Children have the beautiful ability to find joy all around them. Just watch the humor a child can find in a shopping mall or at the park. They see silliness everywhere.

5. Be active.

“Play energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” – Stuart Brown

When you were young, playing outside was the highlight of your day. You would run and chase your friends until you were out of breath and your cheeks were rosy. You would jump and do cartwheels at the drop of a hat and you never thought of it as “exercise” or “daily fitness.” It was just playing. And it was fun. “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. Nurture friendship.

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” – Khalil Gibran

Children find true joy while playing with friends and they love making new ones. They join soccer teams, go to a birthday parties, start new schools. These are all ways that kids make new friends. Children adhere to the motto, “the more the merrier,” and adults should, as well.

7. Be the hero.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron

When a child tells you a story about school or the soccer field, they are usually the hero of their story. The world revolves around them. As we age, we don’t want to be conceited or egotistic, so we downplay our accomplishments and achievements. We don’t want to brag. But in doing so, we often slip to the side of self-deprecation. We put ourselves down to make others feel better or to be more relatable. Modesty becomes an admirable quality and we start to convince ourselves of our own mediocrity.

8. Scars are badges of honor.

“Every day you either see a scar or courage. Where you dwell will define your struggle.” – Dodinsky

When a child breaks a bone, everyone they know will sign the cast. They become the superstar of the class, the survivor. If they fall down and cut themselves, everyone wants to see the scar, they wear it proudly. As we get older, we hide our scars, our wounds become our secrets. We don’t want to be seen as weak or pitied, so we tell no one where it hurts. But what children recognize is that scars aren’t signs of weakness, a scar is a sign of strength and survival. A story to tell. An accomplishment.

9. Try new things.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Children are not afraid to play a sport they have never tried before. They will jump on a trampoline, dive into a pool or ski down a mountain even if it is foreign to them. As adults, we fear the unknown. We stay safely ensconced in our comfort zone and rarely venture out. Adventure exhilarates us and awakens the spirit.

10. Notice the little things.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

My niece loves watching the sandpipers run back and forth at the water’s edge. She notices their little legs and how fast they move along the sand. Something simple that we take for granted brings her immense joy and profound inspiration. When did we stop noticing the tiny miracles that surround us daily? How much more beautiful would life be if we could see these miracles again?


Source: huffingtonpost

41 Hacks That Help People With ADD / ADHD Work And Feel Better

5480783887_c2042c259f_bMichael Phelps, multiple gold medal winner in swimming, has ADHD. So do many other famous and successful people. If you have this diagnosis, you have good company, and that should give you a mood lift. While researchers and psychiatrists distinguish between ADD and ADHD, the lines between these two diagnoses are often blurred, so do not get too caught up in the differences indicated by one letter.

Wonderful Traits

If you have ADD/ADHD, you should know that you are all of these things:

  1. You generally have above-average intelligence
  2. You are generally highly creative
  3. You tend to think “outside of the box” and have unique solutions to problems
  4. You tend to be highly empathetic and caring
  5. You find joy in even the smallest of pleasures


  1. In school you can be disruptive, although this usually dissipates by college
  2. You have difficulty focusing on school work and it may take you longer than most to complete assignments – (both reading and writing)
  3. In the workplace, you may have difficulty focusing on tasks and projects, particularly those that involve many steps or phases.
  4. When you do get immersed in something that really interests or excites you, you ‘zone in’ like no other, and it may be difficult for you to ‘break’ from that activity and change gears.

To meet the challenges you may face, and to let your great qualities shine through, here are 41 hacks to use on a daily basis:

1. Break down all tasks into bite-sized actions.

Every time you have a task that involves more than one step, break it down into one step at a time. Write each step down so you can follow the right sequence.

2. Keep your brain tidy.

If you are distracted by persistent thoughts as you are trying to study or work, get out a piece of paper and write them down. Somehow, writing them down allows you to focus on the task at hand.

