This is a wide open raw post about our journey to accepting that our Master 11 has ADHD.  I have put this diagnosis off for, literally, years, as I didn’t want to ‘label’ my child.  From the time he was 2yrs old, we always have said that he has enough energy for 10 children.  As he grew to be a very full-on, energiser bunny type boy, I strongly resisted even reading about ADHD, let alone considering having him assessed, as I think I really knew he had it.

Of course now, in hindsight, I so wish I’d had him assessed years ago… not for me, but for him.  The biggest thing that finally pushed me to get that referral and make an appointment was one particular day laying turn in our front yard.  I was laying the turf pieces while the 3 kids prepped the area ahead of me.  Pulling out any weeds and moistening the area.  Repeatedly, we would need to question Master 11 on why he was in a different part of the yard.  As you lay turf in lines, it’s very clear where I was going to go next with my turf pieces, however Master 11 was always a good few meters away.  I, and my older 2 kiddos, would explain to him how things were being done and why he needed to be where he needed to be, but he was simply getting frustrated with us.  This is something I had come to recognise in him well.  It wasn’t a defiant, “I want to do my own thing” kind of frustration, but a “Why don’t I understand what you mean?” kind of frustration.

Let’s look at a fairly simple definition of ADHD

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a developmental problem which results in poor concentration and control of impulses. It can affect children’s learning and social skills, and also family functioning. It is not an illness. With medical treatment, understanding and care, a child with ADHD can live a normal life. 

I was not keen to look into ADHD as I pretty much knew, just from what I’d heard from others etc, that Master 11 would tick many of the boxes for diagnosis.

Common signs and symptoms are:

  • Inattention
    Difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completing anything.
  • Impulsivity
    Talking over the top of others, losing control of emotions easily, being accident prone.
  • Overactivity
    Constant fidgeting and restlessness.

When I eventually forced myself to do extensive research, I wasn’t at all surprised, but still saddened, to be able to say, “Yes, that’s him to a tea.” to nearly every one.  I wouldn’t say that he is accident prone as such, but sometimes accidents will happen when there isn’t forethought put into actions etc.  (however that in itself is something that goes on in every child & adult if they don’t ‘think ahead’)

Now, while we are still on a steep learning curve with Master 11 and his diagnosis and by no means know anywhere near all we need to know, my first port of call was to get myself educated on the best way to help him.  Of course medication is the first thing everyone thinks, but I was predominantly more concerned with understanding how his brain works.  How do I ‘get in his head more’ so as to make the best decisions in every situation.

I also spoke to every ADHD Mum I knew, so as to get the broadest source of hands on info I could. My biggest concern was how do I deal with behaviour related issues?  A child with ADHD can’t just simply get away with things because they struggle more in these areas.  The general consensus was to have the best understanding of how he thinks and feels, so I can communicate & acknowledge these things with him.   eg.  “I understand that you struggle in this area, but there are still consequences for bad choices.” etc.

Some general info from the The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne that I found very helpful is shown below. What was really interesting was that a lot of the things they suggested were actually already in place in our home as they were part of our parenting journey from early on, having done ‘Growing Kids God’s Way’ with Gary & Ann-Marie Ezzo.

Ways to help children with ADHD

Verbal instructions

  • Keep instructions brief and clear.
  • Say the child’s name or tap them on the shoulder to make and keep eye contact when giving important information.
  • Ask your child to repeat the instruction to make sure they have taken it in and understood.
  • Your child may need prompting, monitoring and encouragement to keep them focused on tasks.

Written work

  • Highlight important points in written information using *asterisks*, CAPITAL LETTERS or bold text.
  • Limit the amount of information that needs to be copied from a black or white board. Instead, give ‘hand out’ sheets with this information.

Other learning strategies

  • Provide one-to-one instruction as often as possible.
  • A class ‘buddy’, who gets along well with the child, can be helpful to reinforce instructions and directions.
  • Make sure activities have plenty of ‘hands on’ involvement.
  • Schedule the most important learning to take place during the child’s best concentration time(s). This is usually in the morning.
  • Give a checklist for what the child needs to do.
  • Physical environment:
    • Sit them near the front of the classroom.
    • Plan seating and furniture carefully to decrease distractions. For example, sit the child near classmates who will be good role models.
    • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.

