Living with ADHD: It takes a family

In May of 2010, I described a play that my wife and I saw about ADHD and the way it moved us. My son has ADHD. ADHD is both a wonderful gift and a burden. If one can manage to control the negative effects (impulsivity, hyperactivity, forgetfulness, aloofness, and the obsessive/compulsive traits) the benefits are remarkable. People with ADHD tend to have a higher degree of creativity, logic and reasoning capacity, objectiveness and quick recall.

Basketball Court Empty BenchIn children these positive traits are often masked because the child can’t seem to focus long enough to allow these to gifts blossom in the classroom. The lack of focus tends to be coupled with a number of anti-social behaviors like sudden outbursts, impulsivity and a lack of regard for people’s space.

We are very open in our household about ADHD. My son is aware that he has it, and although it frustrates him to no end, we refer to it as a “gift”. He is not the most popular kid in the class and is often embarrassed by things he does that appear to be out of his control or just plain weird. The act of him sitting through a one-hour mass is torture (I guess it can be for a lot of people…), but he tries. We’ve found little things that will help him cope when circumstances require him to be still, calm and focused. He will carry some silly putty in his hand and squeeze it to release tension and energy. When he was younger we found that brushing his arms and legs at night before bed or putting books on his lap or chest calmed him down.

We have found for our son that a well rounded “coping” program (I can’t bring myself to use the word “treatment”) is the most effective. Aside from taking Straterra, my son attends neurofeedback training once per week. This program has had some positive results thus far. To fall asleep at night my son was dependent upon Clonidine. He now no longer needs it and falls asleep naturally around 9pm on a school night. The neurofeedback is also helping him calm down.

This week my son was extremely disappointed that he sat the bench during his final basketball game at school. Like me when I was his age, he struggles with team sports. I think physical ability varies widely among those with ADHD, but in general it seems that individual sports are better suited for my son. Michael Phelps has ADHD and is regarded as one of best athletes of our time. My son was clearly frustrated about being a bench warmer this season. I can take some blame for not working with him much on his dribbling and jump shots. Many fathers dream of having a son that wants to go outside, play catch, shoot some hoops, etc. That’s not my son. Although we are beginning to notice a change. He is now becoming more interested in riding his bike and shooting hoops. He can’t do it for very long, but at least the desire is there.

Yesterday my son was given the highest honor in his fifth grade class for academic achievement. He maintained a 90% or above average in the first semester. Starting in fifth grade he began to take school very seriously. This was completely self imposed. He really drives himself at school and has worked his ass off this semester. We couldn’t be more proud.

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, the best advice I can give you is to be open with it. Remind your child that they have a gift, but along with that gift comes some negative side effects that people won’t like. Prepare them for the comments that will come from friends and peers. Help them find coping tools. Listen and be understanding. Finally, take a holistic approach to this because it takes a family.