I have one friend who has two sons who both have ADD. Those kids have no learning issues at all; one of them is at Yale at the moment. It is a little bit different, but I’ve talked to her quite a bit. I’ve talked to many other friends. It is very helpful people don’t necessarily say the answer is x or y, but they help you think it out a little bit.
We connected with the National Alliance for Mentally Ill (NAMI) They were wonderful; my husband and I are actually both now on the Board of Directors. We were so impressed by how much they were able to help in terms of education and support. They also do advocacy; we really didn’t need it at that point, but the education and the support were phenomenal. They have a wonderful library and at that time there was very little out as far as books. There were a couple books that I think everybody had probably read. Especially when we started going the bipolar route, there was nothing on bipolar kids until The Bipolar Child came out. But just the fact that you could talk to the other parents and educate each other on what they have tried, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked. There were informal meetings; they had formal meetings as well. They would bring guest speakers in to talk on different topics and actually, a few years later, they started a Visions for Tomorrow course, which is a 12 week educational course that runs the gamut on mental health issues from ADHD to Schizophrenia to Bipolar, how to navigate the system, so those kinds of things. That was very helpful.
Lindsay goes to a girls’ group. It’s basically social skills. It’s girls who are having trouble making friends and keeping friends and socially interacting. She loooves it, and it’s really made a big difference for her–a big difference. And there’s been a big difference at school. I’ve noticed a big difference at home now, too, because she’s on the phone all the time. She’s interacting a lot more with kids. She just started camp like a week ago– she loves it now. She’s talking to a lot more kids. The group seems to really be helping her understand how to react and how to talk to kids, because she has had a really hard time with it. Before, when a kid didn’t agree with what she wanted to do, or how she wanted to do it, she would say, “Well, too bad, then. That’s what I want to do. Go home.” And so she had one or two close friends, and then other than that it was like, “I’m mad! Go away!” and then she couldn’t understand why people were going away. Now she seems to be understanding better how to interact with kids. She’s on the phone a lot, on the computer, e mailing people she knows, doing more things socially, so the group does seem to be helping her.
We did family counseling when Andrew was in junior high and transitioning to high school and he had some social issues and some other things. It is a tough time for a kid anyway, let alone a kid that has ADD and is a little bit different than other kids. So we actually had him go to a counselor and we did family counseling. He would go sometimes and sometimes he and Michael, his brother who is very close in age to him, would go together and then sometimes we would all go and sometimes just my husband and I would go. The younger kids would sit off coloring somewhere and the counselor would try to get them to participate and ask if they had any feedback about what was going on. My daughter, who is now sixteen, would chime in once and awhile about what she saw that was going on. But I think it was very helpful to have this outsider, this counselor, be talking to the different kids and then be talking to my husband and me about things. We were both working full time at the time and pretty busy and active and going in a hundred directions– we had to make some changes in our life. My husband and I were both in active duty in the military and at the time we were teaching, which doesn’t sound like a real high stress job, but we worked pretty long hours and having five children that are involved in hockey, soccer, all the things. My counselor thought I was a nut case. She said, “You’ve got to slow something down in your life.” And we realized that that it wasn’t as good for the kids, either, if we were always so busy all the time. So when all this was happening, my husband developed some health problems and three years ago we retired. I pretty much just do some part time work now, my husband still teaches full time, but not in the army. I think that helped. Our family sorted of needed that to kind of shift gears a little bit, and not be going a hundred miles an hour all the time.