I’m not sure what I want to say with this piece. ADHD has been ever present and effected every aspect of my life, for my entire life. I could fill a book on the many ways this disorder effects my life, or how I’ve navigated specialists, medication, and schools in different states and school districts in America. Yet I do not feel like I can advise anyone on how to manage it. So at the bottom of this article I will add links to resources.
What is ADD and ADHD:
ADD and ADHD are part of the spectrum disorders that include autism and Asperger Syndrome. It stands for Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Lack of focus, problems with control and hyperactivity are the outward signs. The “deficiency” in the name, relates to a deficit in the part of the brain that regulates execute tasks. It can cause disruptive and irritable behaviors one minute. It can create an overactive mind that develops incredibly creative solutions to problems the next.
I am writing this piece as an apology to my children. I have two smart, funny, wonderful daughters with ADHD. They are creative, passionate and talented. They are brave and realistic. Neither of my kids have wanted extra help during their later school years, because they know after they are done with school, there will be no 504 accommodations at their place of work. No one will be scheduling their day for them. No one will be reminding them to get the report done.
In trying to help them over the years, I have tried to normalize them, and made them feel less than perfect. I have been trying to fit a round peg into the same square hole my parent’s generation had imprinted on my psyche.
I am fortunate that I grew up with an older brother who was on Ritalin before I was born. I knew what I was dealing with when my kids showed signs. My daughters had the visible hyperactivity, making it easier to convince specialists to listen. I also had the resources to get my kids diagnosed properly. I went to outside specialists when our overworked school system continually told me they saw no issues.
Each of my daughters had 20 hours of evaluation. The twenty hours wasn’t to diagnose the ADHD. The psychologist told us she could see within five minutes that my kids had ADHD. The lengthy evaluation would find their learning style, and their specific ADHD struggles. With that knowledge, we could put together a better plan to help them in school and with social skills. That sounds great in theory! Implementing it feels like reinventing the wheel every day.
My adult diagnosis:
Since my teen years, I wondered if I had it. But it had only been a minor issue in my life. I graduated high school, went onto college and had a successful career. My relationships suffered, and my relationship with my parents and siblings was always tough. Now my parents haughtily claim it is the “diagnosis du-jour” used as an excuse for everyone’s issues. Growing up, my parents only had room for one kid with “issues.” My father often told me my mother couldn’t “handle much”, so I never sought diagnosis or help as an adult. My parents are a generation that believes only boys have ADHD. Unfortunately, that belief is still prevalent, and girls are still underdiagnosed to this day.
After my kids’ diagnosis, we first managed ADHD with behavioral therapy. My kids had a natural love of learning, so if they disturbed a classroom, it was with too many questions or exploring stations around the room. I wanted to stay away from stimulants if possible. After two years, the behavioral therapist suggested medication. My kids had learned all they could for their age and maturity.
We lived in a state where a pediatrician can prescribe ADHD medication after a clinician’s diagnosis. (Some states don’t allow this.) While speaking with my kids’ pediatrician, she suggested I get diagnosed too. Her exact words were, “Speaking with you is like talking with any of my teen ADHD patients. It’s genetic. And you have it. Helping your kids navigate it, is the blind leading the blind.” I could have kissed my kids’ doctor. I hadn’t sought this attention or validation. I wasn’t crazy or a bad kid. I had ADHD too.
I never thought of this diagnosis as a stigma. But my parents do. And coming from a different generation, my mother couldn’t handle another diagnosis in her perfect family. In reality my parents were the blind leading the blind as well.
The Difference with the Right Diagnosis:
Years prior to this diagnosis I had taken anxiety medication. I was diagnosed with anxiety because of racing thoughts that kept me up at time. I’d always had them, but they were worse after I had kids. I stopped the anxiety medication after six months because my thoughts were still racing, I just didn’t care about them. I didn’t like “not caring” about anything.
When I was diagnosed and started medication for ADHD, an amazing thing happened. The thoughts bouncing around, like a hundred rubber balls ricocheting around in my head, queued up in order of importance. I could mentally see all my thoughts line up. I could choose the first thought in line, finish whatever I needed to do with it, then discard it and move to the next thought. And better yet, *poof*, my anxiety disappeared immediately! I stopped arriving thirty minutes early to appointments, for fear I’d forget about it. I stop killing myself to get routine work done a week in advance at my job. I stopped interrupting people. I stopped avoiding new projects. I stopped all the anxious behaviors I had built in over the years, to manage my ADHD.
How you can help a kid:
I can spot a kid with ADD or ADHD a mile away. Most people can. They may be the kid who’s interrupting, or staring out the window, or just seems awkward. For those of you who do not have ADHD in your life, you can help by not making kids on the spectrum feel like outsiders. These children and their families already feel isolated. They struggle to feel normal every day.
My girls are funny, silly, and good students who don’t want to bring attention to themselves or disrupt the classroom. You can help by being the parent who invites the kid on the spectrum to the neighborhood Halloween party, or the playgroup. Know that fidgeting kid doesn’t want to be overly emotional or disruptive. It helps no one in the community if kids with ADHD are isolated at a young age and prevented from integrating in their own way.
ADHD Symptoms per WebMD:
People with ADD and ADHD have trouble:
- Following directions
- Remembering information
- Organizing tasks
- Finishing work on time
Here are some of the common issues for children and adults with ADD and ADHD:
- Chronic boredom
- Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
- Trouble concentrating when reading
- Trouble controlling anger
- Problems at work
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Low self-esteem
- Mood swings
- Poor organization skills
- Relationship problems
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Low motivation