Like any parent, I love my child with all my heart. While I think they are perfect in every way, I understand that other people might find them challenging. Why? My child has ADHD.
However, that acronym does not define my child’s abilities or behavior. It’s simply one aspect of their total personality — one that has taught me many valuable lessons. Here’s what you should know about my ADHD child.
1. You Can Learn Some Good Habits From Them
Who among us hasn’t found themselves staring out the window at work, daydreaming about being anywhere else? Everyone has this capacity. Human behaviors and abilities run along a spectrum — there’s no black and white. Even though my child might sometimes zone out so much that they don’t hear their name when called, they’re only exhibiting a slightly more extreme form of normal human behavior.
If you learn no other lesson from my child, perhaps it’s that we all can exhibit ADHD behavior at times. Just because someone has a diagnosis doesn’t mean you can blame everything on it or use it as an excuse. We all have times when our attention wanders when it shouldn’t, and we could all work on our ability to tune in more mindfully to the present.
However, the human body and mind can’t focus indefinitely. It needs breaks to perform at its best. Another positive habit I learned from my ADHD child is the importance of mental “recess.”
Research shows that spending time outdoors in nature can reduce ADHD symptoms in children as effectively as medical interventions in some cases. In others, it can enhance the effect of prescription medications. Taking a walk around the block doesn’t have any negative side effects and burns off nervous tension — many adults could use this intervention.
2. Attention Does Not Equal Intelligence
One of the clues leading to my child’s diagnosis was a decline in their academic performance. My daughter’s grades started slipping. However, I knew she was plenty sharp enough to manage the work.
My daughter can hyperfocus on things that hold her interest — she merely struggles with others. However, remember that continuum? How many of us could honestly say we could sit still for 90 minutes while listening to a lecture on particle physics or brain anatomy? Perhaps we could if we were an astronaut or neurologist, but we’d otherwise be bored to tears.
Everyone has things they naturally do well and other areas that don’t hold their attention as much. Instead of condemning children — and ourselves — for those differences, we should celebrate our diversity. Think how boring and ineffectual the world would be if everyone shared the same talent.
3. They Aren’t Trying to Be Rude
My daughter’s brain processes information at breakneck speeds, her thoughts racing ahead to the next idea while other folks are still digesting what was said. As a result, she interrupts people. A lot.
This tendency used to drive me mad — but we turned it into a strength. We worked on building communication skills, practicing techniques like asking questions for further clarification instead of jumping right in with, “this one time, I….” We also work on apologizing when we do interrupt and inviting the other person to finish.
4. They Get Depressed at Times
The popular stereotype paints an ADHD child as an energetic ball who can’t sit still. This impression only covers half of the story. People with this condition can become depressed. When they do, they often turn their focus inward, ruminating for hours on every perceived wrong with themselves.
Unfortunately, this dynamic leaves children with ADHD at an elevated risk of developing substance abuse disorders. They may try to self-medicate. Furthermore, their unique neurology is already hardwired to seek out new experiences — they may try a substance out of curiosity or boredom and end up hooked.
5. Leaving It Untreated Can Cause Problems
I’ve had other parents criticize me for “mislabeling” my child as ADHD. Those who don’t understand the condition sometimes say insensitive things like, “I don’t believe in ADHD,” or, “all kids get rambunctious at times.”
While it’s true that children have shorter attention spans than adults, that doesn’t mean this disorder can’t cause them significant distress, both in the short and long term. Ignoring my daughter’s ADHD would have meant allowing her grades to continue to fall. Doing so would only hurt her self-esteem, leading to depression and all its associated health risks.
Leaving her to struggle could also impact her future career prospects. ADHD can lead to trouble in the workplace. Their distractibility and impulsivity can lead to frequent job changes that leave them struggling economically. Each pink slip likewise leads to crises in confidence.
My daughter’s condition is real. Please don’t treat it dismissively.
Please Know These 5 Things About My ADHD Child
Learning these five things about my ADHD child has helped me to see the world differently. Through educating others, we can celebrate neurodiversity in all its beautiful forms.