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, October 8, 2012

Cutting the Apron Strings? Transitioning Adult Children with ADHD

Okay,  I am not sure cutting the apron strings applies to adult children with ADHD.  Maybe it is more like unraveling the apron strings one string at a time.  Or maybe the apron strings just fray apart from being tied so tight and tugged on so many times.  Regardless, there doesn't seem to be any distinct cutting in our house.

I really couldn't speak to what's "normal."  Nothing in our ADHD house, where 6 of our 7 children have severe ADHD and co-occurring conditions, could ever be construed as "normal" though it is certainly normal to us. I know in many houses 18 and graduation brings a landmark of change.  If we were to handle reaching adulthood in that manner I am sure it would be a messy disaster.  Adulthood, as we tell our children, is not a distinct and abrupt move it is a transition.

And let me tell you we are transitioning all over the place. We have three that are 18 or older and are making strides towards independence.   Each of their stories, like their personalities, like their struggles with ADHD symptoms is different.  Ironically, it seems like this last week our two adult daughters have taken a lot of big steps forward.

And She's Off...

Our kids have never been big on staying away from home, they like routine, structure, their own belongings and surrounding. Our oldest used to hide it well but then we found that when all the girls would go to camp or spend the night at someone's house she was the subversive one.  She would pull her youngest sister aside and whisper in her ear, "don't you miss your teddy bear...how are you going to sleep tonight with out him?"  Then pull aside another sister, "Doesn't their dog remind you of your dog?  You must really miss her, I bet it's hard to be away from her, maybe we should go home."  When one of them would finally crack, she was the martyr that would volunteer to come home with them.

She's still in no hurry to leave the nest.  So, when she came to us and asked what we thought of her going on "vacation" to visit her best friend since elementary school in Utah for two weeks we were a little surprised but encouraged it.  A little trip, a flutter off the side of the nest and then back.  An exercise in adulthood as she took responsibility for making travel arrangements and plans.

It has been a slow march with her as she has carefully taken over more and more responsibility for her own care, making her own doctor's appointments, refilling her own prescriptions, handling her own money.  Adding one responsibility at a time has allowed her to master juggling the new skill before taking on more.  As we walked her into the airport she was going over checklists with us.  Reading material...check, art supplies...check...meds...check.  She figured out that she would have refill her meds while away, then assured me, she could handle it, not to worry.

Everything was together, her biggest concern now was that if she started reading or drawing in the airport during a layover she would get so distracted that she would miss her flight.  Her father warned her to watch that, he himself had almost missed more than one flight that way.  We took pictures, waved, and I cried a little as we walked out of the airport without her...why?  Because she is growing up.  It's slow, sometimes painfully slow, but it's working and she is feeling the success and freedom that everyone her age should feel.

We got a call from her last night...her wings are a little tired from her journey outside the nest.  No little sisters there to push into coming home early.  Not that she really wants to, she is having a great time, great success, great growth.  And she just learned another valuable lesson, you can always call home, always be reminded to eat lots of protein, be told you're not getting enough sleep, always have someone listen to your troubles, always hear that you're loved.

Mommy, I have friends!

I know, not the kind of statement you would expect your 2nd year college student to make unless they happen to have ADHD and social skills have been a prominent problem in their life.  This would be the daughter that freaked out on the girl in 7th grade that asked what she did over the weekend because it was a personal question and none of her business.  The highly intelligent daughter that has stated throughout her life that she feels it a moral obligation to let people know when they are idiots, otherwise they might go their whole lives and not know.  You can see where she might run into problems in high school.

It was never that she didn't have any friends there was always one or two that she was close to and a whole raft of people following her around that she had jumped in to defend from one bully or another.  Very few, however, that she felt an equal bond with.  I always told her that she would really hit her stride in college.  As an intelligent. deep thinker, she would find more of her kind on a college campus than in elementary, junior high, and high school.  Between her growing and developing socially and her peer group shrinking to those who really want to be in school she seems to have found more of her people.

And with friends has come social opportunities and more growth.  She has been learning over the years how to manage her impulsive tongue and her quick wit (the combination of which can be deadly) she has also spent years learning to manage her auditory sensory sensitivity.  More friends, more social opportunities, more need to successfully navigate a noisy overwhelming world.

Most recently she was asked to go to a concert of a band she really loves.  She has braved outdoor venues before, like Warp Tour, but that's different than being in an enclosed space with that many people and that much noise.  Excited but nervous was certainly the way she woke up the morning of the concert.  I knew that she was fretful when she called early in the morning to go over plans for how things were going to work out late that night.

Finally, after trying hard to be awake and supportive I said, "call your father."  He's also ADHD, also has auditory sensory issues, also has no tolerance for crowds, and loves live music.  When she called him he lead the conversation with, "are you freaking out about tonight, let me give you some advice."  He knows her, as we say in our house, he speaks the native language and has years of tried and true coping mechanisms ready to share.

He told her that she has to expect certain things:

1. It is going to be loud... very loud.  One of two things will happen, it will either A.short-circuit (deaden) her overly sensitive audio senses and it would be almost calming, like white-noise or B it would freak her out.  If A. happens then she will be fine, it will probably be relaxing because it will mask all of the other crap that she picks up and allow her to focus on the music.  If B happens then she needs to have a back-up plan.  I told her that the back up plan should be to take her ear-buds and if it gets too overwhelming to put them in to help deaden the sound.  If that is not enough, when she is starting to panic, she needs to go out into the lobby and find a place to anchor herself where she can regroup. The lobby anchor point should be scoped out prior to the concert starting so she knows where she is going if things get chaotic.
2.  There will be IDIOTS in all shapes and sizes... don't react to them, just look at them, acknowledge them and check it off of your mental list that you knew you would see idiots.  Kind of like your own game of Where's Waldo.
3. Your sense will most likely overload, just role with it and follow the directions in 1. if they are to much for you to handle.  Sound and smell will most likely hit you the most, so just know that it will and don't be surprised when you experience it.
This daughter is not a tell it to her once kind of girl - she likes to go over them, make sure she heard right, reiterate, then write it all down and have you sign it to be sure - they went over the directions repeatedly until she was comfortable..
Then he texted her prior to the concert, this was their conversation copied out of text...

Mia: Thank you guys so much for letting me go to this concert tonight. This means so much to me I'm so excited. :) its like a landmark for me. <3 :=":" p="p" thank="thank" you.="you."> Daddy: You are welcome honey... Like I said to you earlier when you get in there, get the lay of the land and have a plan in place so you know what to do of out gets overwhelming. Take your ear-buds in case you need to use them.  Love you.... I think you will do fine.... Remember - there will be idiots, just plan to ignore them and have a good time.

(the next morning)
Mia: Ohmaigawsh. That was so amazing......
Mia: O.o morning!!!!!!!
Daddy: Morning.... So you had a good time then

Mia: It was the BEST......EVER......SO AMAZING.....SO COOL.....
Daddy: LOL... Cool!

I suppose in a "normal" house these experiences would seem so everyday that they wouldn't even draw attention but in our house these are some pivotal moments, landmarks, rights of passage successfully navigated and marked off the list so we can move onto the next set of opportunities to grow.  In our house each challenge met equals a few more threads plucked out of the apron strings on the way to adulthood.

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