Book Review: BOY WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS by Penny Williams

By Leslie Lindsay

Okay, so you got to “meet” Penny Williams yesterday and today…well, you get to learn even more about about her stellar new book, BOY WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS (Grace-Everett Press, 2014). Oh, and today–October 8–just happens to be National Children’s Day.
Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD

As a mom of a daughter with AD/HD, I can say Penny Williams nailed it with this account of her boy’s AD/HD. Definitely a must-have for any well-stocked library on special needs–it speaks to educators, therapists, pediatricians, and so much more.

Wow. If you are looking for a frankly honest account of one momma’s struggle of raising a child with AD/HD, this is the book for you. In fact, I highly recommed it for just about anyone who deals with AD/HD from pediatricians to therapists–you’ll get a first-hand account of what us parents–mothers especially–go through on a day to day basis. Night, too. Because you know, there are times we just can’t sleep for thinking about our precious punkins with a special need. And yes, AD/HD definitely qualifies.

BOY WITHPOUT INSTRUCTIONS is well-written, in fact at times I wasn’t sure if I was reading a novel, memoir, self-help, or parenting book–it certainly encompasses all genres–and for that, it’s compulsively readable.

You’ll hear all about Penny’s struggles with getting a diagnosis, navigating an IEP, school woes, living on a moutain surrounded by bears (no kidding), boiling snow for water when power is lost, and struggles with helicopter parenting. This is momma uncensored. You’ll laugh, you’re not in recognition, you might even shed a tear or two.

Penny has yet another book due in just a month or so…be sure to check this one out, too. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE NOT EXPECTING AD/HD

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THE ADDed Benefits of AD/HD: Meet Penny Williams, AD/HD Veteran

By Leslie Lindsay

Award Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders.

Seriously, what more could you want from a dynamo parent raising a middle-school son with AD/HD? How about another book? That’s right, Penny has another “baby” about to emerge into the world: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE NOT EXPECTING AD/HD due out in November 2014.

Well, you’re in luck. We have just the thing for you: an interview.

Leslie Lindsay: You’ve been quite the AD/HD Ambassador! Not only do you keep an active blog/website, but you have written three books (one of which is an ebook) on the topic. Can you talk a bit about your fierce devotion to the topic?

Penny Williams: My fierce devotion to ADHD was born out of necessity. My son was not doing well in school. Punishments, no matter how extreme, were not affecting his behavior much. The school wasn’t offering any ideas as to the root of the problems, instead, his kindergarten teacher blamed us for not preparing him for school.

I checked out over a dozen books on school and learning struggles from the library, but didn’t feel any closer to answers. As I waited the three months for my son’s appointment with the behavior specialist, I decided to start blogging about my son’s struggles, hoping others with similar issues would find me and point me toward the answers I was so desperate to find.

Once my son was diagnosed with ADHD (only a few weeks after his sixth birthday in 2008), my blogging focus turned to ADHD, and parents on a similarly challenging journey began to follow and comment. The website (amomsviewofadhd.com) took on a life of its own and grew to become a major resource for parents of kids with ADHD — a responsibility I hadn’t expected. I committed myself to blogging my experiences and news and information on ADHD regularly.

In 2013, I felt like I owed it to myself and my family to make ADHD move to a supporting role in our lives, and I gave up the website. Six months later, I found myself writing about ADHD feverishly, turning our story into a book, “Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD.” Now I’m right back in the thick of it, writing books on ADHD and blogging about our family again, too. I feel like community is so important for those of us parenting a child with ADHD.

L.L.: AD/HD has become such a hot topic in recent years. In fact, like the subtitle of your book, might AD/HD awareness alternate in “peaks and valleys?”

Penny Williams: ADHD certainly waxes and wanes as a topic of debate. It’s a hot-button issue and many exploit that for media exposure. Recently, when the CDC numbers came out that ADHD diagnoses are on the rise, and that 10,000 preschool children were on stimulants (check that stat), the media ran away with it.

I think ADHD symptoms wax and wane too. My son has periods where he does well and then periods where it all seems to be troublesome all at once.

