Sunday, May 24, 2015

Psych Week Coming Up!



Psych Week starts May 25:
http://www.discoverylife.com/tv-shows/psych-week/videos/psych-week-starts-may-25th/

If you haven’t tuned in before, this week the Discovery Life channel has a whole week dedicated to mental illness, sharing personal stories of individuals (including children) suffering from mental illness, autism and more. Check it out!

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If you aren’t sure where to find the channel in your neighborhood, go to the website listed above, once there scroll up to the top and use the “Find the Channel” link in the top right corner.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Do We Get Points for Trying?


It’s the eve before Mother’s Day.

I’m at Target, on the floor holding my youngest son down while he kicks and screams at the end of the men’s razor aisle, convinced that I have ruined his life.

What set him off you may wonder?

I told him that he couldn't bring his DS into the store.

I know everything would’ve been much easier if I let him stay glued to his electronics, and I admit I’m guilty of this sometimes for just that reason, but I really do try to help him blend into our world.

At dinner tonight I cut off all the seeds on his strawberries. Every itty, bitty, tiny seed. It was my attempt to have him eat something he refuses in order to help improve his diet.

The strawberries sat naked in their dish, shamelessly seedless. And unfortunately uneaten.

Are there points for trying?

So often us moms face failure as a parent. We go the extra mile, we follow through with the consequence, we even dare to make a scene in Target while other parents look on. Yet the outcome is epic failure.

But I have to believe that we still get points for trying.

Tonight I want to honor all the moms who have walked in my shoes. Who feel that no matter how much they try, they never get it right. I want to send praises your way, to let you know that I acknowledge you and your efforts. I have read your emails, I have sat across from you over coffee, I have seen you rise to the occasion when your child was in full meltdown mode, and got your message when you cried after. I am thinking of you tonight. Some of you I know personally, some of you I have never met, yet I want you to know that I SEE you. You are an amazing mom. You are doing the best you can everyday. You are making a difference!

Happy Mother’s Day Mama!

(And in case you’re wondering, YES we do get points for trying, and a few bonus points along the way for never giving up!)


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I noticed that this is my 601 blog post. Wow, I can’t believe it. Thank you all for still reading after all these years. I am so grateful to have you along my side on this unexpected journey. You have helped me in more ways than you could ever know. Thank you!




Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Week from Hell


Right now we’re deep in a valley and it’s hard for me to see the peaks ahead.

In the last week, my husband had his official last day of work after being laid off. My mom went into the ICU after a life-threatening infection and stroke that occurred at my house and on the same day, her sister, my dear aunt, went into the ICU after complications from her disease. After days at the hospital, I found out that I lost all my contract work that I was depending on to help my family because of a company’s new direction.

I don’t mean to be a complainer, I realize that others have it so much tougher, including my mom and aunt, but even so, it feels like my family is always in a state of crisis.

Can you relate?

It’s one tough thing after another and I feel so broken-hearted tonight.

It feels like I can’t catch my breath.

My job loss today wasn’t the worst of it, but following it, I drove around crying, sobbing more like it.

Why can’t my family get a break?

Haven’t we suffered enough?

How are we going to provide for our boys?

What stability will we be able to provide them under these circumstances?

And healthcare? My boys have a lot of doctors!

How can we help others that need it when we ourselves are falling apart?


Oh how I long to exhale and experience peace once again.


For months I’ve been drawn to a page out of Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling.

“Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered. Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon me, to trust me in the dark. The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see My Power and Glory at work in the situation. Instead of letting difficulties draw you into worrying, try to view them as setting the scene for My glorious intervention. Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.”

I feel like God has been drawing me to this message for some time now. I have to admit, it has both comforted me and terrified me at the same time. Like God was preparing me for something very unpleasant. Almost like a warning. Like cliff notes to what lay ahead.

After this week, I can’t help but reflect on this passage once again.

I feel like many of my prayers have gone unanswered.

That nothing is happening in the time frame that I desire, I’m indeed having to learn to wait on God.

To depend on him entirely. 

