More than a decade ago, the hot topic at Kayla Fay's home was ADHD. Three of her four sons had been diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive, a disorder that makes it hard for kids to pay attention.
Fay, who writes under a pen name to protect the identity of her sons, now grown, started a website. Her goal, she tells me, has been to give a "humorous and informative look at life with ADHD-Inattentive."
"It offers very practical, down to earth tips and advice on ways to help keep our kids focused, organized, encouraged and successful," she wrote me in an email. "We don't take a stance on meds, making it clear that every child, every situation is different. My coauthor, Brock, and I aren't ADHD specialists. We're just moms in the trenches, and we identify with the triumphs and frustrations of other ADHD-I parents."
I chatted with Fay by email a few months ago for business reasons. You see, the original name of her website was Go Ask Mom and we needed to work out some things after WRAL took over the name. That's when that I learned Fay lives in Alamance County.
Since launching the website, Fay and her coauthor have created three products to help families dealing with ADHD-I. They include "Focus Pocus - 100 Ways to Help Your Child Pay Attention."
"It's a list of very practical, doable stuff that parents and teachers can put into practice right away," Fay tells me. "The guide is NOT just for ADHD kids - because every child (especially if the child is a boy!) has trouble focusing from time to time."
One of the most popular hints, Fay says, is this: "Put a strip of Velcro under a child's desk for the child to use as a fidget. It's amazing how many teachers have thanked me for this hint, especially since it was suggested to me by a teacher."
Fay shares these tips and more on her website, now found at www.adhd-inattentive.com.
Here's my Q & A with Fay:
Go Ask Mom: You started the site 10 years ago after three of your four sons were diagnosed with ADHD-I. What was their behavior like that led to the diagnosis? How early did it appear?
Fay: Our boys were always forgetful at home, but what boy isn't? Other than serially forgetting backpacks and lunch money, they did fine in school. The problems began for each boy in either the third or fourth grade, when more emphasis was placed on grades and homework. They understood the subject matter, but they would space out in class, do the wrong assignment, lose their homework before they got to school, and generally be - inattentive. And homework was a nightmare – not because of the quantity of it, but because they just wouldn’t finish it: “Son. Pick up your pencil. Do the next one. You’re doing math. Number SEVEN!”
Frankly, I thought it was laziness, and we sort of muddled (and nagged) through grade school with our first, but our second son's fourth grade teacher suggested that we explore ADHD. I'd never heard of ADHD Inattentive - only the hyperactive kind, so I secretly rolled my eyes at her. Still, his grades were sliding, and the teacher started doing little things to help him pay attention.
Her efforts - and the resulting improvement - convinced us to have a formal evaluation done. That's when the first son was diagnosed. From there, the behavior of the other boys suddenly made sense.
GAM: Why did you start the website? Were there many resources for parents at that time?
Fay: Frankly, I started the website because I was trying to make an income from home. My husband worked second shift, and the amount of help the boys required for their homework was just overwhelming – especially when you combined it with soccer and dinner and baths and chores and church and laundry and the cat. And then there was more homework. I needed something I could do at home in five minute intervals!
There was almost no information on ADHD–Inattentive. There were a lot of resources about ADHD in general, but they just didn't seem practical for us. It would say, "Teach your child to remember to..." The problem was *how* was I to teach them? As soon as I started the website, parents began contacting me and signing up for the newsletter. There was definitely a need there. I began chronicling our experiences and describing what worked for us.
GAM: What's the feedback been like?
Fay: We get emails all the time from parents - especially mothers - who say, "That's my child! You described him perfectly. I'm so relieved that I'm not the only one out here."
GAM: What is the No. 1 tip you share with parents of kids with ADHD?
Fay: The No. 1 tip that is that they shouldn't despair when the tip that's working right now stops working in five minutes! That’s why Focus Pocus has 100 ways to help your child pay attention - instead of just three!
Seriously, the biggest tip is that they should work with the teacher. Become a team working for - and sometimes against! - your child. Communicate regularly, making sure you're on the same page with academics, strategy, and discipline. It won't happen every year - some teachers aren't as willing to work with you. In my experience, however, more often than not, you're going to find that a teacher is thrilled to have you helping a student pay attention. Your child will feel safe, empowered, and confident when she knows that the people most involved in her life are working together for her success!
GAM: What do you want to tell parents of kids with ADHD?
Fay: Your child is unique. Each child has different everything - genetic predisposition, environment, chemical makeup, and personality. Your son or daughter is an amazing creation, a beautiful soul with gifts and quirks that no one else has. So there isn't a one size fits all approach to dealing with ADHD. It’s hard work to keep up with the shifting attention of an ADHD child.
But at the end of the day, with your support, your instruction, and most of all with your love, they really do grow up and succeed.
Read much more on Fay's website.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.