L.L.: There are a lot of folks out there who would (and do) criticize the diagnosis of AD/HD, suggesting it’s not “real,” or that these kids are just “typically energetic,” or perhaps the worst of all—it’s poor parenting. As a former child/adolescent psych R.N., I know this isn’t true. Yet, folks will scoff when we say our child has AD/HD or needs to be on meds to control it. In what ways can we kindly—and diplomatically—set the record straight?

Penny Williams: I don’t know how to kindly set this straight. It’s my experience that people will believe what they want to, no matter what facts I present to them. In all honesty, I feel the urge to be very unkind to those who spout off about ADHD being bad parenting, too much TV or video games, or (my favorite) a diagnosis made up by big pharma to reap big profits. The fact is, you really don’t understand ADHD until you experience it and educate yourself on it. Before my son was diagnosed with ADHD, his dad and I believed that ADHD medication was essentially doping a spirited child into submission. We know nothing but public opinion until we take the initiative to seek the truth. Those who don’t have ADHD in their lives really have no motivation to seek the truth.

L.L.: I understand your son has made the transition to middle school this fall. Wow, what a change! We’ve got new school stuff going on, plus the dynamics of adolescence (read: puberty) going on. How can we all work together as parents, kids, and educators to make this as smooth a transition as possible? And what might you have liked to have known *before* he headed off to middle school?  

Penny Williams: Oh boy! Middle school! I had dreaded this time since my son was first diagnosed. Success in middle school requires exemplary executive functioning skills. What do most kids with ADHD struggle the most with? Executive functioning skills. The new demands of middle school are the exact skills our kids struggle with most — a recipe for disaster. Add hormonal changes into the mix (and kids who talk about sex freely, even though your kid is too immature to yet understand it), and it’s enough to make this momma run away screaming.

The best plan for this transition is to meet with the school ahead of time. My son started a brand new charter school for sixth grade, so we didn’t have the opportunity to meet teachers or even walk the halls of the school before the first day. I recommend the opposite, but I also knew this expeditionary learning environment would be good for my son, once they work through the initial growing pains of being a brand new school.

L.L.: How might parents balance the time and effort that goes into raising a child with AD/HD with that of other siblings?

Penny Williams: This is a touchy subject in our house, as I’m sure it is in many of yours. Realistically, a traditional “balance” isn’t possible. When raising a child with ADHD and a neurotypical child, the child with ADHD requires more attention. That’s just the cold hard truth. And getting siblings to understand wants and needs, and that equality and fairness are not one in the same is like trying to scale an icy mountain in high heels — it’s just about futile.

Instead of striving toward “balance,” make sure that you give your neurotypical child focused time just for them. I make sure to take my daughter out for chocolate, shopping by ourselves, or even for a walk by ourselves. She often comes to the grocery with me now to get time to ourselves. This has made a huge difference in our relationship (she once told our counselor that she was certain we were going to build an alter to her brother), and her understanding and compassion for her brother, and what I go through being his parent.

L.L.: One last piece of advice? Something I didn’t ask but should have?

Penny Williams: Momma self-care is crucial. The oxygen mask theory applies — you must take care of yourself first in order to do your best for others. Raising a child with ADHD, or any disability, is enormously stressful. Moms need respite and calm. Moms need to feel good about themselves, as that reflects on their interactions with others.

Self-care can be as simple as locking yourself in your room for 10 minutes of quiet each day, or exercising daily. Getting together with other moms who understand your parenting challenges is key too. Yes, our kids are our priority, but not at the expense of ourselves.

BOY WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, select bookstores, and via Ms. Williams’s website. Please consider writing a review on GoodReads, too!

PENNY WILLIAMS

Award-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.

 A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, and a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny and get updates about Ricochet at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

[cover and author images graciously provided by the author. Middle school image from www.ps87.info348 on 10.06.14 and world ADHD from  specialedpost.org on 10.6.14]

OCTOBER IS AD/HD AWARENESS MONTH!!!

