Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy ADHD Awareness Month!

Happy ADHD Awareness Month!  I guess it is fitting that October is the month for this awareness since it was in the month of October that S received his diagnosis of ADD (2006).  His diagnosis was truly a life changer for him and our family.

I have written about the lengthy process we went through for him to receive his diagnosis.  I have also written a short post about parenting a child who has ADD.  There is no short answer to parenting any child. There definitely isn’t a short answer to parenting a child who has ADD/ADHD.

What does ADHD Awareness month mean?  
It means we are trying to make others aware of ADHD and teaching what ADHD is.

I used to be a special education teacher with my focus being on Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.  We probably covered Attention Deficit Disorder in some of my classes, but I can’t recall.  I graduated 20 years ago.  I worked with some students who had ADHD.  Years later, I had a son who was diagnosed with ADD.

Was I aware of ADD?  A little bit.  Not like I am now, and I am still learning along with my husband. I don't know it all.  I never will.  I do know that I can recognize more traits associated with ADD than I could before. Having ADD isn't just being easily distracted.  It is so much more than that.

What have I learned on our journey?
1.  ADD doesn’t impact a student only in the classroom.  I fully understood the impact of S’s ADD on his life as I started blogging this summer.  As I was writing about transition plans we have established for him called “The Four Pillars of Life”, I realized how much his ADD impacts his life in and out of the education arena especially his executive functioning.  This is something we have been aware of, but it took me sitting down to write things out to see how much it impacts his life. This would be why S's neurologist told us that he doesn't believe in only prescribing medicine for school days.  "ADD doesn't go away on the weekends or during summer vacation.  He will still have it."

2.  Medication may/may not be beneficial.  It is beneficial to my son.  He knows his Concerta helps him. There are times he talks about not wanting to take it.  We tell him that he is almost 18; talk to the doctor and discuss it with him.  99% of the time, his response is, "but it helps me."

3.  Each child is unique; however, as my husband and I read "Why ADHDers Act the Way We Do: Understanding ADHD Behavior", we looked at each other and said, "It is S!"  There are so many wonderful resources out there to help us understand how S's brain works.

4.  ADD doesn't have to be a negative.  My son has some struggles in his life because of it (planning, prioritizing work, monitoring time).  It also brings him many unique talents and gifts that I lack since my brain doesn't work like his brain does.  S is very creative.  He is a great out-of-the-box thinker which has helped him come up with solutions for adaptations required for his Cerebral Palsy.  When he was in the first grade, he came up with a solution to make the boy's bathroom more accessible to him.  He told his teacher, she sent him to the office to get the custodian, and it was fixed within the hour.

5. People are quick to judge.  This is why they must be made aware.  ADD/ADHD is so much more than being easily distracted.  It isn't a matter of needing better parenting. Punishing the child doesn't make it go away.  It isn't as simple as giving a pill (that's a whole judgment issue there also).

6.  Talking to adults who have ADD is extremely beneficial.  We have a close family friend who has ADHD. Whether she knows it or not, she has been a great wealth of information for us.  She has very eloquently explained to us what it is like when she is not on her medication.

7.  Talking to other parents is helpful.  They get it!  They  know where we are coming from.  Our massage therapist has a son with ADD.  When we go in for massages, we talk about parenting these children - the challenges and the positives.  I feel so refreshed and rejuvenated when we leave there because of the massage and the sharing.

8.  Find helpful resources.

9.   A sense of humor is necessary in life!  We have often told S that we know God has a sense of humor giving him Cerebral Palsy (taking a long time to do simple tasks) and ADD (being easily distracted).  He laughs.

It has been a journey with this child.  He has taught us a great deal. As he approaches adulthood, we know that he can take the talents that ADD provides him to go and do some great things.  In the meantime, you will find me on the couch with chocolate.

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