3. Keep a to-do list printed out in front of you.

Not just in a file on your computer or somewhere in your planner. You need to have the visual in front of you at all times to keep your focus sharp and to help you accomplish more daily.

4. Always hold onto your to-do list.

Hold onto it until everything is crossed off or until you’ve put incomplete items onto a new list. If you don’t do this, you’ll forget something or lose an important step in a process.

5. Choose only one place for your stuff.

Have only one place where you keep the important stuff – keys, phone, purse or wallet – and this means at both work and at home.

6. Keep your things organized.

Get a basket or nice-looking organizer that is divided into compartments. Label each compartment with the different categories required to organize your important stuff; this will remind you to put everything in the right place.

7. Have a calendar or planner with you at all times.

Write down every appointment and meeting. If you do this with an app, you must also put a calendar on your wall with those dates marked in print also, because you need a visual that you’ll see daily.

8. Check everything twice a day.

Check your calendar every night before going to bed and again in the morning when you first wake up. Repetitive reminders will always help.

9. Get yourself isolated when you need to focus.

Get yourself to a quiet isolated place when you need to focus on a task. It should feature either no windows/ windows with shades, and either no noise or just “white” noise. If you can’t block out noise, use earplugs.

10. Use tools to limit your Internet presence.

If you have to use your computer for school or work, get an app/tool to block the Internet or at least your favorite sites while you work.

11. Do not clutter up your work/study space.

Keep your home and work/study space as orderly and uncluttered as possible. Some people work well amid clutter – you don’t.

12. Stack your important things in easy reach.

Stack everything that will be going to school or work with you the next morning in a specific spot, including books, files, keys, phone, and purse/ wallet.

13. Do not become distracted by TV – keep it off.

Speaking of mornings, don’t turn the TV on as you are getting ready for work or school. It’s just too easy to become distracted by the latest events. Listen to the radio on the way to work instead.

14. Put aside your cell phone when you are busy.

Give someone else, whom you trust, the care of your phone while you work on a task or project. Instruct them to answer only calls from family members, in case of emergency

15. Don’t try to work too long.

Take frequent breaks- and MOVE when you take those breaks, especially if you have ADHD. Set a timer for them because it’s good to look forward to the “ding.”

16. Don’t let the Internet become a distraction.

Limit your time on the Internet with the help of hotspot software. Give yourself a time frame and use a mobile hotspot app to control your schedule.

17. Harness the power of hyper focus.

If you are totally immersed in a project, do not take a break. There are times when getting “into the zone” is a good thing.

18. If you think of something, write it down immediately.

Have a place in every room for writing important things down as they come to mind. Use a dry erase board, or just a pad of paper. You can consolidate those lists once a day.

19. Get ahead of yourself.

Set all of your clocks ahead and live as though you are 5-10 minutes ahead of everyone else. If you get a bit distracted, you’ll still be on time.

20. Pay all of your bills at once.

Arrange for all bills to be due at the same time. Since usually your mortgage or rent is due between the 1st and 10th of each month, contact all of your creditors and utilities and request the same time frame. Most will oblige.

21. Use technology to keep up with payments.

If you have trouble remembering to pay bills, arrange an automatic payment from your checking account. Your other option is to pay bills online and carefully check your payment history. All banks list everyone you have paid, along with the dates of the last payment. It is easy to check possible cases of fraud.

22. Don’t try to clean daily.

Schedule only one day a week for cleaning. The dirt isn’t going anywhere.

23. Have a medication backup plan.

Carry meds with you or keep a small supply in your desk at work, in case you forget to take them. At some point you’ll remember and you’ll be glad you had the foresight to prepare.

24. Count on loved ones.

Use supportive people like friends and family to remind you of things you need to get done and appointments you have.

25. Treat yourself.

Put rewards in place for yourself as you get things done. The bigger the task or project, the bigger the reward should be.

