Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole of Distraction

Rachel sings as she works - the little woodland creatures have yet to come join her and help like they do in Disney movies but I guarantee you they can hear her.  She is a vocalist and boy does she have a set of lungs.  She insists that this helps her work but I am seeing more wandering, singing, and staging than working.  I keep asking her to take the volume down but clearly we define quieter differently.

In the mean time, there is a raging argument about whether spoiled milk should be kept or thrown out.  I know, this seems like a no-brainer decision, but Mary is a junior scientist.  We got her a book for Christmas with all kinds of things that can be made out of stuff you have at home.  She has found the grossest one and latched onto it.  She is going to make plastic out of milk and some other things.

She is trying to defend keeping the curdled milk in an effort to not waste the good milk.  Mariah and Fernie are disgusted by the thought of keeping the spoiled milk.  I suppose they are pretty sure they will accidentally grab it early in the morning and it will glob out onto their cereal.  They are getting pretty loud about it.  They are working in the kitchen.  Though there is definitely more arguing going on than working.

I will resolve the issue by telling Mary that her experiments are worth using good milk.  It is not a waste to me.  I don't want curdled milk in the refrigerator either.

Hunter is supposed to be cleaning the living room.  He has found Sid's tennis balls that are floating around the house.  Sid is our Aussie, she is obsessed with tennis balls.  The tennis balls have reminded Hunter that he is learning to juggle.  He has now totally forgotten that he was cleaning the living room and is jumping around trying to dance, juggle, and is singing circus theme music. He needs redirecting to remember he is doing a job.  He spends the next 10 minutes repeatedly apologizing for getting side tracked.  I repeatedly tell him to stop apologizing, I know it was not intentional.

Jaren is also on living room duty.  He is trying to convince me that he can do plenty of work while holding his spy case in one hand and with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and head.  I am not buying.  Seems to me that two hands are better than one.

We know attention deficit -- we see it when one distraction leads to another and another.  We live while trying to stay on task as it seems everything is pulling you in opposite directions.  Even though I am not ADD/ADHD I can see that my husband and children often feel drawn and quartered by their own thoughts.

It definitely gets frustrating when you are trying to get things done, like daily chores.  When I see the quickest path between two points as a straight line and everyone else sees no lines.  Frustrating for me because life seems to move so slowly in the direction I need it to move.  Frustrating for them because they are trying so hard to control their direction but can't seem to resist the diversions.

Hannah, who doesn't have ADHD either, and I exchange glances that scream, "It's time for a non-ADD day."

Some might say it's time for some heavy discipline.  Crack the whip, so that they won't get distracted during chores.  Punish them for not staying on task.  I am here to tell you that no amount or type of discipline will keep them from getting distracted.  It is the way their brain functions chemically that leads them down the rabbit hole of distraction.   Like an asthmatic can't completely control their reaction to an irritant in the air or a diabetic can't completely control their blood sugar by willing it to be so.  A person with ADHD cannot completely control their intake of  the stimuli around them. 

Coping mechanisms are our goal. We define a coping mechanism as a skill that helps you cope life.  A skill that helps you make life work for you instead of against you.  It is not just skills that help you when you are overwhelmed or in crisis. 

Coping mechanisms are everyday skills.  In this case it is what do you do with the stimuli when it hits you over the head or tugs on your shirt and tempts you?  How you judge what reaction would be appropriate for the time and place?  Is it okay to embrace the diversion, maybe even run with it?  Learning to control what they do with the stimuli has been more important than just getting whatever task needs to be done.

Someday they will be out of the house and their won't be singing, and tennis balls flying, and arguments raging.  Someday they won't have me to walk around reminding them what they are supposed to be doing.  Certainly, no one there to ground them for not paying attention.  Then they will need to know how to redirect themselves.  Punishment, alone, while it may make my life easier now will not make their lives more productive later.

For now, chores take as long as they make them take.  If they can control the diversions then they will finish pretty quickly and move on.  If they are sucked in by the diversions then it will take them a long time to finish.  Natural consequences are the greatest tool in our toolbox.  That combined with a little "learning experience" (as my mom used to call them) to point out the natural consequences.  That is how we manage and teach. 

I will have to admit, though, it is hard not to laugh at their diversions.  Redirecting someone with any sense of authority is difficult when you are laughing. Then again how do you not laugh when after the window air conditioner is removed and the window is standing wide open your teenage daughters start singing songs from Titanic and acting like they are standing on the bow of the ship in the wind.

They say that life is what happens when you have other plans - in our house life is often what happens when we are distracted.


Jeanne said...

Love it! Especially the girls' "Titanic" moment! I have to agree that redirecting your kids is really hard when you're laughing - that's always been my downfall.

Lisa Aro said...

Mariah is the worst...she has a tendency to say the thing that everyone is thinking but no one will say because it is inappropriate. She is so witty -- she kills me every time.