Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Total Transformation by James Lehman, Product Review

If you're struggling to keep your child "in line" -- at home, in public, with siblings and peers, with you -- then the Total Transformation Program may help.

I've been using the parenting techniques offered in this behavioral program with my son (ADHD, PDD-NOS, anxiety that can lead to psychosis, SPD). It has made me a more confident parent, and able to contain the situation when my son has a meltdown.

The Total Transformation Program isn't a quick fix or a cure -- but if you're at this site, you're an experienced parent of a special needs kid so you probably already know this.

The company promotes that the Total Transformation Program can help kids diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder, ODD -- the whole lot. I'd agree and throw in RAD in my non-professional opinion.

It gives kids like these -- kids who can be stubborn, defiant, and abusive; kids who've been through the foster care system, kids who haven't had a steady home life -- firm boundaries in no uncertain terms.

The Total Transformation Program includes a "Jump Start DVD" that acclimates you to the program, introduces you to its creator James Lehman, and gets you excited about the prospect of having a child equipped to meet behavioral expectations at home, school and in public.

After you watch the DVD, there are several audio lessons to hear and corresponding workbook exercises to accomplish between lessons. I've found these audio lessons to be enormously helpful. I happen to spend a lot of time in the car, and listened to them during drive time.

In fact, I still listen to them during drive time. The audio lessons are so full of information and my son is ever growing and changing, that even though I've heard them a hundred times, I'm always finding something new to work on. James Lehman rocks.

James Lehman admittedly has ADHD. He was a kid who bounced around in foster care before he ultimately ended up with his adoptive parents. He didn't live a fairy tale life, and actually ended up in jail for a while. And then he turned his life around.

If I recall the story right, it was while he was incarcerated that he became interested in understanding behaviors associated with ADHD and other disorders. When he got out, he worked his way through the educational system and earned his Master's in social work. He's been counseling kids like him every since.

What's nice is that he has the perspective of knowing what it's like to have a disorder that doesn't make conforming easy. What's nice is he also is the father of a child with ADHD, so he knows what it's like to parent a kid with those behaviors too.

The Total Transformation Program is a behavioral therapy program.

In short, it trains you -- the parent -- in behavior therapy. It gives you the tools and techniques you'll need to work with a child who consistently defies rules and runs against the social grain. It can help your child -- from as young as three or four (you'll have to scale down some concepts) to your adult children -- the ability to understand that limits and rules you set are binding.

For me, the Total Transformation Program has given me enormous confidence. When you have a kid screaming in your face, damaging your property, throwing projectiles right and left, hitting, kicking, biting -- when you have a child that has relentless anger and energy in expressing that anger -- it can be extraordinarily difficult to contain the situation.

Thanks to the Total Transformation Program, when that happens in my house, I'm able to maintain my control and my cool.

And please notice what I just said: "when that happens in my house." I've been using techniques in the Total Transformation Program for a couple of years, and the incidents continue to occur. This program does not fix your child; it will not cure your child; your child will not magically wake up without a disorder. But it will give you the tools and the unwavering ability to rise above and direct the situation.

Prior to purchasing the Total Transformation Program, I had a library of books -- 1-2-3 Magic; The Explosive Child; Raising the Spirited Child; The Out-of-Sync Child; The Baffled Parents Guide to Stopping Bad Behavior; Parenting Guide to Positive Discipline; and, among many others, (my all-time favorite title) Parents, Please Don't Sit on Your Kids.

I have had no interest in turning back to the pages of these books for help, and I have had no interest in purchasing another book or resource dedicated to discipline or behavior. All the answers I need to help me with my son I've found in the Total Transformation Program. It is that thorough, that good.

Long story short, if you're on the fence about purchasing the program I say go for it. It's worth every penny. The program isn't cheap, but think of it this way -- it's the price of a couple of behavior therapy sessions, you can spread the payments out over time, you'll seriously never need to buy another book or resource again, it's an investment in your child and your own sense of peace.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Two Faces of Autism

There are a lot of bloggers and parents of autistic children who look to celebrate their autistic children -- everyday, and want to open up to the world to show how wonderful their kids are, and to choose to look at the gifts that they offer instead of the disorder that they're burdened with. These parents want to offer their voice to speak in support of autism -- the fight for its existence, acceptance and its sustainability.

I understand this attitude and this activism. And, personally, I do embrace autism and all of its pretty colors -- to a point. I embrace Nick and his disorder and want the world to know just how special he is because I believe he is special and great -- just like you believe that your child is great. So, I'm here to say that I'm standing right there beside you -- like-minded parents who want to promote autism as a positive and stop judging it as a negative for the sake of our high functioning autistic kids and their place in the world.