26. Divide up reading assignments.

If you have long reading assignments, divide the book up into sections between now and the due date. Put post-it notes on those divisions, and read each section on a schedule

27. Break big jobs into small tasks.

For long term assignments or projects, divide it up into individual tasks or steps and put each one on that calendar on your wall.

28. Multi-tasking is your enemy.

Stop trying to multi-task. Some people can do this – you cannot, and that’s totally fine. In fact, multi-tasking actually does not do any good for anyone.

29. Use your voice to commit important things to memory.

When someone gives you important verbal information or instructions, and you have nothing to write it down with, repeat it out loud 3-4 times between the time of the instruction and when you are able to get somewhere that allows you to write it down.

30. Always be prepared to take notes.

Carry a pad of paper with you- even just a tiny one- everywhere you go. You can also use an app like Evernote, but you will need to remember to access it at least once a day and get your notes on visible sheets of paper or that calendar.

31. Feeling emotional or stressed? Calm down first.

Do not take on a task or project if you are feeling emotional, especially sad. Wait until you are more even-tempered

32. Fidget respectfully.

If you need to tap, jiggle your leg, or do something similar as you work or sit in a meeting, do so as unobtrusively as possible so you don’t disturb others. Explain to others that it helps you to focus.

33. Purge.

Don’t hoard. If you have finished a project or task, take all of that paperwork you were using and get rid of it.

34. Walk and talk.

When you are engaged in important phone conversations, pace as you talk. You will stay more focused if you do.

35. Pause before speaking.

Come up with a signal that you give yourself before you say something in class or in a meeting. It can be as simple as putting your finger to your lips. This will remind you to think before you blurt something out that you may regret later.

36. Embrace the sticky note.

Get a lot of post-it notes. Put your errands, one by one, on post-it notes and stick them on the dashboard of your car. As you finish each errand, get rid of the post-it note. It will feel good to do that!

37. Use colors to set priorities.

Put color-coded post-it notes on your wall calendar to prioritize your tasks. Red notes could signify urgent tasks, and so on.

38. ADHD does not define you.

Remind yourself of all of your strengths and talents, and do so often. Justin Timberlake, Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson and even Ryan Gosling struggle with the same things that you do!

39. Don’t let your active brain cheat you out of sleep.

If you wake up in the middle of the night because of thoughts running through your head, turn on the light, write them down on a piece of paper on your nightstand, and go back to sleep.

40. Go with the flow when you can.

Let yourself be distracted when it doesn’t matter. It’s okay to stop doing the dishes if you hear something on TV you want to watch and listen to.

41. Laughter is a great thing.

Find humor in your ADD and joke about it. You’ll feel better.

Having ADD or ADHD is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, you are destructible; yes you are “antsy”; yes, you may have more difficulty focusing in order to complete tasks. But you are also a person whose brain is in ‘rapid fire’ mode a lot more frequently than most others, and that allows you to be a creative problem solver! Using these hacks will help to minimize your ‘curses’ and maximize your blessings.


Source: lifehack

10 Things a Parent of a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder Wants to Say to You

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on a little known sensory disorder that many times coincides with autism: sensory processing disorder (SPD).

SPD involves any disorder of your senses ranging from over-sensitivity to light, smells or sound to an under-sensitivity to taste and touch. SPD can also affect the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which control balance, movement and spatial orientation.

As a mother of a young son with SPD, I’ve come across so many people who are unsure of and even put off by his unique behavior. Below are 10 things I’d like to say to those people.

Please take a moment to read, share and spread the word. The more we educate others, the better we become at responding to these children who need us.

1. He has reasons for being fidgety.

His SPD creates an insatiable craving for tactile stimulation. He fidgets because his nervous system isn’t developed the same as yours or mine. His nerves act as a one-way street. His brain is telling his nerves they should be feeling the rigidity of the seat under his bottom, but his nerves never respond to his brain letting it know they already feel it. This creates frustration and anxiety, which leads to fidgeting. The same is true in reverse sometimes, too.  

