Archive for October, 2010

Oct 30

Attention Deficit Disorder Discussion Report

Friday, October 22nd, Katherine Ellison, author of the recently published book, Buzz, was the speaker at Parents Education Network in San Francisco, CA.   A mother of a son who has ADD, her book vividly describes her family’s trials, tribulations and successes with the challenges her son faces. She was also very frank about herself letting us know that she, too, has the same brain aberration. 

A brief description of ADD culled from the field’s leading experts set the scene. The core problem is a weakness in the brain’s inhibitory system. She describes it as “faulty breaks”. The symptoms include impulsiveness, forgetfulness and distraction. 

Before reading a dramatic scene from her book, Ms. Ellison, a successful newspaper reporter and author, shared that Jack, her husband, and her two sons were torn apart with the tensions generating from challenges her oldest son, nine years old Buzz, faced. Writing her book was the only way she had to handle the family crisis. She described her inability to stop herself going into reaction, screaming at him, even spanking him when he said horrible things. Now, she understands that he was in his own world and didn’t see the cause/effect relationship of his comments.   

This drama heightened as she read a scene from her book, describing her efforts at 6 am to get Buzz up for his Spanish class, a class he enjoyed. Rising from bed, taking a shower, eating breakfast was chaotic ending in a verbal war between mother and son.  As Buzz exited, slamming the door, Ms. Ellison experienced an “ahha”. She realized she was bordering on not loving her son and was stunned!  She saw that her ADD and his were sparking each other’s worst side. She knew she had to be the one to change and turned her attention from her own distress and challenges with her ADD to her child. One of her strategies that had positive effect was finding ways to show Buzz that he was loved by her. This meant thinking twice before yelling when Buzz employed the “oppositional defiance kicker”. She reframed her feelings and took the advice of the writer, Toni Morrison: “Light up when a child comes into the room.”  At first, there was little immediate return. However, the more she released control the better the results. Slowly they were able to talk about what happened and sometimes he would respect her point of view if not accept it. 

Ms. Ellison enlisted her husband to become more involved and at this point her presentation Ms. Ellison’s invited her husband, Jack, a quiet, loving, somewhat distant husband to join her.  They shared they have clashed over different parenting styles on subjects such as TV, food, bedtime etc.  

The Ellisons then opened the morning session to questions.  Mothers and some fathers reported similar challenges and asked for advice. Topics covered a wide span:

  • ADD kids have a hard time with social interaction Most agreed that friends of an ADD student from Grade 1 and 2 had long disappeared, no more play dates.
  • Questions around the value of “consequences”: eg.” if you do this you will lose the use of your laptop” were brought to the fore. Most agreed that ADD kids are less sensitive to the concept of consequences and thus bribery doesn’t work.
  • More often than not the discussion moved to drugs, Ritalin and others.  Are they effective, are they damaging?  It seems these mood changing pills enable the distracted child to be comfortable with her or himself and they became more open to learning.  However, there was no agreement on the long term effect.  Ms. Ellison’s son did use drugs for a time, but then chose to stop. This topic kept re-emerging with no resolution.
  • There seemed to be a general consensus that private schools in Marin County are less effective in handling children with ADD than public schools.
  • The Ellisons encouraged parents to invest time helping their ADD child find something he or she is good at.  This effort does pay off.  Buzz discovered pleasure with  tennis. He is now coaching tennis with little kids and his social interaction is improving.

 Throughout the  morning Ms. Ellison suggested.

Outsource homework.  You have enough to handle in the house and need space from the battles over homework.

Find a way to become an ally – if it means taking the child out for pizza.

Choose your battles, Let some things slide. 

Do your best to balance attention with all children in your family. Those not affected by ADD need to feel that they are being fairly treated.

Try meditation and neuro-feedback. At first she used bribery to get her son to the sessions. But, they had some success with both.

Most important is reconnecting with your child, finding a way to let him or her know you love them, get back to a point where you can hug.

 Finally, Ms. Ellison urged parents who have a tendency to ADD behavior to get tested for diagnosis.  Don’t continue investing energy in covering up.  And, then find a way to slow down.

 The two hour morning session flew by.  Ms Ellison’s book, Buzz, is published by Voice, Hyperion, New York and is well worth the investment.

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Oct 13

Parents Education Network in San Francisco sponsored a talk on Assistive Technology in early October, 2010.  The speaker, Jan Tuber, is a staff member at Parents Helping Parents, a non profit organization based in San Jose, CA.  Ms. Tuber had an enormous amount of information to share.

 Assistive technology refers to a device, (any item, piece of equipment, product system) used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.  Ms. Tuber underscored the changing behavior of this broad field. New and updated products appear on the market unexpectedly. Keeping abreast is a challenge.

