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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

ADD Ain't Math

Our son has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Most times I don’t think about the challenges he faces or how it affects all of our lives. He’s a brilliant, caring, witty person, and his disorganization and impulsivity are parts of who he is. Frustrating at times, but it feels more like a personality quirk. Oh, that’s just how he is, you know

We’ve come to accept that he’s more likely than not to leave something he needs someplace we can’t ever get it back. On one of the jets we flew on several days earlier, maybe? Throughout his middle school career, we bought three gym outfits. Most parents buy a larger size to last all three years. Not us! We know he’s going to walk in a room when we’re in the middle of a conversation and jump in with an off-the-wall question. We also know he isn’t going to remember to tell us he has an orchestra concert or school meeting until the day it’s happening. Did I already say it can be frustrating? I did? Well, that’s okay. We love and accept him just the way he is.

What isn’t easy to accept is how outsiders sometimes view him. There’s nothing glaringly different about our son. He’s of normal height. His verbal skills are advanced and always have been. And his focus can be incredible. (Getting him to switch gears is the hard part.) We are so grateful for all of these blessings, but not being able to see anything ‘wrong’ becomes an obstacle at times. Teachers can’t look at him and see something different, so they assign negative labels to him, such as he’s lazy, careless, or doesn’t care.

I’m not blaming teachers. They’ve got their work cut out for them with many different students to teach under less than ideal circumstances. I only bring it up to illustrate one of the challenges facing kids with ADD or ADHD. Oftentimes they are labeled bad because we can’t see brain functioning. And negative labels can lead to poor self-image and so on and so on.

Here are just a few statistics to shed a little light on how things can turn out for these kids sometimes:

Teenagers with ADHD have almost four times as many traffic citations as their non-ADD peers.
Teens with ADHD have four times as many car wrecks and are seven times more likely to have a second accident.
21% of teens with ADHD skip school repeatedly.
35% eventually drop out of school.
45% have been suspended.
30% have failed or had to repeat a year of school.  

My husband and I want our son to be successful. We want him to be safe. We want him to have good relationships, and we want to minimize problems for him. And probably just as important is teaching him to cope with the challenges ahead.

It takes quite a bit of patience, understanding, and structure to raise a kid with ADD/ADHD. We’re far from perfect at it, because we are human. Sometimes we’re tired or hungry or had a really bad day at work. I’m not sure it’s possible to understand how any other parent feels without walking in that parent’s shoes, which is probably the reason my blood pressure goes up when someone without kids or one who hasn’t had a child with ADD/ADHD gives unsolicited parenting advice. But the incidents of this happening with us are minor compared to some other parents.

I have a friend whose little boy has Autism. You can’t tell from looking at him that anything is different either, at least not if you don’t know what you’re looking for. When he was younger sometimes he would have an outburst in public and once a reaction began, there was very little to be done to stop it. At that point, my friend’s goal would be to get him out of the situation as soon as possible. I couldn’t believe the things people would say to her, such as “You need to control your child” or “Your kid is a brat.” Sometimes they would even recommend a spanking. I don’t know when it became okay to offer an uneducated opinion to a stranger, but lots of people seem to think it’s their right. 

Have you ever experienced strangers giving you unsolicited advice on anything? How did you deal with it? Does anyone have any good comebacks? (It’s okay to tell me. I just asked for your advice. LOL)


  1. Sam ~ My teenage son has ADHD and dyslexia. Like your son, mine is very bright. We just had him tested again for the school system's Independent Educational Plan. He was in the 86% with his IQ and 8% in his writing skills. I can't even imagine how frustrating it must be for him. He's is clearly intelligent, but *knows* what his limitations are, which has to be the worst!

    We've always been very fortunate with his teachers, however. I think mostly this is because he is well behaved in their classes. (I have stressed to him from an early age that if you need help from someone, you're more likely to get it if they like you.)

    I can count on one hand the number of times he lost it in public when he was little. But (1) time we were at the library. He was 2 1/2. The one place you really don't want to have a meltdown. So I took him OUTSIDE to soothe him and this woman walks up to me and starts telling me how he might benefit from her church's Sunday school. My child is having a MELTDOWN.

    Yeah - I saw red. I am trying to soothe my child and some busybody took my state of vulnerability as an opportunity to push her agenda on me. Unsolicited advice makes me very Lou Ferrigno Hulk-like. ;) I feigned sweetness and replied, "Yeah, he's upset. He must have Satan in him. I'm sure your church is just the thing to save him." Then I narrowed my eyes on her and said, "Why don't you mind your own #@$*ing business." And then she did. ;)

    But you're so much nicer than me. I can't see you ever doing that. But maybe an "I'm sorry, I didn't ask for your advice." And leave it at that. I would imagine someone would get the hint.

