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!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Social Skills, One of Life's Great Mysteries

I was sitting across the table from a teacher at my daughter's school.  He seemed more than a little shocked when I acknowledged so openly her complete lack of understanding of social skills.  I said to him, "Look, it is what it is.  How silly would it be for me to pretend that she doesn't have issues with social interactions?"  Still a little baffled, hesitantly he asked, "Does she know she has this issue?"

I laughed out loud, "Yes!  Just ask her, she'll be the first to tell you."

I am sure that there are times when people are thrown off by our openness and honesty about the collective struggles in our home.  They don't expect it.  We see no point in hiding or pretending these things don't exist.  How can you work on overcoming a problem you don't acknowledge?  How can a child measure progress or learn coping mechanisms if they can not recognize that there is an issue?

I have an even bigger concern, that if my children constantly see me trying to hide their issues or pretending they doesn't exist they will feel I am embarrassed or ashamed.  I would not feel embarrassed if they had diabetes or asthma, why should I be ashamed that their brain is wired differently than other peoples?  I do not want them to ever feel ashamed that they have ADD/ADHD or any of the other co-occurring disorders that have come with it.

For the record, that does not mean I have never been embarrassed by some of the choices they have made.  

I proceeded to tell him one of my favorite examples of her lack of understanding in social situations.  She was in junior high and one of her class mates made the mistake of asking her what she had done over the weekend.  She came unglued, unleashing her outrage.  How dare this person ask such a private question?  Why would she share such intimate information with someone that was little more than an acquaintance?  How could they pry like that into her private life?

It was hard to stop her mind from racing and calm her down.  Even harder was explaining the concept of small talk and polite conversation.  "Oh," she said.

She has worked hard over the years to at least respond appropriately to some of the more common interactions; but, she still has her issues. Communicating is something that she has improved on, by leaps and bounds but not something she has mastered by a long shot.  She is caught between not knowing what someone really means in a conversation and the right way to respond.  In between, is a space just big enough for the impulsiveness of ADD/ADHD to squeeze in.  She often acts before she has really considered what is meant and how she should respond.

Sometimes she realizes mid-sentence that she has said the wrong thing, occasionally she stops and fixes it before moving on.  Sometimes she just doesn't figure it out until it comes back around and she is shocked by the outcome.

Take today for example, it's Easter Sunday.  Her Young Women's leader is talking about Easter dinner and asks Mariah what our plans are.  She responds and never gives it another thought.

It was all good until her leader's husband showed up to invite us to their house, worried we had no food for Easter.  What?  I wasn't sure how he got that impression and then he explained, it all made sense in a Mariah sort of way.

See Mariah was not sure at all how to respond to her leader's question.  She wasn't outraged at the intrusion, progress for sure, but she was still a confused.  She opted for a conservative response. "Oh, we'll throw something together and call it Easter dinner."

This is only a couple hours after talking about roast and cheesy potatoes on the way to church.

We use these moments as teaching moments.  Trying to explain what people mean and how other people may take the communications and social cues she send out.  She hadn't seen the underlying potential for concern in her response.  That someone would think we had no food for a descent Easter dinner, that they might envision us eating PB&J.

As we talked about it she shook her head, "I just really don't get this stuff."

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