Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Today my friends, is National ADHD Awareness Day. And yes, that's me. It's a lot of you too. Some of you have kids that have it. Some of you have kids you wonder if they have it. Some of you may even wonder if you or your spouse has it. The answer is...maybe.
Now for those of you with kiddo's you wonder about, let me clear some things up very quickly:
1) a teacher cannot diagnose this
2) neither can a school counselor (no matter what they tell you or how good references are)
3) the principal can't either
4) neither can your pediatrician
Now all of these people may see the obvious and their guess may well be better than others...however, the only one that can properly diagnose ADD/ADHD is a psychiatrist-one with experience in ADHD. They are also the only ones that can write a prescription for any of the meds used to treat it. They are also the ones best trained to help teach you how to help yourself.
What I would like all of you to know is this: fear not. Really. And please don't be afraid of the medications used to help yourself or your child. Back in the 80's when I first realized a couple of my kids might be ADHD, I was terrified of all the things I heard about "drugging your child" and I refused to seek help. It was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I still beat myself up over it.
So what to do? First off, trust your instincts. If you think your kid is bouncing off the walls and thinking and talking faster than the speed of sound, seems more impulsive and a bigger risk taker than other kids, he/she probably is. Mothers know things. The standard saying is people with ADHD have Farrari minds and Chevy brakes.
Secondly, educate yourself. Read. I don't recommend reading everything you find, but look for books written by doctors that have ADHD themselves. A couple of the best books to start out with are Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey,
In your research, please don't be swayed by titles with the word "stop" in them. You cannot stop ADHD. It is something you or your child will live with for the rest of their life. It is an ongoing condition and an incredible gift. Many people with ADHD are nothing short of sheer genius-Sir Richard Branson is my favourite example. Think what you will of him, but the man is nothing short of amazing. Ty Pennington and Mark Lowry are other examples.
If your child has ADHD, there may well be a learning disability going along with it. I struggle with dysgraphia, dyscalculia and mild dyslexia myself. In other words, while I struggle to write with a pen or pencil in my hand, I can do wonders with chalk or a paintbrush-in either hand. Spelling is almost nonexistent. I cannot do math without a calculator or fingers and toes, and higher math problems elude me completely because I cannot remember more than three steps. On writing numbers down, I can tell you something is $1.69, know it is $1.69 and yet I will write it down as $1.96 every time. (This makes checkbooking a blast, let me tell you.) However, if I can do it on the computer and talk to myself as I do it, it usually comes out right. I read fairly well and God knows I am extremely well read...however, I usually cannot remember much of what I read just if I liked the book or not. Book clubs and lit classes are not for me.
Most of you know I recently left the library to come home and write. This would be a challenge for anyone, but for someone with my problems, it's a real struggle. Working for yourself requires incredible self discipline-something that does not come easily or at all for those with ADD/ADHD. I had to do a lot of research before I did it...mostly in the form of organizational books. For people with ADHD regular books written by professional organizers are useless. In fact, they make matters worse. File cabinets? The devil's workshop. Cute little wicker baskets in the bookcases? Nightmares. Tidy drawers? Never happen.
The book I found most useful in helping me sort things in my office is How to get organized without resorting to arson : a step-by-step guide to clearing your desk without panic or the use of open flame / Liz Franklin.. Another for around the house is by Susan C. Pinsky called Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder.
In doing my office over I had to paint the room. I am terribly sensitive to colours...the colour orange completely freaks me out. Blue makes me sleepy (my bedroom is blue) and red has too much energy. White walls are boring and I will spend my time thinking of other colours it should be painted. It's a total distraction.
My office is painted in pink and white. Energy and brightness.
Textiles matter. I hate clothes. I really do, but since I must wear them they must be soft and a bit loose. Tags get cut out straight away. The colours have to be right too. See above.
Light...if you are sensitive to colours, you will be sensitive to light. It has to be not only just right, but in the right places as well. Florescent lights suck weasels. They make noise. You might not be able to hear it but I can. They also "flash"-another thing you might not be aware of but I am. Painfully.
Noise. Dear God the noise. Things you will never notice get my complete attention. This is where the ipod or the bose come in handy. I must have bigger noise to drown out all the little noises. This is also where the music therapist comes in, but more on that tomorrow.
Tactile input. Another little oddity. If I go in a store, I must touch things. If I go in a fabric or dress shop, I must run my hands along the fabric. A flower shop, I must touch the petals and smell the flowers. Maybe all of them. I adore museums, but I really really struggle to keep my hands to myself. This sort of thing was a nightmare for my mother and teachers who don't like you to touch anything. On the other side of that, I am rather sensitive about being touched. I might let you hold my hand, but not for very long. I might let you drape your arm across my shoulders while we walk, but not for very long. While I might snuggle up next to you, I will not let you return the favour...at least not for very long. (This does not include sex. Whole different ballgame there.)
Now the reason I tell you these weird things about me is not so you will pass judgment on me, but to let you have a small glimpse of my life and see if you recognize it in yourself or your child. Why do I want you to see? Because I was not diagnosed till I was in my 40's and I can promise you, my life would of been so much easier if I had known what my problem was when I was a kid. Because everything was so damned much harder than it ever had to be..if only we had known.
Don't do that to your kid.
Don't do that to yourself.
And please, for further help and ideas go see my friend Ira-the man is sheer genius. Really.
Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood
By Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey