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Having a Child With ADHD Has Made Me a Better Person

It’s no secret parenting is hard work. When you have a child with ADHD (attention -deficit/hyperactivity disorder), parenting can be complex. It’s been almost two years since we found out my 7-year-old has ADHD. Every day is a rollercoaster for us filled with ups and downs. When my child wakes up in the morning, I never know if she will be excited to go to school and see her best friend or have a meltdown. When it is time to get ready for bed, I never know if she will happily get into her pajamas and be excited about the story I’m going to read to her or say she didn’t have enough time to play that day. My child is extremely unpredictable and highly sensitive. But I am realizing our challenges are making me a better person.

Having a child with ADHD has made me more patient. Parents of children with ADHD understand their child’s brain works differently. When I ask my child to put her shoes on and five minutes later, her shoes still aren’t on because she got distracted by a toy that was next to her shoes for example, I do my best to not lose my temper. I know she is not a bad kid or a trouble maker. I know she is not deliberately trying to get a rise out of me and make me angry. Like many children with ADHD, my child lives in the moment. All that matters to her is the present, which is actually something I envy about her. I remind myself of this, push away the negative words that were about to come out of my mouth, and practice patience, patience, patience.

Having a child with ADHD has made me more compassionate. There has been countless times my child has had a meltdown in public. Whether it was because she became frustrated with a word search on a children’s menu at a restaurant or she was having a hard time waiting her turn to go down the slide at the park, I have felt the eyes of judgmental parents on me and my child. They may think my child is giving me a hard time, but the truth is my child is having a hard time, and the rude stares and eye rolls are only making it worse for her. That is a truly awful feeling, so when I am in public and I see a child throwing a “tantrum,” I never ever judge the parent or the child. I honestly have nothing but compassion and empathy for them, which is something I strive to instill in my child.

Having a child with ADHD has made me more responsible.  I have always been a pretty responsible person, but I feel like since I became a mother, I am more of a scatterbrain and am constantly forgetting things. My child’s ADHD diagnosis has forced me to become more responsible and organized, as well as a planner. For example, it is my responsibility to make sure my child takes her medication every morning, and there has been a couple of times when I forgot to give it to her, but I created a system that works well for us, and she hasn’t missed a dosage since. I’m also responsible for making and taking her to appointments with her psychiatrist and behavioral therapist, as well as practicing what she was taught. I’m on top of things with school, and I am in constant communication with her teacher. I now think and plan ahead because life is unpredictable and you have to be ready for the unexpected. I know to always be prepared.

Having a child with ADHD has made me more creative. It is no secret that children with ADHD have a knack for thinking outside the box, and that is one of the many things I love about my child. She’s able to see and understand what many others can’t and use her fierce creativity to make masterpieces, shattering the stereotypes that children with ADHD are “dumb” or “lazy.” When she is focused, particularly if she is hyper focused, she can write entire stories, create origami animals, and invent intricate games. The list goes on and on. She has inspired me to tap into my own creativity and make things I never thought I could. For her birthday parties decorations, for example, I decided to forego Pinterest and use my own creativity to turn our home into her dream birthday party. Being creative like my child is so much fun, and it is something we love doing together.

Having a child with ADHD has made me more easy going. When my child first began getting homework in kindergarten and we didn’t know she had ADHD, I would make her sit at her desk and stay there until she completed her homework. Thinking back now, I feel like I was the worst parent ever. That must have been complete torture for my child. After her ADHD diagnosis and researching a lot about how her mind works, I understand her better. I am much more lenient and easy going with her. I let her decide where she wants to do her homework, whether she is sitting at her desk on a wiggle seat, standing next to the kitchen counter, or laying on the family room floor. I let her decide the order she wants to complete her homework in. If she needs breaks, I let her take them. If she wants to listen to music while she does her homework, I let her. You get the picture. This is not at all how I imagined homework time would be in my house because I always thought that “What Mommy says, goes!” However, after letting go of my power trip and giving her more freedom, homework is now much more enjoyable for her. This has made me more easy going in other aspects of my life as well. If things in my life don’t go as planned, I don’t stress about it like I used to. If I accidentally burn dinner for example, I order a pizza. No biggie. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. And let’s face it, pizza is the best.

