by Jennifer Shakeel
Imagine standing in an open field and having thousands of bees and flies surrounding you while loud music and hundreds of lights flashing all around you. What do you feel like now? Overwhelmed, unable to focus, nervous… you may be throwing your arms to swat away the bugs, trying to plug your ears to escape the noise or cover your eyes to get away from the flashing lights. That is what it is like inside your child with ADD/ADHD. While you are trying to escape all of those sensory triggers your child is trying to pay attention to each and every one of them all at the same time.
Understanding what it is like for your child with ADD/ADHD can make all the difference in whether parenting is a frustrating and draining experience or an amazing and exciting experience. I am a parent of a child that has ADD/ADHD and while it has been a long road, it has been a rewarding and exciting one despite the perception of the world around us.
Forget what neighbors, family or friends have to say about your child. You know that they are hyperactive, impulsive and can appear to be inattentive. Your child has ADD/ADHD, which is a real medical condition that requires us as parents to go the extra mile provide extra help to them. But they are also incredibly gifted or funny or creative and spiritual in so many ways that most people don’t see.
My child practically since birth had this habit that we all used to think was cute. When he would get excited or make noise and later talk his feet would twirl and occasionally so would his hands. The more excited he got the faster they would go, as he got older it wasn’t just his feet but his legs would get into it as well. Always a very creative child, constantly inventing something and talking, to me he was so much fun. He made it through preschool and kindergarten with no problem, teachers loved him. First grade came and we began to get the reports from school, he was struggling with reading, unable to sit in his desk, easily distracted with the need to be separated during class. One teacher wanted to put him back in kindergarten and another teacher wanted to retain him in first grade.
I did not allow either. The teacher that wanted to retain him kept telling me that he has ADD and he should be tested. I of course didn’t want to believe that and said no. Second grade brought more problems, constant detentions to the point where he was going to be expelled. What did it take to get through my head that my child needed help and that his behavior was more then the fact he was a “boy”, it was him throwing himself on his bedroom floor crying telling me that he just couldn’t do it. He tried and tried to pay attention in class and he just couldn’t. He hated school, he felt helpless and I felt like I had let him down.
Sitting with the psychologist in the big office at the school was when we began to understand what our child was going through. The movements that we used to think were so cute were an early sign of the ADD/ADHD. This is part of the hyperactivity, the inability to sit still. Constantly having something in their hands to play with or talks to you none stop through a TV program or movie.
Our children are impulsive. Life is all about the moment. What happened two minutes ago matters no more to them then what will happen in two minutes. Why did your child all of a sudden slide across the shiny floor, because to them it seemed like the right thing to do at that time.
Inattentive, this one is probably my favorite; this aspect is the most misunderstand about ADD/ADHD. Remember in the beginning I asked you to picture yourself in the open field, while you will try to escape from the abundance of sensory triggers, your child with ADD/ADHD will try to pay attention to each and everything going on around him/her all at once. Think about it, you are making dinner and you child is doing homework. You turn around to look at them and they are looking out the window… daydreaming. No they aren’t, they are actually paying attention to the way the wind blows the leaves on the tree, the insect on the window, the neighbor pulling in his garage, the sound the car makes as it goes up the driveway… and so on.
We reluctantly chose to use medication to help our child focus and get through school. It helps him and he is an A, B student. We take him off the medicine in the summer. He is a different person on his meds then he is off, not good or bad, but different. For all the extra attention he requires, and yes at times I am frustrated, I would not change a day of it. It took communication with our child as well as with teachers as well as understanding on our part, but we are on a good road. The key is really trying to put your self in their head and feel what they go through.
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse. As a mother of two incredible children, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting. One of my children has ADD, our journey of learning to come to terms with the diagnosis and figuring out what works best for us has been a challenge and a joy. Our son was diagnosed about two and half years ago, and we have had our ups and downs, joys and sorrows. If I can just offer you one day of hope or one idea that may work to help you and your family then I know that my purpose has been fulfilled.
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