Reducing over-activity and fatigue

  • Build rest-breaks into activities. For example, a five minute break for each 30 minutes of activity.
  • Alternate academic tasks with brief physical exercise. For example, the child could do structured tasks or errands such as delivering notes or taking lunch orders.
  • Prepare a number of low-pressure fun activities for when the child needs to spend a few minutes calming down.

Keeping structure

Children with ADHD can struggle with changes to routine and need to know what to expect. The following strategies can help:

  • Have a fixed routine.
  • Keep classroom activities well organised and predictable.
  • Display the daily schedule and classroom rules. For example, attach a flowchart to the inside of the child’s desk or book.
  • Tell the child in advance (whenever possible) of a change in the schedule.
  • Give the child advance warning of changes. For example: ‘in five minutes you will have to put your work away’, and remind them more than once.
  • Keep choices to a minimum.

Self-esteem

  • Encourage the child to take part in activities where they will experience success.
  • Set achievable goals.
  • Acknowledge their achievements by congratulating them verbally and in written ways such as notes or certificates.
  • Focus their attention on the good parts of their written work. For example, use a highlighter pen on the best sections of the child’s work.
  • Help them feel important in the classroom. For example, acknowledging their effort to do a task even if they don’t succeed.
  • Near the end of the day, review with the child their accomplishment/s for that day.
  • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible to restore self-confidence.

Social skills

  • Involve the child in smaller groups of no more than two other children, instead of larger groups, whenever possible.
  • Reward appropriate behaviour such as sharing and cooperating.
  • Teach the child appropriate responses when they feel provoked. For example, teach them to walk away or talk to the teacher.
  • Encourage the child to join activities where ‘supervised socialisation’ is available, such as Scouts/Girl Guides or sporting groups.
  • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions upon themself and upon others.
  • Use visual prompts to remind the child to think before they act. For example, ‘STOP, THINK, DO’.

Communication between home and school

  • Use a school-home daily communication book.
  • Communicate both positive aspects of day and inappropriate behaviour.
  • Teachers – be sensitive to parents’ feelings. They have the difficult task of raising a child with ADHD.
  • Teachers – help parents feel proud of their child. Find positive things to share with them about their child on a regular basis. This can be done in front of the child.

To help to encourage the child to complete homework parents can:

  • Make the work environment attractive but not too distracting.
  • Have regular scheduled time for homework.

Key points to remember

  • Acknowledge and reward achievements and positive behaviour often.
  • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible.
  • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.
  • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions.
  • Medication, positive parenting strategies, school support and counselling can help most children with ADHD and their families.

With all of this in mind, I need to now tie in with my previous blog post about returning to mainstream school.  (the health issue I spoke of for Master 11).

While all the things about returning to school were going on, I was very aware of two things.

  1.  Master 11 would very much benefit from the routine of school, but also the frequent ‘changes’ going on at school.  Moving from class to class, having different teachers,  having designated break times with others etc etc.
  2. To be able to transition into school easily and for Master 11 to excel in all areas of schooling, both academic and social, I needed to have him assessed/diagnosed in order to go forward in the best emotional state possible.  (I’m talking me as well as him.. ha ha)

Master 11 is crazy smart academically, and I have come to understand why since educating myself on ADHD.  I’m pretty darn excited to see where he can go with this back at school, but also in his life in the future.  I’ve been able to have some great discussions with him about how BLESSED he is to have this disorder.  He can honestly think quicker than anyone I know.  I’m determined that he doesn’t forget that he is MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE !!!  He’s not negatively effected by this !!  God has a crazy awesome job set aside for him and only he can fulfil it !!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

I’m not saying it’s always easy, coz man, it isn’t !!  I will continue to go to The Lord each morning and say “Please keep me teachable”  “Re-parent me in areas you’re not pleased with” “Forgive me for reacting the way I did in this or that situation.”  I also have to go to Master 11 and seek his forgiveness when I haven’t handled a situation as best as I could have.  #parentingwithhumility

This seems like such a short post for such a broad issue, but while I want to understand my son as best as I possibly can, I don’t want this to be perceived as this big daunting problem… coz you know… it’s not !!!  When it comes down to it, it wasn’t a surprise to me, (& as one of my Lioness sisters always says to me), it certainly wasn’t a surprise to our Heavenly Father.    I simply needed to allow The Lord to work within me, to prepare my heart for the journey.  I’m so thankful that he did and continues to do this in me each and every day.

Blessings Peeps !!!!!  xox