Having a child with ADHD is a challenge. Having a child with ADHD who is on the autism spectrum is fucking hard. Having more than one child with ADHD is a nightmare.
Having all your kids with ADHD makes me want to throw up my hands in despair.
Now before you start throwing statistics, data and wild accusations at me about over-diagnosis, restriction of natural expression and all that, know that I’ve been living with this for twelve years. I have read the books, the articles, the websites, the studies. I do think it’s over-diagnosed, especially in boys. I do think there is a cop-out mentality to be able to shoehorn kids into an educational system that is set up for limited modalities. But I also know my kids. I can tell what’s them avoiding something they don’t want to do and what’s them not being able to control their own brains long enough to get shit done. And all the wholistic, person directed thinking in the world isn’t going to help them get through the hoops they need to to be able to function in everyday life. Add to that the fact that every child with ADHD is different, due to age, gender, co-morbities, temperment, mood, a million things. I can’t take what worked for one kid and slap it on all of them and call it done. I have to learn everything new with each child. Hence the despair.
I got one through high school unmedicated, but it was so incredibly ugly that I will always feel like I failed him by not getting him diagnosed and formally treated. Morgan had IEPs from fifth grade on, but all the supports and exceptions he got didn’t help him, and he graduated feeling like he was stupid and incompetent. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for about this first year he’s been at the community college, it’s that I think he is really starting to see that he wasn’t the problem, and there are a lot of different ways to learn, some of which he is good at and some he isn’t. He seems to really be enjoying college, and doing well. Or he’s lying to me about it like he did in high school. I won’t know until Christmas. But he’s going to class every day, which to me says a lot.
Xander is different. Which of course he would be, as he’s ASD. He’s struggling with a world where he can’t quite make sense of the social rules at the same time his brain is running around in circles doing 20 things at once. He’s had support since he was about 2, as he had abnormal lead levels as a child and some early profound hearing issues. He started on medication in about fourth grade, as he just couldn’t cope with all the sensory input. It wasn’t a magic cure, but it allowed him to function, and to start processing the social component he had so many problems with. We didn’t jump straight to ritalin/amphetamines, but started with anti-anxiety meds, and it took a while and a lot of experimenting to find that he really needed the heavier duty stuff. And his needs have changed over time. At first he was on a small dose, but he couldn’t take the extended release. As he grew, the doses got larger, and now at 14 he actually does better with the XR. And we still have a lot of supports in place both at home and at school, plus he has a behavior specialist and a mobile therapist that each work with him once a week. But he’s finally getting to a point where he can express himself, and we’re learning what actively interests him, so we’re starting to be able to direct him towards a better place academically. His teachers all think he’s smart and well-spoken when he bothers to speak, and they’re often surprised by some of the things he comes up with. The social piece is still a problem, and most likely always will be. But Morgan was a loner until high school, so I’m hopeful Xander will follow a similar pattern.
And now it’s Hero’s turn. This one is the hardest, because unlike the boys who were happy to just go with the flow, she has life goals, and I am so worried about her getting in a position where she can’t follow her passions. We’ve know she had issues for about five years now, but usually she’s been able to manage it with a little help from her teachers. She doesn’t have an IEP, but she does have what they call in Pennsylvania a chapter 15, which is basically an IEP for kids who are doing well enough in school not to need an IEP. Except this year, all that has gone to hell. She’s failing two classes, is in danger of failing two more, and all of it is because she’s not doing her homework. She’s not using the tools that are in place for her, and basically she doesn’t have the coping skills that the boys did at her age. We didn’t push it because she seemed to have things under control. But now she has a big social circle, and there are a lot of activities she wants to be involved in, all of which are pushing out the things she’s required to do. And as she falls more and more behind, she gets more and more frustrated and shuts down, to the point where Tuesday she had a meltdown in science and had to spend time in the nurse’s office calming down and talking to her guidance counselor. I took pity on her and gave her a mental health day yesterday so she could get caught up, which to her credit she did. Thankfully my job is such that I can work from home occassionally, because I think having me across the table from her kept her on task. She got about 12 assignments done over the course of the day, which I think will get her out of most of the holes she’s in. We meet with all her teachers next Monday to talk about the situation, and the marking period ends next Friday. I’ve told her that if nothing else, she’ll be stuck with whatever grade she gets this marking period, but then she’ll have a clean slate for the next one, so long as she applies her tools and does her work. But she’ll lose some extracurriculars if she fails anything, so we’re trying to avoid that (even though if she succeeds, it’ll cost me $150 in fees for colorguard. Oi.) But then I have to go through the struggle of do I get her diagnosed, and once diagnosed, do I get her on medication. I hate to do it, and I’d rather avoid it if I could, but I don’t want her to struggle the way Morgan has. Either way, helping her manage her condition is going to be incredibly different than it was for either of the boys, and I’m feeling a bit in the weeds at the moment.
The added challenge, for me at least, is that I can’t comprehend any of it. It makes no sense to me that you would spend three hours avoiding homework when it would take you fifteen minutes to do it. Or that you would hide it in your locker instead of turning it in when it’s already done. I get that not everyone is a writer or a reader (although that can be hard for me, too), but just the basics of school don’t seem that hard. It’s like a video game. You do your daily grinds, you earn your points, you get to do something fun. They love video games, this should be a pattern they comprehend. But they don’t, and I don’t understand why.
So that’s today. A day of cautious optimism, and plans for Halloween (I’ve been looking up fake blood recipes) and pretending for a little while that these things aren’t a struggle every day.