We are living in the dark. There are no jobs in our sight. I see pain and suffering in those that I love. I am experiencing pain myself. 

I’m trying so hard to view my circumstances as a stage for God’s intervention.

I have to remind myself of this daily, if not hourly.

“Time is a trainer...”

Though I am grieving the week from hell tonight, I am going to wake up tomorrow and once again, choose to seek happiness. I don’t know if I will see it, but I will look long and hard for it. For God must have a plan for my family. And I am holding onto the belief that he will deliver us.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

When Stranger Intervention Hurts


Recently I had the humiliating experience of stranger intervention. It’s the embarrassing moment when people with good intentions get involved in the parenting of your child when they have no clue about what’s really going on.

While on a play date with another mom and her lovely girls, we were leaving an ice cream shop when my youngest son decided that it was time to go home. He was done with the play date and wanted to go home and play his video games since that’s what he usually does after school on a Friday. As he began to escalate, screaming and throwing a fit, my friend offered to take my older kids to the park while I worked with my youngest son to calm him down.

After they drove off, my son slowly deescalated and I began the process of helping him transition to the park. My son sat on a bench refusing to go, stating that he was “not sorry for his behavior.” In response I calmly told him, “That’s fine, you don’t have to apologize, but I’m still disappointed in your behavior.”

Then in front of me, I was startled by a woman’s voice saying, “Are you OK?”

Having the situation under control, I looked up and smiled and said, “No, we’re fine.”

It was then that I realized that she wasn’t talking to me. Once again, she looked at my son and said, “Are you OK?”

My son looked confused, not understanding why this woman was asking him this.

But quickly it dawned on me—she thought I was abusing my son in some way and she needed to rescue him.

My heart sank.

I caught her eye and said, “No we’re fine, my son has autism and he’s upset because he can’t go home and play video games right now. He’s currently stuck on this thought and I’m trying to help him transition.”

From there, she said, “Oh... OK, I work at a doctor’s office and wanted to make sure he was OK.”

As she wandered off, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed and angry. I’m grateful that there are people that step up if a child looks in harms way, but I was totally confused as to why she thought that this situation warranted it. I wasn’t yelling at my son. I wasn’t dragging him or even trying to hold him down during his fit.

It was another moment where our family was misunderstood because of my child’s challenges.

It was another moment where someone put the “BAD MOM” label on me without even understanding the situation.

It was another moment where I was judged unfairly.

And it hurt.






Friday, February 27, 2015

IEPs, Stimming, Side Effects & More


Right now we’re in the land of IEP assessments. My youngest is currently going through assessments and this week I put in a request for an IEP assessment for my oldest after I found out that he’ll lose his current support when he goes into high school next year.

Honestly, I find the whole IEP process irritating. After filling out pages and pages of questions with the clinical psychologist to have my youngest son evaluated and later diagnosed with autism, I found myself filling out the same piles of forms for the school district. What I find frustrating is that the school is conducting their own assessment in areas that have clearly been evaluated by an expert. You would think that our licensed psychologist’s 19 page report about my son would be sufficient for the school district, but instead I find myself answering on at least 4 different surveys with hundreds of questions what appears to be the same exact questions. How many ways can a parent explain that their child prefers to play alone?

The thought of doing that again for my oldest son tires me.

In the meantime, my youngest was suspended again. It was a long meltdown that started with his realization that the long division math problems will now use three digits instead of two. “It’s going to take too long!” he screamed. In the end, he ended up ripping up his work, damaging a school book, running out of the classroom, climbing a fence to leave school property, elbowing a student and hitting another student in the head with a cardboard box.

When I asked where we go from here, they didn’t have an answer.

Not only are we in a holding pattern at the school, but we have yet to start therapy since we’re still stuck in the referral process with the insurance company.

In the meantime, my youngest has started a new stimming behavior. He’s now doing a unique eye gesture, turning one eye to the side with a half squint. I think he’s also blurring his vision as he does this. Anyone familiar with visual stimming?

