April 17, 2015

Parenting and ADHD

No matter how hard we try, there are things some of us just can't outgrow--like disorders and disabilities. I always thought when his elementary and high school 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 twenty years, and I'm a young mother of three boys, trying to understand why one 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, I worry about him 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 Asperger's with inappropriate outbursts and actions. There's also depression and addictive behaviors. I'm not going to lie, it's heartbreaking 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 Asperger's, Tourette's, or ADD, for example, don't send clear signals to those around them that they have a disability. Instead, these kids who struggle their way to 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. It's easy to escape. 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 the desks beneath your feet, but he is still trying to find his way out.

Stay balanced,
~Danielle Thorne


Judy Thomas said...

My 14 year old son has ADHD and a very high IQ so although he gets fidgety in class, can't focus on writing everything down and is disruptive, if the teacher asks him questions he knows all the answers.This seems to 'upset' a lot of teachers and he is bullied by students and teachers a lot. As a mother I want to go to the school and do a bit of bullying back but I can't, I have to talk to the school, step back and wait for the next upset to be dealt with. I find that there are not many tolerant people out there that accept him for who he is but the ones that do are the most amazing friends he could ever have. I know it's going to get harder when he is older.The doctors say that it will probably wear off as he grows up but I don't think so.
I think there needs to be more education to help people understand what these kids are going through.And there familys too.It is not easy but I would not swap my boy for anything in the world, he is unique, loving ( when he wants to be) and looks at things in ways that make my head spin. I have taken my son off the meds that were causing depression and the happy boy I have now is a joy to see.
I think we can hope for tolerance and acceptance but theres always going to be those that are ignorant a--holes. As parents we can do nothing but Love them, try to educate others, deal with misunderstandings and be there for them.
Thank you for sharing your story, it really does make it easier to know that you are not the only one, Thank you :)

Danielle Thorne said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Judy. This is such a common challenge yet people still take it for granted or don't try to understand those of us going through it or with children going through it.