Monthly Archives: October 2016

Word of the Day: Potential

Word of the day.  Word of the year.  Word of a lifetime.  On Friday we received some assessment results for Berrik.  I believe I have waxed on about these assessments and how I feel about them, but they are a means to an end in terms of accessing resources, and perhaps (kinda, sorta, not really) even offering a few ideas of things to work on.  Even though intellectually, I can (and usually do) reconcile these assessments as more a reflection of Berrik’s ability to be tested, rather than his ACTUAL abilities, it is still difficult to hear that your child struggles ‘severely’ in some areas.  Severe is such a severe word.  It connotes negativity and extremism.  It makes my heart sink, and my stomach turn, and takes my hope and optimism and slams it into the ground, stomps on it, grinds a stiletto heel into it and then spits on it.  These are the moments I feel overwhelmed.  I think to myself, oh my goodness (except considerably more x-rated), what will ever become of this boy?  How will he manage junior high, high school, adolescence, getting a job, meeting a girl who will love him for all his most amazing qualities, raising his own children etc. etc.   These panicked (and let’s face it, totally irrational) thoughts race in circles inside my head like trick ‘r treaters hopped up on candy at bedtime, screaming and bouncing off the walls and each other until I want to crawl under the covers with that go-cup of wine and grind my teeth into powder.

And then I take a breath. Or maybe 10 breaths.  My apple watch tells me to breathe and then actually coaches me through a full minute of deep breathing. It congratulates me on taking a ‘breather’ each time I do it, and if I forget, it reminds me.  A few deep breaths  (thank you apple watch) and a conversation with someone who knows what she’s talking about are all I need to get it back into perspective.  “The test results are what they are, but they say nothing about his POTENTIAL.”  Sigh.  Of course!  I know this.  Why is it that I panic from time to time?  Berrik has progressed dramatically since June.  He continues to surprise me regularly with how much he is absorbing and is able to apply.  He’s reading like a rock star.  He’s loving science.  He’s doing well in math.  He’s on the cusp of story writing.  These are things I witness daily, and yet still can get pulled into panic mode by a test result.

The great thing about potential is that everyone has it.  And it’s always a goal; something in the future; the result of hard work and determination.  We often use the expression ‘reaching one’s full potential’ but I believe this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We never reach our full potential…we always have more potential right up until the last breaths leave our lungs and our hearts contract for the final time.  Potential is what you make of it.  Potential is relative.  And one always has potential.

This panicked little 15 minutes happened for me on Friday afternoon.  And then true to form Berrik showed me in about a dozen different ways why I have nothing to worry about, anymore than either of my other children, anymore than any parent anywhere.  His potential is unlimited.  I’m starting to think that his ability to teach me about life might help me keep reaching for MY full potential.

 

Labels are just labels. But what does it mean for us?

Graphic credit toClick here for reference

I am always searching for more information, more ways to teach, more literature to help me understand what Berrik faces on a day to day basis, in hopes that I can help him manage the challenges, and build on the strengths.  One of the things I find difficult is trying to explain what is going on with Berrik to family or friends, who understandably do not really get it.  And how could they?  Most days I don’t feel like I totally ‘get it’ either.  I will admit that from time to time I feel defensive; and I find myself using defensive language to explain what we are doing or what is going on with Berrik.  On good days, I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks, as I can see the progress and the potential in my child (all my children, for that matter). On bad days, I will feel defensive and protective and incredibly annoyed by the ‘sympathetic’ comments, or what I perceive to be falsely encouraging responses from people who have asked me about how Berrik is doing.  I hate feeling defensive, mostly because I know there is nothing to ‘defend’, which invariably leads to feeling guilty, since I can intellectualize that these defensive feelings I have are likely rooted in my own doubts and fears.  But let me be clear…. I have doubts and fears about the girls as well.  I think this is a normal parenting response….I assume all parents have moments where they worry about the future for their children.   That said, the girls are thus far on a ‘typical’ trajectory, and therefore it is easier for me to visualize what the future will bring (as naive as that is considering how young they are and all the chance and deliberate occurrences that can alter one’s path, repeatedly).

