My oldest is son is my ADD boy. He’s perfect, beautiful, thoughtful, caring, sensitive, brilliant but he has the attention span of a gnat on amphetamines. He’s that kid that if he has more than one pencil on his desk at a time, he’s going to use them as light sabers and create a little battle in his head… He struggles with focus every. single. day. He’s a bright kid, he’s made straight A’s his entire life… and no, not just because he’s homeschooled… He’s a quick learner and a deep thinker, however, long term focus is hard for him for almost anything. Math is our biggest struggle right now. He completely understands the concepts. He learns everything beautifully, but when it comes time to apply that knowledge things fall apart quickly. It’s a steps thing for him. If a math problem has more than 1 or 2 steps I lose him.
When we do the practice work together he gets everything right. I give him his independent work expecting it go as easily for him because I just watched him do 8 of the same kinds of problems with no issue, right? Wrong. The moment I walk away his focus leaves him. He may get through half a problem and then move on to another, or leave out a step entirely. As soon as I leave the room he’s calling me back in. He needs help, he doesn’t understand something, doesn’t remember where to write… when I’m not in the room with him it’s a constant battle between us to keep me there. It’s the darnedest thing. It was making the both of us crazy last year, our first year homeschooling, so this year I changed it up. I decided to start him on a DVD math program. BJU seemed to have a great program, an engaging teacher teaching him the lessons and having him do the work… then checking it with him on the video. It was almost completely hands-off for me. It looked so good on paper. I ordered it for way more money than I would have spent on the regular Math for 5th grade, and expected a great year.
Guess what… things that look great on paper don’t always work out in real life. We found that while the videos would have been great for our non ADD child, they weren’t working for Kaden. The teacher was fine, she kept his interest, however, there were random graphics that would float around the screen. That distracted him from what was being taught. He started to get frustrated because he was constantly having to rewind and play back portions of the video to catch what he had missed. He tried to follow along but it just wasn’t connecting with him. My sweet boy will try to work anything out so that he doesn’t disappoint me but I could see he was getting lost. I started sitting with him during his lessons to try and help him focus(If you’ve ever ordered a DVD course for your child you know this is defeating the purpose.) That just lead to both of us being frustrated.
After 2 months of frustration and tears (on both our parts) I broke down and ordered the teacher book and switched him back to parent led learning. The change was instant as far as the instruction time went. He was able to follow me and ask questions when he needed to, this helped him grasp the concepts so much better.
Still, there was the independent work that we needed to address. When your child can do a math problem perfectly start to finish with you just sitting beside them, but can’t do the same problem when you’re in the other room, it’s almost always a focus issue. He understands that he has ADD, he knows that there is a medication for it, and he began asking his to please get it for him. I’m not writing this to start a debate, what you chose to give to your children in regards to medication is a personal decision in an instance like this one. We choose not to medicate his ADD. We don’t feel comfortable with many of the side effects and we don’t feel that Kaden’s particular case is severe enough to require medical intervention. That being said, we have tried a few natural and dietary supplements to help him.
The first thing we tried was caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and it generally has the opposite effect on an ADD child. It mellows them out and allows them to focus. I noticed a little improvement but not what we were looking for.
Next we tried a fish oil supplement, the idea is that omega 3 oils help the brain to focus when taken regularly. This did help his focus, but the oil was so heavy that he completely lost his appetite. He literally wouldn’t eat. That isn’t healthy for a 10-year-old star baseball player 🙂 so back to the drawing board it was.
One day, while we were at Co-Op, one of the other moms mentioned using oils on her ADD child and having some excellent results. I did a bit of research and found that there had been a study conducted on ADD and Autistic children using vetiver oil. In this study 100% of the kids had improvement. Now, it didn’t say how much improvement they had, but the fact that they saw improvement in all of them was enough for me to try it. I placed an order that day and waited, quite impatiently, for the oil to arrive.
When it finally did, John was very skeptical. Truth be told, I was too but I was desperate. John wasn’t at that desperate “We have to do something to help this child” stage that I was at. When the oil came I mixed it coconut oil and got it ready to use the next morning. When Kaden got up I oiled him his feet and his back, it smelled a little manly and he wasn’t sure he liked it but he was willing to try. He wanted help as much as I did.
We started with math that morning like normal. Kaden did great on the instruction time, did all the problems correctly that we worked together. Everything was just like normal. Then came the time to give him his independent work… this would be the test. I gave him his assignment and walked away and waited to be beckoned back. Guess what…
He didn’t call me back in. He got through the entire assignment without calling me. When I came in to check on his work I was amazed. Not only did he have them all completed and correct, but even his handwriting was different. It was neater, more legible. I was shocked. I immediately called John, he was skeptical of course but he was glad we’d had a good day.
So fast forward to where we are now. We’ve been using the oil for a little more than a month and the change is remarkable. He asks for it, notices it right away if I get busy and forget to put it on him. His confidence has changed and it’s made him a happier student.
He’s still an ADD kid, he still gets distracted throughout the day. However, it gives him the power to reign his focus in during school and that’s worth it’s weight in gold.
Today he and I were talking. I was telling him how proud I am of him and how I wouldn’t change a single thing about his beautiful little self. He quickly piped up, “Except my ADD, right mom? You’d change that.” I grabbed his chin in my hands and looked him in his perfect blue eyes and I told him “absolutely not” and I meant it. I’ll tell you why, just like I told him.
Yes, ADD causes Kaden to struggle to focus on some things. Things that he may not be terribly interested in. However, ADD gives him hyper-focus in other things. Things that grab his attention, things he’s passionate about. Those things get his undivided attention. When he’s pitching in a baseball game he doesn’t hear the other kids heckling him. He doesn’t hear cheers or taunts. He just sees his brother (the catcher) holding his mitt, ready for a pitch. He tunes the rest out and he has a hyper focus in that moment. It makes him an excellent ball player. I reminded him of that today, and then I told him that one day, God would give him his calling. It would come as a passion in his little heart and that ADD that plagues our math lessons is going to be what makes him an amazing man of God. It’s going to be what keeps him going when others would be ready to give up. It’s going to give him the drive that he needs to complete the race before him. I’m proud that I get to mold that now. I’m so thankful we’ve found something that works for him with school time without the side effects of traditional medicine. I’m honored to get to be his mom.