I was able to attend an ADHD symposium on Friday @ UVU. IT. WAS. WONDERFUL. Several times I felt just overwhelmed with emotion to the point of choking back tears! This was a group of hundreds of people all coming together to learn more about a devastatingly hard disability. Wanting to learn more- wanting to help someone in their lives fight this with everything they've got. Some may question my use of the term "devastatingly" in conjunction with ADHD. Here's why I use it that way. It's invisible. It effects their entire life- it doesn't have a cure. All areas of life use some skill that is usually a problem for ADHD kids and adults. Some kids aren't lucky enough to have parents that are willing to go the distance to get them the help they need and deserve. It is the single most studied childhood disorder in the world- there's not a shortage of information.
Many many ADHD children are abused, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Parents telling them that they're stupid for forgetting to turn in an assignment is like telling a diabetic child they're stupid for not processing glucose properly. Seriously.
Patrick McKenna from the Red Green show was the keynote speaker. He was diagnosed 2 years ago on a documentary called ADHD and loving it?! You can click the link to learn more about it. It was heart wrenching to listen to his childhood story unfold. ADHD used to be coined: Mild Brain Dysfunction- He spoke a little about what that means to a kid to be told they have mild brain dysfunction (his poignant joke was: how does that sound? you're retarded, but you're not even doing retarded right) He was sent to a catholic school run by nuns. He would get "disciplined" regularly for not doing things right. They just assumed he needed more discipline, so they made him an altar boy. That's great. A child that can't stand still- lets hand him a job dealing with a large robe, fire, and lots of holding still quietly. Didn't go really well. Then you get to the teen years. Teenage years with ADHD are harder than just raging hormones. Without active parents that are helping their child understand what their disorder is, and how to deal with it there is a much higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse because it's self-medicating. Self medicating often proves to the child that there is something wrong because these drugs help them think more clearly, they can slow down, they notice a calmness in themselves. Even at a young age they notice that difference. Patrick was fortunate to get himself away from those things after witnessing friends go too far down that path. He also had a very in tune teacher that took him to a show of Second City (a knock off of SNL where he saw martin short co-starring in an improve night). He had an epiphany- that's how he thinks, that's how he acts, that's where he fit in- he should be on stage. So he began to hyper focus on that goal. ADHD people have the AMAZING ability to hyper-focus on something they desire, or enjoy doing immensely. Ex: video games is a common one. Again he was fortunate to be found by the man writing the Red Green Show and became an actor. Doesn't mean his ADHD went away, it meant he was now using it regularly as a strong point. I haven't mentioned the fact that ADHD often presents with a co-morbid disorder (meaning something else that you have to deal with, another disorder. Commonly it's depression, dyslexia, and anxiety) Patrick is dyslexic. He would have to learn his parts by doing readings with his infinitely patient wife from the ending to the beginning. To keep his interest peaked. If he started a script at the beginning he would just guess the ending and get bored and not finish it.
So that's a tid bit of Patrick McKenna's Story. I highly suggest going to the website and looking up a bit of info.
ADHD also comes with a higher propensity for addiction. A dangerous combo don't you think? It takes parents, teachers, and anyone else that loves this child to work together to help them EVER SINGLE DAY with many different facets of life. It takes vigilance and a good relationship. The most important thing is your relationship with your child. Nothing, not even failing classes, doing drugs, or ANYTHING else is worth ruining that relationship.
ADHD kids AND adults struggle with self esteem issues their whole lives. I would too if I were in a world full of round holes but I was a square peg and didn't fit in. They need people around them that buoy them up with praise about their good traits because they have many. The next time you are working with a child or an adult with ADHD, remember that they have a disability. Take a breath and look for the positive. Have a laugh. Go out for ice cream together. Hug them and tell them that they're doing a good job.
My heart aches for the children in homes that don't believe in this disorder. My heart aches for the adults struggling in their work place, or lack there of, without knowledge that there is help out there.
So here is my plea. Do some research. You know someone affected by this, probably many people. Get to know a bit about it. It is a real disorder. These kids don't just need a good spanking. They don't need more punishments. They need more love. More understanding. More compassion for the fight that they go through every day to accomplish every day tasks.
Please visit www.chadd.com
On behalf of my loved ones that are working with this disorder- thank you.