ADHD, Our Family and What I’m Learning

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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.

Frontal Lobes

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 focused 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 doesn’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 are my lists if you want to use them, too.

Morning List – .docx
Evening List – .docx

I stuck the lists in a clear plastic pocket, gave her a dry-erase marker, and now she only has to remember to check her task list.

Next Steps

I’m changing pediatricians but when that’s finished, I’ll take her to be evaluated. They’ll give me and the teachers a checklist like this one or this one.

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.

Your Story

I would like to hear from you. What is your experience with ADHD? Do you recommend any other books or resources?

UPDATE: (1/2018)

After getting my daughter tested, we learned that she is super smart. (Which is cool! I need to give her more credit. #parentinggoals) Our biggest ah-ha that I wanted to tell you was that while ADHD is an issue for her, her bigger struggle is with VERY slow processing. (Like the 1%.)

It makes a lot of sense now that we know this. I can see why her attention would drifts– because it takes her so long to access information or think something through. Can you imagine trying to solve a problem, read a sentence, or answer a question but you can’t quite get make your brain process fast enough?

And now that she gets extra time to do work and tests, her grades are much better!

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  1. The processing reminds me of Irlen Syndrome. That’s what it felt like before I had my glasses. I thought I wasn’t as smart as other students who had no difficulty reading articles. It took me another 10 years to discover for myself that I probably had ADHD.

  2. Thank you for this…I just had my son evaluated, and due to him having tics (which I’ve read in some other articles, etc. can also be a sign of ADHD), his Dr. is recommending we try to keep him off stimulants as the tics can really worsen. So, we’re starting the list, planner, uber organized route! Wish me luck! I know we can do it, it’s just going to take a lot of work! I actually liked how my Dr. put it, he said we need to get him organized now, as you don’t want him to become the adult that can’t figure out why his power got cut off and it’s simply because he just forgot to pay the bill. He mentioned those Repo shows on TV, he said he’s convinced 90% of the people that get their vehicles taken are ADHD and never learned the skills and simply forgot to pay their bill. The bills are lying in some pile somewhere.