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!

Friday, September 23, 2011

I am Aware: It is My Emergency

For years I have been threatening to burn the plaque that hangs in our home that says, "Lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on mine."  Maybe in a normal house that would work but I have not found it to be true at all. Sometimes I think the sign is laughing at me.

Sure, I get the fact that sometimes we have to let our children suffer the consequences of their lack of planning but let's face it, ADD/ADHD is different.  IF I did that all the time they would flunk out of school, loose every friendship, never go on outings because they didn't turn in the permission slip.  I could go on forever, as I am sure you could too.  So, it is what it is.  I do a lot of crisis intervention.

A lot of times it is not a lack of planning that is the problem, it is all the other aspects of how the ADHD brain works that get in the way.  Life is like an obstacle course riddled with forgetfulness, distraction, diversion, fixation, impulsiveness all pulling the brain away from the plan.  At times even the best coping mechanisms cannot compete with executive function malfunction.

Case in point.  My daughter Mary just left the comfortable security of home school and entered public high school.  It has been a great experience for the most part.  She is engaged in school and the school is engaged in helping her succeed.  I could not ask for more.  Most of the time she finishes all her homework in classes she has during her day to help her.  This is perfect!  If you have ever tried to do homework with a child who is unmedicated and exhausted from the mental energy exertion it takes to focus in school you know exactly what I mean.

But, there are times she does have homework that she needs to do at home and because of her ADD/ADHD and the fact that it is not the norm for her - her risk of forgetting it is HUGE. She doesn't seem to remember she has homework until I ask her to do a chore, that seems to jog her memory every time. Suddenly it comes rushing back.  Panic, tears, excuses...frustration for both of us.  Of course, by this time she has usually been home for a while, gotten a snack, watched a favorite show or two to relax.  Plenty of time has passed in which she could have done homework, if she remembered.

Just the other night I asked her to cut up vegetables to go with dinner.  The panic, the melt down, the tears.  How awful am I?  She assures me if she doesn't do the homework right then she will forget again and then her grades will plummet, she is so proud of her A's and B's.  What about college, she pleads with me?  If her grades plummet then she won't get into a decent college, the college of her current dreams, MIT.  No amount of "we won't forget the homework" plans worked to calm her down.  The more I said cut veggies the more hysterical she became.

Finally I said, "go - do the homework!"  Okay, I may have spoken loudly.  She kept going and going, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I looked at her and said, "Mary, you won.  Stop.  Take your victory and go do your homework."  And what exactly did she win?  She won a new after school routine.  No more favorite shows to relax.  Not until after dinner, which is after chores and a double check on homework.  So far so good.

Some people might say I gave into manipulation.  That the melt down was an act to get out of the chore.  I don't see it that way.  People who don't contend with disorders that effect the executive functions of the brain do not know the pressure and panic of people who do feel.  Their desire is to remember, they don't want to forget and constantly appear negligent, defiant, or incompetent to the world.  There is a painful self consciousness about their lack of control over what sticks in their brains and what doesn't.  I am sure they, at times, feel betrayed by their own mind.

While the person with ADD/ADHD may forget things easily they have a hard time letting and forgetting  failures.  When that moment comes, or they feel like it is coming, every past failure is clear and present.  I know her panic and fear are real.  So, I try to address the fear and emotion.  Then the issue.  Then a long term solution.

Yep, their poor planning is my emergency.  It is my teaching moment.  It is an opportunity.  But still, my emergency.

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