  2. I don't really have any parenting advice for you, Samantha. Not that you asked for it. But I figure since I don't have kids and you do, maybe you have a clue what you're doing. I could give you advice on how to be an awesome aunt in the eyes of your niece or nephew. My advice does not always prove to make you an awesome aunt in the eyes of your siblings, but that doesn't matter to me.

    As to dealing with unsolicited advice, I wish I knew a better way of handling it. I tend to stand and stare, shocked that someone would suggest such a thing (whatever it was) to me.

    1. Catherine,
      I think you're the best aunt ever! I'd totally take any advice you have to give. My sweet little niece is going through stranger anxiety, and it has been too long since she last saw us. She bawled when I picked her up! I told my husband we have to see her more often so she isn't afraid of us. I know it will pass, but still... Life has been too busy lately and the consequences stink!

      Your reaction to unwanted advice matches mine. I'm usually appalled that anyone would be that rude. I remember getting a lot of unwanted advice when I was pregnant, which is probably the worst time to give a woman advice. LOL. I remember going off on one of my co-workers who had the gall to say something to me about something I was eating when she was a smoker. Pregnant + Hungry + Unwanted Advice = Not Pretty!

    2. Ooh! The pregnant ones were horrible. I tried to be cool and stand-offish so no one would talk to me.

      As for your niece ... sorry to butt in (lol)... Bella gets over stranger anxiety as long as they bring her gifts. Candy, an awesome toy, etc... She can be bribed with most anything :)

    3. LOL, Jerrica! I can do bribery. ;D

    4. It's tough when you don't get to see them very often. Jerrica's advice is always good. Every time you see her, bring her a little something special. It doesn't have to be expensive: a cookie, a small toy...just something that is from you and for her. That way, she'll start to associate you with good things, and will be less likely to be afraid of you. That said, some kids are just really shy, so don't push.

      Also, as the aunt, you're not with them all day every day...so try to come up with something fun you can do with her each time you see her. Something that is special Samantha and niece time. When I was a kid, my favorite aunt always took me into her bedroom, set me down at the vanity, and dressed up my hair. We'd talk while she did it, and I felt pretty and special afterwards...and we got to know each other pretty well. As I got older, she would schedule dates where we could go to a salon and both get the same sort of treatment. I've never forgotten those moments.

      I try to do similar things with my Monster . He and I take trips to the library. We hang out, pick out books, read a bunch of them, and check out more. It's an Aunt Cat and Monster Boy date, and no one else does it with him. He loves it, I get to spend time with him, and it is encouraging him to read. There's nothing better than that, and the only thing it costs me is time. (Well, and sometimes the cost of a book when he loses it...)

  3. Ava,
    I bet you cured that woman of butting into other people's business ever again. LOL! When my son was four, he used to say "Just worry about yourself." He must have heard that a lot at daycare. ;D

    My son's high school teachers have been great. He has mostly male teachers this year and he has formed an especially close bond with his English teacher. I can't tell you how amazing that is. He loves to read now and even though he hates writing, he'll do it for his teacher. (Lots of kids with ADD have difficulty with fine motor skills. His handwriting is atrocious and he used to have an elementary teacher that would make him redo his work because she said he wasn't trying. No wonder he hated writing. I always joked that it just meant he'd grow up to become a doctor.) He has also been pretty excited about discussions in English class and giving presentations, so his teacher creates other opportunities for his students to be successful in class aside from writing papers.

  4. I'm really good at rolling the eyes and turning my back. Not so good at verbal comebacks.

    1. Hannah,
      Actions speak louder than words. That tells the busybody exactly what you think of her advice. :D

  5. I tend to smile, say thank you and then promptly ignore them. Anyone pushy enough to offer unsolicited advice doesn't care about your opinions and won't change theirs. Not worth the effort of getting angry at them.

    My advice is do what is best for your child.

    I love the idea of the public school system. Both my husband and I went through the public school system. But to do what was right for my oldest who has ADHD, we pulled him out. We had too many runs in with teachers that didn't want to discuss methods for handling our son.

    In 4th grade his teacher refused to let him have an end of school checklist. He'd forget his lunch box, his homework, a book, his jacket. Something different each day. The teacher was on bus duty, locked her door as soon as the kids left and refused to reopen it. It's the kids responsibility to remember she said. When I tried put a 5 item check list on his desk so he could look at it and know what to bring home, she'd make him take it off the desk and throw it away. Her opinion was kids needed to remember these things and not rely on crutches. It didn't matter to her that his very nature meant he wouldn't remember. And don't get me started on the value I find in checklists.

    We spent that whole year with him constantly forgetting something. And he learned nothing from it but lots of frustration - for him and me.