Some sensations, though inconsequential to you or me, are overwhelming to him. The tag on your shirt isn’t noticeable to you, but for Vincent, his nerves are telling his brain a thorn is digging into his neck.

2. The noises you balk at are necessary for him.

The “inappropriate noises” he makes are repetitive and soothing. To Vincent, all the sounds you and I tune out may carry the same urgency as those we prioritize.

You hear the voice of your boss telling you the deadline for your next project. Vincent hears his teacher explaining a math problem but also hears the humming of florescent lights, the rattling of the heater, the chatter of other students, the footsteps of the aide, the cars driving by outside the window and even his own breathing. Because his auditory discernment is not as strong as yours or mine, he is unable to focus on priority sounds and, in an effort to push aside all that noise, he makes sounds himself that help drown out the confusion.

3. He is not a bad boy.

Vincent does not have bad manners. In fact, he is one of the most polite and thoughtful children you’ll ever meet. He says “Please,” “Excuse me,” and “Thank you” without prompting and is always sure to give you hugs and kisses if he thinks you’re sad. When we pick up toys at the store, he often asks if we can get things for his cousins. He is a truly loving, good little boy. His meltdowns are not the result of being spoiled, coddled or moody. They are markers for the moment his strong little heart is overwhelmed by the 24/7 job of trying to push back against a tsunami of stimulation.

4. We are not bad parents.

How often my husband John and I are looked at as if we are the root cause of Vincent’s more stressful moments. How often we are asked if we’ve tried X, Y or Z to basically force Vincent to fall into line.

We did not cause his sensory processing disorder. Our parenting styles did nothing to bring on his sensitivity to certain situations. We love our child fiercely and do everything in our power to see he is cared for, protected and loved. We may not be the most savvy parents in regards to the latest therapies available, but don’t you dare mistake our novice ignorance for bad parenting. We are fighting to make ourselves and others aware of this disorder, and we are doing all we can to give Vincent the therapy he needs to cope.

So the next time you see us in the store while Vincent is having a meltdown because the lights hurt his eyes and the cart feels especially frustrating to his backside, refrain from suggesting I stop spoiling him. I might not be so charitable in my response.

5. He hasn’t mastered personal space.

I apologize in advance. My son is going to get in your face — frequently. Because his proprioceptive system is underdeveloped, he doesn’t fully understand his own body in space. Thus, he has trouble understanding his body relative to yours. As a result, the only way he fully knows he’s close to you is if his face is touching (or nearly touching) yours. Again, since his auditory sense is sometimes jumbled, he ensures you can hear him (and he, you) by being all but on top of you for a conversation. He doesn’t do this to be rude… he does it because he doesn’t know any other way.  

We are working on this.  Please be patient with him.  

6. He loves stepping on things with his bare feet.

Owing to his intense addiction to stimulation, Vincent loves stepping on everything and anything with his bare feet. This poses quite the challenge to us because he even gets satisfaction from stepping on dangerous things. He’s broken more than one plastic toy because he craved the sensation of various objects under the sensitive nerves of his feet.

In addition to forcing John and I to keep the floors relatively free of items, this also creates a problem with shoes. Vincent is sensitive to the type of shoes he’s willing to wear, and it’s many times a fight to get him to keep them on, even when we’re outside. He’s not throwing a temper tantrum because he wants to wear his SpongeBob boots vs. his Spider-man sneakers… he’s having a meltdown because his SpongeBob boots give him relief from his tactile craving while his Spider-man sneakers compound the frustration and add to his anxiety.

7. His movements can be fast and forceful.

Because Vincent is mostly under-responsive to his sense of touch, he rarely cries when he falls or is accidentally run into by an older kid at the park. He doesn’t feel things as strongly as other children. As a result, he has no baseline with which to understand his own movements. The only way he feels his arm traveling through space to throw a ball is if he exerts extra force. That extra movement reassures his brain his muscles are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. This extra movement can come off as fast and forceful. He isn’t doing this to be aggressive or mean. He simply cannot adjust his momentum because he cannot feel himself moving as you and I can. 