Having a child with ADHD has made me more optimistic. Before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, she was in a very dark place. At only 5 years old, she experienced depression and anxiety, which commonly coexist with ADHD. She constantly said  she wished she was never born and that I deserved a better daughter. When she said those awful words, I felt a pain in my heart like nothing I had ever felt before. She had extremely low self-esteem and would put herself down every chance she got. By educating myself more about ADHD and showing my child compassion, patience, and kindness, as well as getting her the help she needed with medication, behavioral therapy, and the unconditional love and support of her family, she was able to come out of the shadows and see the light in her that I have always known was there. She is now doing very well at school and breezes through her homework most days. She is showing the world she is a superstar in her school plays and has the voice of an angel in our church’s children’s choir. Words can’t express how incredibly proud I am to be her mother and to see how far she has come. As cheesy as it sounds, I know she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. No matter what, she will rise to the top, and I will always be her biggest fan, cheerleader, supporter, and advocate.

As her mother, I work hard every day to make sure I am doing all I can to provide her with a good life. I make sure she is equipped with all of the right tools to help her succeed and use her ADHD to her advantage. All I really want and what I think all parents want is for their children is to have good morals and values. I have been so busy trying to teach my child to be a good person, I never thought in my 30s, my child would in fact be teaching me how to better myself and turn me into a better person. The world has my daughter and her ADHD to thank for that.

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My current work in progress coloring pencil illustration

What 'Relaxation' May Mean When You Have ADHD

“Just relax.”  I hate when someone says that to me. My brain does not “just relax.” It is impossible. Even when I am asleep, my mind races. My dreams are so out there… so much so that they don’t make any logical sense to me at times.

Most people who are neurotypical do not understand what it is like to live with a non-neurotypical brain. It is something they cannot possible understand, and I don’t fault them for that. But at least listen to me when I tell you it is not at all possible for me to relax. I do not feel calm if I just sit quietly and stare at a TV for hours. I do not enjoy sitting at the beach. I can’t do things “normal” people do to relax. My brain has too much going on for that. I like talking while hiking, coloring while listening to music, doing puzzles, creating something new, painting, building, exploring. I need some stimulation… that, for me, is euphoric. Being able to do something I enjoy, especially if someone I love enjoys it with me, is my type of relaxation.

My current work in progress coloring pencil illustration
My current work in progress

If I were to define “relaxation,” it would not be the same relaxed feeling others may feel — like a weight is lifted off their shoulder and they are comfortable and can release the tension felt throughout their day. I define relaxation as a time when I can not be overwhelmed by the world around me, where my thoughts are not racing, where I am able to enjoy something and don’t have to conform to the norms of society to fit in. Relaxation is feeling myself, doing something that makes me truly happy and comfortable. I don’t find comfort in a bed or comfy chair. I find comfort in activities or situations where my thoughts aren’t racing. I love letting my imagination go wild, allowing myself to create things without any worry about negative influence. That for me is the feeling I love.

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A Letter to the Teacher of My Son With ADHD, From a Mom With ADHD

My son, my husband and myself all have ADHD. We like schedules and knowing what is expected from us. We like things clear and understandable. We need reminders, notes, alarms.

This is how we stay on target and get done what we need to do. But what happens when your 10 years old and don’t have these skills yet? You need someone to teach you how. You need someone in your corner who will stand up for you and be your voice when you just can’t. You need someone to make your reminders, notes and alarms.

ADHD has been used as an excuse for kids who are just kids so much now that when a child who really struggles with it comes into a class they are often grouped with kids who don’t struggle in the same way. Being extra tough on a kid without ADHD may mean more work gets done and they might push themselves to do better. Being extra tough on a child with ADHD may mean no work gets done and they might push themselves far too much.

They may shut down, get angry, talk back, tear up their papers instead of doing them. They may look like they are being bad, but in truth they are trying to tell you it’s too much and they need your help to get through this. They are asking for what they need in the only way they know how.

So often this gets overlooked and the teachers lose a chance to help because they didn’t know the signs. They are trying to help without the skills they need. Sound familiar?

You can’t expect to do open heart surgery if you have only been trained to do stitches. You can’t teach a child with ADHD if you have only been taught to teach kids without ADHD. So why aren’t these kids often given the same help as children with other diagnoses? A special needs class, an aid. Why do we tell them to grow up and deal with it instead of teaching them the skills they need to succeed?

We need to give them the same chance as any other child with special needs. They need understanding, not tough love.

