Over the last few months since our family’s ADHD diagnoses, I’ve been counting my blessings and learning, always learning. I’ve read three books and countless magazine articles and blog posts. I’ve scoured forums and help groups. Yet the hardest part of this life-altering reality is not the disorder itself but the criticism of others.
It’s hard to read and hear from others that ADHD is a made-up disease, or that bad parents put their kids on drugs instead of parenting behaviors. It comes up on nearly every parent page or homeschool forum I visit. It’s implied in numerous conversations from well-meaning friends. Those comments and stigmas hurt, even though I know none of it is true. I’ve seen the challenges my dear ones face everyday, and I’ve seen how medicine has helped them to cope with and overcome these challenges.
A person with ADHD can’t just try harder; and a parent can’t just discipline it out of them. It’s not just a child who’s got the wiggles.
Don’t get me wrong. High-energy is part of the package, but only part of it. Anxiety, anger, and depression are also part of that package. Sensory processing issues are another huge part of the package. Distraction when you want to focus and, on the other hand, an inability to break your focus (hyper-focus) are other issues.
So what does that look like? My child’s tearful claim that he just can’t think when he’s spent an hour staring at 10 minutes of math that I know he is capable of—it’s legitimate. As are the claims that the truck driving by on the street outside is just too much noise, or that the pen scratches wrong on the paper, or that his fingers are sweaty and keep sliding on his pencil and distracting him. And his complaints night after night of not being able to sleep because his brain just keeps going. They aren’t excuses; it isn’t defiance. It’s all legitimate. His race car brain with bicycle breaks CAN’T just try harder. And when he goes into a violent rage at his own inabilities and failures, he can’t just calm down. It’s not my parenting, and it’s not my child. It’s the ADHD.
And when my child has chewed on the collar of her shirt until it is soaked and stretched out, plus eaten the end of a pencil, plus chewed her rubber band bracelet in two, and gotten out of her chair 7 times in the last 5 minutes, and is now actually sitting on the table (all in the same morning). She’s not doing it to push the boundaries or to intentionally irritate me. She’s not making excuses when she says she has forgotten what I have literally told her 1000s of times not to do. She honestly has no idea she’s even done it until I call her attention to it. And when she goes into an absolute melt down because it’s too hard to pick her sweater off the floor, or has disproportionate anxieties about going places, talking to people, or performing certain tasks, it’s not always laziness or defiance. It’s not poor parenting or a “bad kid.” It’s legitimate. And it’s the hallmark challenges of someone with ADHD trying to process their environment.
Now, put all of that together and then add on a toddler who rips through my house like a 3 foot tall tornado (stuffing felt Sir Topham Hat’s into my laptop disk drive and removing his diaper contents); there are days when I think I’ll lose my mind.
But you don’t tell a child who’s having trouble seeing to just squint harder at the chalkboard. You get him glasses. And you don’t tell a diabetic that he doesn’t really need insulin. Try all I want, my thyroid is not suddenly going to start working. I’m going to need some medicine most likely for the rest of my life. We live in a fallen world. We are a broken creation.
Am I worried about their medicine? No. It has been an absolute gift from God. Because I see my children functioning happily. I see their personalities and servant-hearts shine through that fog. I see my daughter, who would have countless melt-downs over putting her shoes away, excitedly giving me a tour of her room she just cleaned by herself or secretly surprising her brother by doing his chore, or delighted to show me how she organized the dishes in the cabinet. I see her joining in conversations and talking to people when normally she would have panicked and withdrawn. I see my son succeeding where he thought he was just stupid. I see him healing his relationship with his little brother and others.
Does that mean all of the challenges disappear? Oh, no. But they are brought down to size. We still have days like what I described above, but it’s not everyday. And I no longer ask myself “What is this child’s problem?” I know what it is, and we face it together.
My children are smart, happy, mostly well-behaved, and energetic—“wide open” as they would say in North Carolina. They are normal kids, who can really struggle processing the stimulation around them at times and managing the rip-roaring speed of their brains.
So if you tell me that this ADHD thing is all in their heads, I’ll totally agree with you. But we will be saying two different things.
**UPDATE: We have since addressed these issues with an ADHD Diet, with huge success. But I still feel the same sentiments expressed in this post, and acknowledge the need and benefit of medicine for some individuals. I’m thankful for meds and the opportunity they gave me to regain some sanity and remember who my kids really were.**