The ADDed Benefits of AD/HD: Book Review

By Leslie Lindsay

So, you were blown away by Dr. Taylor’s interview yesterday, right? Want to know what we thought about his book, THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR KIDS WITH AD/HD (Free Spirit Press, 2013)? Of course you do!

You’re in luck. I don’t think I can say enough nice things about Dr. John Taylor’s SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR KIDS WITH AD/HD. Seriously. As a father of 8 (three of whom have been diagnosed with AD/HD), a psychologist and somewhat of a pioneer in AD/HD work, Taylor certainly knows how to *tailor* hard-to-process information for the younger crowd.

The book isn’t big, but it really doesn’t need to be (save all of the nitty-gritty reading for mom and dad; this book is intended for the kiddos). My daughter is 9.6 years old and in the 4th grade. We’ve known she’s had AD/HD since–well, forever–but it wasn’t officially diagnosed till she was 5. While THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR KIDS WITH AD/HD is definitely written at her level, we actually read the book as a family out loud, at night, before bed. And I would highly recommend doing it that way–it’s a valuable resource for all family members, including sibs who don’t deal with AD/HD personally. It helped our daughter’s younger sister understand some of her quirks and nuances.

As a parent, I definitely gained more tools and ideas for dealing with behavior, meltdowns, and understanding the unique perspective that is the child with AD/HD. Here’s what else I liked: the way “family” is addressed. Dr. Taylor has a wonderful way of including family/parents as not ‘just” mom and dad, but also takes into consideration that not all children reside with biological parents. He states, “the adults in your life,” and may not be limited to mom and dad, but perhaps foster parents, grandparents, and aunts/uncles, which is definitely a plus.

For more information, please see:

Free Spirit Publishing

Dr. John Taylor

[ Special thanks to Dr. Taylor and Free Spirit Press for providing this lovely book.]

The ADDed Benefits of AD/HD: Meet Dr. Johnathan Taylor

By Leslie Lindsay   

I am delighted to introduce Dr. John Taylor, a nationally known AD/HD specialist and president/founder of ADD-Plus for our new series, “The ADDed Benefits of AD/HD.”

He’s the father of eight (!), three of whom have been diagnosed with AD/HD. In addition, he has written thirteen books on the subject and countless publications and journal articles. I think the guy knows what he’s talking about!

If you’re just now joining us here at SPEAKING OF APRAXIA, then don’t be alarmed…you are in the right place! This is where we talk about all things childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Just for this series, we’re focusing on one of the very common conditions that often accompany CAS: AD/HD.

Leslie Lindsay: Thank you for agreeing to be with us today, Dr. Taylor! I think many parents have questions and concerns about AD/HD. What are some of the most common myths you’ve heard about the diagnosis and what message might you to parents?

Dr. Taylor: The most common myths about ADHD include:

(1) diet has nothing to do with symptom picture;

(2) toxic chemical exposures have nothing to do with symptom picture;

(3) sugar doesn’t make them worse and has a “bad rap” as a symptom exacerbator;

(4) AD/HD doesn’t exist and is a falsehood promoted by the pharmaceutical industry to make more profits;

(5) the only locus of abnormality is within the brain;

(6) it can’t be accurately diagnosed until the child is six years old;

(7) the child’s most common problems are behavior control problems;

(8) the problems it generates within the family are mild and easily eliminated by mediocre-level parenting.     

My messages to parents include exploding the above myths and conveying the contrasting realities. Nutritional manipulation, especially trickle-feeding of protein foods, is one of the strongest and safest ways to reduce symptoms, at least for 60% of children with ADHD. Toxic chemical exposures drive up symptoms in about 80% of children with ADHD, according to a massive amount of research over the last 35 years (over 400 studies in journals). Sugar is a villain, but a weak one easily compensated for by protein; man-made sugar substitutes are usually a worse option; natural stevia is the best sweetener and doesn’t worsen ADHD symptoms. The loci of abnormality for most children with ADHD are six organ systems: brain, digestive tract, skin, immune system, blood sugar control mechanism, and blood itself (two abnormalities recently detected). Accurate diagnosis, if the diagnostician follows my guidelines, is highly probable by age two for those with a moderate to severe level of ADHD. The most common problems are academic, with 80% of children with ADHD benefitting from special academic methods or accommodations; 40% of them have learning disabilities. The most common complaint they actually make when interviewed by mental health professionals is that they don’t have enough friends. Family stressed generated by ADHD are severe, and I often refer to ADHD as a family splitting force; prevention of such damage to the relationships within the family is seldom if ever accomplished by mediocre parenting performance.

