Thursday, April 05, 2007

Leaky Breaks 101

Last night my husband and I attended the Leaky Brakes 101 workshop. This is a series of six information sessions given by various members of CPRI that are available to anyone who is interested in learning more about Tourette's Syndrome, ADHD, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Dr. Dunc was last night's presenter and he gave us an in-depth look into what it's like to have "leaky brakes". Leaky brakes are what Dr. Dunc uses to describe the disability that causes Tourette's Syndrome, ADHD, and OCD. To summarize it briefly, it's as though the the kid is driving a car with leaky brakes, no matter how much they want to stop, and they know they should stop, the ability to do so just isn't there.

What came through loud and clear from Dr. Dunc's presentation is the emotional price these kids are paying because well meaning adults just don't get it. The sheer frustration that they go through. I know my son must have gone through it because it took me several years to come up with strategies to deal with him.

In the example with the car, Dr. Dunc describes how the kid is driving down a steep hill, going really fast, with a cliff at the end. There's a stop sign, a little old lady crossing the street and a cop car with its lights flashing behind him. The kid knows it's time to stop. He's desperately pumping the brakes. Then there's this adult in the passenger seat saying "If you stop this car right now, I'll give you this whole bag of candies!" Well that's no help!

After the inevitable crash, the same adult is now yelling "What did you do that for? Didn't you know to stop?" Of course the kid will say yes, and he probably has a look of "Oh crap" on his face because he really wanted to stop and avoid the disaster that he knew was coming. Then the adult yells "So why didn't you?" and all the kid can say is "I don't know." Now the adult figures, this kid is just being bad, and hands out a punishment. The result is a stressed out, and of course, stress makes it even harder for the kid to work his brakes.

Luke has learned a lot through the various programs he has attended through school and I've learned a lot through my self-educating. As a team, we can now manage his leaky brakes pretty well. First, I learned not to get emotionally invested in the behaviour. Whatever it is, I need to be his calm, safe spot so that I'm not adding to his problem. Second, I've learned not to push. If he says no, I'll get back to him on it. Chances are he needs some time and he'll change his mind. Thirdly, I find that just changing the situation works well. For example, if he and his brother are poking each other at the supper table and just can't seem to stop when I ask them to, I'll make them change seats. The workshop we attended last night showed me why these things worked and gave me some ideas for fine tuning them.

I'm looking forward to the next five sessions. I don't even know what it is that I don't know, but I expect that I'll have a better idea when we're done. If you guys find this information useful, I can try to post after each of the sessions.


  1. Laura8:37 am


    I would appreciate if you would post after each session. I am working with a adhd daughter and still trying to get things going in the right direction. One day at a time :)

  2. Sorry if this comes twice. The first one disappeared!

    I don't know anyone with Tourette's Syndrome, ADHD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder but I found your post very interesting. I really like the comparision to leaky brakes (which I read as lucky brakes - twice) because it is easy to understand. I would also like to hear about the other lectures.

  3. I'd love it if you would post after the kid has no diagnosis because she doesn't fit the AD/HD profile completely, but she has many of the same challenges. We're trying out all sorts of tricks for helping her to move through life without being thoroughly angry at herself. Sigh.

    By the way, Barbie O. of the Montréal Knitting Guild is making your fishy mittens, and I got to see them up close and personal. One word: OOOOOOOOOOOO. They're even more insanely clever than I thought :-)

  4. It's amazing how much one better understands a situation like yours when expressed in layman's terms. Thanks for posting about this, it's actually helpful to me as my nephew has severe ADHD.

  5. Yes, please!!!!

    We took a day off yesterday, grabbed a shuttle bus over to the coast, visited friends, got some acupressure, spent a bit of time at the beach, then bus home. All was good, but when I saw her standing in the wet sand, waves lapping her feet, all the tension falling away, I realized I simply need to plunk her on the beach more often.

    I am so jealous that you have Dr. Dunc. Oh, and DH is having his car's brakes worked on today at the shop, so the analogy is especially easy to comprehend.

    Will write more soon, really, but had a flare-up of swelling in my brain stem so have been depleted lately. Miss our email conversations! --syl

  6. even though, you"don't know what ist is you don't know", you are doing great! being calm and smart are your best defenses against feeling out of control . . . i appreciate your sharing.

  7. Yes, please do keep posting about this. I have a sinking feeling that when I say "just stop picking" at my daughter for picking at her nails, I'm actually adding to her stress. Thank you for such well-timed information. (Yes, she has OCD, and no, she can't help it)

  8. I'm often amazed at parents of children with special needs. They always seem to keep their cool. I hope I can be a quarter of the parent you are.

  9. How wonderful that this information is available now. Kudos to you, mom, for all your efforts on his behalf. :-)

  10. It definately sounds like you are learning a lot at the sessions. Thanks for posting what you learn - it can definately help others who have children with these disorders.

  11. The analogy is a good one. It really does put things in perspective. I hope that the sessions continue to provide hopem education, and encouragement.

  12. You are such a good mom, Laurie! Luke is a blessed boy. The amount of time you spend with both boys is evident in how loving, generous, kind and polite they are. Great big sloppy, teary hugs to all four of you!
    PS, you got me with the title. I thought you must have had an accident. I need to read further before jumping to conclusions ;-)

    Have a great Easter. God bless!