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Mom Advocates for ADHD

Paula Yonkers uses a car analogy to explain Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  “It’s like having a Ferrari engine for a brain but Chevy brakes for the body,” says the mom of two sons who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

This week has been designated ADHD Awareness Week by Gov. Jodi Rell and Mayor Richard Moccia. As part of the week’s programs, a free workshop about ADHD will be conducted on Thursday, Sept.16 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at West Rocks Middle School.  Also, the Norwalk Public Library is displaying materials on the subject.

ADHD is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination that is out of the normal range for a child's age and development. According to Jeffrey Spahr, the parent who spearheaded the second annual awareness week, ADHD affects roughly 5 percent of school-aged children.  “That’s about one student in a class of 20.”

Paula says that her son’s second-grade teacher, the school psychologist and her pediatrician helped her identify Jake, her younger son's ADHD. “He was very easily distracted, off on his own a lot.  He would get distracted by a piece of hair on the desk, randomly climb under the table.”

After Paula discovered Jake’s condition, she reluctantly put him on medication.  “It was like day and night, it helped him so much.”  But over the years, Paula has worried about the side effects, which can include stunted growth and sleep problems, and has periodically taken him off medication.  “It’s a trade off, mental health for physical health.”

As is common with ADHD children, Jake, now in sixth grade at Ponus Ridge Middle School,  scores high on standardized tests. “If he’s interested in something, like science, he’s over the top with it,” says Paula.

Writing and getting his thoughts on paper is Jake’s biggest challenge, says Paula.   “To this day, he doesn’t write.”  In fact, writing has been so difficult for him that Jake has to repeat sixth grade.  “The transition to middle school last year was not easy.  Jake felt so defeated most of the year because he couldn’t write that he would cause trouble in school.  He’d say ‘I want to be known for something, nobody cares that I’m smart.'’’

This year, Paula plans to advocate for Jake to make sure he receives the help and accommodations he needs to succeed in school.

If you think your child has ADHD, both Paula and Jeffrey Spahr say it is essential for parents to have their child evaluated by a medical professional.  To find out more about ADHD, Spahr recommends the following websites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention-Deficit_Hyperactivity_Disorder Spahr has launched his own website:  Association of Parents of Exceptional Children and Siblings -- http://apecsct.org ADDitude Magazine: http://www.additudemag.com/

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