Tag: executive functions

The Outcome Was Not Hilarious

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There‘s a Facebook “ask your child these questions and post the results” quiz going around, and on a whim, I decided to ask my son for his answers. I thought it would be funny. A lark.

He was crying by the second question.

I really feel like I’m cocking up this parenting thing 98% of the time. Am I the only one who feels this way? I always feel like I’m failing at parenting, no matter how hard I try.

 

My son is diagnosed with ADHD. I am also. I’m his genetic link. This feels great, by the way—passing on a brain type to one’s child that makes life harder. No guilt associated with this at all. Nope. Nada. (Also, I’m sarcastic. Did I mention that sarcasm is my favorite defense mechanism?) So basically, I failed my son from the second he was conceived. I failed him in utero. Off to a great start.

Today, I started the meant-to-be-funny test verbally to see what my son would say. Here’s how it went.

 

WITHOUT prompting, ask your child these questions and write EXACTLY what they say. The outcome will be hilarious. 😂

Interviewed: M, 10.

 

Me: What is something I say a lot?

Him: I love you.

 

(Okay, we seem to be off to a good start. I am such a loving mother. Yay, me!)

 

Me: What makes me happy?

Him: When I do the right thing.

 

I looked at him sadly. His answer broke my heart.

My son then started crying. Tears rolling down his face. Because this is what it feels like to be a kid with ADHD.

This is also what it feels like to be an adult with ADHD.

You feel like your inability to control impulsive behavior, your easy distractibility, and your problem finishing things (on which you aren’t hyperfocusing) all make you a bad person.

Because your behavior is corrected constantly, you also feel like you’re failing all of the time. At everything.

 

Eventually, if you’re like me, you may become chronically anxious, overthinking and hesitating before every decision, because you’re so used to making the wrong choices.

You may often freeze from indecision and fear, lest you fail the people counting on you to do the right thing, one more lousy time.

You may worry they will stop loving you, or leave you, because you can never seem to make people happy, no matter what you do.

You may grow up feeling alone in the world, and unable to trust anyone, because nobody ever stays. You will then blame, berate, and emotionally beat yourself up for not being able to maintain a healthy relationship with another human.

 

It really sucks.

 

We try so hard to choose our battles and be gentle with our son, but the reality is that when someone is constantly impulsive—to the point of being a danger to themselves, or an annoyance to others—you have to say something.

Present parents teach their children how to behave appropriately. If these teachable moments are happening all… day… long… the emotionally immature recipient of your “life lessons,” no matter how gently you present them, starts to feel like a failure. Quantity trumps quality eventually.

And being human, you’re sometimes not as kind or patient as you should have been—especially when you’re correcting the same poor choice for the 100th time, and that behavior is something your child should have mastered years earlier.

Sisyphus has nothing on the parents of an ADHD-brained kid. We wish we were only rolling a damned rock up a hill all day. At least then we’d have the luxury of not worrying about how we’re making the rock feel as we roll it over and over again, and what kind of a rock it’s going to grow up into because of our ineptitude.

Having a child with a developmental delay is like having a toddler for 3 times longer than you should, and you will want to punch yourself in the face. Often. Sometimes a pillow in a bedroom behind a locked door will have to do, because we need faces to see, eat, communicate, and other important crap like that.

 

When I’m handling it well, I feel like there is nobody as patient as me in the whole wide world. I am the Queen of Patience. I am an angel in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to guide this child to adulthood with love and light and also a lot of laundry.

When I’m not handling it well, and I lose my temper, I feel like the shittiest human who ever walked the planet. I am the Queen of Shit. I am Satan in the form of a middle-aged woman, sent down to ruin the life of an innocent boy with snappish remarks and nagging and also a lot of laundry.