We can’t forget that just because they don’t look different, they still need help. They need us to be there for them and make sure they don’t get overlooked.

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We Need to Understand the Challenges Kids With ADHD Can Face at School

My son has ADHD and sensory processing disorder (SPD). Many people are misinformed or just have some preconceived notion of what ADHD is, so here is a brief description.

ADHD is not:

  • Just being hyperactive and unable to sit still.
  • A behavior problem.
  • Caused by poor parenting and lack of discipline.
  • Magically treated by medication.
  • Something small children just outgrow.
  • Treated with sports or other physical activities.
  • Just a child being “lazy.”

ADHD is:

  • The inability to regulate one’s emotions.
  • An inability to identify and pick up on general social cues.
  • An inability to filter out the input around you, therefore, causing extreme distractibility.
  • An inability to control impulses.
  • Difficulty organizing and staying on task. 

This is just a brief overview of some of the characteristics that are associated with this disorder. A child can have some, many or all of the characteristics. Additionally, any one of the characteristics may be more present and cause greater challenges than others. 

My son has begun first grade this year, and the transition has been difficult. In kindergarten, he was able to have some freedom to play and roam; the expectations were not as high. Now, in first grade, he is expected to sit still for longer periods of time and do much more class work. Pressures have increased 100-fold. He is facing challenges under these pressures.

There are social situations that he seems to perceive or interpret incorrectly. Every day he fights against his own brain and body to tune out the world around him, sit still and focus. He often comes off of the bus tired and wounded from that day’s war. Some days it is so difficult that he just gives up and refuses to do any work altogether. This, consequently, elicits more negative penalties and additional demands from his teachers to try and work harder. I worry that the day is soon coming where he will just refuse to get on the bus and go to school altogether.  

There are times when he calls out so often that no other student can get a word in edgewise. He is smart, brilliant even, and he has ideas that need to be heard. Waiting his turn to share his thoughts can be challenging for him.

I want to help my sweet boy. I want him to feel smart, for he is truly brilliant. I want him to feel socially accepted, for he is the nicest, kindest, most loving child.  

I want him to feel happy every day, because that is what a 6-year-old deserves. I’m not sure I know how to do that right now, and it terrifies me.

I wish society understood this disorder and its challenges more. I want parents to understand that it’s not that our children are “undisciplined” or “lazy”; they actually work twice as hard as a “typical” child to function day to day. 

I want schools to begin to design programs that work for children who are wired this way. Why is my child made to feel less-than every day because he cannot fit into the mold of current educational expectations? We have to do more for children as a whole.

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The Path of Love and Patience We Travel Together as a Special Needs Family

When I was teaching a freshman class, I remember a paper conference I had with a student one morning. While looking over his paper, this student told me he had ADHD. “I just have to work harder. It’s not easy, but I don’t let it hold me back,” he told me. I always remember this conversation. For one, it was the first time in my new teaching career that a student told me about his special needs. I felt honored and curious as to how I could help him succeed. But the conversation we had has also replayed in my mind again and again as I raise my own two sons, both of whom have ADHD and one who is autistic.

“You have some challenges,” I tell them. “I know it’s not easy. But it just means we have to be creative, work through things together, try again.” We’re going to get there, but the challenges that can come with ADHD and autism mean my boys might have to take a longer way around. As my boys travel their paths, I’ve realized I’m on the longer way around, too.

I read parenting articles about patience and find myself scoffing. I find myself justifying my irritation — “Well, I asked nicely the first three times! If you would just pay attention, Mommy wouldn’t yell!” I want to raise them right, to be kind, loving, respectful men. But that means I have to be kind, loving and respectful, too. I can’t justify acting like a jerk or dismissing my impatience and irritation as acceptable by-products of any parenting challenges I might face on a day-to-day basis. ADHD and autism can present challenges for my boys, but I don’t want them to say “I can’t” because of their special needs. I don’t want to say “I can’t” either.

I can be kind, like keeping them in mind when I plan our dinners because making their favorite foods is one way I can tell them, “I’m thinking about you.”

I can be patient. I can be creative in carving out one-on-one time, even if it is just snuggling on the couch, watching their favorite show. I can be interested, even if I can’t keep all Pokemon details straight.

And I can be loving, always loving, because they are my sons and I am their mom.

We’re on the long way ‘round. We have challenges. Maybe you do too. But let’s keep moving forward, choosing love, choosing kindness and choosing relationships.

