As this is my first attempt at writing, I hope I do well enough to keep your attention and possibly help a little if your child has ADD or ADHD.
The name of my middle child is Jack and he is now seventeen years old.
Bringing up Jack has been an interesting journey with many highs and lows on the way.
The first time I heard the term ADD was when Jack decided to stab a boy with a pencil at his first school. The school called me in and talked about his general behaviour which showed inattention, difficult peer relationships and occassional undue aggression, not to mention a general immaturity. Me being me, I decided to learn what I could about these new words - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I went on the internet and I bought books and I found that there were check lists that would help to determine if Jack did have ADHD.
Having read these I made an appointment to see a specialist doctor in ADHD with Jack to confirm my amateur diagnosis. Bad news and good news was forthcoming. bad news being that Jack did have a problem and the good news being that he was not hyperactive, in other words he had ADD. The doctors advice mirrored the advice in the books I had read, namely be quick to praise, slow to scold. Try not to lose my temper and give Jack a regular routine to work to. Oh and by the way why not try a drug called Ritalin.
Ritalin if you dont know is an amphetimine some times called 'Kiddie Cocaine' and would drive most normal folks loopy. The idea of giving this to Jack scared me. My friends and family talked me into giving it a go and so I did at the lowest possible level to help Jack (it did) but make me feel I wasn't copping out by drugging my child up.
One of the hardest things I have had to do is balance Jacks wellbeing with the demands of people around me to up the dosage. To those folks I apologise for making their life harder but I did what I thought was right. Jacks mother decided to become an alchoholic and I was left with no partner and with three kids.
I stuck to the rules, kept things steady and managed to bring all three up and thoroughly enjoy the experience. As for Jack? He is intelligent but failed at school . He often got it wrong and has caused me friction in my relationships. One day charming and the next day uncaring and dismissive. He is a quite lad, well behaved, girlfriend, steady job, good sense of humour and I love him dearly.
This is another look at a different aspect of ADHD/ADD which is the effect it can have on relationships. Now, my marriage broke down but this was nothing to do with Jack although it had an enormous effect on his life but thats for another day.
Let me talk about the first (and only) support group meeting I went to for parents of kids with ADHD. The meeting was attended by around a dozen ladies and me. The content comprised of each lady having a minute or to to introduce themselves and then swap ideas on coping strategies. The only common thread was that not a single woman was still in a steady relationship.
Many of the women had moved home several times because their child was behaving badly. This included involvement in theft, arson and vandalism among other minor goings on. They explained that their child got bored, drifted off and got involved in bad stuff. It didn't help that many of these women were poor and felt they deprived their kids of basic comforts such as playstation's to keep them away from trouble. I walked away from the meeting feeling doomed and I never went back again. As you may know from my previous ramblings, I want to pass on a few tips that helped Jack and me along the way. Truth is that they could have helped these ladies too but perhaps they had already given in. Here are a just few and in no particular order -
Make sure that you and your family fully understand what ADHD is and that it is not your childs fault that they have this problem. Ensure that the school teachers and the school head know what ADHD is and then take responsibility for teaching them if not. I put together some bullet points on strategies which I gleaned from a book.
Have regular meeting with the form teacher and your child to keep things on track.
ADHD is not an excuse for rudeness and bad behaviour.
If your house has rules, like most households should, then apply them but realise it will be harder for your ADHD child to stick to them. Exactly the same applies at school, providing the school is being reasonable then back them. Jack was excluded on more than one occasion with my agreement. Rewards work.
Dangle a carrot in front of an ADHD kid and watch em go. Be slow to chide and fast to praise but remember there is always a line that cannot be crossed. The drugs do work (Ritalin in Jacks case) but do not let them take the place of good parenting. Find time for one on one stuff when you can. Last but not least, consider whether a games console is a good or bad thing! I got rid of all of the playstations in the house and watched Jacks aggression disappear with them. No more shouting at the screen. I substituted this with a promise that I would always find the money for a book to read.
So back to relationships and those of you still in this together. Remember that more than anything, ADHD kids yearn security and that means you folks staying together. Agree a plan and then work it as a team. Take pride in the successes and dont be too put off by the failures. There will be loads of those along the way but hey, thats the same for every family.
I thought it might be useful if I split out some of the key components in my strategy to make life as good as possible for Jack and the people around him. First let me remind you about Jack. Jack is now 17 and doing OK with a steady job and a steady girlfriend. We have arrived at this point despite me being a single dad looking after three kids (Jack is the middle kid) when my ex-wife became an alcoholic. The truth is that I have enjoyed all the challenges life has thrown at me and remained optimistic throughout.
What worked for me was to read up about ADD/ADHD and then find a way of explaining it to teachers in a simple a manner as possible. I not only explained the symptoms I also discussed the medication and the strategies that work well with these kids. I even on occasion went as far as to write a few bullet points along the lines of -
Make sure Jack sits towards the front of the class Always check (discreetly) that Jack understands what he is meant to be doing Feel free to praise any good work as he can lack self esteem Try and get a personal relationship with Jack so that you can discuss any problems together
Not only did I tell the class teacher I also found the time to meet the special needs coordinator and the head of year wherever Jack attended. In return for the teachers help I backed them totally when it came to discipline for Jack. Because of this he missed several days at school through exclusions and sometimes had privileges removed at home. I regularly met the teachers and they felt that I was a caring parent and i believe they went the extra mile for me and for Jack.
So, did Jack excel at school? Sorry but no happy end as Jack left school with a moderate set of results and then failed to impress at college. Truth be known, Jack is brighter than a button but the lack of concentration and self discipline counted against him. My guess is that Jack will mature late in life and find a way to utilize the very sharp brain that he has.
Lyndon is father to Jack who has ADHD. This is one of a series of articles describing their journey and passing on advice based on experience.