I came across an internet article that fairly effectively describes Berrik’s ‘labels’, DCD and Associated Disorders.

Understanding what, is helpful.  But the meat of the situation is the ‘so what?’.  How do these comorbid conditions impact Berrik?

Where to begin?  Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) – for Berrik, this manifests the most challenges in printing.  He was a bit late learning to dress himself, zip zippers, button buttons, brush teeth, feed himself with utensils, etc.  But he has all that figured out and manages very well in that regard.  He’s a bit awkward with gross motor skills at times, but generally can function well enough.  Definitely some challenges on the playground with some kids that are super athletic and appear to be part gorilla, part cheetah for how they can run and swing around the park, but generally speaking, Berrik holds his own.

Printing legibly is very difficult for Berrik, but he has come a tremendously long way.  His printing is actually quite neat now. He strongly dislikes printing (truthfully he HATES it, but I am encouraging him not to say ‘hate’…haha).  We practice daily.  Every single day.  In any way I can find to motivate him.  We write cards to his best friends next door, or fill in the blanks on an order form for an app or website he would like to join (I print the screen where you are asked to fill out your name etc., and make him fill in the blanks on paper, and then I transfer to the screen).  Another example of a situation this morning, “Mom, can I have a banana?”  “Sure, but this is a restaurant and you have to write down your food order on a paper.”  “Sigh.  You make everything difficult.  I think you like to do that to me.”  “Yes, sweets, that’s my job.” <insert eye roll from Berrik here>.  “Fine.  I’ll write it down.  Are you happy?”  “Yep.  I feel such joy in this moment.”  <another eye roll and audible sigh>

So…when you’re slow at printing, it’s easy to imagine how that impacts everything you do in school.  Slow to write the answers on a test, even if you know the answers…  makes it tough to demonstrate your knowledge.  Slow to write a story in Language Arts… so slow that it feels pointless to even try, as you are on your first sentence when other kids are done the whole assignment.  Homeschooling makes this a lot easier as we can take all the time we want.  And if we are assessing scientific process and critical thinking, I scribe for him.  Ditto for if the focus of the lesson is on telling a story with a beginning, middle and end.  I’ve been told by some teachers not to do this as he needs to be able to print.  I disagree with this philosophy.  We are working on printing, and he has/will have the ability to print.  He may never be fast at it.  And it will likely be a non-issue in the future.  The only time I EVER use a pen these days is when I’m working with Berrik.  I type or text or voice type everything.  He will too.  But he ABSOLUTELY needs to have the ability to process information, tell stories, think critically, understand concepts etc.  So if I have to do the writing so that he can achieve these goals, then that is what I will do.  (I almost went back to rewrite that last bit, since I can see how defensive I sound…. but I decided to leave it in there for demonstration purposes…)

ADHD, LD and SLI – these impact every aspect of life.  Berrik is better with attention than he was pre-diet change etc., but he still is challenged to hold his focus for long periods of time.  This manifests in reduced ability to follow multi-step directions (also impacted by speech and language issues), because he either doesn’t hear all the directions, so has no idea what he is supposed to do after step 1 & 2, or he did hear them, but gets distracted half way through whatever is supposed to be doing and ends up doing something completely different. Add to this the fact that he doesn’t always understand the meaning of some of the words in the directions, and now he’s both confused and distracted…  Think about when someone is talking to you and you have no idea what they are talking about (say, for example, your husband is an engineer and is talking about HVAC and electrical set up in a skyscraper… that is just a random hypothetical example, of course).  It is so difficult to stay focused and engaged.  That is a big challenge for Berrik.  As soon as he no longer understands what the conversation is about, he tunes out completely.  Most of the time I can’t tell whether it’s the SLI, ADHD, or a LD that is the root cause, and most probably it is a combination of all of the above.

