Do you have a child with attention issues?
I’ve wondered for years if my oldest daughter had attention issues. She almost always had a difficult time focusing but sometimes could focus intently for hours. I thought I would wait and see how she did in school before investigating any farther. But, recently she’s been having more trouble — taking a lot longer to get things done than her classmates but more than that, I was seeing a level of defiance and rudeness that concerned me.
When we spoke about this behavior, she told me she felt like she was outside herself watching but couldn’t stop it.
Was this just an excuse? I wanted to have compassion yet high behavior expectations so I set about to learn more information before I decided how to react to her behavior.
I knew it was time to get up to speed on ADHD.
(*As a teacher, I knew for sure that ADHD was a very real diagnosis — not to label a child, but to help children better understand how their brain works and find helpful strategies for learning.)
I spoke with an ADHD expert who said yes, the defiance could very well be a symptom of ADHD. (!!) I had no idea.
Shocked, I wanted to learn more.
The Family ADHD Solution
So, I read The Family ADHD Solution by Mark Bertin, MD — and it was life-changing.
But before I tell you about it, I want to tell you that discovering that my husband had ADHD literally saved our marriage. Because once I realized that his intention wasn’t to be disrespectful, that his brain was easily distracted, and he really loved me, we had something from which we could build. (Talk about life-changing!) I found out that ADHD often runs in the family, or at least children whose parents are ADHD are more pre-disposed to having it. I also discovered that a lot of adults with ADHD are entrepreneurs and very creative. Cool, huh?
Back to the book.
I gained a broader understanding of ADHD.
ADHD is not just a focusing issue. “ADHD is a disorder of self-regulation and a set of skills called “executive function.” With ADHD, the frontal lobes are under-active and easily overwhelmed by tasks that seem easy to others. Add that to not great executive function and you get behaviors like melt-downs, impulsive behaviors, and poor motivation. (Would that explain my daughter’s feeling that she wasn’t able to control what came out of her mouth?)
Oh, and remember how I noticed my daughter could focus for longer periods of time? Well, it turns out that like I’d seen in my husband, people with ADHD can hyperfocus, or over focus. Hmmmm. Interesting stuff.
Bertin writes, “ADHD is as frustrating for the children who have it as it is for adults trying to raise them.” (Feeling compassion, not annoyance now.)
But, it is hard for parents.”To teach a child with ADHD skills and change behaviors, parents must maintain their resolve over far longer stretches of time than they would with other children.” (That’s for sure!)
Besides attention management struggles, we also can see that people with ADHD have challenges with: task management, effort and motivation, emotional regulation, working memory, and self-monitoring.
More Lessons on ADHD
The book shares how mindfulness meditation can benefit children with ADHD as well as their adult caretakers — emphasizing how as parents, we must take care of ourselves so that we can be consistent with the boundaries and structures.
I liked how Bertin focuses on helping children with one thing at a time, and also making sure we go back to the skills the child needs — without skipping ahead on the developmental continuum and not seeing results. Crawl before Walk before Run.
One thing I knew I could do better to help my daughter, whether she has ADHD or not, was to create a list of tasks to do before school and after school. That way she didn’t have to try to keep it all in her memory – which is really hard for her and usually means that I end up nagging. Boo to that! Here they are if you want to use them, too.
I stuck it in a clear plastic pocket, gave her a dry-erase marker, and now she only has to remember to check her task list.
As far as medication goes, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I realize that sometimes medication can be a gift to help us be our best selves.
The ADHD Family Solution book says that a combination of medication and behavior therapy gets the best outcomes according to studies. It mentions how medication can help children develop executive function skills.
I would like to hear from you. What is your experience with ADHD? Do you recommend any other books or resources?