bipolar disorder — 5 Minutes for Special Needs

bipolar disorder



                               

She looked up at me, wrapped tight in the blanket that was holding her together. Thirty minutes she’d been yelling at math problems on crumpled paper in front of her. Pencils strewn around, nerves frazzled. Now she sat quiet. Smiling with those big brown tear-soaked eyes. Oh, she was so proud of her work! She finally got it – this long-division beast!

But even more amazing (as you can imagine if you saw my last homework post!) was HOW she got it.

Since her learning disabilities relate to auditory processing and mood, it often seems the moons and stars have to align perfectly for us to have a shot at explaining a math concept or vocabulary word without the interaction ending in a giant meltdown. We’ve learned to write whatever directions she needs to understand. That’s in her IEP accommodations for teachers to help her too. It’s been like having a child who’s deaf whenever problems arose with homework: all interactions via notes and hand gestures.

Today, for the first time I can ever remember, despite loud protest, crying, and needing to wrap in a blanket to calm down…. she was able to LISTEN to my explanation and DO what we talked about. Without the meltdown. Without forgetting what I said 2 seconds before.

She listened, heard, wrote… understood.

I’ve spent 5 years helping this little girl and never one day has it been easy. Today, even if it’s just an anomaly, has breathed hope into me. Hope for her ability to learn and relate to others. Hope for her mind to heal and grow. Hope for her future.

And hope is a very, very good thing!

How’s homework going for your child lately? Any wins?

– Laurie



                               

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The (Not So) Fine Art of Negotiating With My Tween’s Bipolar

We’re getting ready to go to the beach. It’s New Year’s Day. (Yes, I know I’m lucky. Truly grateful!) While I’m packing, my daughter with anxiety disorder and Bipolar is escalating. She follows me around the house as I collect towels, bathing suits, beach shoes.

“You threw out my old swim suit?!” She accuses, screaming at me.

“Last time you wore it, I told you the suit was finished. It had holes.” I reply.

“It was FINE. And you KNOW it! You want me to look ugly and all my friends are going to laugh!” She yells.

(None of her friends are coming, but you and I know that’s not really the point.)

“I’ll talk to you when you’re calm and respectful, honey.” I remind.

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The Hardest Word I’ve Ever Said

Seven years. Over a thousand hours at hospitals and specialist appointments. Countless interventions at home. And it turns out the most important word to help my daughter’s treatment is this:

NO.

No… we’re not doing a nineteenth round of medication adjustments. It’s time for hospitalization.

No… I won’t take her home from the hospital and keep doing the things that haven’t worked in the past.

No… I won’t take her home, period. She needs more help than we can give her. It’s time for residential placement.

No… We’re not going to let her case be assigned to an intern at your teaching facility.

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Well THAT explains a lot! (New Neuroscience Research Findings)

“Did you notice how angry your sister is getting when you talk to her like that?”

“Can you see that mom is frustrated when you’re not listening?”

“What do you mean, you didn’t think she was sad? She’s crying!”

These might seem like things only parents with kids on the Autistic spectrum may say to their kids. But as a mom with 2 children who have Bipolar Disorder, it’s the same here… just unpredictably. One day (or week) things seem neurotypical, the next, eye contact is gone and the stimming behaviors are back. My least favorite of the behaviors is how my oldest daughter doesn’t seem to be able to read emotions accurately in friends and others around her.

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Homework Strategies for Moody Kids

A few weeks back in school and all the old frustrations are in full swing.

The pencil-breaking. The paper-ripping. The weeping. The gnashing of teeth. You’d think schoolwork was, in fact, hell on earth. But really it’s just hell to a child with a learning disability. Especially one that’s at the mercy of bipolar mood swings.

My 4th grader, on an IEP for auditory processing and working memory difficulties, made great strides last year with her resource specialist’s help. That was after 3 years of working with her on homework, only to have her shred her assignment and stomp off, screaming, to her room.

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When I Discovered I Was Part of The Problem

Ours isn’t the usual superhero story.

When I brought my daughters home from foster care I anticipated grief, health issues, tantrums (they were both toddlers, after all). But I didn’t think that 7 years later, one would be healthy and well-adjusted while the other seemed to fall apart emotionally and physically in spite of interventions. I never would have imagined that after thousands of hours of time and care, I’d be walking my daughter into a residential treatment center, and walking out without her.Raising special needs kids feels like a job for supermom... but is it?

Even more than the stress and challenges of raising a child unresponsive to intervention, is the realization that my own supermom tendencies made it worse.

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Hope Comes Through A Hole In My Wall

Anyone else living in a trashed house? I do. It’s the kind where rays of sunshine pour over beautifully painted walls – well, mostly, except for the place where our 8 year old kicked a hole through one in a rage months ago. Or where doors are missing from being slammed through frames. Or where carpet has zig-zags of missing pile after the Timed-Out-One took her anger out on it.

The brokeness reveals the beauty.

Life with behavioral special needs ain’t pretty. And our poor homes know that just as well as our families – trying their best to live well despite the challenges, often not seeming to measure up to them.

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Dealing With Anxiety in Our Kids

It’s the same every summer. We leave the routine of school and it throws my girls WAY off. We’ve got anxiety and stress-related behavior challenges coming out our ears in our house. So I thought it would be a good time to repost this short vlog I shared at the start of the school year. In it, I share a tool we’ve used often and that helps us get through the high anxiety transition times with our kids. Hope it’s helpful to you too!

Help! Dealing with Anxiety in Kids

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Leaping Past the Labels

Monkey is 8 years old and does back handsprings in my living room. Not my favorite place for that, admittedly, but considering as a toddler in foster care she was Failure to Thrive, and that she has Bipolar and Anxiety… I’m just happy she’s doing any leaping at all!

Overcoming with Special Needs

Labels can't hold back her heart.

Gymnastics and dance get her through life. When she’s mad, she dances like the Step Up movies – her own special mix of break dancing, gymnastics, and modern dance. It’s raw and beautiful to see her cope like that. To know that gymnastics has done for her what no medication has ever fully been able to.

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Our Bipolar Happy Hour

It’s always the same. Like Bill Murray’s movie, Groundhog Day. It’s the same in our home every single day, no matter what we do, what medications we try, what therapies we employ. My 9 year old just lives on the relentless Bipolar mood roller coaster. Every. single. day.

Every day:

The Brooding Beauty Shows Her Sweet Heart

…I wake her gently, quietly… and she roars at the family for the next 30 minutes until it’s time for school.

…she gets home from school smiling, then lashes out at people because since she often misses social cues, and struggles to make friends.

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