Again, please be patient. He is doing so much better with this, but it is a difficult skill to learn when your nerves rebel against you.

8. He is so incredibly smart!

Just because he’s not comfortable in a mainstream classroom doesn’t mean he’s not able to learn. It doesn’t mean he’s stupid. My son is fearsomely intelligent.

His memory is better than mine, his math skills never cease to amaze me and his appetite for his new passion, spelling, makes my heart swell with pride. The creativity and problem-solving skills he’s developed while playing adventure games with his daddy have only proven to me his capacity for intelligence hasn’t even begun to be appreciated. Standardized testing cannot verify his penchant for architecture. Circle time cannot concede to his superior grasp of cause and effect. No Child Study Team will ever capture the wisdom he shows in his thoughtful, gentle care of those he instinctively understands need his affection.  

Again, my son is fearsomely, awesomely intelligent.

9. Oh, how he loves to laugh!

Itself a very stimulating experience, my son loves the sensations he gets from laughing. His belly rolls, his chest heaves, his ears delight in the noise of giggles. His whole face feels the movement of his smile as his eyes crinkle in anticipation of the high-pitched squeals he cranks out.

What joyful music.  

My son loves laughter. He loves being “tricked” and surprised. He loves being the cause of laughter around him. He’ll clown about or say silly things with the sole goal being laughter… glorious laughter.

vincent and his sister

10. Oh, how he loves!

There is not a malicious bone in my son’s body. He happily pets our cats generously saying, “Look, Mommy. Zoey loves me! I love Zoey, too.” He’ll parade around with his stuffed dog, Chase, and tell everyone what a good dog he is and how much he loves Chase because Chase is a police dog. He’ll throw his arms around your neck and tell you how happy he is to see you because he loves you “so so much.” He’ll make you feel like a million bucks because, to him, everyone is his “best friend in the whole, whole world.”

In a word, my son is love… pure, unblemished love.  

Please remember that the next time his sensory challenges leave you frustrated or confused. Above all, simply remember he is capable of giving and receiving love. Next time a sensory-craver like Vincent has a meltdown, respond with love. Push aside your own frustration and confusion because it pales in comparison to the anxiety he feels on a routine basis.

Respond with love, too, to the parents of these children. Do not discount us as bad parents or folks to be pitied for having a “problem child.” Far from it. We love our children and are proud of them. We are joyed at being given the opportunity to unwrap their potential and can’t wait to see how they change the world.


Tennessee Cumming accomplished rare feat in spite of multiple learning disabilities

Tennessee Cumming, 12, of Rancho Santa Fe, preparing for his final dives in Fiji on May 16 and 17, to achieve his certification as the world's youngest Junior Master Scuba Diver.For his 12th birthday last week, Tennessee Cumming received a gift that no other kid in the world can claim.

After a two-day certification dive in the waters off Fiji on May 16 and 17, the Rancho Santa Fe sixth-grader became the world’s youngest Junior Master Scuba Diver. It’s the highest achievement a young diver can earn from the international Professional Association of Diving Instructors, known as PADI. The achievement required hundreds of hours of training and more than 50 open-water dives.

To celebrate his new title, Tennessee (who goes by the nickname “T”) was honored Tuesday by his classmates at The Winston School in Del Mar, which serves children with learning challenges.

T has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorder, pervasive development disorder and a processing disorder. For most of his life, school was something T hated so much, he refused to go half of the time. But since he found what his mother, Allison, calls an “island of confidence” in diving 18 months ago, he now loves getting up in the morning for school, where he earns all A’s and B’s.

