With the holiday craziness (that freaking ELF), we took a short break from the Challenge series. I am so happy that for our first Challenge of the New Year a friend from my real life is willing to share her challenge.
I’ve said it before, but I am always amazed when a friend in real life will share their challenge with the world. Today I would like to introduce you to my friend who has really taught me a lot about finding my voice. As we live in a small town, she prefers to remain anonymous. Please welcome my Beautiful Friend whose extraordinary child presented her with an unexpected challenge.
My Challenge: Coming to terms with ADHD
My daughter was diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder two years ago. It took a long time to reach this diagnosis and having traveled a long road with many obstacles, roadblocks and misinformation on our way towards any answer, I will admit that I felt relief once learning that our struggle/frustration/heartache had a name and I believed we would be able to solve our problems once we could identify them.
However, I have since learned that living with ADHD is like being on a roller coaster and that there are not necessarily problems that can be fixed; rather there are continuing challenges to encounter and accommodations to make while trying to raise a respectful, compassionate, intelligent child.
I have learned that while the experts call ADHD a disorder, in my mind, it makes more sense to think of it as a description of how someone’s brain processes and organizes information. I do not believe it is really a condition that hinders those who have it… in fact, with the right support and learned accommodations, I think people with ADHD can be wildly successful in whatever they choose to do. I do not personally have ADHD. My brain runs at a donkey pace – not too fast…not too slow…. will stay reasonably focused on the task at hand (especially with an incentive at the end!) My daughter’s brain runs like a jaguar – very fast, all the time ..through every single thought and each thought assigned the same high priority in her mind. That means that my voice reminding her to start her math homework is competing with the other voices in the room or thoughts in her mind. She can hyper-focus on something she is interested in, with more focus than I am likely capable of maintaining.
I have been told by teachers that she is brilliant and yet she routinely forgets homework/quizzes/library books. Her standardized testing scores will likely
never mirror her academic performance because it simply requires too much time without fidgeting to finish.
I have learned that ADHD presents very differently in girls versus boys. Girls generally want to please their teachers and will work hard to mask their struggles. Emotionality is a more prominent marker for ADHD in girls than boys…. more than hyperactivity or bad behavior. My daughter has very rarely had behavior challenges in any of her classes in her ten and a half years. In fact, she has both a public and private persona. She will use up every last drop of goodwill, as we call it, in school or in public. At home, however, her emotions can be limitless – in both positive and negative ways…. and can turn on a dime in either direction at any time.
I have learned that while I am a parent actually living with her ADHD child, there are a great number of people out in the world who think they know better than I do about how to care for my child.
I have faced skepticism, criticism and judgement for my parenting abilities. (or lack thereof?) I have doubted myself because looking to the past in your experience in raising a child with ADHD does not necessarily help you in the right now, nor for the future….and there are lots of times when I just do not know what to do or say next. All of those people have an opinion about ADHD and medication and diet changes… but none of them live with my daughter.
We are in a low part of our roller coaster ride right now. We are struggling with academic expectations, social pressures and adolescence. We are trying to figure out whether the medication my daughter was taking was helping enough? or not at all? or making her dizzy. Should she take more, less, none or a different variety? I try every day to be a supportive, encouraging and sensitive parent…but one who also provides clear expectations for respect and behavior. Most days, I feel mediocre at best. On these days that are the most challenging though, I try to remember that I am the one that’s here, living this life with my daughter. I remind myself of all possibilities for her future and if I can just keep trying to support and
advocate for her, she will be able to exceed all our expectations and be exactly who she is meant to be 🙂
I’m going to say it clearly, here, for anyone who is misinformed: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not a child whom is misbehaving. It is not a child who is unkind, mean, bad-tempered or out of control. The parent of a child with ADHD is not a bad parent, they are not “spoiling” their child, they are not showing a lack of discipline, the parent are doing the best they can on this much maligned condition.
Here are the facts: ADHD is a real medical condition, research shows that it is genetic and runs in families. ADHD is not limited to boys, however girls are more likely to go undiagnosed. You do not outgrow ADHD, it is a lifelong condition that with treatment and strategies becomes manageable.
For more information about ADHD please see Understood, a group of 15 non-profit organizations whose mission is to provide families resources and tools in navigating education, treatment and other alternatives for ADHD.
Lastly, for all parents and children who face the Challenge of ADHD, like my beautiful friend here, please know that you are not alone.