I am constantly on the look out for strategies to single out and/or address the issues individually to see what will improve the outcomes.  Having Berrik repeat instructions back to me as I say them helps with short term memory, and focus.  If he can tell me what he’s supposed to do by repeating my words, but still isn’t sure what to do, then I can tell it’s likely a receptive language issue.  If he’s fidgeting and not engaged with me, then I can see it’s an attention thing.  Of course it’s never so simple as being one issue vs. another.  And to be clear, it’s not like this is an issue with every thing we do all day long… it just comes up in certain situations.  (Thank goodness, because it’s exhausting).

In our math studies, the SLI causes us much grief.  With the help of the ever amazing Sound Connections people, we realized that Berrik doesn’t understand the meaning of some critical math language.  What makes it more interesting and a bigger challenge, is that he understands words in some contexts but not others and the only way to determine where the deficits are is to go through each word in many contexts to tease out the areas for improvement and then work on them, one by one.  For example.  In one activity Berrik was asked to identify a row with ‘more’ of something in it.  It was a multi step problem that likely contributed to the issue, but in that context he didn’t understand what he was supposed to do.  Once he was shown what to do, he had no problem replicating it in different contexts.  So that tells us that the issue was the understanding of the words, not the actual computation of the math skill.  But on the same day, he was able to articulate and demonstrate the concept of more in a few different ways, and this occurred quite randomly in the context of some other activities we were doing.  This was a big clue that we needed to break down every ‘math’ concept word and identify exactly what didn’t connect for him, and then work with him to make those connections.  If this had not been pointed out to me, I would have never realized what was going on.  I would have assumed he understood the concept of the term ‘more’ because he does understand it in many contexts.  More, less, most, least, except, either, neither, add, subtract, plus, minus, multiply, divide, double, triple, ahead, behind, above, below, first, second, middle, last, high, low…..  these are just a few of the words that we will work through one by one.  The beauty is that some he will have no problems with, and the more foundational words he understands, the easier future ones will be to explain, as we can use the previous words to help explain the future ones.  And through all of this experimenting, his foundational math skills are being worked on, so we are accomplishing many goals with this exercise.  This both overwhelms me and gives me such hope.  All of these foundational skills will be critical to his future, and had I not stayed home with him this year, and had my wonderful friend Barbie not mentioned Sound Connections to me, we likely would have never realized these issues existed, and maybe, we would have eventually started to believe the teachers that Berrik just isn’t that smart. (Even typing that makes me tear up.  Oh the struggles this kid has endured).  I always feel like I need to put in a caveat in defense of teachers when I am writing about Berrik.  I don’t blame teachers for thinking Berrik wasn’t very smart.  I strongly believe teachers are under resourced.  Even as his mom, spending hours every day one on one with him, I find it hard to understand what is going on at any given time.  He is progressing so well this year, but it’s because I have time to spend several hours per day one on one with him, adapting and adjusting based on his specific needs on any given day.  Teachers obviously do not have this luxury.  So if anyone interprets my blog posts as teacher blaming or shaming, you are misinterpreting.

Berrik is reading SO well these days.  Particularly in comparison to where he was 6 months ago.  He isn’t caught up to grade level, but he is progressing at a fantastic pace.  I have zero doubt about his ability to read, and I am happy to see his comprehension of what he is reading also keeping pace.  Sound Connections works on phonological awareness, and through this he is learning to spell, to print, to decode words phonologically and for meaning, and eventually he will write sentences and stories through this process.  He is at different levels in different subsections of language and literacy, so we just keep moving along in all areas working harder on some than others.  For example, he is reading at a higher level than he’s at with more advanced sound blends like ‘th ‘(loud, like in ‘they’, and whispered, like in ‘think’) or ‘sh’.  The cool thing is that as we add the sound blends, he is already able to read many of the words that use those sounds, so he is able to quickly relate the sounds to words he knows, and then from there decode other words that he doesn’t know.  Because of how well he’s reading, his sight word acquisition is rather dramatically quick…  for whatever reason, if he learns a new word in a book, he is easily able to remember it for future, so we just add it to his sight words pile.  The pile is unwieldy now, but because of the reading, he no longer needs to review the earlier words as he reads them so frequently that they are solidly in his brain storage and easily accessed.  He will still from time to time read a word from back to front – meaning he starts decoding using the last sound as the first sound in the word, or confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’, or reading ‘on’ as ‘no’ or vice versa… These are typical dyslexic things, further impacted by focus or attention issues, but he manages quite well overall.  He is getting good at self correcting when he does this, which tells me he understands that the word he is saying either isn’t a word, or just makes no sense within the context of the sentence or story.  This is huge in the world of language and literacy, learning disabilities, and speech.

