Students with OCD

While teachers don’t diagnose students, it’s important for them to keep an eye out and notice children’s mannerisms. I had a student in kindergarten once that struggled greatly with obsessive behaviors. When all the other students were told to stop coloring and come to the carpet, he wouldOCD vs Gods Mercy continue to color for another ten minutes if allowed. When he was told firmly it was time to come to the carpet, he would begin to cry because his work wasn’t finished.It became a daily battle, as the class worked to stay on schedule, and the poor boy wanted nothing more than to finish his work perfectly.

And though he got in trouble for some defiant, ill-chosen words toward his teacher, his teacher and I quickly realized he wasn’t doing it to rebel. In his mind, it didn’t matter if we told him not finishing his coloring sheet was okay. In his mind, he needed to finish that coloring sheet. If he didn’t, something bad might happen, despite the fact that we guaranteed him it wouldn’t.

That child was an early case. I’ve noticed similar behaviors, however, in children of other grades as well, particularly in second and third. Unfortunately, as a substitute, I often don’t know which child will struggle with this until we’ve had at least one battle over following directions and finishing an assignment perfectly. There are a few ways I’ve learned to help these students, however, so we can avoid conflicts and tears and allow the child to feel successful.

  1. If it’s possible, I try to build in time for the child to work on unfinished work later in the day. Sometimes it’s time set aside specifically for the students to work on unfinished work, and sometimes, it’s simply whispering to a particular student that he may work on his math during silent reading. Nothing productive will come from a battle filled with tears and angry insults coming from a child who is simply frustrated by his own anxiety.
  2. Draw clear guidelines for time constraints before beginning the seat work. Instead of simply handing the children the assignment, and then suddenly announcing that time’s up, I’ve found that giving the children 10, 5, and 1 minute warnings can help children use their time more wisely.
  3. Whenever possible, I try to reassure children that I don’t expect perfection. If we were perfect, I tell them, none of us would need to attend school. I do tell them, however, that I expect them to try. Then, what happens happens.

In My Own Life

The same tips I give to students are really those that are useful in my own life, because I’m not cured of my perfectionism yet. The longer I’m a functioning (at least, somewhat) adult, the more I’m realizing that in order to be rid of the anxiety, I need to do what I tell my students to do: just let go. Here are some ways I am learning to manage the OCD demands in my life:

  1. Lay out the steps to making a decision – Much in the way I talk about beating procrastination anxiety, I’ve found that physically writing down each baby step in a decision can help focus my efforts and lower my anxiety.
  2. Choose a priority – In some areas, my priority is saving money, sometimes it’s taking care of His creation, and in others, it’s taking care of someone who needs it, despite the money I may be spending unexpected. It’s hard to break out of my plans, but with prayer and experience, God is proving to me that the unexpected isn’t always bad.
  3. Finding God’s mercy – Little has helped me more than reading about God’s mercy in the Bible. And while it may seem a little crazy to need God’s grace in choosing a bathroom cleaner, I do need it. We all do. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I’m learning that no matter how imperfect my decisions are, I can’t make a mistake that God will not use to some good in the end.

Does decision making slow you down? Do you have any tips for making the decision making process any easier? Please share your thoughts and questions in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!

ScholasTIC: Are you comfortable with your kid’s teacher?

teacher

I’m not sure about your children’s education situation, but my kids go to a charter school. For some people, sending their child to public school is akin to throwing them out on the street with nothing but a can of Yahoo and a comic book. For me, it’s heaven. Their peer group, and teachers, have more skin colors than Joseph’s amazing technicolor coat.

There are at least 20 moms and dads I can call last-minute if I’m running late for pickup. One mom, who reads this column, met me at 830 this morning to give me a few bottles of GABA that her daughter wasn’t using. “I read your blog,” she wrote me last week, “I have some extra if you want it.” Doesn’t get better than that. (Thank you, friend! You know who you are!)

Our school isn’t perfect. Some of the kids over the years have been rough around the edges. And some of the teachers weren’t what I’d call Mary Poppins perfect. But isn’t that what school is about? To learn how to accept differences, stand up for oneself when things aren’t fair, fail, grow, rinse and repeat?

Lest I sound like St. Andrea, Patron of the Los Angeles School system, I didn’t always feel this way. Sure, I wanted my baby kinder to go there, but in all truth, I was terrified. On his first day of school, I introduced myself to a man with long hair, striped socks and George Michael shorts. I thought he was an eccentric big brother. “Hi, I’m a new mom, Mrs. Frazer,” I said, giving him my hand. He shook it with exuberance, smiled and declared, “I’m one of the assistant teachers… Chachi!” I almost passed out.

Stink’s new school was very developmental. It used buzzed words like “engaging the student” and “peaceful learning circles.” Some people might think, “Whole Child! Montessori style nirvana!” I’m an ex-Catholic school girl. My thoughts ran more along the lines of, “Tree huggers! Unicorns! Ruuun!”