So, I can say that I get it, I do. They are our little gifts in life more precious than most and who hold a very warm spot in our heart and the hearts of others who have the privilege and open-mindedness to know and embrace them.

However, I also represent, respect, and understand the other side of autism that we call hell -- for those of you who understand what hell is, because not all of you do. Whether you like to hear it or not, there is this side to the disorder and it's often hidden from the world. It's a sadder, scarier, exhausting and, frankly, horrific side to this disorder that you know as severe or low functioning. It's a perplexity that I'm still trying to wrap my brain around and understand, even after 13 years. It's autism at its worst and I'm not choosing to celebrate it. Not a chance. It's a side that few people actually get to know, understand, or accept because they give up before they can even try and have to institutionalize their child at the tender age of 5. It's autism at is worst -- an evil, hell, devastating, and heartbreaking. And don't tell me to stop and look on the bright side or be positive, because there is no brighter side to this side of autism -- trust me, I've spent time looking, begging and pleading that there would be a brighter side -- at some point, someday; because how can a parent allow herself to feel this way?

A severely autistic child, like Meghan, is not a child like Nick with higher functioning autism and one you can mainstream into classrooms, and show off in public places without worry or incident. She is not a child that you can trust to play in the yard without running off, to trust with a toy without breaking it, or to trust to use the bathroom without playing with her feces -- even at 13. She is not a child who you can talk to and have a conversation with or to get to know her precious little thoughts and secrets. After 13 years I still don't know what Meghan's favorite color is because she doesn't understand the question. Children like Meghan cannot connect, speak or relate easily to you or to me -- her mother -- or to even speak those precious few words that we all wish to hear: "I love you Mommy," or even "Mommy" would suffice; I'm still waiting, I'm still waiting to hear her voice. It's autism at its worst and I know it just as well as I know autism at its best.

Harsh? Maybe, but it's true. But I also want to say that it's okay, too. It's okay to feel this way. It's okay not to pretend that everything is okay when it's not. To allow yourself those fleeting moments to feel hostility instead of happiness; to feel dread instead of hope; to want to condemn autism instead of celebrating it, because it's real, and it's raw and it's hard. And it's hidden from the world because, frankly, people want to see the hopeful side of autism -- the prettier side -- the acceptable side -- the side that we want to show off, celebrate and promote with all our hearts because it makes us feel better.


By Holly Nappi Collins, who blogs at Fearless Females. This post is reprinted at Hopeful Parents with her permission.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It’s when we’re at home that my son, Taz, has problems. If he is not continually and directly engaged by an adult (or a television if we’re too exhausted), he starts bumping into walls, crashing into and climbing on furniture, doing headstands on the couch, running, tripping, yelling, and throwing things.


On the other hand, if we go on a three hour hike in the wilderness, he is calm and focused the whole time. He can balance on stepping stones to cross a stream without getting wet. He thinks of games to play in the dirt, and can play them for multiple minutes.


It’s when we’re at home that I have problems, too. If there’s a child who is bumping, crashing, climbing, headstanding, running, tripping, yelling, and throwing - I lose it. I need a certain sense of order, at least a little bit. I need the people around me to not be continually injuring themselves. I need occasional moments of peace and quiet.


Sometimes I fantasize about living in the wilderness, like where we hike, or maybe on a ranch. I could open the back door and nudge Taz outside anytime he started bouncing off the walls. He could wander and explore, and I could watch him from the kitchen window. All his needs (and mine) would easily be met if we lived on a ranch.


In the real world, parenting Taz is extremely hard, but I don’t know if he really has special needs. From the time he was born I suspected something was different about him. He was absolutely active alert (as described by Linda S. Budd) - he did the commando crawl after we brought him home from the NICU when he was only a week old. He was most definitely high need (as described by Dr. Sears) – he wouldn’t (and still doesn’t) tolerate being left alone even briefly. He was extremely needy, yes, but he was not... disabled. Sure, he almost never slept and was constantly injuring himself, but according to the milestone charts and the pediatrician’s evaluation he was developmentally on track.


So why was it so amazingly difficult to parent him? Why was he so unhappy? Why was I feeling like such a failure?


I tried every method in every parenting book for creating stability in our family, and yet, nothing was working. Our lives continued to feel upside-down, as they had since the moment of Taz’s birth.


I began to look inward. The other moms I knew did not seem to be struggling the way I was, and no one else seemed to think anything was unusual about my son, or if they did, they didn’t say so. Maybe it was me who had the special needs. Maybe I was the one who was disabled. Maybe I did not have the skills to be a parent at all.


