Friday, May 6, 2011

When your child doesn't fit in the box....

As a young girl, I was diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder). It has since then been renamed ADHD, and is broken down into three subtypes, each with its own set of behaviors. But, regardless of what it is now called, those of you who have children with this disorder know it's no easy diagnosis. From the earliest years of my school-hood I didn't fit inside the box. I was different. I was difficult to handle, and often, I made life downright nasty for my poor parents. The elementary years were by far the most difficult. I couldn't sit still long enough to learn what I needed. My mind drifted (my mind still drifts). I was easily frustrated, and quickly became bored with a task. I would jump from one idea to the next. Needless to say, I didn't do so well in school. My grades were....well, I'm sure you can guess. I couldn't remember facts or details, and I had a very difficult time retaining the information I learned.

Dealing with my "disorder" was not easy for my parents, especially my mom, who stayed home to raise my sister and me. I remember sitting for hours after school while my mother reviewed those things I had learned in school in an attempt to help me retain information and facts. She sat by my side while I completed my homework every night and I can easily remember how difficult I made this time with her. I cried, I howled, and I was really nasty. I can also remember her patience and her persistence. It frustrated me to no end. I thought "perhaps if I cry loud enough she'll give up and send me away", but she didn't. She kept at it. She did her best to make learning fun, and she found new ways to help me with my unique style of learning. Flash cards and memorization became my "best friend". And one of the greatest things she did, was read to me. I hated reading. I wouldn't pick up a book to save my life, but everyday, even as I grew older, my mother read to me.

As we moved into my Jr. High years, I still continued to struggle, but thanks to my mom's persistence and very hard work, I had developed skills that I could use in the classrooms to learn and to help me retain the information and the knowledge that I needed to be successful. My grades were less than average, and I struggled socially, but things were improving. My mom still sat with me, day after day, while I completed my homework. I am only now beginning to realize what a sacrifice this was.

Then, when I was about twelve years old, I finally managed to pick up a book on my own(with a whole lot of cheering from my mother). I remember the book clearly. It was called Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. With my mom's encouragement ringing in my head, I set to work and began to read. I finished the book in one night. For the first time in years I had sat still and I was calm. I was amazed--enthralled. I'd read a book all on my own, and I'd loved it. It was then that the learning bug bit and all my mother's hard work came rushing to my aid. Using the skills she had taught me and the methods she had given me to cope with my ADHD, I soon became the top of my class. I LOVED to read. I couldn't sit still for anything, unless you stuck a book in front of my face. I also quickly discovered that not only did I love to read, I loved to write.

Writing and reading soon became my new medication. While reading or creating a story; my mind slowed down, my feet stopped tapping, I quit talking, and I could stay focused on one activity. My anxiety faded. As I grew older, writing became my stronghold from the storm. In high school I still struggled to learn, to retain facts, and to finish tasks and assignments, but I worked hard. I remained at the top of my class. I received several academic awards and I excelled where I had once failed. When things seemed too chaotic, I'd take some time and sit and write.

Today, I still struggle with inattention and hyperactivity. I jump from one task to the next. My house will prove it. I hate housework just as bad as I hated homework as a child. Still, I remember my mother's patience, and I use the lessons she taught me to remain on task and to retain the information I need in order to create a home for my family and children. And when things get too hectic, writing is still my balm. I can sit still for hours while I focus on creating a new story. I have fun with writing, and as my children get older I'm so blessed to be able to share my love of reading and writing with them, just as my mom did for me.

My oldest son has recently been diagnosed with ADHD. It's been difficult to watch him struggle with the same social hindrances and learning disabilities that I faced. My heart breaks for him when I see his frustration building and I understand how hard it is to cope. I know we have a hard journey ahead, but I am blessed to be able to understand how he feels and to know those struggles he will face. I am blessed to have my mother's example and I know, with patience and persistence, he and I can overcome the burden of ADHD together. In time, with guidance and direction, he too will understand ways to cope and I know that he can succeed in all that he does. And just as writing and reading became my medication, I know given time, he will discover his own method to channel his energies and creative "over-load". Every child is gifted in different ways. Like me, my child may not fit inside the box, but therein lies our adventure. I simply need to lift the lid.

1 comment:

  1. Be thankful that you were diagnosed as a child, my diagnosis wasn't until I was twenty two. Mom went to one of her yearly training classes required for daycare teachers and it was about ADD/ADHD and when they were reading off a list of symptoms she recognized my "space cadet" and social emotional issues amongst other things. I'm sure you remember reading was always my thing, my "hyper focus" as my doctor called it.

    My son Rick was diagnose with a more hyperactive lean on his. It was unsurprising as my doctor told me that they have seen it be somewhat hereditary and now knowing the symptoms knew what he was going through.

    Who needs the box anyways? I mean it was a fun castle, race car, and space ship... great to stand on to get a cookie. But all the fun was always outside it.