As for my oldest, he appears to be doing good with his addition of Wellbutrin. When I asked him if he thought it was working, he said, “Yes, I use to get so stressed out over my homework, but now I don’t mind it so much, it doesn’t feel like such a big deal.” We can all tell he seems more at ease around the house now.

On the downside, I got a call from his psychiatrist telling me that his latest lab work showed that his thyroid levels have dropped too low and he now needs to see an endocrinologist to be evaluated for hormone replacement therapy. I was told that this was most likely due to his Lithium, it’s a very common side effect (up to one third). At first I was really devastated by this news, worried that the Lithium had permanently damaged his thyroid, but I was reassured that the thyroid is not damaged but instead the Lithium is acting as a blockade. I was told that if Lithium treatment was removed, the thyroid would return to normal function.

With this recent news, it got me thinking... Was the Wellbutrin even necessary? Is it possible that the depression was a result of the low thyroid level? Was it possible that once the thyroid levels were brought back to normal, the depression would have lifted without the help of more medication? I wish we had this information before starting Wellbutrin.

I know some of you may be thinking... Stop the Lithim now!

It’s a fair thought, but it isn’t so easily decided. If the Lithium wasn’t helping him so much it would be easy to stop it, but Lithium continues to be the best medication to date. And it’s not just my opinion, but my son’s.

My son is now a teenager, he’s no longer a little boy looking to me for all the answers. As he gets older he can communicate much better and make judgements about what’s helping him on his own. His opinion matters more than ever.

When I told him about the recent tests, he of course was disappointed at the thought of adding on another medication for his thyroid, but when I asked if he would prefer to stop the Lithium it was an astounding, “NO!” Instead he asked, “Can I try to quit one of my other medications so I can add on the thyroid one?” (Great idea by the way!) With determination he proclaimed, “I’m not going to stop Lithium!”

I admit one of the blessings in my kids getting older is that they can help advocate for themselves.

I’m certainly sad about my son having to take on another medication, this never gets easier—ever! But I can’t sit and wallow in it, I have to keep moving forward with where we’re at.

As my husband reminded me, “We knew side effects were a possibility when we started medication.” This should’t be a surprise to us now that we’re facing it. We can’t ignore all the “good” medication has brought. Our son is a thriving teen, we didn’t think that would ever be possible before he started medication.”

I have to keep that in mind.

It’s easy to forget how bad things were when things are going so good now. Medication continues to help my son so it’s important that I don’t let my fear stop him from experiencing a good life.

I’m learning once again about how I have to lean on my faith, acknowledge that we are doing the best that we can under the circumstances and continue to hope for the best.

Taking it one day at a time...


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Horse Therapy for Kids


Today I have a special guest post from a friend of mine who, just like many of you is raising a twice exceptional child with a mood disorder. Through her journey she has discovered the benefits of horse therapy and has gone a step further in becoming a riding instructor herself. Enjoy her story and if you too have experienced the benefits of horse therapy, please share in the comment section below!

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My name is Heather, and I started volunteering at a PATH therapeutic riding center in 2012. I am now currently an Instructor in Training going through the certification process to become a Therapeutic Riding Instructor. I volunteer and do my student teaching at R.O.C.K. I grew up riding, training, and showing horses; and having a practical application for my horse skills is very rewarding. I turned to therapeutic horseback riding because I too have lived with the frustrations that Mama Bear describes.

My son is 14 and has a bipolar diagnosis (after collecting many others including ADHD, ODD, and possible Autism.) He is also 2e (twice exceptional) having both the bipolar diagnosis and is identified as intellectually gifted. Medication has made a world of difference for him. My father-in-law is 72 and lives with our family. He also carries a bipolar diagnosis that came late in life amid many other consequences of untreated mania. Again, medication allows him to peacefully enjoy his retirement. My husband recently sought out treatment for anxiety. So far the only thing my daughter has to cope with is being intellectually gifted, which means frequently being bored in school (and being a pre-teen). But I love having a wild and creative family.