Tennessee Cumming, 12, of Rancho Santa Fe, undergoes testing with instructor Elizabeth “Bethy” Driscoll in the waters off Fiji May 16, 2016, to achieve his certification as the world’s youngest Junior Master Scuba Diver. Allison Cumming

“Diving has given him something he’s better at than anyone else. Kids regard him as a dive aficionado, so he’s more confident and happier, and he’s got more self-esteem,” said Allison, who with her husband, David Cumming, has three adopted children with special needs. Case, 13, has dyslexia, ADD and learning processing disorders, and daughter Samara, 8, has dyslexia, ADD and behavioral issues.

The family moved to Rancho Santa Fe from Park City, Utah, in 2014 to find schools better adapted to their children’s special needs. The move also brought the family closer to the ocean, where T could begin regular scuba training, a hobby he discovered on a family vacation in Bora Bora when he was 8 years old.

“I think I liked that I could breathe underwater for a long time,” said T, whose family returned from Fiji on Saturday. “I got to see a bunch of stuff I normally don’t see, and I liked it.”

Allison said that during that Thanksgiving week trip in 2012, T took several introductory “Bubblemaker” classes, and after each dive he returned with the words “best day of my life!”

“We’d never heard him say anything like that before,” she said. “Other than building Legos with his brother, there was nothing else he seemed to like to do.”

David Cumming, who works in the hospitality industry, said T has had a lifelong fascination with sea creatures. For his trip to Fiji last week, T brought along his favorite stuffed animal, a plush squid. Diving was something T wanted to pursue with earnest ever since Bora Bora, so when the family moved to San Diego two years ago, he enthusiastically dove head-first into the sport.

He was already a skilled skier in Park City and had tried numerous activities over the years, but David said his son always grew bored after a while. It wasn’t until he started diving training with PADI instructor and “Diving Nanny” Elizabeth “Bethy” Driscoll in San Diego that he found a passion that never died.

Driscoll has been diving with T almost twice a week since 2014 and has accompanied the family on several diving-related vacations. She said that since they first met, she sensed something special about T’s interest in the sport.

Tennessee Cumming’s diving achievement was honored Tuesday at The Winston School in Del Mar. Pictured from left: Father David Cumming, diver Tennessee Cumming, diving coach and “Dive Nanny” Elizabeth “Bethy” Driscoll, Winston headmaster Mike Peterson, and Tennessee’s mom Allison Cumming. — Courtesy of the Cumming Family

“I realized that he was asking the same kinds of questions that I asked in my classes,” Driscoll said. “We would start talking about diving on underwater wrecks, and we’d start laughing and get more excited about it … we just both enjoy being under the water.”

Driscoll said with all the classroom and diving time she spent with T, they started setting goals.

The hardest to reach was becoming the youngest Junior Master Scuba Diver, a category open to youths ages 12 to 15. Besides the 50 dives, the achievement requires multiple certifications, including rescue diver, emergency first responder diver and advanced open water diver.

He also had to complete training in five specialty areas. Driscoll said T picked some of the most technical and complicated specialties, including emergency oxygen provider equipment specialist, dry suit diver and peak performance buoyancy. Only the poor diving conditions off San Diego’s coast due to El Niño-related tides this year kept him from earning more, she said.

The soonest T could earn the Junior Master Scuba Diver title was his 12th birthday on May 16, so the whole family and Driscoll traveled to Fiji’s Rainbow Reef where he could pass the final steps last week. The last test, on May 17, was rescuing an “unconscious” diver (Allison played the part) from a depth of 30 feet.

T now has the title held since November 2013 by Charlotte Burns, 14, of England. She also qualified a day after her 12th birthday (her 28-year-old brother Will also held the title when he was 14). Charlotte now serves as a PADI AmbassaDiver, helping encourage and instruct other young scuba enthusiasts. PADI has reached out to the Cummings about having T become an AmbassaDiver as well.

