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Consider A Medication Vacation For Your Child

Summer’s here and the time is right for taking a vacation.

Whether it be a (and I can’t believe I’m about to use this word) stay cation at home or a vacation somewhere less-than exotic, most of us look forward to a few days off work so we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

But what about your ADHD child? Most school-age ADHD children take some form of medication to help them alleviate the symptoms of distraction or hyperactivity. These medications allow those taking them to sit still and think straight for long enough that they can actually learn something  in the classroom and during homework.

ADHD medication, whether it be stimulant-based or otherwise, is designed to do one thing: alter behavior. The medication is supposed to allow the child to behave in a more situationally correct manner and it achieves this by suppressing natural behaviors.

Taken out of context, that probably sounds like a horrible idea. It’s only when we begin considering that the natural behaviors are counter productive and disruptive both socially and academically that we understand changing the natural order is, in this case, a good thing.

However, change does not come without a cost. Consider the child who doesn’t take her medication one morning. More often than not, she will come home from school in a foul mood, cross and angry with the world. This is because her brain no longer has its expected pharmaceutical buffer supporting her cognitive processes.

It’s jagged and jarring and can make life difficult for both the ADHD child and anyone around him.

And yet, here I am suggesting that you might want to consider taking your child off her medications during the summer. While I might still be considered an idiot by some, I’m on the right track with this idea.

I will say, as a sort of fair warning, the pediatrician our young dudes still see does not believe in medication vacation for summer as a matter of course. However, there are certain circumstances under which she will give her go ahead.

You might consider a medication vacation as a way of assessing whether your child can do without medication for good. Because children are growing, the effect medication has on them will change over time. It could be that your child would do better on a different medication or no medication at all.

The only way to figure that out is to stop the current medication. ADHD isn’t something you age out of. However, some folks with the disorder can find ways to circumvent the disorder so they won’t need the medication.

A lot of that has to do with maturity. When younger, most kids don’t have the mental discipline necessary to do what needs to be done to help them overcome the hardships imposed by ADHD.

You might also want to consider a medication vacation if your child has been suffering from side effects, such as a loss of appetite. Within days, you’ll discover that most kids will begin eating more once they no longer are taking their medication. This could help them catch up on their necessary weight gain.

If you do give your little dudette a medication vacation, understand that it’s not on a whim. It’s a good idea to assess the success or failure of the vacation as summer winds to a close.

It could be that impulse-control issues without medication made it a difficult time. Or you might notice that your child is exhibiting more defiance when off the medications. Regardless, it’s a good idea to sit down with your child, your partner and the child’s doctor to discuss what you learned during the vacation.

This information can be invaluable as you begin to plan for the school year ahead.

The main thing I want you dudes to take away from this is that you should never stand pat when it comes to your child’s health and welfare. They’re growing and changing all the time, which means your approach must be constantly evaluated to see if it can be changed or should stay the same.

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Maybe The Handwriting Isn’t On The Wall After All

Our brain must understand that each possible iteration of, say, an “a” is the same, no matter how we see it written. Being able to decipher the messiness of each “a” may be more helpful in establishing that eventual representation than seeing the same result repeatedly.

The same research also notes that there could be a difference in the brains of young learners between those who only know how to print block letters (Hello! I’m mostly one of those. Long story.) and those who learn how to write in cursive.

In dysgraphia, a condition where the ability to write is impaired, sometimes after brain injury, the deficit can take on a curious form: In some people, cursive writing remains relatively unimpaired, while in others, printing does.

In alexia, or impaired reading ability, some individuals who are unable to process print can still read cursive, and vice versa — suggesting that the two writing modes activate separate brain networks and engage more cognitive resources than would be the case with a single approach.

That might not be all that much of a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that cursive writing is disappearing as a subject being taught to the little dudes and dudettes in school. My youngest, Hyper Lad, really only had cursive for about a single year.

He had to learn the letters, try to put them together, and then was forced to write his spelling sentences in cursive each week for the rest of the year. And, really, that was it.

Now it’s years later and, because he didn’t get cursive reinforced in school and because his dad didn’t get a chance to really learn cursive his ownself, I now have to do the reading for him when it comes to cursive notes written by his oldest relatives. Annoying, but also, apparently, only the smallest of problems relating to not knowing cursive.

It turns out, the benefits of learning both handwriting and cursive will last through childhood and into adulthood. Most adults know how to type and consider it an efficient method for taking notes, certainly above using a messy handwriting. However, the very efficiency of typing could be working against adults trying to assimilate new information.

Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.

All of which means . . . what?

I’m not going to say that you must emphasize handwriting in the young dudes and dudettes, but it’s looking like it might be a good idea.

Heck, even just having them handwrite the really important bits from their notes might offer a significant improvement in their ability to assimilate new information. Definitely something to think about as you sit down for your . . . erm. . . their homework come fall.

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Parents Talking To Teachers Talking To Parents

Parents and teachers want what’s best for their students.

The problem comes in when we try to define best.

Is it happy and adored by all around him? Or is it buckling down and applying herself?

This lack of specificity simply showcases how vast can become the chasm between parents and teachers when no one can communicate effectively. Which is where the New York Times‘ parenting and moming blog, The Motherlode, comes in. The blog ran a couple of columns last month about what parents want teachers to know and what teachers want parents to know. Not I’m bringing them all together so you can know.

The first thing teachers want parents to know is that their children are more capable than most parents think.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, your children do not need your help tying shoes, zipping jackets, sharpening pencils, packing their backpacks and lunch, or any of the million other tasks they expect you to do for them every day.

In addition, it’s all right to pause a while before giving feedback to your child. Let the little dude figure out on his own if he did something right or wrong. He’s going to need to rely on himself eventually, so help him start out right.

I’ve said before that kids lie. A lot. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Teachers are offering to not believe the little dudette about everything that happens at home, if you parents won’t believe everything she says happens in class.

When your child comes home and claims that the teacher screamed and yelled at him in front of the entire class for his low test score, try to give his teacher the benefit of the doubt until you’ve had a chance to talk to the teacher about it.

These last two seem to go together. Teachers want to remind parents that children learn from what parents do more than what they say. Parents also need to show that making a mistake isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that you are willing to try new things and recognize it might take a while to get better at them.

On the other hand, parents have a few words for the teachers as well.

For starters, parents want teachers to tell the truth. I know it goes against everything teachers learn about dealing with parents, but we (and I include myself in here most definitely) want to know what you really think of our kid, what he’s really doing in class, how he really fares during lessons. Don’t sugar-coat it. Tell us how it is, then we can work together to help our little dudette achieve.

Here’s something most kids will complain about: Homework. In this case, though, these parents have a good point. A lot of times, teachers seem to forget that they’re not the only one assigning homework to the young dudes.

If parents get home at 6 with their kids, and homework requires a half-hour of whining, hand-holding, cajoling and general disruption to the family peace, that seemingly quick and easy 20 minutes of homework in a third-grader’s folder or an hour in a seventh-grader’s backpack robs the entire family of time together, dinner in a relaxed setting and a calm bedtime.

Finally, this last point goes hand in glove with the previous point. Parents would like teachers to keep in mind the big picture. Understand that students are taking classes in more than just your subject so talk to the other grade-level teachers before handing out that massive assignment that’s due on the same day as the term paper and the math exam.

You’d think that parents and teachers would understand the importance of communication, considering that’s basically what each must do with the kids every day. Still, it doesn’t hurt to undergo a bit of a refresher every now and then to make sure we’re all on the same page.

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