As one who used to believe that ADHD was a bunch of hogwash excusing parents from parenting responsibility, I’ve had plenty of repentance time in dealing with it since my daughter began school and was diagnosed ADD at the age of 8. I’ve also had plenty of community service time educating others about it as I am my daughter’s advocate. I guess as with all things in life, this is one of those areas where if you can’t see it the credibility is easily denied. And everything about the causes of ADHD are in the brain, thus generally keeping it invisible to the human eye although the symptoms and consequences of it are extremely visible. This is why ADHD is so often misunderstood as a behavior problem and not a medical condition. It’s also why ADHD got so much media attention when a study was able to show us the brain activity of an ADHD brain compared to a normal one. There was now proof making some aspects of it visible and thus more credible to the general public. (And I thought it was just a bunch of psychologists sitting around dreaming up new diagnosis and revenue channels – my bad.)
The way I’ve visualized the problem is to picture in my mind a bridge that connects the two areas of the brain responsible for our most basic functioning skills. In my brain the bridge is unfettered and messages travel back and forth freely. In my daughter’s brain her bridge is riddled with obstacles and there may even be areas where pieces are missing. So her messages often get blocked, bounce around or drop out entirely. It’s not something she can control by simply “trying harder” any more than someone who has an astigmatism in their eye could see clear if they would just try harder to focus. Nothing makes this confusion more apparent than the simple social skill of communication.
While many of us deal with our own personal struggles in the communication department, an ADHD mind has additional challenges. If we take the time to understand them it becomes not only easier to deal with and tolerate the issues, but also helpful for the person struggling so much to overcome these obstacles. While reading yesterday, I came across a checklist for this topic. The design is to have the person with ADHD circle a number showing how much of a problem this is for them. The key difference here is that while you and I may have some variation of some of these my daughter deals with almost every one at various levels. As a parent, it is so much easier for me to see it in her and it helps a great deal to realize that it’s not you and that you’re not alone. These resources exist for the very reason that others are dealing with all these same things every day and that is a powerful message and comfort to parents in the trenches. I’ll share this brief list here because I think it’s a great starting point in helping see and understand why ADHD is such a big deal.
Ability to identify and express your feelings
Check-repeat what you heard and ask if you heard it right
Join a conversation without disruption
Stay on track in a conversation
Identify and reflect feelings of others
Actively let others know you are following the conversation
Miss pieces of information-“blinks”
Ability to keep a conversation going
Voice too loud or too soft
Speak too quickly
Too quiet-rarely speaking in conversations
Order or boss others
Criticize-judge or make evaluative comments
Disregard or minimize statements of others
This list hit me with great impact and caused an instant feeling of greater empathy for what my daughter struggles with every day. It rejuvenates my patience batteries and the desire to help her with these common annoyances that aren’t an indication of how she feels about me nor is it a display of disrespect. My job is to help her learn how to find ways to trigger combat options for these things, ways to help her remember to hold her tongue instead of blurting what comes to mind when it comes to mind, support in helping her see the way these common things impact her social relationships with others. In short, my job is to help her learn how to succeed now so that future lessons will be less painful and her future relationships will be more successful.
We’ve been helping her with the interruption aspect since she was able to converse with us and in general she’s got this one down very well needing few prompts now that she’s 10. However, the ability to express her feelings, to actively show us she’s still engaged in conversation, identify and reflect feelings of others and disregarding/minimizing comments of others are all huge right now. As a parent these things make you absolutely batty, especially when they surface during a discipline moment or discussion.
So if you’ve noticed most of these things on a regular basis with someone you know or care for it may be an indication that they have a legitimate medical reason for their actions and not just a rude behavior issue. And if you’re a parent or loved one helping an ADHD mind on a regular basis it can help you just to review lists like this once and while to remember what doesn’t come naturally to those you’re helping. I know it has for me.