ADHD Mama Stories with Kristina of Marvelously Set Apart

Parenting an ADHD child can be really difficult, filled with ups and downs and so many unknowns. I started my blog to help other families on this journey, so that they might learn from my mistakes, and avoid some of the missteps I made as a mother of two ADHD boys. 

When I started my blog 5 years ago, there were not many others sharing stories of raising kids with ADHD.

Thankfully over the years many voices have started to share their experiences of parenting kids with ADHD – for the benefit of us all.

I love hearing from other mothers who are on a similar journey. Our stories might not be exactly the same, but we can all benefit from each other’s advice and perspective on this parenting journey.

I’m excited to bring you Kristina’s story, from Marvelously Set Apart. I met Kristina through Pinterest and was so inspired by her story, her “realness”, and the amazing work she has done with her ADHD kiddo. I knew I wanted to share more of her story.

Here is a bit of her family’s amazing story. Welcome, Kristina!

I know this is on everyone’s mind right now, how are you guys coping with the whole Shelter-in-Place thing?

We are handling it pretty well I think. I was homeschooling one of my kids already and I’m a stay at home mom so it wasn’t hard to transition to everyone being home. It also helps that we live on a bit of property and the kids can just go outside and play. I feel like each day is different and we have good days and bad days.

What’s helping you get through it?

We are taking it one day at a time. I’m not planning too far ahead. I feel like I keep learning from each day and keep coming up with how to change our schedule or routine so that it works better for us. Routine is everything!
I’m also a believer so I pray a lot. Like a lot! All day because I can’t get through taking care of 3 very different kids without help.

For my readers who don’t know you yet, tell us a bit about your family:
I am a wife and mother of 3. I am a stay at home mom and homemaker. We live on 3 acres and have one dog, 2 cats and too many chickens. My oldest is 11 years old and is diagnosed with ADHD and Autism as well as a chromosomal deletion that we don’t know much about. He was diagnosed later (he was 6 years old). I also have a 6-year-old boy and 3 year old that are neurotypical.

Why did you start your blog?
My son got diagnosed late (at 6) and before that we knew something was different about him. But, we didn’t know what and he didn’t display stereotypical symptoms. I started my blog to help other moms that may be where I was when my son was first diagnosed. I want to provide resources and encouragement to those moms.

Looking back, what were some of the early signs of the challenges that your son faces?
Looking back I can see signs very early on, from birth. He did not latch on to breastfeed and later would not eat solids. He had only about 20 words in his vocabulary by 2 years old.

He was late on all his milestones and didn’t walk until 18 months. And even then he wanted to run and we had to teach him to walk, and he walked on tippy toes. He started speaking at age 5 in 3-5 work phrases and sentences. He was never interested in what typical kids his age were interested in. He didn’t engage in imaginative play until he was 5.

What therapies/remedies have you tried and found success with? 

When we noticed his speech delay we started with speech and language therapy. Once he was 3 years old and qualified for school district services he had speech and occupational therapy and he was in a preschool class with other special needs kids and they worked on all different skills.

He continued in the school district age 3-preschool through 3rd grade. He started in special day class and slowly transitioned to full inclusion with some assistance. He had speech through all of these years and some OT in the beginning.

Eventually, they determined he didn’t need OT and stopped but I knew he needed it and now through our Homeschool Charter school he finally has OT again.

Now that we have homeschooled 4th grade and almost done with 5th grade he receives accommodations but other than that he is full age-appropriate and grade-appropriate level.

Have you tried to make changes with your son’s diet?

When I first suspected Chris has ADHD but he wasn’t yet diagnosed, we changed his diet. I loosely followed the Fiengold diet and still do to this day. I know what foods and ingredients are bad for him and so we don’t have those.

Diet is such a huge part and I always recommend parents start with diet first before anything else. I feel like his hyperactivity and aggression went down by a third.

We did fish oil supplements and now just make sure its in his multivitamin.

Do you have any special brands that are working for you?

I have not stuck to any particular brands. I just look for brands that don’t have artificial colors or flavors. Kids like gummy bears so it’s usually something that is in the shape of a gummy bear.

What kinds of routines and visuals have you found helpful?

We have visual reminders for almost everything. We have a daily visual schedule. It has all the basic but important things my son has to do during the day, such as brush teeth, make his bed, get dressed, etc.

We have visual reminders in the bathroom such as a sign that says Flush, Wash and Close (I have 2 boys so this is a constant reminder for them).

I have a visual for the rules for our home. There’s a visual for rules for screen (phone, video game, tv use). We’ve created a chore chart that changes daily so the kids get to take turns doing things around the house.
Any visuals I create for my family I put on my blog. My thinking is if I needed them then maybe someone else needs them too.