Just from giving my own children rides on my horse, I noticed that the horse paid attention and was more easy going for the smaller less experienced riders. Horses are very sensitive and this makes them very good as therapists. Though not every horse can become a therapy horse. It takes a very special sort of horse to be calm enough and at the same time sensitive.


Meet Dude. Dude is 27 years old, which is old for a horse (he’d be in his late 80s as a human), and yet he is eager to work with the clients who come to see him at the Ride On Center for Kids in Georgetown, TX. Dude works with young kids on up to Veterans with physical and/or mental-emotional disabilities. Don’t let the word “Kids” fool you in R.O.C.K.’s name they have clients in their 80s as well. Dude is one of about 20 horses at R.O.C.K., and among thousands worldwide, who work as therapists. As a physical therapist the movement of Dude’s back acts just like walking does on the human pelvis. Horseback riding strengthens core muscles, and prepares the spine for the weight bearing of walking. But even more importantly, the movement of Dude’s back is soothing: it calms emotions and improves focus.

Where horses like Dude really shine is improving social relationships. Horses are naturally social creatures and they seek out friendships with humans as well as other horses (dogs, goats and other animals too).  But the secret to a friendship with a horse is they can’t speak, so everything they say is non-verbal. This makes them excellent at reading body language, deciphering moods, and providing feedback. They can be a touchstone for someone who is non-verbal themselves, and frequently therapeutic horseback riding has given non-verbal children words. But they are also great teachers for people who struggle with reading non-verbal cues and interpreting social situations, because horses don’t care if you are awkward by human standards, and will listen patiently to a non-stop monologue about any subject. What horses care about is being treated with kindness. They instantly react to aggression, fear, and anger. Clients learn fairly quickly that horses will retreat unless riders learn to control those emotions.

The third factor to therapeutic riding is the support. There are a lot of people involved in it too—so a client is not just developing a relationship with the horse, but with the support team as well. Most therapeutic riding instructors are PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) certified. PATH certified centers must have at least one PATH certified instructor on site. The PATH certification process stresses safety, and knowledge about horses and disabilities. Along with the instructor each rider will have a horse handler, who can control the horse on an as needed basis. So the client doesn’t have to have to start therapeutic riding with any riding skill to get the benefits. Additionally there can be up to two side walkers. Side walkers walk beside the horse and assist the client in staying on the horse and staying on task. Horse handlers and side walkers are all volunteers and they get almost as much out of their work as the clients do.

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PATH International http://www.pathintl.org/ has a list of 
therapeutic riding centers in the US and world wide.

R.O.C.K. http://www.rockride.org/


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Need Your IEP Help!

I’m in the process of trying to get an IEP for my youngest son who was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, anxiety and depression. I had my official request meeting with the school and the school psychologist felt that an IEP was not necessary, but instead she recommended that we stick with his current 504 plan. She felt he was performing well enough acedemically.

I told them that I didn’t agree and wanted to initiate the process to determine if he’s eligible for an IEP. I explained that last trimester he had three D’s on his report card and a suspension due to his violent behavior in the classroom.

I also explained that he spent a lot of days in the office as a way to manage his behavior. During this time he was not learning and thus fell behind in his classes.

My concern is that this will continue and he’ll fall farther behind.

My son doesn’t have a learning disability, he’s pretty smart, but he’s challenged by many behaviors and rigid thinking patterns that pull him away from learning. In some cases the teacher can’t even get him to complete an exam. Which is why his grades have dropped.

Can you help me by sharing the ways your child has benefited from an IEP.

Has anyone shared this experience?

I would love to hear from you!

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On a positive note, our son was approved for services with a state regional center. This is an organization that provides support and services to children and adults who have a developmental disability such as Autism and who are substantially disabled because of the developmental disability. Just having a diagnosis does not grant you services.

After reviewing my son’s case, his school records and doctor’s report, a qualified review board felt his disability greatly affected his life.

I wonder why the school doesn’t agree?



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Telling My Child He Has Autism

How do you tell your child they have autism?

Seriously, how do you do this?