Hopefully this has been helpful to those wondering exactly what the heck is going on with Berrik, and how we are working through it all.  I am learning as much as Berrik is, if not more, and as an aside, thanks to his social studies curriculum, I am getting pretty informed on some Canadian culture.  Ask me about the Inuit, or the Acadians…. or about weather patterns in Iqaluit vs. Saskatoon.  And can I just brag that Berrik saw the word Iqaluit and told me it was spelled wrong , “Because every time you write a ‘q’ you always have to write a ‘u’.”  Welcome to the multitude of exceptions in the english language my boy.  Welcome.

Let go of my tail! I’m getting dizzy.

To fear is one thing.  To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.  ~Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved

This past week, Kevin and I went on a 5 day trip to NYC to celebrate our 15th anniversary. I love to travel.  L. O. V. E.  it. I like the experience of being out of the comfort zone of home – not that NYC is very extreme in that regard… but still.  I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit, and often without the kids.  This time, something felt VERY different.

Ever since the ‘flying’ incident way back in October 2004 – it is a long story, however, the short version is that for several long minutes, I was pretty sure the plane would crash, and by the looks of the hyperventilating flight attendant, he also thought we were going to crash – I have been a bit tense on planes.  My level of tension and anxiety has improved dramatically over the years (ask my cousins Kyle, Jennifer and Auntie Marylou about the return trip from Vegas, where I was a total disaster through a turbulent landing, made more humorous for cousin Jennifer as I was sitting in the emergency exit row and would clearly be of NO assistance in an emergency).  I can handle take offs, landings, and even minor turbulence without much notice now.  Major turbulence gets my attention, but I haven’t cried on a plane in years now…  🙂   But I digress.  Last Thursday, Kevin and I were on the plane taxiing down the runway.  I was quite suddenly and unexpectedly gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.  Nausea reminiscent of the unrelenting morning sickness of my early pregnancies caused me to break out in a cold sweat, and I felt like I may lose my breakfast.  But this time, it wasn’t flying that made feel this way.

My fear was about Berrik.  Well, it was about Berrik if something should happen to me.  It hit me like a sucker punch to the gut (not that I have ever been sucker punched in the gut…but I have a good imagination). Now, I have often had anxious thoughts about all three kids and how it would impact them if I was to die while off on a trip somewhere.  But it was more feelings of sadness for them that they would grow up without a mother, and for myself having to miss all those milestones that parents look forward to.  Some anxiety for the girls navigating puberty and those confusing teen years with only Dad to help them (not that Dad isn’t wonderful… but he’s just not Mom).  This time though, it was different.  It was this cold-sweat inducing fear for what would happen to Berrik if I was not there to advocate for him, to make sure he accesses all the resources he needs, to make sure he is learning in a way that works for him, to make sure no one writes him off as ‘not smart enough’.  We have been making great progress, but we have much more progress to make.  I felt completely selfish and guilty that I was on a plane flying away from my kids when Berrik (and the girls too) are at such critical points in their lives.  I know intellectually that driving my car on Deerfoot is more dangerous than flying to NYC for the weekend, but this was an emotional response, not an intellectual one.

Now that I am home and everyone is safe and sound, I wonder if all parents of kids with special needs feel this fear of leaving their kids more acutely than other parents? These past few months have been really telling for me in terms of how much a difference I can make for Berrik by spending this time with him. It’s this knowledge that I believe has instigated the fear I was feeling on the plane.  Based on past experience, it is scary for me to imagine what would happen to him if I was not here to advocate for him.  And it’s not just because I think I am SO good at teaching him or helping him.  It’s really not that at all.  It’s because at this moment in time, I am the one who has the time, and who has arguably the most vested interest in his success.  I know his learning needs best right now.  Could someone else figure this all out, just as I did? Quite probably.  But still.

