It’s been quite a while since I blogged anything about ADHD. As I looked over past blog posts, I realize I’ve taken a little vacation from learning and helping my daughter with it. I didn’t mean to, it just became easy to get complacent and right now I feel a bit chastened. Don’t get me wrong, I never forget it’s there. We deal with it every day as I struggle to find effective and successful communication with my teen daughter. But as she’s grown and made such amazing strides compensating on her own for the struggles, I’ve allowed myself to take a backseat. I haven’t been reading, learning and keeping up with information on it and I know how valuable that is. Today I just feel like I owe that kiddo a shout out. She is amazing and she can (and does) do hard things every single day!
In the past 16 months we’ve lived in three states, moved two and half times and lived in 4 different homes. That’s a boatload of new neighbors, schools, church friends and social experiences. It’s a lot of change to digest in a short time. In fact, it makes my head spin to see it written out like this! Top it all off with moving headlong into teen years and it’s no wonder I’m a bit dazed.
As a parent, it’s hard to know when and how to share important information about your kids. Everyone knows something about their children that others don’t. Sometimes this information is big, sometimes it’s small but either way it’s a balancing act for the parent to identify the right times/situations in which to share these nuggets of wisdom. You constantly ask yourself if sharing will result in greater good, or make things worse. For example, when my daughter began Kindergarten I made sure the teacher was aware of her adoption status. This wasn’t because I wanted to call attention to her being adopted, in fact quite the opposite as I wanted to avoid any awkwardness about it. I felt the teacher needed to know before her upcoming family unit that my daughter’s details about birth and inherited genetic traits would be different and potentially awkward. Moreover, at that age she herself was still developing an understanding and I needed to help make sure it was positive. It was the right time to share this information, but it is still deeply personal and can carry unexpected consequences good and bad; it has to be held carefully. Her ADHD is much like this and because of those unknown and potentially unexpected consequences, I tend to err on the side of sharing too little especially as she gets older and gains more independence. I also worry that sharing can result in preconceived ideas or judgements that could be more harmful than helpful. Most days I’m a drowning puppy just struggling to keep my head above water. This is when some of my friends would say they put a dollar in the jar for future counseling and just move on. You do the best you can at any given time with what you have, but you always worry that it’s not enough or too much.
Well, last week my daughter (now 14) had a run-in with a fellow classmate. I found myself sitting in a room with the teachers, my daughter, the other party and that child’s parent discussing the mishap and trying to resolve any unkind feelings. As soon as I understood the dynamics involved, it was obvious why there had been some fireworks. Unfortunately, I was the only one in the room who could see with that clarity because I was the only one who understood key information about my daughter’s ADHD. I found myself wishing I’d been able to share my knowledge before the confrontation. With my daughter’s permission, I was able to share it after with the teacher. While it ended on a positive note, I couldn’t help but question if I’d dropped the ball in the balancing act of sharing information which would have altered the conflict resolution scenario.
Here’s the reality. My daughter has ADHD. She will always have it. It won’t magically go away as she gets older. But as she continues to mature and develop she can learn to balance and counter its detriments and live a functional and happy life. The strides she’s made in the past two years are evidence of this. But it’s still hard and I often forget how hard. In reviewing past articles I’ve written on it I came across this list on communication and ADHD and immediately felt myself sink in my chair for how much I’ve forgotten. Four years ago I found this checklist and shared thoughts on it. The intent is for the person with ADHD to circle and rate which of the items in the list they either acknowledge themselves or have been told by others they struggle with. Constant review of the list can help them see if they’re improving. Where I felt short was the constant review because in four years the issues have shifted for my daughter a great 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
The reason I share this is an effort to help others understand what “hard” means for my daughter. Most of us have experience with several of the above issues at one point or another in our lives. But my daughter knows each item intimately and experiences all of them simultaneously, every single day. I can’t even imagine that. She doesn’t experience them because she’s not smart or doesn’t care, she experiences them because she has a medical condition that impedes her ability to communicate. She has no control over it happening, only learned responses in dealing with the results. Her condition, while not as visible as an eye astigmatism with corrective lenses, is every bit as real. In fact, the lack of visibility is harder on her because it feeds the lack of understanding and harsh judgements of those around her. I wish so much I could remember myself, as well as share with others how hard she works to keep relations good with everyone she knows. I wish the rest of us could have a little more compassion and understanding accepting her mistakes with it. If she can do hard things, so can we.