I know he’s just a kid, without the life experience or perspective I have, and of course he’s not going to inherently understand everything. He deserves the same chance to make mistakes and learn from them the rest of us received. So unfortunately, when I am not at my best, “Queen of Shit” is written on the sash I wear to complement my gown made from the tattered fabric of parental shame. I don’t deserve a tiara.

 

It’s a frustrating cycle, and it kills me because I was the same kid; misunderstood and angry all of the time. I still lack self-esteem. I still have a chip on my shoulder that flares up if I feel I’m being treated like I’m stupid—a bitchy, defensive chip that my husband “enjoys” dealing with on the reg. I still feel like I’m failing all of the time. And I so desperately want life to be better for my son.

God, I don’t want him to feel like I do. I don’t want anybody to feel like I do.

 

I asked why he was crying, and he said, “I’m crying because I don’t know what makes you happy.”

 

Oh, my heart. Ouch. And then I started crying. I opened my arms and he came over to the couch and jumped into my lap like we do at the start of every day.

I hugged him for a long time. I told him that he makes me happy because he exists, and not only when he’s doing the right thing. That I am trying to teach him how to be a good person when I correct his behavior, and making mistakes is normal because that’s how we all learn to do the right thing.

I told him I will always love him, and that even when he’s doing something that doesn’t make me happy, I love him just as much then. I told him I’m only trying to help him learn to make good choices, and that I will never love him any less, no matter what he does.

I told him he makes me happy just by being here.

 

I’m trying. I’m trying to make sure my son doesn’t feel like a failure. I feel like I’m failing at parenting while I try to make sure my child doesn’t feel like he’s failing at being a human.

I recognize the duplicity of the above process, but I don’t have a better solution.

 

Failing. Failing, failing, failing.

 

*****

 

After I dried his tears and told him the test was supposed to be fun, we continued. I wanted to salvage this moment. I wanted to lighten it.

 

Me: How tall am I? 

Him: 5’9″

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What’s my favorite color? 

Him: I don’t know? Blue or purple or something? 

 

(Close. Blue-green.)

 

Me: What is my favorite thing to do?

Him: Write on the computer?

 

(Correct!)

 

Me: What makes you proud of me? 

Him: That you do everything for me. You’ve kept me alive for the last 10 years!

 

(Jesus. It’s nice to be appreciated, but keeping you alive is my job, kid. I feel kind of bad about his answer. I am officially promising Future Me will never guilt trip my son. Do you hear that Future Me? He appreciates you. Like, biologically. No guilt trips.)

 

Me: What is my favorite food?

Him: Burritos?

 

(Correct! Well, actually, my favorite food is artichokes, but they’re expensive, so bean burritos with cheese and green sauce are my number one comfort food. They have been since I was a kid in Phoenix.)

 

Me: Do you think you could live without me?

Him: No! I couldn’t!

 

(I smiled and kept it light, but seriously. What kind of a needy, Disney-movie-moms-must-die kind of question is this? My son freaked out recently, when, at almost-11, he saw the REAL beginning to “Finding Nemo” on TV. It was his first favorite movie, and I skipped past the “mom dies” beginning every time. Because damn, Disney. That’s some heavy shit to drop on toddlers. Stop it.)

 

Me: If I could go anywhere, where would it be?

Him: I don’t know? An island?

 

(Wrong, unless the island was never sunny and not surrounded by water, which would make it not an island. The vast endlessness of the ocean freaks me out, and I am extremely photosensitive. He got the solitude part right, though, if that’s what he meant.  I’d love a cloudy, cool climate and a house alone in the forest.)

 

Me: What is my favorite show?

Him: Your medical shows.

 

(Correct! I love all medical shows. If I could go back in time and change my college major, I would choose nursing instead.)

 

*****

 

This was the end of the test.

My son is a volatile, high-strung, emotional and extremely empathetic human, just like me. We feel everything in the world. It’s exhausting. The ADHD brain type doesn’t help.

So I should probably mention that I’ve also made him cry over his pancakes by jokingly making the Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup bottle exclaim, “No! Don’t drink my lifeblood, little boy!”