We needed to tell our youngest son, now 10 years old, about his diagnosis; yet I didn’t know the first thing about how to do it.

The last thing I wanted to do was make my son feel “broken” or “less than”. I wanted him to understand his source of struggles, while at the same time embrace his brilliant uniqueness.

Honestly, I didn’t want to screw this up and scar him with bad memories. I had horrible visions of him working this out in therapy one day.

So like all questions, I went to Google. I read stories from autistic adults about how they’d wished they were told sooner; I read how some had always known and how others were relieved to finally understand why they felt different in the world. I smiled as I read stories from adults who “found their people” and embraced their uniqueness, seeing it as a gift in some respects.

I then read from experts who warned about making my child feel “diseased” and learned that it was best to tell my son he was “autistic” instead of telling him he had autism.

I even watched scenes from the TV show Parenthood that addressed this very question, I admit I shed a few tears—don’t we all?

And most importantly, I took into account my own child’s personality. This is where my heart settled.

In an effort to make this “not a big deal,” my husband and I agreed that it would be best if I talked to our son alone. We didn’t want the presence of mom and dad to create anxiety where it wasn’t warranted.

Then the day came.

I admit, I was nervous. Not sure why, but it felt like an important moment and I wanted to get it right.

I called my little one over and explained that after all his recent testing, the doctor found out some very helpful information. My son seemed barely interested, unable to sit in one spot as he bounced from the chair to the floor, with a few kicks and body flips in between.

I then told him that the doctor determined that his brain was made differently and that he was autistic. He responded, “Oh cool!”

I explained that this uniqueness gave him special abilities that I didn’t have, like being able to easily memorize songs and TV scripts and being able to use his imagination to play computer games inside his head. He thought this was pretty cool stuff and started to dance around the room doing karate moves like a superhero with special powers. I then explained that this was also the reason that he struggled in many areas like school and church. I pointed out that the good news in all of this was that the doctor knows how to help him.

He responded, with limited attention, “OK.”

In an effort to help him understand the lanuguage he might hear, I explained that the way his brain works is also sometimes called “Aspergers,” in which he responded with a big laugh, “Ass-boogers.”

I then asked him if he had ever heard of the word autism. He said, “Yes, last year when I was in third grade a kid came up to me during recess and said, ‘I think you have autism.’ ”

I held in a laugh as I pondered the irony that a third grader recognized this before his own doctor!

Surrounding him with a big hug, I told him how much I loved him—just the way he was.

After “the talk,” my little one went downstairs and proudly announced to his big brothers, “I’m autistic!” In which they happily replied, “Hey, that’s cool!”

In the end, the conversation went better than I’d imagined, honestly it wasn’t a big deal.

Which is exactly what I’d hoped for.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Starting Wellbutrin for Bipolar Depression

Winter has hit and so has my oldest son’s depression. It seems to peek up it’s ugly head every winter. This time, we decided to do something about it and take our psychiatrist’s recommendation to start Wellbutrin.

Of course I have my reservations. I hate that he has to go on another medication, but I couldn’t ignore my son’s pleas for help. Every winter we notice a change in him that immediately effects his school performance. Classes that he once had all A’s in, start to show a series of F’s. And soon he’s failing the class. It’s disturbing to see the drastic change, I’m talking about going from all A’s to all F’s, it’s like his brain has turned off. He can no longer take notes, his test scores drop to a dead “0”. When I ask him if the class is getting harder for him, he admits that it's not getting harder but rather he just can’t keep up, it all becomes overwhelming.

He then starts to feel isolated at school and he talks a lot about bullying, but he can't give any specific examples. He tells me that he has noticed that he once looked forward to seeing his friends at school, but now he just prefers to be alone, and he hates this. He also shared that he no longer enjoys the things that he once did.

He is overwhelmed with depressed thoughts and can’t see a positive future for himself, instead he talks about wanting to drop out of school and at his worst he talks about not wanting to live.