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I Should Be Happy I Was Finally Diagnosed With ADD, but I’m Not

I’ve got a failure complex. I thought maybe it was my battle with depression, but I’m starting to win that war. Yet, still I feel a failure. A failure at work. A failure as a father and husband. A failure as a man. A failure at life. Failure with a big, fat capital F.

I understand feeling inadequate as a parent or even a spouse is a natural thing. I can live with that. I don’t like it, and I’ll always feel like I should be doing more, but my best will have to do. The rest of life, however, keeps me awake at night. It’s what I think of before finally falling into an often fitful sleep at night and the first thing on my mind as I prepare for another day at work.

To understand, we have to go back. Way back. Twenty years back, to be more precise. I was a dorky, unathletic senior in high school. Awkward, introverted and lacking confidence. I had one thing going for me though. I was pretty damned smart.

As it happens, my intellect is the one thing I really like about myself. I’m not bragging. I’m certainly no genius. There are scores of people intellectually superior to me, but I’m still on the high side of average. This is really where things start to fall apart.

I graduated high school near the top of my class, had one of the higher SAT scores in the state and was told the sky was the limit. Except it wasn’t. The limit turned out to be my attention span. I went to college and changed majors as often as people change the batteries in smoke detectors. From pre-vet med to elementary education to criminal justice, I just kept shifting.

I functioned at a high level. So nobody took notice of how difficult it was for me to keep on task. To be fair, I didn’t notice it myself. I found it impossible to pay attention to anything not relying heavily upon theory. STEM type classes were my nemesis, and I avoided them like the plague. In theory classes, you can get the gist of an argument and fill in the holes. STEM, however, required a person to understand the entire process.

Since I often spaced out, giant holes were left, and I struggled. I thought maybe I was just lazy, but I still couldn’t will myself to change. It wasn’t working, and so I had to adjust to a focus and major that suited me. That’s where the constant major changes came in. Now, I have a master’s degree in criminal justice and make my living as a salesman. It’s not me. I don’t like it, but this is the hole I dug for myself.

A few months ago, I finally began seeking therapy for depression. Part of that process was also seeking the help of a psychiatrist to fully diagnose my condition and to find a treatment that might help me cope. The expected result, of course, was a full on major depressive disorder diagnosis. Toss in a little generalized anxiety disorder, and you have absolutely no surprises. Seriously. Tell me something I don’t know.

“Oh, hey. By the way, do you have trouble following conversations? What about finishing things? Do you often struggle just to follow along to a television show? What about household projects? Are some of those laying around waiting for finishing touches?”

“Yeah, but what are you g….Oh. Oh Fuck.”

It was like a sledgehammer to the back of my head. As soon as the doctor began asking the questions, I knew where he was going. It was the surprise that shouldn’t have been. Attention deficit disorder (ADD). I was shocked, and then I wasn’t.

Just that fast, everything fell into place.The natural reaction, I think, would have been to be grateful there was finally something that may result in positive change. The depressive jerk in my head had other plans. Now, I lament 20 lost years. Two decades of wasted time. Somewhere around 7,300 days lost to an endless abyss.

Now, instead of just disliking my job, I have an intense hatred for it. Walking in the door becomes the epitome of wasted years. The small talk. The lack of a challenge, of a mission, of having any real impact at all. It is the symbol of my failure, like a giant billboard reminding me of 60 grand in wasted education and 20 years of spinning my wheels.

I should be happy. I should be relieved that a weight chained to my ankles for so long will soon be released. I should be able to look ahead and formulate a plan. Nope. I can only see the wreckage behind me, the shredded remains of 7,500 days and each new day only adds to the shame.

I don’t want to wallow in my failure. I don’t want to constantly look over my shoulder, ashamed at the wasted potential I’ve left behind. Yet, here I sit, hammering away at my old laptop, getting ready to post to a blog few people read and submit another piece of writing, of my art, for free to any website that will publish it.

I used to say I was just smart enough to realize I’m not quite smart enough to do anything great. Now, I’m not so sure this is true, but I’m also of the opinion it may just be too damn late.

I can sit in my chair and think my life is barely half over, and there is still plenty of time. But the great question is time for what? I’ve spent so much time dabbling in so many things that I’m left with no idea of what’s next. Like a swimmer pulled underwater who is unsure where the surface is, I just don’t know which way is up.

Oh look. A squirrel.

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