Leslie Lindsay: For me, I hear a lot of, “S/he’s just being a typical, energetic kid.” How can we tactfully point out that ‘no, there is something else going on.’ And frankly, whose business is it, anyway?

Dr. Taylor: The three most common diagnostic run-arounds these parents receive in the early years of trying to discover what is wrong are (1) “Boys will be boys” (75% of these children are male); (2) This is just a phase; s/he’ll grow out of it”; and (3) The child’s aberrant behavior is the parent’s fault as in being too lax and spoiling the child or being too firm and failing to support self-esteem enough.

To get beyond these simplistic off-the-mark conclusions, document evidence that the child is showing key ADHD symptoms to a significant degree. To make this issue even more confusing, all ADHD symptoms come from the range of “normal” experience, so that it is safe to say that everyone has some of the symptoms at some time or other. The diagnosis is, in fact, that these symptoms occur too much, at too great an intensity, in too great a number to be passed off as “normal.” A great place to start for a hyperactive child is a screening checklist for hyperactivity. A very accurate one is available free of charge as a download from my website.

As to whose business it is, it is definitely the parent’s and child’s business to become aware of, and thoroughly knowledgeable about, any significant medical or psychiatric condition the child has. If the child has ADHD, it is therefore also the child’s “business.” That’s why I wrote the book for children with ADHD to read, as a source of wide-ranging insights and assistance for their daily coping at home and at school.

Leslie Lindsay: Let’s talk about girls. I happen to have a 9-year old daughter with AD/HD who is very bright, creative, and inventive. In fact, she talks about being an inventor/engineer or artist when she grows up. Yet, it’s my understanding that girls often are hard to diagnose because they present with slightly different symptoms than boys. Can you explain the differences between how each gender presents?

Dr. Taylor: Your daughter is typical of most children with ADHD. There are six talent areas to hunt for, and they spell MADAM-C. They are mechanical, artistic, dramatic, athletic (the least common of the six) musical, and computer skills. Hyperactive girls tend to be tomboyish, and there is apparently an underproduction of or blocking of estrogen-related phenomena in both boys and girls with ADHD. Girls with ADHD are more likely to be regarded as distractible and being chatterboxes, while boys are most distinctively seen as aggressive and hyperactive. Whereas only 20% of hyperactive children are girls, about 40% of kids with “pure” ADD (without the hyperactivity) are girls. Among children with ADHD, girls do better socially and academically than boys do. They’re also less likely to become substance abusers and delinquents during adolescence than boys with ADHD.

Leslie Lindsay: Okay, full disclosure: when I was a child/adolescent psych R.N., it was one of my worst fears I’d have a child with AD/HD. Looking back, I sort of cringe at that fear. We can’t control these things anymore than can control the color or hair or eye color our kids have. That said what advice would you give to a mother parenting a daughter with AD/HD?

Dr. Taylor: My advice would be to follow all the guidelines in the various chapters of my comprehensive guide for parenting any child with ADD, “Helping Your ADD Child.” The chapters on enhancing the child’s self-esteem, improving the child’s social skills, getting the best professional help, reducing symptoms by the four avenues (physiological, psychological, sensory-motor, and academic) and regaining family harmony would be relevant. Interview your daughter once a month about how her life is going, detecting any problems and making sure her emotional needs are being met well.

Leslie Lindsay: Yet when we try to encourage our kids to be themselves, to do their best, to highlight their gifts, we still get frustrated. What would you identify as the common “problems” parents and their AD/HD kiddos have with one another? And how can we overcome them?

