My son, Anthony, was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at age 6. It is a diagnosis and mental condition with tendencies of inattention, high energy and impulsivity. I choose to see it as a superpower and flip the script of negativity and stigma around ADHD. I feel it can be a strength - not just a diagnosis. It is one of many ways the brain can be wired and can have many advantages. Those who proudly state “I am ADHD” (not I have ADHD) are typically hyper-focused, amazing at multitasking and zone in on areas where they find their passion and talents, just to name a few.
The time since my son’s diagnosis has been a rollercoaster, as I have assisted him with navigating the school environment, finding his learning style, advocating for accommodations, anticipating social situation challenges and being his biggest cheerleader since most days he lacks confidence in himself. Countless days Anthony would feel the frustration and anxiety of not being “good enough” or “dumb” for the times he cannot calm the “energizer bunny” to focus or listen. I know this is not the case, as his IQ is off the charts (above average) in every area. The truth is, he is my superhero. His love for learning, reading and high level curiosity never waivers and it is inspiring. Anthony welcomes and applies ideas to help himself to recenter and learn. Along our journey my husband, Bernie, and I have found strategies and resources that have been very beneficial to Anthony now and the future. You may also find them helpful.
Here are 3 tips to consider:
Tap Into Help: Utilize professionals such as therapists and counselors who can assist you in resetting any negative self-talk and finding strategies to be successful every day. Discuss obstacles or challenges that are common in your life and then find solutions to apply the next time the situation arises. For example, if you feel overwhelmed during the day, try breathing exercises to calm and ground yourself. If you need to move, identify acceptable activities that will help release energy, such as taking a short walk to the restroom. If you also have a child with ADHD, consider partnering with your child's school teachers and learning resource team including occupational therapists. I refer to these dedicated partners as "Team Anthony." Meet to discuss the classroom experience, find solutions to struggles, and explore other available accommodations that can help the student thrive. It is a true partnership to adjust techniques and accommodations by frequently communicating and gaining progress updates along the way.
Self Awareness: Have self awareness of what is needed to be productive and happy. Just like someone who is left-handed needs a left-handed scissor or a right sided spiral notebook to be able to write effectively, so too should those who are ADHD to ask for what they need. More quality sleep to rebound from the day? Then commit to 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep. Considering a medication to assist your focus? Meet with an attention specialist doctor who can help find the best option for you. Need accommodations or modification in school or work? Ask and suggest what may assist you, such as taking tests alone, a quiet work space or additional time to process the details or deliverables in a project. Determine what will be most helpful for you and then self advocate for what you need.
Spread The Word: As stated by NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) an estimated 9% of children aged 4-17 are ADHD. While ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, nearly 5% of adults aged 18-44 also have the super power. Help to expand the awareness that ADHD is common, open up honest discussions and identify some of the many strategies and options available to assist to be highly productive in all areas of life. Let’s drop the stigma around ADHD and embrace the strengths.
I never wanted Anthony to be labeled as, “a kid who has ADHD.” It is who he is. It is how he is wired, how he thinks, responds and processes information. I know deep in my heart that he will be super successful in his life. His natural strengths of empathy, kindness, Lego Master, fort builder extraordinaire, problem-solver and peace maker will shine. I know that all the effort and energy that has poured into him to learn strategies to channel these strengths will pay off. He is amazing. He is just the way he should be. The world just has to catch up and adapt to all of his superpowers!