 General comments Ms. Tuber made for parents and teachers: 

  • Don’t buy a product until you have sampled it by training on it.  Many people get excited about the potential of the product but lose interest fast if they have not committed to the training.
  • Many developers offer their product for a testing period – often thirty days.  Take that offer and test the value of the product to your situation.
  • Have a clear sense of the learning disability challenge to be served. Take the time to understand the student’s barriers to learning eg: does the student have memory or note taking or graphic challenges?   Then, match the learning style and needs with the tools.
  • Teachers:  be sure to order assistive technology tools when books are being ordered for the year.

 Ms. Tuber had many websites listed in her handout that address different learning styles.  Some are listed below. She suggested a good way to start exploring assistive technology is with Low Tech Supplies.

 Low Tech Supplies: 

Filters, Lottie Kits, Reading Rulers, Franklin products, pencil grips, AT notebook, raised line paper, handwriting guides, highlighter tape, margin maker.  The following websites are valuable for research and potential purchase.

Audio Support

  • www.rfbd.org:   (Recording for the blind and dyslexic). You can download their material to your computer.
  • Victor Reader Stream
  • iPod/MP3
  • Audio/TTS: Classmate Reader
  • www.humanware.com
  • www.audible.com   This company has monthly subscriptions for materials that can be downloaded.
  • Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. 

Graphic Classics

  • www.amazon.co.uk
  • Shakespeare Comic Books: www.shakespearecomics.com

              Edited original text in one color, and modern English text translation in another. Fully illustrated comic style presentation.

  • Classical Comics: www.classicalcomics.com
  • Original Text, or Quick Text versions
  • Full color graphics
  • No Fear Shakespeare: www.amazon.com,
  • www.sparknotes.com
  • Simply Shakespeare: Barron’s Educational series, Inc

 Tools for Comprehension:

  • Intel Reader:               reader.intel.com
  • Click,Speak:                http://clickspeak.clcworld.net/
  • WordTalk:                   www.wordtalk.org.uk/ (Win)
  • Readplease 2003: FREE or professional version (Win)   www.readplease.com, www.dyslexia-software.com
  • Natural Reader: FREE or professional version, (Win)
  • www.naturalreaders.com
  • GhostReader (Mac):
  • www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/productivity_tools/ghostreader.html
  • TexEdit Plus (Mac):
  • www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/9013 (shareware) 

Tools for Comprehension:  Comprehensive Text-to-Speech Programs: 

  • WYNN: WYNN Reader, WYNN Wizard text-to-speech reader. www.freedomscientific.com
  • Kurzweil 3000: Text-to-Speech reader
  • www.kurzweiledu.com
  • Read & Write Gold: Text-to-Speech reader
  • www.texthelp.com
  • Read: OutLoud:
  •  www.donjohnston.com 

Tools for Writing:  Word Prediction/Spelling

  • Word Q:                    www.quill.com
  • Co:Writer:                 www.donjohnston.com
  • WriteOnline:            www.cricksoft.com
  • “Sounds like”-Spell, Write!   www.afh-net.com
  • SpellCatcher: (Win/Mac)      www.rainmakerinc.com
  • Ginger Software:       www.gingersoftware.com
  • Breme Write Right:   www.bremesoftware.com
  • Franklin Spellers:      www.franklin.com

Note: Onion Mountain has pens which don’t click.  However, some students need the click to keep them focused.

Tools for Writing: Talking and Portable Word Processors

  • Talking Word Processor       www.readingmadeez.com
  • Write:OutLoud                         www.donjohnston.com
  • WordTalk, Free                         http://www.wordtalk.org.uk
  • The Writer Fusion                   www.writerlearning.com
  • Embedded in programs such as WYNN, Kurzweil, RWGold

 Note:  This approach works best if the student has aural challenges rather than written.

However, they need cognitive ability to see errors. It takes patience to get this technology working as the student has to learn commands as well as being willing to take the time to set the voice recognition component. 

Tools for Writing

  • Inspiration & Kidspiration:           www.inspiration.com
  •  Report Writer Interactive ( and Write it Live):  www.ftcpublishing 
  • Paragraph Punch/Essay Punch:     www.meritsoftware.com

              Other programs address grammar, comprehension & vocabulary

 Finally, a comment about Parents Helping Parents.  Their signature Assistive Technology service, Techsploration, provides more details on Assistive Technology as well as an opportunity to experience the tools “hands on” through a guided session in their iTECH demonstration lab. To contact Ms. Tuber in San Jose call (408) 727-5775 or jan@php.com.

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