September 19, 2013

ADHD: All Grown Up

No matter how hard we try, there are things some of us just can't outgrow--like disorders and disabilities. I always thought when childhood education was over, ADHD wouldn't be a problem. I was wrong.

Nobody knew what Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or ADHD) were when I was growing up. Back then, kids who could not pay attention or stay organized were labeled as lazy or trouble. Worse, they were held back year after year even though they were clearly smart enough to understand their homework. It just didn't get done. 

Fast forward about twenty years, and I'm a young mother of three boys, trying to understand why one
Family Photos: There's always that one kid...
child spends his school day in second grade crawling under desks while the teacher talks. He turns twenty minutes of homework into two hours. ADHD. 

I feel fortunate to live in a time when this disability is recognized, but that doesn't mean everything has turned out rosy. Some young adults with ADD and ADHD still struggle once they move beyond high school. Some stay on medication to function in college or hold a job, others quit cold turkey. I have adult friends who live with this disorder. I have a child, too. As a parent of an ADHD young adult who can't bear the side effects of medication for ADHD, I live every day worrying just as much as I did when he was in elementary school. 

ADHD can come with other issues besides a short attention span and hyperactivity. They can be mild or extreme. Yes, some ADHD folks are slow to blossom. They may be loud or immature. Sometimes, they may border on Aspergers with inappropriate outbursts and actions. There's also depression and addictive behaviors. I'm not going to lie, it's hard to raise a child with a disorder, but my biggest frustration lies with other people and their impatience with those who are "different."

It's one thing to have an obvious physical or mental handicap, but those souls who struggle to get along every day with social challenges brought on by Aspergers, Tourettes, or ADD, for example, don't send clear signals to those around them that they have a disability. Instead, these kids who struggle into young adulthood are categorized as weird or strange. It's high school all over again, on the college campus or the minimum wage job--if they can get one.

At our core, I believe we are a kind and sympathetic society. Most people go out of their way to be friendly and patient with those who clearly aren't like everybody else. But ADHD doesn't come with a billboard that announces, "It's the way I'm wired!" What I wish for as a parent, is more patience and tolerance for those people who fall between the cracks. 

ADHD is growing up. These young adults need jobs. They need understanding professors. They are starved for friendship. It's no wonder to me that today's youth spend all of their time in virtual reality. Virtual reality can be a haven. The real world needs to take a step back. It's about more than bullying. It's even about more than tolerance. It's called acceptance

I never thought that ADHD would be much of an issue once the school years ended and my child became old enough to vote. It was a mistake. With high school out of the way, I am now fumbling my way through mid-life parenting trying to guide a struggling young man in directions even I'm not sure about. 

Some people say they outgrew it, but that's not the case in our family. ADHD has not gone away. I've accepted now that it never will, but like any other handicap, I plead for others to give that one person a chance. Don't just be kind. Be a friend. Let him hang around with you awhile, even if he's loud and different. Loyal to the core and eager to please, he may no longer be crawling around at your feet under the desk, but he is still trying to find his way out. 

Stay Balanced!
Danielle Thorne


Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Danielle,

Thanks for reminding all of us to take the time to think about what others around us may be dealing with and be more accepting and open to them.

Blessing to you and to your son.

Celia Yeary said...

Danielle..bless you. I was stunned because you have described our oldest grandson perfectly , down to the "starved for friendship." He's 15, adopted, bi-racial-and these only add to his myriad of problems. He has baffled doctors because he also has weird things he does with reading, like insert synonyms for numerous words--and does so without thinking or slowing down. He's brilliant--tests out of math and history, but takes hours to complete one homework assignment.
He does best with other people besides his family. As a tenth grader now, he also has a job at Kroger's sacking groceries. Since he is a "quitter" about everything, we're all amazed that he worked all summer, and now works weekends. But you see, he's earning money..and he does love money. And he gets to talk to people--something he is best at.
Well, I could go on and on, but I'm only sharing, for you know far better than I do because I'm not raising him.
I feel closer to you, little personal connection, and I see you in a whole different light. Hang in there, trust in God, and move along.

Danielle Thorne said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Gail & Celia. Life is a challenge for all of us in one way or the other. Celia, I wish your grandson the best. How great he has a job & can talk with people & get some socialization. I've received several letters today. Loneliness is an epidemic among kids & it's up to society to be a little kinder & more patient.