I am comforted though, by how amazing my parents were this weekend with all three kids.  Berrik continued his studies and made excellent progress with Grandma’s tutoring and encouragement.  McKenna made it to all her dance classes, and got her homework done, Avi made it to choir rehearsal, sewing club, and practiced her piano AND the kids had a great time, AND they had homemade buns and homemade cookies (AND suckered Grandpa into 2 pizza nights!!).  I am fortunate that my parents are young, and also young for their age, with a ton of energy and so much love for my kids that they will do anything for them.  I know that if I was unable, for any reason, my parents would step in as much as they could to ensure all three kids got what they needed.

Would it be the same? Obviously not.  Would my kids be fine in the end.  Very likely.  Will I stop worrying about this?  Sigh.  Nope.  But I’m glad to be able to look at this from an intellectual perspective, now that the emotional response has diminished some.

As an aside, about 1/2 way through the flight we encountered some pretty intense turbulence for about 20 minutes.  I didn’t cry, but in light of the extra anxiety at the beginning of the flight, and my PTSD reactions to turbulence, I did bury my face in Kevin’s shoulder and squeeze the blood out of his hand until his fingers were numb, all the while making silent bargains with whomever could pick up on my brainwaves to please keep me safe and alive for a few more minutes, days, months,  years so I could make sure Berrik had everything he needed, McKenna continued to have her biggest cheerleader at her dance competitions, and so I could bask in the pride of watching Avi sing with such joy as part of her outstanding choir.  So far so good. Let’s hope my luck holds.

Nothing is Black & White

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if everything was black and white?  I have friends for whom some things are totally black and white.  In some ways I envy them their strong convictions and their ability to feel so confident in the perceived obviousness of their beliefs.  At the same time I wonder about whether they truly believe with 100% certainty that the issue is totally black and white, or do they, deep down, struggle like I do.

I know people….many people, in fact, who would say that getting all vaccinations on exactly Alberta’s vaccine schedule is critical and anyone who feels or does any differently is completely insane, and possibly even criminal for the potential harm to the community.  I’ve heard people say parents should lose their children if they choose not to vaccinate.  I also know several people who feel that all vaccines are evil and have no place in our children’s bodies.  I always hesitate to bring up this topic in a public forum as it is SO contentious for so many people.  The vitriol spewed online from both sides of the issue is so offensive and ridiculous that I refuse to read it anymore.  At the end of the day, I don’t care if you are pro vaccine or anti vaccine, or vaccinate on a delayed schedule, or pick and choose vaccines that you feel comfortable with.  I really don’t.  It’s none of my business what you choose to do for your children. (and yes, I know that from a herd immunity perspective many feel it IS their business…that’s ok.  I don’t agree.) I am not anti-vaccine.  But I’m also not pro-vaccine.  It’s not black and white for me.  It’s so grey that I have lost sleep over it.  Numerous times.  I am suspicious of the entire vaccine issue because it is BIG BUSINESS. On both sides of the issue.  I’m a naturally suspicious person, and I have a hard time believing that Big Pharma is totally benevolent.  That said, there is definitely plenty of research that overwhelmingly supports vaccination as a public health life saver.  I have also seen plenty of literature to support that vaccines can do plenty of harm.  Given that money talks, and both sides of the issue have much to gain financially by promoting their ‘side’, I often wonder what we should be believing.  Then you see articles like this: Harvard Sugar Conspiracy and Junk Science and you wonder if ANY of the literature on either side of the issue is valid at all.  And let’s not forget that the media is held even less accountable on how they spin ‘news’ stories, so even reading the above two articles has to be taken with a considerable ‘grain of salt.’  Websites are filled with propaganda and it is IMPOSSIBLE to feel confident that anything you are reading is real.  Or at least it’s impossible for me.