Dr. Taylor: Self-esteem and its attendant issues are at the root of much of the conflict in families with children who have ADHD. Use “Super Strokes” (download from my website, “ADD Extras”) and avoid praising and similar judgmental methods that aren’t powerful enough to bolster the sagging self-esteem characterizing most children with ADHD. Having the once-a-month personal private interview is also a valuable tool to reduce parent-child conflict in these families. A common problem is the parent’s feeling forced to nag and remind; many of these parents have told me statements such as “If I don’t nag him, he won’t get it done.” Yet nagging is a parenting error to be diligently avoided. My various resources explain how, but the important thing is to get out of the nagging role. Tell your child once then follow up with some sort of action; in other words, speak with the tongue in our shoe, not just a constantly wagging tongue in your mouth. The launch of each day is also a problem time for many of these families. The majority of hyperactive boys and girls are yelled at most mornings before they get out the door to go to school. The consequent toll on their self-esteem and their ability to cope with the stresses of the school day is devastating. Plan for an orderly launch of the day; set things out the night before, and have a peaceable breakfast available for the child. 

Leslie Lindsay: Your book, THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR KIDS WITH  AD/HD is designed for kids ages 8-12 and contains “kid-friendly tools for making each day great.” Can you describe some of those tips and tools?

Dr. Taylor: I wanted my guide to be frankly helpful and usable by any child who has ADHD, with or without the “hyperactivity” component. One “tool” is a four-step procedure I developed by working directly with kids who have ADHD to improve their decision-making. Hyperactive kids make decisions carelessly and impulsively, and kids with “pure” ADD make their decisions too slowly and too cautiously. Two more “tools” are my nutrition and sleep guidelines; most parents of these kids don’t understand how to manipulate sleep and nutritional variables to reduce the symptoms. Other tools include a fun idea list of things to do when they become bored or are stuck inside on a rainy day. There are dozens more of these unique “tools” that don’t appear in generic books for these kids.

Leslie Lindsay: Many thanks for being with us today, Dr. Taylor! What a fantastic education.

Dr. Taylor: Thank you. This is an important topic, and these children and their families need this information.

For more  information on Dr. Taylor, his publications, and worksheets/screening tools, please visit: ADD-Plus

Bio: Regarded as an innovator in the field of ADD, John F. Taylor, Ph.D. is a family psychologist and father of eight children, three of whom have ADD. His practice has focused for over twenty years on children and adolescents with ADD/ADHD. He authored one of the first books devoted to ADD/ADHD family relationship issues (THE HYPERACTIVE CHILD AND THE FAMILY). His recent book “Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses” helps children with ADHD, autism, and other conditions featuring impaired sensory processing.

A prolific developer of techniques and resources for ADD/ADHD as well as a captivating speaker, he has often been featured at conferences and on nationally broadcast talk shows. He has authored numerous books and parent educational materials as well as many articles in professional journals, including the “Sharpening Your Counseling Skills” column in the journal PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR COUNSELORS. A consultant and item writer for the recently published Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-3), he is listed in WHO’S WHO IN THE WEST and WHO’S WHO AMONG HUMAN SERVICE PROFESSIONALS, and THE INTERNATIONAL WHO’S WHO OF PROFESSIONALS.

Among Dr. Taylor’s over 200 creative articles, audio and video productions and books are

  • The Hyperactive Child and the Family
  • A.D.D. School Success Tool Kit Video
  • The Answers to A.D.D.Audiotape Series
  • The Attention Deficit Hyperactive Student at School
  • Anger Control Training For Children and Teens
  • Person to Person: Awareness Techniques
  • Social Skills Solutions Video
  • Why Can’t I Eat That?
  • Diagnostic Interviewing of the Misbehaving Child
  • Intimate Encounter
  • Understanding Misbehavior
  • Motivating the Uncooperative Student
  • Family Power Series
  • Counselor Survival Guide Series
  • From Defiance to Cooperation