Before you judge, Stink my first to go to school, and I had a big diagnosis in my pocket. For some people, a few tics and a TS label wouldn’t sound so daunting. But for me? It was terrifying. “What if he got worse? What if other kids noticed? And worse, what if he was made fun of?”

In retrospect, I made myself crazier than I needed to be. While it’s normal to have concerns, I didn’t put mine to rest easily. If only I had someone to guide me… to tell me that it would be okay. I wish I knew that even if he ticked to the point of cursing (my biggest worry) he’d still be okay. Why? Because who Stink is, not what he does, is what counts.

Little by little, I began to cut the cord. I started being less concerned with who I wanted Stink to be. I started truly enjoying who he was. So what if he’s not into sports. So what if he has a hair-do resembling a bed-headed Beetle. So what if he still likes Pokemon while other kids are into baseball cards. It really doesn’t matter one bit what other children are doing. What matters is what my kid is doing. And best of all, he’s happy and content.

He’s not the only one. If I was ever not sure about my big leap of faith into the chasm of the L.A. charter school, yesterday’s letter from his teacher sealed the deal.

Continue reading

I’m a slowpoke because of my OCD

OCD Mind Games III

I don’t struggle with compulsions nearly as much as I did when I was a child. Sure, I have a one here and another there, but they don’t really alter my life too much. The part of OCD that perhaps impacts my life more than any of the other parts is the perfectionism. I will admit that it takes me forever to get things done. (The funny thing is that I can be a rather impatient person.)

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to want to make decisions quickly and then to be stuck with that stupid voice of OCD in my head, telling me why each decision I consider is wrong. I’ll give you a few examples:

Example 1:

I want to deep clean my carpet. I go to the store with all the intention of finding a personal use carpet cleaner. I get to the store and see a few options. There’s the powder ($3) in that green can, the kind that you sprinkle on the floor and then vacuum up. There’s the huge shampoo monster that you can rent for $49.99. Then, there’s the Resolve Easy Clean Carpet Kit for $15. I consider my options, and I find something wrong with every single one.

Powder: It’s super cheap, and I doubt anything that cheap is really going to clean my carpets. Besides, it smells funny, like TUMS all crushed up.

Shampoo Monster Thingamajig: It’s $49.99, and takes hours to dry. Ain’t nobody got time for dat!

Resolve Easy Clean Carpet Kit: It’s not too expensive, but it involves a lot of chemicals, and each time I used a canister, I’ll be producing more waste. Another round of consumer guilt hits.

I leave the store empty handed and downhearted. But my spirits are lifted when I recall that I can just turn to Pinterest to answer all my problems! Because Pinterest has solved virtually every problem on earth, right? So I get on Pinterest and look up natural carpet cleaners. I find a bunch, and decide to research the science behind them. Finally, I decide that the essential oils mixed with baking powder sound like a good choice. So I’m all set to go, right?

Wrong. You have to order essential oils either from a consultant (very expensive), or find a decent set on Amazon. That, of course, takes hours of research, as I check brands and user ratings. Finally, I choose a set that comes with 6 bottles for $25. It takes me three whole days to make the decision because I really want the essential oils, but $25 is a lot of money. Finally, I bite the bullet and order them, trying to remind myself of all the other awesome things I can do with the essential oils.

While I wait for my Amazon order to arrive, I decide just to get the Resolve Kit. My carpet is too dirty to just use the baking powder mixture on (I mean, our black lab is a sweetheart, but he sheds like crazy!). I decide to use the Resolve Kit every now and then, and then use the baking powder – essential oils mixture more regularly. I deep clean my carpets and then have a more environmentally friendly option to use the majority of the time.

Simple, right? Not.

Continue reading

52 Weeks of TS: Week 24

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every Tuesday, noted Tourette Syndrome advocate Troye Evers shares his “52 Weeks of TS” blog journal with the TSParentsOnline community. In cased you missed any of the first 23 weeks, you can read them here. For more information about Troye, please click on his name or visit his website.

I’m tired. I think that can explain my week right there. This has been an extremely busy, anxiety, and tic-filled week. I went out of town for a few days for work, which wasn’t too bad. The trip actually started off somewhat cool. I was on the plane with Michael J. Fox, and I did actually approach him.

We ended up having a short discussion comparing Tourette Syndrome and Parkinson’s Disease. I do have to say, I was excited to talk to him. He has done so much awareness for Parkinson, as I am trying to do for TS. Even though I knew I’d never hear from him, I did invite him and his family out for dinner. (I didn’t hear from him). Either way, it was an interesting experience.

I was only out of town for three days, it was quick in and out work, not too stressful. The flight back was not as exciting, just me and my Sky Mall. Don’t judge me, we all know we do it, look through the Sky Mall shopping for things that we don’t need. However, have you ever really looked through it, I mean really looked through it!? I think the magazine might be created by a germaphobe.