I researched obsessively. I alternated between trying to find other children who sounded like my son and trying to find other parents who shared my feelings of incompetence. I considered my history. I thought about my own difficulties growing up.


One day as I was researching I stumbled upon some information about Asperger’s Syndrome. I considered the possibility that Taz had Asperger’s only briefly because, well, he was three. I figured that three year olds are generally pretty weird when compared to people with fully formed brains, and how could I really know how much was abnormal and how much was just three?


I decided not to pursue a diagnosis for him, but realized that the Asperger’s criteria applied to me. I tried it on - I proclaimed myself “a mom with Asperger’s.” It seemed to really fit and I finally had an explanation for the difficulties I had been having. It also allowed me to accept and embrace my parenting problems as my own.


I still don’t know, though. Sometimes I think maybe this is all in my head. I really don’t know what’s normal and what’s not, and even if Taz really is atypical I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to pursue a diagnosis for him. I don’t want the experts to tell me what he should be like because even though parenting him is really hard, a part of me still believes he is perfect just the way he is. He certainly would be... if we lived on a ranch.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Waiting Continues

I started my own personal blog with these words two and a half years ago, but the same can be said today.

So much has changed since then, she is walking and talking now. She is in the preschool program for children with disabilities. She is fed mostly through her g-button. She is now profoundly deaf in her left ear. The episodes that once wracked her body have been absent for a wonderfully long time. She is hilarious and full of joy and we are now able to be a part of her world in a way that wasn't possible two years ago.

Still I wonder and wait, will we ever get a diagnosis? Will her progressive hearing loss affect her other ear? Will she ever outgrow the need of her feeding tube? Will the episodes come back? Will she always be a sick kid?

A life without diagnosis is one long exercise in waiting. We can treat symptoms as they arise but we cannot anticipate their arrival. As a toddler, no one could say with any certainty if she would ever walk or talk...but she did. Today, no one can say whether her condition is truly stable, if she will continue to improve or if one day, she will begin to decline. I'm eargerly anticipating her well-child check next month because this is the only time she will be age appropriate with her milestones, with the exception of gross motor. I don't know if this will ever happen again.

I don't dwell on the future much, because it is an exercise in futility. I could paint myself the rosiest picture possible and set myself up for heartbreak if it never comes to pass, or I could paint a scary picture to prepare myself for the possibilities and cause my heart undue stress. Either way, it won't change things for us. We won't know what the future holds until we meet it face to face.

Our life is a neverending drive through the hill country, we never really know what is waiting for us over the next hilltop. Sometimes we are met with the the most beautiful view anyone has ever laid eyes on, and sometimes we find ourselves on site at a massive traffic accident, cars piled up as far as the eye can see. There is no warning until we coast over the hill. It is the wildest roadtrip of my life. My hope is, as it always has been, that on the other side of one of these hills, we will pass a billboard with our names on it with an answer spelled out for us in bold, neon print...and if we just can't get an answer, then at the very least, maybe we'll pass a sign that hints at what lies just over the next hill.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Club

The club that nobody wants to join is happy to have you!

These were the words I heard from the kind ones. The ones who were about to become my family - but I didn't know it yet. I was still resistant. These were the words I turned to when it became clear that there were many unkind words waiting for me.

"Did you have an easy pregnancy?" Suddenly translated into what was unspoken: "I wonder what she did - I wonder when things when wrong - I am so glad that my child is fine because I ate an all organic diet, drank six glasses of water each day, and never touched a glass of wine."

Because, even if we just have to guess what questions are behind the unkind judgments, what does it matter? It is a judgment, and it has been passed.

You may choose to defend yourself, you may walk away in disbelief, you may feel volcanic anger welling up inside you, you may surprise yourself by finding yourself wishing to put your fist down someone's throat.

Soon, you will become adept at spotting them before they attack: The Unkind are lurking everywhere. And you will also gain the equally useful skill of finding The Kind Ones. The ones from whom you first turned away - they do not hold it against you, because they remember.

They remember the resistance that comes before the acceptance. And they want you. Not because, as you first tell yourself, misery loves company. But because they truly understand and they truly care for you.

They show you compassion that you have never experienced before joining this club, and you begin to wonder how it is that all of these compassionate people who are holding you up, are the parents of special children.

You realize that this is where the compassion in the world lies. You are impressed to be in such company. And then you realize, you too are a special parent of a special child.

Maybe you are deserving of this compassion more than the judgment.

When you accept this, then you, yourself become one of those admirably compassionate people.

And thus ends your initiation process into the club.

Welcome aboard.