Day care center focuses on attention deficit Millersville woman founded it because son has disorder

August 22, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Eileen Smith used to dread driving to her son's day care center after work.

"I would pick up Sean and the teachers would say, 'He did this' and 'He did that' and 'We had to isolate him,' " the 30-year-old Millersville woman recalled. "I was feeling like I was a failure as a parent."

Later, doctors found that Sean Hoyer, then 6, suffered from attention deficit disorder. But that memory of self-doubt as a parent and a feeling that there were many more parents like her encouraged Smith to open a day care center just for children like her son.

"Me Too Child Care" is the only center in the county that specializes in helping children with attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems, Smith said. The six children, who range in age from 6 to 13, learn about their problems and complete projects to help combat them.

Attention deficit disorder is a neurological problem that makes children and adults unable to maintain their attention, said Barbara Calabrese, a nurse consultant and health educator with the Child Care Training Institute of Anne Arundel Community College.

Among children, the disorder causes restlessness and an inability to listen to instructions, Calabrese said.

"It becomes a problem in that the children don't see the consequences of their actions and why what they did hurt someone," she said. "Then, other children begin to see them as being different and they're told that they're bad. A lot of them have low self-esteem."

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiance disorder can alter a child's behavior from calm and obedient to hyperactive and rebellious.

Smith said about 3 percent of elementary school children are affected by the disorders, which can be treated with medicines.

Smith said the biggest obstacle for students with any of the disorders is a misperception among educators that the children can be cured by placing them with well-behaved pupils.

"They have limitations and cannot be expected to perform like children without" the disorders, she said. "It's like putting a kid on a lily pad and thinking that if he sits there long enough, he will turn into a frog."

Smith is well versed in the disorders. She is a former substance abuse and addiction counselor and is licensed by the Child Care Administration of the state Department of Human Resources.

In February, she converted the basement of her gray ranch-style house into the day care center, which also serves as a meeting place for a support group for nine parents of children with the disorders.

"It teaches them that every child is different and that some parenting techniques work more than others," said Smith, the center's only employee. "I want them to look for a little growth instead of miracles."

The center has helped Chris Yale, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder three years ago, understand the importance of self-restraint.

"I know how to control my anger," said the 13-year-old eighth-grader at Chesapeake Bay Middle School. "I just go home and punch my beanbag."

Chris's mother said she is grateful for Smith and her center.

"The children are not the bad guys they're made out to be," said Cindy Yale. "It's just refreshing and different to have someone who understands this type of child."

Smith's son, Sean, now a sixth-grader at Rippling Woods Elementary School, said he has learned that having attention deficit disorder does not mean that he is inferior to those without it.

"It's just a mental thing," he said. "I just have to remember that and life gets easier."

For more information about the center, call 987-3084. For more information about the disorders, call the Anne Arundel County chapter of Children With attention deficit disorders at 721-2468.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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