A week before Christmas he was overwhelmed about school and started to beg me to allow him to take Melatonin after school so he could go to sleep and escape all his bad feelings. I found this to be very concerning. Of course I denied his request and tried to offer other methods of coping, but I couldn’t escape that sick feeling in my stomach that one day he may resort to this type of escapism and serious harm himself. Or worse.

Then there was my son’s request for a medication that can help him with his depression. “I’m worried that my depression will come back strong during Christmas vacation, as it does every year.”

So after much prayer, discussion and torment, we started him on Wellbutrin the first day of Christmas vacation.

So far, we’re cautiously monitoring him.

It’s so difficult to make these decisions as a parent. I feel the weight of responsibility heavy on my shoulders. I want only what’s best for my son, yet I know that choosing the wrong treatment can have severe consequences. It stirs up anxiety. These decisions wear me down. I am so tired.

You would think that it gets easier over the years, especially with two kids on medication, but it doesn’t. I still read the list of side effects with dread and research our choices before making an educated decision. If anything, I think I just get better at worrying. I’m more aware of what can go wrong. I’m aware from past experience that doctors can give bad advice and that meds can make things worse.

At the same time, I know that we’ve seen the most improvement from medication. That my oldest son, for the most part, is living a very fulfilling life. He’s been experiencing meaningful friendships and has felt teen crushes. He’s more plugged into our family and experiences joy. We have medication to thank for that. I think the hardest part to accept is that my son’s mood disorder will forever require medication adjustments. There will always be ups and downs. We have not cured him, but have only made his illness manageable.

This will need to be done for the rest of his life.

This is bipolar disorder.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Son Has Autism

After a long day of testing on Monday, my husband and I were told that our youngest son has autism (formerly Asperger's), ADHD and a possible mood disorder like his oldest brother. She called it “The Trifecta” because one condition is triggering the other.

It’s strange for me to type those words. Though my gut knew it to be true, it still feels weird to declare it. It gives me mixed feelings.

I admit that my first feeling is relief. I understand that my son will now have an opportunity to get the help he needs. After the appointment, I hugged my husband and cried in the waiting room. I could feel a weight being lifted off me. It felt so good. This was good news in a weird sort of way. Not that any parent wants their child to have a label, but when you’re watching your child struggle everyday, a diagnosis is the first step in turning things around. And let’s be honest, this news isn’t giving him a label for the first time, instead, it’s replacing the current label people have given him such as “brat”, “odd” or “difficult.” A label of autism may bring patience and understanding where it wasn’t before.

After the feeling of relief comes reality.

My son has autism.

And a possible mood disorder too?

What does that mean?

What will his future look like?

How will we be able to help him?

I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of worry, but there are feelings a parent needs to process whenever your child gets a diagnosis. A diagnosis that will impact their child’s entire life. Sadness is one of them. My husband and I are going through that now.

There are still feelings of anger for having been dismissed by his previous doctor over a year and a half ago, but after talking to the current doctor, she was able to explain that my son “presents well” and that can lead to a misdiagnosis. But she explained that after spending enough time with him, she could see him slip into the ASD behaviors. She also pointed out that a lot of kids higher up on the spectrum don’t get diagnosed until they are older and to a certain extent they can handle things pretty well, like in a clinical setting, until enough stressors surround them, then they completely fall apart. Forth grade was that tipping point for our son.

On a positive note, she smiled and told us how adorable, bright and funny he is. Then she told me that I should read up on “2e kids”. These are twice exceptional kids, intellectually above average, but diagnosed with one or more disabilities. She believes this describes our son. She said it’s like a coin, you have one side that has all the struggles and if you flip it over, you have something pretty special.

I can’t argue with her, he is pretty darn special.

Then I have a final feeling. And would you know it... it’s hope.

Kinda funny after I recently said I was letting go of hope. But there it is, once again floating in front of me like a pretty, shiny balloon.

I have hope that my son will be approved for services and that we’ll be able to give him the support he needs in his school and at home.

I have hope that I will have access to the support I need in order to raise my son.

I have hope that we can now make a difference.

I have hope again.

Hello, old familiar friend.