He’s run crying over to me after a group of shitty kids stomped a cool bug he was watching.

He cries over sad shows on television. He’s a sensitive soul. But still. Today was a reminder to be as gentle as possible with my son, as often as I can muster it.

 

What a hilarious outcome. Thanks, stupid Facebook quiz.

 

 

 

 

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Living with ADHD: Tips to Help Your Child Succeed at School

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If you are parenting a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), then you know how exhausting it can be to stay on top of their performance in school, and to help their neurologically atypical brains retain information.

The educators at your child’s school can be your best supporters, and under Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, they are required to work with parents to meet the needs of children significantly affected by ADHD. This means you will need to set up a meeting about your child’s ADHD to find ways to help them learn.

Below are some accommodations and teaching tips used to help kids with ADHD achieve success in school:

 

1. Paint It Positive—

For the psychological well-being of your child, it’s extremely important that you don’t describe their condition in a negative manner, and instead present it to them in a positive way. (Example: “You have a really fast brain… like a race car!”) Remind them that everyone learns differently… and that’s okay.

Be sure teachers are also treating kids with ADHD as “quick-brained” kids who learn differently, and not isolating them from the other kids, so they don’t feel ostracized or flawed.

 

2. Praise is Powerful—

Kids with ADHD often suffer from low self-esteem because they feel like they’re constantly failing at the things all of the neurologically typical children around them can do.

This makes it crucial to give them positive reinforcement for appropriate classroom behavior whenever possible.

 

3. Accountability for Actions—

It is important that kids are not allowed to use ADHD as an excuse for bad classroom behavior.

Even if the impulse control commonly exhibited by kids with this condition caused them to do something without thinking, there still need to be clearly defined and consistent consequences.

 

4. Selective Seating—

With the high distractibility factor of ADHD-brained children comes the need for a learning environment with the least amount of external stimulation possible.

Seating by windows, doors, pencil sharpeners and other concentration-breakers is not recommended.

Placement as close to the teacher as possible, facing forward is best, but if the classroom is organized in groups or tables, be sure to seat them near a well-organized, obedient child to provide a positive behavioral role model.

 

5. Simplify Steps—

One of the hardest things for an ADHD-brained person to do is remember more than a few steps at once. Be sure to deliver instructions one at a time, and repeat if necessary.

Because they are so easily distracted (when not hyper-focused and ignoring all around them), those with ADHD neurology can have very limited short term memory, so adjust classroom lessons and homework accordingly.

 

6. Orderly Organization—

Kids with ADHD are known for being disorganized and forgetful due to their distractibility and impulsive nature, making it hard for them to think beyond the moment.

These qualities are caused by a developmental delay in the prefrontal cortex of the brain: the part that controls executive functions, such as impulse control and focus.

This means they will need help remembering what to take home and bring back to school, with plenty of parent-teacher communication. A written system to remember important work or due dates can help, as can a list posted in their locker to be checked before leaving school every day.

For older children, an extra set of all textbooks to be kept at home can help eliminate the issue of forgetting to bring books home for homework.

 

7. Remembering Routines—

Getting into a routine can be helpful for any child, but for the ADHD mind, routine is necessary for remembering important daily tasks. Forming regular habits can eventually train the brain to better recall what needs to be done every day.

In the classroom, giving the ADHD child a set schedule and sticking to it will help them feel less anxious about what is expected from them.

If this weekly routine can be written down for them to reference, it will help eliminate worries about forgetting something important.

 

Kids with ADHD have trouble sitting still, exhibit impulsive, distracting behavior, and have trouble focusing or paying attention; all of which can make them very difficult to teach.

But with up to 12% of the school-age population diagnosed with this condition, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there are many ways for you and their teachers to help your child thrive. With your help, and the support of professional educators, your ADHD-brained child will be able to find success at school.