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June 17, 2012 / Nicole Sandler

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Alison starts “camp” tomorrow morning.

I went to the orientation Friday night, and found strength in numbers.  Honestly, I was surprised at how many families are in the same dilemma as we, dealing with a child (or more) with ADHD and at their wits end.

The orientation began with a presentation by Dr. William Pelham, who designed the program and ran it for almost 20 years at the University of Buffalo before bringing it to FIU three years ago.  (Click here or scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of other locations that currently offer the STP.)

He gave us lots of great information about ADD/ADHD, and the research on treating it.  You can watch a similar presentation by clicking here and get even more information at effectivechildtherapy.fiu.edu.

In Alison’s group alone, I met three other families from Broward County, so hopefully we’ll be able to help one-another with the massive amount of driving necessary to get our kids back and forth each day.

The first thing I can tell you about the program is that it seems to be based on a system of rewards and consequences for behavior.  Consistency is the thing I’ll have to really work on.  But thankfully, we’ll get help with that as there’s a parent’s group every Monday evening!

The kids attend Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm. and get constant feedback.  Parents get a report on their kids’ behavior EVERY DAY!  And we set up a reward system at home based on the kids’ behavior each day.

Keeping my fingers crossed, knowing that this will be long, tough summer… but the rewards could be priceless!

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STP Sites Around the World

In addition to the hub site in Miami, plans to offer STPs this summer are underway at several other sites. Interested applicants should contact these sites directly for additional information:

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, Section of Pediatric Psychology, Cleveland, OH
Contact: Michael Manos, PhD.
Phone: (216) 444-0075

Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, Chautauqua Co., NY
Single Point of Access
Phone: (716) 753-4150

University of Alabama at Birmingham Sparks Clinics, Birmingham, AL
Contact: Bart Hodgens, PhD.
Phone: (205) 934-5471

Kansas City-Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Overland Park, KS
Section of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences
Contact: Carla Allan, Ph.D
Phone: (913) 696-5740

Camp Takoda, Salt Lake City, UT
Contact: Susan McDonald
Phone: (801) 467-8553
Susan.McDonald@FMR.com

NYU Department of Psychiatry, New York, NY
Contact: Howard Abikoff, PhD.

Alternative Community Resource Program, Johnstown, PA
Contact: Frank Janakovik
Phone: (814) 536-5611 ,

Achievement Center, Erie, PA
Contact: Mary McIntosh
Phone: (814) 459-2755

Community Guidance Center, Indiana, PA
Phone: (724) 465-5576

University of Illinois at Chicago/JCYS North Shore Day Camp, Chicago, IL.
Phone: (312) 996-6923

Staten Island Mental Health Socety, Inc., Staten Island, NY.

Kurume University School of Medicine, Kurume-city, Fukuoka, Japan
Contact: Yushiro Yamashita, MD
Phone: 81-942-317565

June 17, 2012 / Nicole Sandler

A Big Thank You and an Update (6/2/10)

I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of help and caring over the past couple of weeks. My faith in humanity has truly been restored and I’m much more optimistic about the future (and not only ours) because of people like those who reached out to help!  I honestly cannot thank you enough!   Through your generosity, Alison will attend the FIU Summer Treatment Program for Adolescents with ADHD.

I will keep you posted on our progress on this blog so others dealing with ADHD and a less-than-knowledgeable or efficient school system might be able to also benefit from this experience.

The first hurdle in this process was getting the money to get Alison into the program. Thanks to you, we cleared that one.

The second hurdle popped up just days after launching this fundraiser. I got a call from one of the directors of the program informing me that they would not have a Broward County location this summer! Florida International University’s main campus is in Miami-Dade County, approximately 50 miles from where we live in the town of Coral Springs, in northern Broward County.

Apparently, this program has been in existence for 20 years, but just moved to FIU three years ago. Although they had planned to have a group in Broward, they didn’t have enough kids. (I’ll have to help them get the word our for next year if it’s as good as it looks to be.) After a rough afternoon, I finally decided that this is too important. I’ll just drive her down there each morning, get home in time to do my show from 10-12. I’ll head back in the afternoon to pick her up by 5:30. Two hundred miles a day, but we’ll do it.