There are so many different kinds of antibacterial things in there. There are lights you can shine on your hands to kill the germs, lights you can shine on your bed to kill bugs. They even have different types of travel ones. By the time the plane landed, I wanted to purchase half the magazine.

It seems like my TS loves to try new things, it’s like a kid in a candy store. I have all my normal everyday tics, but every now and then, a new one will pop up. It might last for a day or two, or stick around for a while. This week I’ve had some interesting echolalia tics. Echolalia is the repeating of words that either you have said or something someone else has said. I know I have had a touch of this anyway, but it usually only happens with commercial jingles. I constantly sing along with commercials.

Continue reading

My kid? A bully? Handling the unexpected

Bully

Stink has never been shy on friends. I mean, never. This kid can be ticking like a clock on crack, walk into a party of dwarfs speaking Chinese, and come out with three new buddies (along with a fistful of twitch-inducing fortune cookies).

Unlike me, however, he doesn’t hand-wring over situations that aren’t working for him anymore. Sometimes he’ll play with the neighbor kid every day for two weeks. Then a month goes by. “Tyson was cheating at Pokemon,” he’ll say. “I told him to not come back until he stops trying to steal my Pikachu cards.” Before long, they are playing basketball on the corner.

Stink doesn’t obsess over what another kid thinks, says or act. It doesn’t mean that he has an unkind heart – far from it – but he’s not going to walk on eggshells around someone. Nor is he going to let someone walk on him. For those who operate in life out of a wounded life-script, his character could be perceived as selfish. For others with a healthy dose of self-esteem, Stink is seen as a leader with boundaries.

I am slowly getting on the Stink train, but it hasn’t been easy. Because I am a very “out there” person, my pattern in the past was to attract people who weren’t as out there. I represented a bit of sunshine for their shadow, and – due to my generous nature  - I was more than happy to spread some light.

Lest I sound like an ego-maniac, that was pretty stupid and self-righteous on my part. After some good old-fashioned silence, prayer and self-reflection, it was clear that I subconsciously felt the need for cheerleaders. I knew in my soul who I was (what everyone saw in my writer voice) but in real life I needed more support. There’s nothing wrong with friends who bolster us as we find our true identity in this wonky world, but ideally, it’s from people who are on the same level as we are, if not higher.

If not, we’ll get less than professional cheerleaders who are insecure about their own pom-poms. In my case, these insecure cheerleaders would turn to me for emotional support  (after all, they had been there for me ). Having the tables suddenly flipped, I didn’t want to cheer for them, because it felt wrong. I didn’t want to cheer for insecurity and woundedness. I’d back off to keep from being bitten.

Instead of then putting on my cheerleader uniform them, I’d become a professional flag girl. “Red flag! Red flag! Run!” I’d clumsily extract myself from the friendship.

On one hand, you could say I was practicing healthy boundaries. But in reality it was years too late for that. One person even called me a bully. Ouch. Adding more sting to the wound, I felt bad for them feeling bad. Sure, I did not want to be in an unhealthy friendship, but hurting another person (even though it was their insecurities, not mine) made me feel awful. Can we say “Co Dependent for 500?”

Back to Stink and his friendships. As life would have it, he picked up a new buddy last year. I loved Darren.  He seemed very sweet and kind. They had many video game and pizza fests. His folks told me how great Stink was – that Stink was the “first friend” this kid had. I felt honored that my kid was not like the other boys at school who made fun of Darren. He was confident enough in himself to befriend a kid who wasn’t part of the jock crowd.

Cut to this year with no word from Stink about Darren. I asked him about it, and Stink said “We just don’t have a lot in common.” I sensed something was amiss, but let it go. After all, Stink doesn’t have to be friends with everyone he’s ever met. At least Stink has boundaries, unlike his mother.

But when I saw this kid’s parents at the bowling alley today – who I could tell would rather avoid me – I approached the mom. (I don’t do passive well.) I cornered her in the arcade and told her I was sorry the boys weren’t hanging out. She said it was “fine… kids drift…” but she looked sad. “Really? That’s all?” I asked. She then alluded to some play yard incident where her son was being ganged up on.

She said, according to Darren, that “Stink didn’t defend him and that really hurt his feelings. It wasn’t the Stink Darren thought he know.” Her son was hurt, and so was she. At that point, so was I. “Why didn’t you call me?” I asked her, very calmly. ”I didn’t want to be the crying mom,” she said back before heading out to find her husband in the parking lot.

Ugggg.

After extracting tokens from his hands and making him dump the remainder of his tic potion Pepsi in the trash can, I asked him about it in the car. The upshot of our conversation was that he would talk to the kid at school in the morning. It also meant a note to the parent. Curious what you think:

Continue reading