    Everyone has their own opinion and of course we all think they are right. I just try to wait to give mine until I'm asked for it. ;)

    1. Beth,
      Great point! Yeah, those people probably don't care about my point of view or opinion.

      That would be incredibly frustrating with the teacher! My son's 4th grade teacher was a difficult personality. A bit of a control-freak, if you ask me. All the kids have learning logs in the school the parents check and sign every night. Well, I signed my initials and she threatened to give him detention if I didn't sign my full name. Needless to say our entire year was devoted to teaching our son how to deal with a difficult personality. I don't know how much he learned from her learning plan, but I'd say he learned some great social lessons. ;)

      Then he has had some really amazing teachers who have gone out of their way to try to help him learn how to organize himself. Their dedication and compassion never went unnoticed.

  6. Sam, I can't STAND unsolicited advice! My mom gives it freely and it drives me nuts. Although, only over the phone. She just left after being here a week and didn't really butt in at all. Yay! lol.

    To be honest, I try to avoid situations where people might offer me advice. Our poor nanny in NYC took B to the playground every day and I would just cringe when she'd tell me stories about the other parents/nannies making suggestions to her. Mind your own effing business!!! It only happened to her a couple times, but I always admired her ability to let it roll off her back. If I had been there, I would have gone to fisticuffs.

    The most annoying advice is from the well-meaning people, though. (Isn't that horrible???) They just want to relive their time with their own children, meanwhile, you have groceries defrosting in your cart as they hold you hostage in the parking lot suggesting you stay with your child until they fall asleep, no matter how long it takes. Ugh. Annoying. I can put my own baby to sleep, lady, and it still involves me having an effing life, so shut it!

    :) Great blog. And P.S. I think you guys are awesome parents!

    1. Aw thanks, Jerrica. I think you and Eric are amazing parents too. B is one of the happiest children I've ever seen, and I love her confidence. :)

      So funny on being held hostage. I have that happen a lot, but in other situations like the time the checkout lady wanted to review her cat's family tree for five generations just because I was buying cat food. LOL. I listened because I wasn't in a huge hurry and I figured it must get really boring working the checkout, especially on a slow day. I certainly felt the pain of her boredom during her story. It's all about empathy, you know. ;D

    2. I am not surprised it happens to you a lot. You're so sweet and I can imagine people open up to you very easily :)

  7. Ugh. Unsolicited advice is the worst. It's one thing if you ask for advice and don't like what you hear. Then the onus is on you (read:me) to be gracious, at least. But if I didn't ask? All bets are off, baby. :-)

    It doesn't stop as kids get older, either. And it doesn't end at child rearing. The funniest one was a reader who wrote me a lovely letter about a book, begged for a secondary character's story, then told me who I'd better not pair him up with! I chuckled over that one.

    1. Hahaha.... That's funny, Deb. I think it's pretty cool how invested readers can get in characters. I haven't had anyone tell me who belongs together yet. I've only had questions about whether a character is going to get a story. :)

  8. I've basically tried to adopt the "smile and wave" policy, a la the Madagascar Penguins. This works in terms of unsolicited advice, as I figure arguing won't get me anywhere. They can't possibly know the reality of living with a child with Tourette's and Asperger's (and heck, probably ADD as well), so trying to educate and inform them in the space of a sound bite exchange isn't going to work.

    As my son gets ready to enter teenagehood and finds himself in middle school, it feels harder. I don't know what his peers are saying. I'm not there to defend him - nor would he always want my defending. The few times he's gotten comments on his tics while I'm present I've simply said, "He has Tourette's" - or he has said it, namely that "I have TS and I can't help it." So far so good.

    But it is SO SO hard. So hard. Yes, he has tics and that often marks him out as obviously different. But on the other hand, he's a bright, funny, kind kid who wants to play well with others - he just doesn't know how. And there's not a lot of sympathy for him in that regard, because behaviors and social conventions that seem obvious to us are not obvious to him, and it's so hard to see him wrestling with it all.

    Kudos to you for your wonderfully accepting attitude toward your son. I know our roads aren't exactly the same, but they have some of the same bumps and leave some of the same bruises. Here's hoping other people will learn to think before they speak.

    1. Anna,
      It sounds like you've done a great job of being there for your son and modeling for him how to respond to comments. I hope middle school goes smoothly for him. It's so hard to feel different at that age when they just want to fit in. And it's incredibly hard as a parent to watch our kids struggle, no matter what the reason is.

      I like your Madagascar Penguin approach. I'm going to adopt it. :)

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I wish you and your family all the best and second your hope other people will learn to think before they speak.

  9. Oh noes, Samantha, I'm so sorry you and your friend have to deal with this. :{ I really don't have any advice. People like to give advice whether you want it or not, whether your child has any disabilities or not. Heck it starts when you first get pregnant. :\

    1. Thanks, Marquita. :)

      I guess the best lesson I've learned today is not let it get under my skin.