The school year ends on Thursday, when they half a half-day. (Why bother?) Alison still has a chance to pull it off and get promoted to 8th grade – but she’s not there yet. Nothing like taking it down to the wire…

We’ll keep you posted. You’re part of our village now. It’s a really nice place filled with some amazing people.

Thank you again.

May 20, 2012 / Nicole Sandler

Thank you!

The response from this morning’s post has been so wonderful.  I’m so heartened by all the kind words, and great generosity, both with money and by spreading the word.

I did something pretty stupid, and didn’t ask Alison before posting her story.  She is not very happy with me right now.  She’s vowing to prove to me that I’m wrong about her repeating 7th grade.  She can pull it off, and I will be right there helping her to do her best in getting the grades she needs in the final weeks of school to be promoted to 8th grade.

Regardless of the outcome, she and I both still need this program; she get the skills to get through to get through school and I will learn how help her without the two of us at each other’s throats.

I did apologize to Alison for sharing her story.  I’ll keep you updated on her progress, as well as mine.

May 20, 2012 / Nicole Sandler

Why I Need Your Help

My name is Nicole Sandler, and I need help.

Twelve years ago, I made the difficult decision to adopt a baby who needed a family. As I was approaching 40, I had led a successful, career-driven life, but hadn’t yet met the man with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life, let alone create a child.

I always pictured myself with a daughter, so I set out to find her. As luck would have it, after 18 months of document chasing, notarizing, translating and playing a long, difficult waiting game, I awoke one morning to an email with two pictures of a precious little girl in an orphanage in a little village called Karakastek in the country of Kazakhstan.

Trying to think with my head and not my heart, I got more information, conferring on her medical records with a doctor who specializes in international adoption, before embarking on the most important journey of my life.

At 15 months, she weighed only 16 pounds. She was not yet walking or talking, but there was a sparkle in her eyes and, in the short video they sent, I was enchanted by the giant smile that emerged once she got over her initial fear of the people who were doing the video taping.

The doctor said she looked malnourished, and seemed to be in need of a lot of “Vitamin M – mommy”.

Six weeks later, I travelled to the other side of the world to meet and adopt my daughter.

I knew motherhood would be a challenge. But I never knew that, 12 years later, I’d feel so lost in my efforts to help her live a successful, happy life.

As I tell anyone who’ll listen, Alison couldn’t be more my child if I had given birth to her myself. She’s strong-willed, stubborn and smart. She’s independent and tough. Within six months, Alison caught up – she grew from the size and developmental level of a nine-month old (18 lbs at 18 months when I adopted her) to a typical two-year old, in the 90th percentile for height and weight.

Unfortunately, as she was developing, my career took a turn for the worse. My radio station in Los Angeles was sold, and I was out of work. After a few stops in different cities (the perils of a radio career), we wound up back in South Florida, where I grew up, to be near family, in time for Alison to start kindergarten. That’s when the school did the testing to confirm what I had suspected, Alison has ADHD.

What I knew about ADD/ADHD before I began my extensive reading on the subject was only that kids who have it have trouble paying attention. What I didn’t realize was what a challenge parenting a child with a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder would be.

From her teachers I get the same feedback that I offer them – Alison is a very bright child, but she is often in her own world. Nothing seems to sink in. She hears, but doesn’t listen. She cannot seem to stay on task for any extended period of time, and has great difficulty following directions, especially if there’s more than one task to be completed.

She made it through elementary school with passing grades, but certainly not what a child as bright as she would expect. She would also constantly lose things. From homework to notebooks to important papers from school.

Then she hit middle school, and things got even worse. She has an IEP (individualized education program) – she is in regular classes, but gets extra time for tests. She constantly forgets to do assignments (even with mom riding herd) and, often when she does do the work, she leaves it at home or otherwise forgets to turn it in.

I have her on medication (we’re on the 4th or 5th now, as none seem to help), and in therapy. In addition to her diagnosis of ADHD, Alison also has the diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is just as it sounds. I say the sky is blue, and she’ll argue that it’s red. And when I’m trying to help her with remembering to do her school projects, it can sometimes turn ugly.

So, as you’d expect, my fiercely independent daughter has trouble taking direction. It’s difficult to help her, and heartbreaking for me, as I’m helpless watching her come to the end of 7th grade with the realization that she will likely have to repeat 7th grade next year.