Tennessee Cumming, 12, of Rancho Santa Fe, shown diving off Palau, has become the world’s youngest Junior Master Scuba Diver. Jami Leslie

David said he hopes that T’s success with diving inspires other parents with children who have learning disabilities.

“Having kids (like this) can be overwhelming, and when people get overwhelmed, they start into survival mode. We’ve been there,” he said. “We’d like people to know that kids with learning and developmental issues can dive, and they can be really good at it. It’s something that should be in the spectrum of ideas when parents are trying to come up with things for their kids to do.”

Tuesday’s assembly, organized by Winston headmaster Mike Peterson, included a display of diving gear, some underwater films from T’s diving trips and a brief presentation. Peterson describes T as a hard-working, persistent student with a good sense of humor and a unique way to stand out from his peers.

“He is … a risk-taker, so it’s clear this attribute has carried over throughout what he has done in life,” Peterson said.

With his new certification, T is now qualified for deeper and more challenging dives. He said he loves diving on shipwrecks, where over the years he’s found “sunken treasure” including an antique coin, a pocket knife, a GoPro camera and a small boat anchor. His next goal is to dive in the Tennessee River, where he wants to explore the wreck of a Civil War-era steamboat.

“Every dive,” T said, “is a treasure-hunt dive.”

Source :sandiegouniontribune


Dyslexia and ADHD Quick Facts on the Linkages Between Dyslexia and ADHD

Quick Facts on the Linkages Between Dyslexia and ADHD

  • ADD/ADHD is short for Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder
  • ADHD is difficulty focusing attention and controlling behaviour whereas dyslexia is a problem with language and reading
  • Though separate disorders, they are often appear together in children (co-morbidity)
  • Somewhere between 25-40% of children with dyslexia also have ADHD and approximately 25% of children with ADHD also have dyslexia
  • Research shows that many of the same areas of the brain are involved in both conditions
  • ADHD affects approximately 9% of children age 13 to 18 years
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to have ADHD but the gender balance is equal for dyslexia
ADHD and Dyslexia

ADHD Basics


According to the Mayo Clinic, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is:

“A chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.”

There are successful strategies and accommodations to deal with it, and the symptoms often decrease with age, but may never completely disappear.

Subtypes of ADHD  include: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. (See pie chart below).

ADHD Subtypes


Hyper Impulsive Inattentive
  • Fidget in their seat
  • Always running around, talking playing, touching
  • Talk and talk and talk
  • Difficulty with quiet tasks that require focus
  • Impatient
  • Blurt out comments without thinking
  • Often interrupt
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Forgetful
  • Daydreaming
  • Trouble following instructions
  • Easily bored


The exact cause of ADHD isn’t known, but like dyslexia it is not the result of laziness, low intelligence, disobedience, poor parents, diet or too much television. This can’t be emphasized enough.

Research has shown that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. In identical twins, if one has it, there is a high probability both will. A genetic predisposition to ADHD may be ‘activated’ by certain environmental factors before or after birth.

Causes of ADHD

* Genetics & Environment
* Drugs/Alcohol during pregnancy
* Preschool lead exposure
* Neurotransmitter imbalance
* Delay in brain maturation

But NOT…..

* Poor Diet / Sugar
* Bad Parenting
* Disobedience
* Laziness

For example, use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy has been linked to higher rates of ADHD in children. Pre-school exposure to high levels of lead has also been implicated in ADHD research.

ADHD seems to reside in the frontal areas of the brain associated with executive functioning, regulation of behaviour, organization, and planning. The specific issue in those areas may be an imbalance in the levels of various neurotransmitters (particularly norepinephrine and dopamine), explaining why common ADHD medications (Ritalin + others) inhibit the uptake of neurotransmitters, leaving more in the bloodstream.

Finally, some recent brain imaging studies have found that in children with ADHD the brain matures in a normal pattern but is simply delayed by about 3 years. This may explain why a significant portion of children seem to outgrow the disorder.