Tell us more about your routines:

Our routines are more task based rather than time based. There are things that need to get done and we work on getting them done in the day rather than getting them done by a certain time.
This works best for our family because we have busy lives and we have to go with the flow sometimes. My husbands schedule can change and kids want to spend time with him and so we have to pivot and adjust. I also let my son take as many breaks as he needs. Some day’s that means more breaks than other days. 

Tell us about your experience with prescription medication.

I finally got an official diagnosis, went through all the parenting classes and decided to try medication.

My son has an amazing personality. He is outgoing and loud and enthusiastic for life. I didn’t want that to go away and was afraid he would be a zombie. After trying 2 medications and different doses we found the perfect one for him.

He is still himself and his personality shines through but now he is able to make good decisions, he can follow directions, he can sit for minutes at a time. And the biggest thing that happened was he started speaking! Speaking in sentences and learning to speak properly.

And another nice side effect was he stopped being a runner. He ran away without a care in the world and no understanding of fear or safety. He stopped running away.

I can imagine that was such a relief!  I am curious about your decision to homeschool. How did that come about?

The school district we were in was amazing. I feel like they really tried and worked hard on providing everything C. needed.

But something was missing.

He was not learning anything.

Isn’t that what school is for? For learning? He was basically surviving school and I had to reteach him everything at home during homework. And he also didn’t get to participate in projects that the teacher thought were too difficult or lengthy for him.

He was denied a one on one aid and so he didn’t have much help in a class ratio or 1 teacher to 28-30 students. I knew he could do better. I knew how smart he was and that if I worked with him he would be at grade level. So when we decided to move from suburbia to the country, I decided it was a good time to start homeschooling. It was the best decision (for us) ever!

For other homeschooling moms – which is everyone right now – can you give us some idea of a typical day or week in your homeschool?

Our mornings start when kids wake up around 7am. From 7-9 kids work on their morning part of the schedule and now that my husband is working from home we have breakfast as a family.

Mondays and Thursdays we have therapy over Zoom. I work with my 3 kids on different things. I homeschool my oldest so I do our regular work with him, my second is in kindergarten in our local public school and gets work from his teacher and our little one is 3 but wants to do everything her brothers do so I give her “assignments”, too.

My kids do their work and earn breaks. During the break they get to choose what they want to do. They have 5 minutes. They work on puzzles, can play video games or watch a video on my phone. Then after 5 minutes, back to work. We are usually done by 1:30pm.

Somewhere in there theres a lunch break and it always looks different each day. When the weather is nice the kids will choose to play outdoors most of the afternoon. We have over 3 acres and lots of room for them to wander around and play. Dinner is usually around 5-6pm. I will usually let kids have screen time and then bedtime routine starts at 7.

Before the stay at home order I would drive my second to his school 20 minutes away. Then after picking him up after school we usually have some kind of therapy in “town” 45 minutes away, and then we would be back around dinner time. 

Do you homeschool year round?  What do your summers look like?

I say I homeschool year round. I don’t do it officially through our Charter school, but I choose something I think my son can work on. The time we spend on school work is shorter and we may even skip days but it’s nice to have that routine in place and then we smoothly transition into the next school year.

What have you learned from your journey that you never imagined would even be a part of your life?
Lack of control and lack of predictability. I am such a control freak and love things planned out and I love things fitting into nice little boxes. Life with a kid with ADHD and Autism is not any of those things! I had my life planned out and being a homemaker, special needs mom, and homeschooler was not part of that plan.

But I think I also learned how to fight for what I want, or what I want for my child. I learned I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was.

How do you support and care for yourself?
I try and never reach my limit. What I mean by that is I don’t over exhaust myself. I don’t push myself until I go crazy. In parenting, if something is not working or if I myself am tired, exhausted, overwhelmed I leave the situation and get some alone time, even if it’s a few minutes to compose myself.

In blogging or my VA work it may mean to take a night off or postpone some project or ask for help when I’m feeling like it’s interfering in my well being. My love language is words of affirmation so it helps to have a supporting spouse that always has nice things to say to me and lift me up.

I  love your proactive approach! I bet you avoid a lot of unnecessary conflict that way. If you do get more than a few minutes to yourself, what do you like to do?

That is so hard to answer because this almost never happens! I love TV, so I would say I try to reward myself with watching a show on Netflix or Amazon. It’s only a few minutes here or there but it’s still nice. 

What advice would you give to parents just starting on this road, uncertain about what lies ahead?
It get’s better, you can do it! Keep pushing your child and encouraging them and they will impress you. Never give up on yourself or your child.

Well said, Kristina!! Thank You for sharing your story – we can all learn a lot from you and your son!!

You can learn more about Kristina on her blog, Instagram, and her Pinterest Page.