Now take a kid like Berrik.  Diagnosed with ADHD a couple years ago.  The kid is definitely fidgety, and needs help staying focused.  The psychologist who diagnosed him recommended medication.  His teacher recommended medication (is that a teacher role? at the time I didn’t think so). My family doctor felt he was too young and that we should try other interventions first.  If you look online, you can find information supporting all types of medication, as well as all types of alternative methods of supporting a kid with ADHD.  I have talked to many people about it.  Some have told me their experience with medication was life changing in a positive way.  “Wish we would have done it sooner.”  Others describe horrible side effects that were also life changing on the other end of the spectrum.  Some swear by homeopathy (I can literally see my pharmacist friend cringing here), and some speak highly of essential oils.  The amount of information available is OVERWHELMING.  And to be quite frank, there is so much judgement around this that sometimes I don’t even want to mention it.  Much like vaccines, I’m not pro or anti anything when it comes to ADHD.  Well, I suppose that’s not true.  I’m pro-doing what is best for your child and your family in the context of what is going on at any given time.  And I’m anti- judgement.  I’m not perfect.  And yes, I definitely judge other people.  Anyone who says they don’t is, in my judgement (see what I did there?), lying.  But if I have learned anything about parenting from my experience with Berrik, it’s that the vast majority of us are doing the best we can with the information and tools we have, and that it does no one any good to blame parents for what is happening with their child.  We have no idea what has happened, is happening, or will happen in the future for that child and family in the context of what their life looks like.  We can only fully understand our own experience – or maybe we can’t even do that!

Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding.  Another contentious one.  Ugh. I had a nursing student say to me one time that breastfeeding beyond 6 months is ‘not natural’.  I laughed out loud at that one.  Breastfeeding is natural.  Drinking milk from other animals, while socially acceptable, is considerably less ‘natural.’.  But I also always advised new moms when I was teaching breastfeeding, that breastfeeding is natural like learning to skateboard, not like breathing.  It’s hard.  And you may fall a lot.  And sometimes you scrape your knees and it takes a while to heal (this is a metaphor for blistered and bleeding nipples…hahaha…it’s actually not funny.  It hurts.  like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, but I digress)  And some of us really dislike skateboarding. And some of us have a skateboard that doesn’t work that well.  And some of us just need to use a different mode of transportation all together because skateboarding is not the way we choose to get around.  Perhaps breast milk vs. formula is proven to be better when comparing the two liquids from a nutrition or antibodies perspective.  Perhaps that is closer to black and white?  I put a ?, because I’m not sure if that even qualifies for black & white distinction.  However, formula unarguably also grows healthy infants into (usually obnoxious) 2 and 3 year olds just as breast milk does.  It’s not black and white.  Grey, grey, grey. And if formula works better for the family, for WHATEVER reason, then it is the better choice.  Period.  Ditto for breastfeeding.  To me, that is what is black & white.

Low carb, low fat, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free, organic.  OMG.  Eat what makes you feel best.  I believe that eating real food is important.  But I know that some people feel better eating vegetarian – and others feel better with lots of protein.  If you truly pay attention to how you feel, you will be able to figure out which foods make you feel best.  I know there are people who think that I am a bit over the top with how I feed my family, and especially Berrik. But it works for us, so if you want to know more, then read on.

I’m going to tell you a little about what has worked for us, and I will ask you to remember that this is us doing what we felt/feel is best for our son and our family in the context of what was/is happening in our lives.  It may not work for you.  You may feel we are crackers. Or you may think you might want to try some of what we tried to see if it makes sense for your family.  Take what you want.  Leave the rest.

