One challenging thing is having to tell your story over and over to every doctor, therapist, counselor, teacher, etc. Also, trying to decide what Jason can handle and what he can’t. Watching him struggle with his peers because he cannot read the social cues is also difficult.
It’s really difficult to try to separate what behaviors your child really doesn’t have control over and what behaviors they should perhaps be accountable for. I think it’s really hard. You find if they can modify their behavior, then you want to do the appropriate parenting to help them do that and yet sometimes they just can’t. So you have to understand that it is not always their fault they don’t have total control.
Stress of being a teen
So this year, Stephanie’s a junior in high school, and that’s been a big leap as far as taking on a number of AP classes. And she’s trying to learn the tools to recognize the flags within herself that let her know that there is a medical situation that needs to be addressed as opposed to just the stress of being a teenager. So I wouldn’t say it’s a breakdown, but it’s more like a starting to come apart. And the whole organization of her life and her day and what’s she’s able to typically accomplish starts slipping from her grasp and she recognizes it and starts to internalize it thinking she can cope with it and it is really anxiety building until she starts saying some of the words or phrases that are flags that I’ve learned to recognize over the years and then we kind of put it back together again. I say “Oh yes, we need to go and check in and see if the meds are doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Problems with peers
I think the hardest thing has been Stephanie’s alienation from others her own age. She has a remarkable connection with younger children, older children, and adults, but relating to her own age group has always been a struggle. She had my husband, myself, and her sister that understood her and loved her with total abandon, but then to bump into not having a best friend like other kids, or running off and playing in the school yard the way two other little girls might do, she would tend to be alone. As her protection, she would keep people out by putting her nose in a book. Her original being different in that she maybe had some annoying physical things where she was impulsive and would cut in and other things like that would bother other kids that were trying to learn to socialize set her apart and set her up for unkindnesses from other children.
I would say the isolation that it causes is a big challenge, unless you get involved with a network. There were actually times, before we had a network, that my husband would sit in a chair looking out into the living room watch the other kids playing with kids and said he felt like he was in the twilight zone.
Not having enough money
I do think a big problem is, maybe because I’m a social worker, I think that it is a huge disadvantage if you don’t have enough money to afford to get help. Then you can’t pay for the neuropsychological testing– that’s why we went through the school system to get ours done, because it is part of the tax dollars. We could not afford a lot of things that might have helped us. I can remember kids getting tutored who didn’t even need to be tutored; parents’ wanted them to get A’s instead of B’s. I’m thinking, “If I could just pay for one of those tutors I could get my child the help she needs to figure out how to study.” I do think that there is a neuropsychological testing— that’s why we went through the school system to get ours done, because it is part of the tax dollars. We could not afford a lot of things that might have helped us. I can remember kids getting tutored who didn’t even need to be tutored; parents’ wanted them to get A’s instead of B’s. I’m thinking, “If I could just pay for one of those tutors I could get my child the help she needs to figure out how to study.” I do think that there is a socio economic disadvantage in the way we help kids who need more of the services. There are learning centers in the school systems. Megan went to the learning center at the high school, but in truth what she got the most out of was through that tutor one hour a week. So at the bare minimum the school provided something, but we really had to pull it together to pay for a tutor.
Putting aside our own goals
Putting aside our own goals in life, and saying, “We have a nice, nice young man here.” And just love Nick for who he is. And you have to nurture the strengths and support the problem or weakness areas.
Having ADD in the third grade is not the same thing as having ADD in the eleventh grade. It depends where you are developmentally. Of course kids want to do things on their own and in their own way, but they don’t always remember to take their medication, and then you don’t know how much you are supposed to intervene. Should you leave them alone and let them figure it out on their own or should you not? For example, how many times do you go to school with a paper a child has forgotten to bring in? Or do you say, “Well you are just going to get marked off on that paper because you forgot to bring it?” Those things are very complicated.
Hard without support
I don’t know how people do it who can’t afford help. I think you run into harder things. You can’t afford a private tutor, or you can’t afford all the music lessons, or you can’t send them to these pricy camps. We could indulge his interests, but I think if you can’t do some of those things, and you’re not in a good school system, or you don’t figure out how to negotiate with the school system and what your rights are, it can be hard.
The reward is seeing Stephanie come into her own and seeing her successes. Where there is still worry, there used to be so much more worry about her, and I would say that with every passing day I realize that she probably has been blessed with many more gifts than anybody I know and I really feel like she just has so many opportunities–she can pick whatever she wants and she will succeed.
Caring about underdogs
I think most of the kids with ADHD are very smart, they’re very loving, they’re good kids. They’re honest kids. Lindsay has a very big heart–if she sees somebody who is an underdog or being picked on, or somebody who’s new at the school, she’ll be the first one over there to help them out. She knows what it’s like to be the underdog, having ADHD, and what it’s like to be different. So I think most of these kids are really caring kids. They care about other people.
Creativity and adaptability
Well, they are very creative and they are such good kids. They have so much to give to the world if people could only appreciate that. When I talk about creativity, I’m talking more in the ability to adapt to whatever circumstance they were in and somehow manage to survive it and come out on the other side of it stronger, not necessarily artistic creativity.
Funny and amazing
I just think Megan is the funniest, most amazing kid on the face of the earth. I think she is lovable and some of her lack of focus and distraction and forgetfulness is also very humorous. We have found humor in it. She takes things so literally. When she was little I told her we had to take the dog to the vet and she said, “What’s a vet?” and I told her, “The dog doctor” and she kept saying, “Well that’s just not possible, there can’t be such a thing as a dog doctor.” I go, “Honey, why not? When you get sick I take you to the doctor. Why wouldn’t we take a dog to the doctor if he gets sick?” She said, “How is a dog going to use a stethoscope?” She thought that a veterinarian was a dog that was a doctor. That’s just how she thinks. But that is what so endearing about her. She really is extremely lovable and humorous. She is an amazing kid.
Just a love
Both of my children who have ADD have real insights that are different, like they march to a different drummer. Not in a bad way, actually in a very good way: they are very sensitive, they pick up on cues, they realize if something is bothering someone. They are real sensitive to that sort of thing which is pretty interesting. The older one is real creative and he actually is not on medication anymore and is doing extremely well, is in college and is doing really great things and is very sort of level headed and easy going so he’s doing really well. And Emma, she’s pretty interesting. I don’t know the best way to describe this– she’s just a love. She’s always happy; she rarely gets frustrated and even with the difficulties that she has, she really doesn’t get frustrated. She just seems to enjoy everything that she does.