Simi Valley Family Magazine --

Winter 1998 Edition


Time for Your Annual Review

by Deborah Tucker, MA

Every so often, it's a good idea to do a little self-assessment. We all know we need to set goals, strive for new accomplishments, and try to improve ourselves. Sometimes, however, we can get so caught up in the process of working hard that we forget to ask ourselves, "How am I doing?" Setting a time aside for a "progress evaluation" can help.

What are the areas that you consider important in your life? In what areas are you trying to improve? Many people begin a process of self-assessment by looking at the various roles they assume. We can discuss some common categories here, and obviously you may feel free to add or subtract others as fits your own situation.

A place to begin can be with the person we see in the mirror every day. How have we been treating ourselves lately? Do we take good care of our bodies, by giving them healthy food and enough rest? Do we give ourselves some time for exercise, and to be outdoors? Do we take good care of our minds, by giving ourselves time to learn new things or have interesting conversations with people? Do we pay attention to our emotions, allowing ourselves to notice that there is often a connection between how we feel and our external circumstances? These are some of the "evaluation" points to consider in assessing how we as individuals have been doing.

But obviously there is more to all of us than just ourselves. We have important relationships with others in our lives. Most of the following interpersonal roles will apply to most of us, either now or later. If we are married, what kind of spouse have we been lately? Are we happy with the amount of energy we have been putting into our marriages? Have we taken the time we should to nourish that relationship, separate from all of the other roles we have? An important piece of information can be had if we are brave enough to ask our spouse's opinion.

If we are parents, how do we think we are doing with our children? The trick here is to be aware not only of present performance, but of the constantly evolving nature of the role. Children grow and change, and so do their needs. It can be very tough to keep our skills honed, and to let go of what's been comfortable for us but is now no longer needed by them. What our toddler needs is different than our preschooler, and what works with our twelve-year old isn't appropriate for an older teen. Raising children is a very tough job, with the final evaluations only coming in years after the fact, but we can still periodically ask these questions.

Speaking of children and parents, how do we rate ourselves as adult members of our families of origin (a fancy therapist term for the family we grew up in)? Do we feel that our relationships with family members are growing and getting healthier, or do we find ourselves avoiding certain people more and more? Conversely, do we keep getting stuck in the same old conflicts, time after time? Many people come from very difficult family backgrounds. Much healing of old childhood wounds can come about from finding a position of peace with family members, based on our own hard-won ability to stay centered and calm even if they don't always. If, after some soul-searching, that proves impossible, sometimes a little more distance helps a great deal.

The topic of soul-searching brings us to another area of evaluation. How are we feeling about our spiritual development? Some of us may come from traditional religious backgrounds, others may balk at organized religion, but all of us need to take a look at our relationship to meaning in our lives, and to our sense of why we are here at all. For those of us raised with religion in the home, we may need to ask ourselves, have I spent any time recently wondering about my religious beliefs? Have I learned anything new, or tried to think more deeply on the subject? Too many of us stop our religious education about the same time we start high school, and then wonder why our child-like spiritual perspective doesn't seem to help us with adult-size problems. Our relationship with God, in whatever form we understand it to be, is a real one that needs attention.

We also need to look at our relationships with friends and community, and our relationship to work. Just as with all the other relationships mentioned above, these require our time and energy, and sometimes require some re-evaluation as to how well they are meeting our current needs. Sometimes we find that we have outgrown certain relationships; other times the reason they may not seem currently satisfying is because we haven't been doing our share.

Does all this self-assessment sound like a big assignment? It is! The good news is, it's a life-long process, not something we have to do all at once. The bad news isn't bad news at all. If we find that there areas in which we fall short, then we have at the same time learned what we need to focus on a bit more. Either way, we and those around us end up winners.

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AD/HD: FACT OR FICTION?

by Cheri West, M.A.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been referred to by the media as “a disease of the 90’s”. While it is true that ADHD is talked about more often in the 90’s, the fidgety, overactive child has been around as long as children have been around. The earliest written description of ADHD was introduced in 1848 when a story about an overactive child, named Fidgety Phil, appeared as a character in a story written by a German family doctor for his children. The story was eventually published in a very prestigious medical journal, in 1904, and became the first published account of ADHD in medical literature. Here is the original story:

The Story of Fidgety Phil

“Let me see if Phillip can

Be a little gentleman;

Let me see if he is able

To sit still for once at the table.”

Thus, Papa bade Phil behave;

And Mama looked very grave.

But Fidgety Phil

He won’t sit still;

He wriggles, and giggles,

And then, I declare,

Swings backwards and forwards,

And tilts up his chair,

Just like any rocking horse----

“Phillip! I am getting cross!”

See the naughty, restless child

Growing still more rude and wild,

Till his chair falls over quite,

Phillip screams with all his might,

Catches the cloth, but then

That makes matters worse again.

Down upon the ground they fall,

Glasses, plates, forks, and all.

How Mama did fret and frown,

When she saw them tumbling down!

And Papa made such a face!

Phillip is in sad disgrace!

Does this active, little tike sound familiar? Fidgety Phil was later renamed Dennis the Menace! Based on this account, it is no wonder that ADHD has been dismissed in the past as “bad behavior” vs. a legitimate disorder! It was not until this century that ADHD began to be recognized as a medical condition and the component of being over active was not a requirement for having the disorder.

ADHD has indeed been around for a long time. It has been called by many different names over the years (Organically Driven, Minimal Brain Syndrome, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood, and Attention Deficit Disorder) but basically has always looked the same.

Is this disorder fact or fiction? This has been a question that physicians and mental health professionals have examined for many years. Strong evidence now suggests that the most likely cause of ADHD is a chemical imbalance located in the area of the brain responsible for attention and activity. With the help of modern technology, called a PET Scan, Dr. Alan Zametkin was able to show specific areas of the brain that control attention and motor activity in 1990. His studies showed that glucose metabolizes at a much lower rate in the ADHD brain than in a non-ADHD brain. Another medical breakthrough came in 1995 when Dr. Judith Rappaport completed a 10 year study at the National Institute of Mental Health. In her study, MRI’s were used to explore the brains of ADHD children vs. children without ADHD. The results showed conclusively that the ADHD brain was smaller on the right side. An even more amazing medical finding occurred in May 1996, when UC Irvine was finally able to identify the ADHD gene. Since ADHD has long been thought of as a genetic disorder, this discovery verifies that link. The current research now states that ADHD is 95% hereditary. So, it is not uncommon for ADHD children to have one, or more, biological relatives with the same disorder.

It is estimated that ADHD affects 3 to 5% of the school-aged population. The characteristics of ADHD most often arise in early childhood and are marked by chronic behaviors which, in 30 to 70% of the diagnosed population, frequently continue into adulthood. In order to make a diagnosis of ADHD, the behaviors must last more than 6 months and occur before the age of 7. Some characteristics of ADHD can include: fidgeting with hands or feet, difficulty remaining seated, difficulty following through on instructions, shifting from one uncompleted task to another, frequent interrupting or intruding, difficulty entering social situations appropriately, easily frustrated, mood swings, difficulty sustaining attention or concentrating, and disorganization. The diagnosis of ADHD typically occurs once a child has entered an academic setting where difficulty with concentration or attending to tasks becomes evident.

FICTION: Ignore it – they’ll outgrow the problems eventually!

FACT: treating ADHD requires medical, psychological, and educational intervention along with behavior management techniques. Using this multi-modal approach, individuals with ADHD can begin to experience more successes and fewer failures.

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