  1. Diet.  I cannot talk about this enough.  I really do believe that what we put into our bodies impacts pretty much every system.  I think most of us can anecdotally understand and agree with this.  Maybe not.  But I have seen enough evidence in my own body and the bodies of my children to feel like this is important.  For Berrik, this means a focus on whole foods.  Period.  It’s really as simple as that for him. Is the food in it’s whole form?  Then it’s probably good.  Fruit, vegetables, whole cuts of meat, nuts, seeds.  This forms the vast majority of his diet.  I make muffins with coconut flour as a treat.  He has the odd gluten free bun.  We aren’t perfect. But we strive to stick to this way of eating.  For all of us.  And we are all better for it.  Berrik is more focused, and is more able to self-regulate when he eats well and drinks lots of water.  For Berrik sugar and chemical food dyes etc., are like poison.  In his words, they make his brain feel crazy.  In my words, he becomes an unhappy, emotional, unfocused whirlwind of a boy. So we completely avoid those things.  Always.  No exceptions.  It’s what works for him, and he knows it.  When I put him on a very strict diet last January, after 2 weeks he told me his brain no longer feels crazy.  He sees other kids eating candy and he doesn’t even comment.  That’s all the evidence I need.
  2. Exercise.  This seems like a no brainer.  Of course all of us need exercise.  But Berrik functions exceptionally better when he has had time outside. Unstructured, run around, ride bikes, jump, throw balls, chase the dog, play with the neighbor boys time.  When he comes back in he is more able to focus.  He’s happier.  Aren’t we all?
  3. Supplements.  We work with our naturopath to ensure that if Berrik is lacking in any area, that we use supplements to support him until we can address it effectively through diet.  I won’t get into what he has taken, and takes now, as it is completely individual.
  4. Only recently have we started using essential oils. The more I talk about Berrik, through the blog and with other parents, the more anecdotal stories I hear about essential oils and how they have helped other children.  My daughters already use them to diffuse in their rooms (Grandma got them started with a diffuser and some oils).  I am currently trying a blend from Saje that is meant for focus.  It’s hard to tell how well it’s really working as we are always trying new things in terms of how we do school and even timing of the exercise and fresh air…  so nothing to report yet.  I have a few other oils on order based on the anecdotal feedback of several moms.  I’ll keep you posted on how this goes once they arrive.  I will say that he has been more focused at Sound Connections and school lately, but it could be a few different things contributing to that, so we shall see.
  5. Behavior modification.  I dislike this term because in my head it is harsh sounding. I don’t know why I have that perception.  But regardless, for us it means teaching Berrik appropriate ways to behave in specific situations.  It’s so interesting to me how some kids instinctively know this and how many do not.  Being home with Berrik has really helped in this regard as I find the best way to teach Berrik is ‘in the moment’ in the context of his real life.  Consistency is the key to this working well, and to be honest, we have never been really great at that.  Now that I’m home, it’s significantly better, so we are working on it as much as we can.  Berrik knows the basics – sharing, being polite, not interrupting (although he has some trouble with this one…all 3 of my kids do for some reason), playing and cooperating with other kids etc. etc.  It’s the nuances that can be challenging (and are equally challenging to teach), but we work on it through talking about how people are feeling based on what they look like, their body language or what they say.  It’s a work in progress, but we are making progress, so that’s what counts.  As an aside, I believe the unstructured time playing with other kids is the best teacher for some of these skills.  Kids are great at letting you know if you’ve said something inappropriate or aren’t following the ‘rules’ of human interaction.  And kids are more likely to express their feelings in a more obvious way, so it’s easy for Berrik to see that his action caused a specific reaction (whether positive or negative).

When I was thinking of a name for this blog, I wanted something that reflected our journey with Berrik, because that is what the blog is predominately about.  I liked the ‘gut feeling’ reference for 2 reasons.  1.  I believe that what we put into our bodies (and therefore our gut) has the most significant impact on our overall health when compared to any other thing we may do; and 2. Every decision we are making has been based mostly on instinct.  I tend to ‘go with my gut’ in most of my life decisions, but especially in parenting.  I have to give credit to Maritza for doing a bunch of research trying to find a domain name with the gut feeling reference, that wasn’t already owned by someone else.  She found it.  I bought it.  And the blog was born.

This brings me to my point.  Nothing is ever really black and white.  Do your homework.  Ask the experts.  Talk to people about what works for them.  Question everything.  And then just GO WITH YOUR GUT.