Treatment / Accommodation

Like dyslexia, ADHD can’t be cured though treatment, but it can be managed. Every child requires a personal plan which should be developed in consultation with your family doctor and a specialist, usually a clinical psychologist. Treatment may include a combination of:

  • Behavioral Therapies

    Behavioural or cognitive behavioural approaches include techniques used by psychiatrists and psychologists to reduce undesired behaviours such as tantrums, disobedience or low self esteem and at the same time increase desired behaviours such helping, cooperation and positive thoughts and self esteem.

    This type of therapy includes things like ‘token economies’ which reward good behaviour with small ‘tokens’ such as points or gold stars.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (psychotherapy)

    Cognitive behavioural therapies (sometimes called psychotherapy) involve having children talk about upsetting thoughts and feelings, helping them to recognize these thoughts when they occur and then develop strategies for dealing with them and the behaviours that follow.

    More importantly, psychotherapy aims to help children feel better about themselves, to discover and build on strengths (not focus on weaknesses) and successfully cope with daily problems.

Common Forms of ADHD Medications

  • Medication

    Contrary to what you might hear in the media, medications to help children with ADHD are often effective: Approximately 75% of children with ADHD show some behavioural improvement while on medication.

The most common type of medication used is a stimulant called methylphenidate. It’s used in many drugs such as Concerta, Ritalin and Daytrana. Its purpose is to improve a child’s ability to pay attention and reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

The ability to sustain focused attention is critical for reading and for any task of long duration or with multiple steps – precisely the kinds of tasks those with both dyslexia and ADHD have a lot of trouble performing.

Focus is also important for keeping things neat and organized. Focused attention is essential for noticing that you just threw your shirt on the floor instead of the hamper or left the textbook and your pen on the table when running off to play Minecraft.

Common side effects from methylphenidate include include loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. These can be major problems, but research shows that these side effects diminish after several weeks of use. If they didn’t, ADHD drugs would be the hotest diet pills around, but they are not, because appetite returns for most users. Sleep cycles too improve with time.

Alternative therapies such as healthier diets, exercise, meditation and so forth may hold some benefit and are certainly unlikely to do much harm, but there are no alternative therapies we are aware of with a body of research evidence behind them.

“But I want them to be
their natural Self”

You may be afraid that your child will become a ‘Zombie’ on medication or you may be concerned that ADHD medicines are over prescribed by big pharma companies that put profit before the interests of children.

These are reasonable concerns, but we suggest not ruling out medicine and simply discussing it with your family doctor. Yes, there can be side effects to medication and for some kids there may be better interventions to try first, but for some children, medications definitely work.

Keep in mind that while it may be more ‘natural’ to be medicine free, your child will also be naturally less attentive, or naturally hyper with all the consequences that flow from that, academically and socially. In short,  medications are not magic bullets, they are tradeoffs. There simply is no easy or right solution when struggling with issues of attention.

Distinguishing Dyslexia and ADHD

They are so commonly found together that some mistake dyslexia and ADHD for the same thing, but, to be clear, dyslexia and ADHD are two different disorders one to do with attention and behavior and the other specifically to do with reading. Still, the significant overlap (co-morbidity) suggests some related cause.

You may be concerned that your child is struggling to read, but at the same time unable to distinguish whether this is because she can’t focus attention or because she has a problem processing sounds, letters and words.

There is no one test to determine which it may be, or if both conditions are present. If at times your child can read fluently then it may be more likely to be an ADHD problem, but the only certain way to find out is through a separate professional assessment for each condition. Ask your school about reading assessment and your family doctor about assessment for ADHD.

Final Thoughts

Dyslexia and ADHD are distinct and separate conditions but they often occur together, suggesting some shared underlying causes, likely hereditary and neurological in origin.

Without professional assessment it may be difficult to tease the two problems apart with ADHD possibly accounting for some reading disability. For more information on reading assessment try our page on dyslexia testing. For assessment of ADHD, consult with your family doctor.