A few words in defense of my daughter … She’s compassionate, loves animals, is funny (or thinks she is), and is a beautiful, loving girl. But I worry that she can’t – or won’t – learn the things she needs to succeed in life.

As I pondered the thought of her being left back in 7th grade and worried about how she’ll get throught 8th and then high school, I went in search of something to help her.

I came across a program offered by Florida International Center for Children & Families called the Summer Treatment Program for Adolescents

 Teens with ADHD, oppositional disorders, aggression, learning problems, or teens with mixed behavior and learning problems

As you can see by clicking and reading about the program, I was overjoyed. I found the program that will help my kid!

Summer Treatment Program for Adolescents

Are you looking for something more than medication to help improve your teen’s behavior? The Center for Children and Families (CCF) at Florida International University (FIU) offers a summer program for teens based on the award-winning comprehensive Summer Treatment Program for younger children. The program runs from late June or early July through mid-August, on weekdays.The STP offers a comprehensive treatment program for teen’s behavioral, emotional, and learning problems. This program is composed of a set of evidence-based treatments incorporated into an 8-week therapeutic summer day camp setting. Group and tailored individual treatment plans are implemented by trained paraprofessionals under the supervision of experienced senior staff members.

Sessions consist of a group of adolescents paired with clinical staff members for the duration of the day, encouraging development of group interaction and friendships.

Our Goals:

  • Development of the adolescent’s problem solving and social skills, and of the social awareness necessary to enable him/her to get along better with other adolescents
  • Improvement of the adolescent’s study skills, organization habits, and academic performance
  • Development of the adolescent’s abilities to follow instructions, to complete tasks that he/she commonly fails to finish, and to comply with adults’ requests
  • Improvement of the adolescent’s self-esteem by developing competencies in areas necessary for success in adolescence, such as leadership skills, interpersonal skills, athletics, and academics
  • Increased familiarity with the process of applying for, obtaining, and holding a part-time job, as well as managing one’s earnings
  • Instruction for parents in how to develop, reinforce, and maintain these positive changes
  • If appropriate, evaluation of the effects of medication on the child’s academic and social functioning in a natural setting

Treatment

Treatment includes individually adapted reward and response-cost programs aimed at improving behavior, organization, academic performance and social skills; training in group problem solving, social, and contracting skills; strategies for efficient studying, enhanced test performance, and complete and accurate note-taking; and a daily feedback system designed to increase adolescent self-monitoring and self-awareness. Adolescents will apply for and hold paid positions within the STP-A (i.e. junior counselor, newspaper editor, business manager), and the group will plan and manage its own business. Treatment plans and strategies are continuously monitored and modified as necessary.

There’s even help for me!

Parent Training Groups 

Parents form an integral part of STP-A by participating in weekly group evening sessions. Parent sessions are designed to help parents develop skills to reduce problem behaviors, to improve their child’s task skills and relationships with parents and peers, and to maintain and extend the gains made in the STP-A to the child’s natural at-home environment.

I called and made an appointment for the program screening. Alison and I each went with a different member of the staff – she for some psychological testing, and me to answer a multitude of questions about her history and behavior.

Yesterday I got the call informing me that Alison has been accepted into the program! The problem is the cost – over $4600.

I looked into scholarships and grants, and apparently they are only available to students in Miami-Dade County (we live in Broward). I asked if they have financing available; they do not. And that is why I am writing this missive.

I lost my last full-time job when Air America radio went off the air. Though I work daily, I barely make enough money to pay my bills. I was doing quite well at the time I adopted my daughter and never thought I’d ever have trouble providing for her needs. But I lost my home last April, and we moved in with my fiance, who is also now in the financial struggle of his life and is trying to keep a roof over our heads and rebuild his business.

I want my to daughter grow to be a responsible member of society, able to get and hold a job and be self-sufficient. I truly believe that we’re at a scary crossroads – either I get her the help she needs now, or the next few years will further erode her self confidence and her ability to live a productive, happy life.

Every bone in my body hates that I had to go to the extremes of setting up this website and asking for help, but I don’t know what else to do.

I have set up a paypal account to raise funds to get my daughter the help she needs. Please help, if you can.

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