When I was growing up I heard my parents talk about ADD. At some point in time, I learned that ADD stood for Attention Deficit Disorder. As a child, I got the impression that kids who had ADD were hyperactive troublemakers who were put on medication to compensate for their parents’ lack of effort. Not the prettiest (or most accurate) perspective. Turns out, ADD (now ADHD with varying types) is very, very different from what I understood it to be.
How Did We Get Here?
In the summer of 2016 we were struggling almost daily with our eldest daughter, Elle. Friends and family that I spoke to about our concerns reasoned our relationship was naturally shifting since we had just added another child after 9 years. While that made sense, Adam and I still felt it in our guts that something bigger was going on.
I eventually made an appointment with Elle’s pediatrician to get his perspective on the situation. The pediatrician was absolutely wonderful. He took Elle’s vitals and just chatted with her throughout the exam. Afterward, he and I stepped into another room while Elle hung out with a nurse. The pediatrician could see some of the same things we saw: lack of follow-through on multi-step instructions and slow processing for instructions that didn’t make sense. We got a referral to a specialty clinic that could run some tests on Elle which could, perhaps, help us understand what, if anything, was going on.
After 4 hours at a local university’s diagnostic clinic, the results were in: Elle had ADHD, inattentive type.
Three Types of ADHD
In 2013 the 5th and most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published. It defines ADHD with three sub-types:
- ADHD, inattentive type
- ADHD, hyperactive-impulsive type
- ADHD, combination type (some mix of the above)
We Have a Diagnosis: Now What?
We left the clinic with a lot of mixed feelings. It was past lunch time and we were all starving, so we went out to lunch. Adam and I texted each other brief thoughts about the experience and the results during lunch, but we had to wait until after the girls were in bed to really talk about it. It was a very long day.
Following the diagnosis, I went into full research mode. I spent hours looking up blogs, scientific journal articles, and book recommendations. Armed with new knowledge I expanded our use of her reading timer to include timing tasks; posted very specific schedules/routines around her bedroom, bathroom, and homework area; and started cutting sugar from her diet. As I read and understood more about ADHD I felt more empowered to choose how to react to her inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. I also was able to see these attributes as gifts and talents rather than as a tiresome burden.
5 Main Lessons I’ve Learned
So, here we are, five months after receiving Elle’s diagnosis. We’ve learned a ton and continue to learn. Here are the 5 main lessons I’ve learned that have really helped me on this journey so far.
- Getting help does not make you a bad parent. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. There are some things you just can’t do best on your own. If you feel you should get help (from a friend, a family member, or a medical professional), get it.
- Looking for the positives can more than compensate for the stress of managing ADHD. Once I started looking at Elle’s behavior in a more positive light (she’s often distracted because she has an incredible imagination and it may take her a lot longer to memorize vocabulary but she can engineer almost anything out of tape and cardboard) our relationship changed for the better.
- Routines and structure help a TON. This was one suggestion the diagnostic clinic gave us – provide more structure at home. Implementing more structure for Elle has increased peace and happiness in our home for everyone.
- Good communication is key to maintaining a good relationship with your spouse. Sometimes you two will disagree on a treatment approach. Sometimes one of you will resent the other for not helping “enough.” Sometimes one of you will forget a new routine. Talk it out. It’ll be a whole lot easier to help your child with his or her ADHD without adding a strained marital relationship in the mix.
- There will still be bad days. Even on days when you limit sugar intake, use the timer for tasks, and stick to the normal routine, you may still have a day full of strife, impatience, and discouragement. Just remember that one bad day (or week) doesn’t guarantee that you’re losing progress or that you’ll never get a handle on things. Just keep on keeping on, momma.
Click here to read 5 more things I’ve learned about ADHD.
Below I’ve compiled some of the resources I’ve found most helpful so far. If you’re not quite sure whether you want to dive head first into the pool just yet, check out Understood.org’s learning and attention issues simulation called “Through Your Child’s Eyes.” This simulation helped me truly understand what our daughter is up against in regards to her inattention.
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Resources I’ve Found Helpful
These are the resources I recommend for understanding just what ADHD is (and isn’t):
- Dr. Edward Hallowell’s Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder
- Dr. Hallowell’s book was recommended to us by several parents of ADHD children. I just recently finished it and now I can jump on the bandwagon and recommend it as well. The information is easy to digest, with true examples of how ADHD affects people’s lives. Dr. Hallowell himself has ADHD which offers a unique perspective on the disorder. The positive way in which he talks about the disorder is insightful and encouraging. The book has sections on what ADHD is like for children, adults, spouses, and families. It talks equally about non-pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical interventions. It’s only the last chapter do you get the biological history of the disorder, learning about the actual mechanics of the ADHD brain.
- CHADD stands for “Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” This non-profit organization is recommended in Dr. Howell’s book. It is a long-standing organization committed to helping children and adults understand and manage ADHD. CHADD is the organization that helped lobby for legislation that benefits students on individualized education plans (IEPs).
- A quick search on Facebook for pages that gave helpful tips regarding attention issues brought me to Understood.org. I have absolutely loved the practical articles they publish that are easy-to-understand and provide just enough information to see why their proposed suggestions might help. A turning point in my understanding of our daughter’s Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD, inattentive type) was trying to complete an attention issue simulation. You can check out the simulation by clicking here. (There are simulations for other issues relating to writing, reading, and organization as well.) Understood.org’s Facebook page regularly hosts live chats with special education teachers, school counselors, and medical professionals and can be a fabulous resource in and of themselves.
- This is another Facebook page find and provides a steady stream of information on the social, cognitive, and emotional effects of ADHD. ADDitudemag.com also features a lot of reader-submitted glimpses into life with ADHD tackling everything from relationship in marriage to educators that have made a difference in the reader’s life.
- How to ADHD
- This is a YouTube channel hosted by a spunky and articulate gal named Jessica. I love watching her videos because she genuinely loves her ADHD. She couples her optimism and candor with incredible, well-researched information. Jessica’s 2017 Mother’s Day tribute to her mother ended so many stigmas for me about using medication as a tool for ADHDers. While Jessica is very open about feeling most successful when she’s on her ADHD medication, she has fantastic tips on how to mitigate ADHD symptoms without medication. We’ve gotten some helpful hints on how to not just manage but embrace ADHD.