ADD. The term is thrown around so casually these days that any male child that demonstrates a spark of life is tagged with the label. It stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. And though it is still a commonly used term, ADD has been superseded by a newer term: ADHD. The H is for Hyperactive.
Unfortunately, rather than clearing things up, it just further complicates the matter. The DSM breaks down ADHD into three varieties:
- ADHD Combined Type
- ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type
- ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive Type
These classifications are important because one treats inattentiveness differently than hyper-activeness. But knowing this doesn’t even get us started. We can go even deeper into this rabbit hole by chasing the six types of ADHD identified by the medical director of Amen Clinics. Amen uses a combination of behavioral studies and brain scans for his diagnosis.
If you suspect your child has ADHD, you will need to consult with an ADHD therapist. Diagnosing the disorder is difficult because short attention spans along with a certain amount of hyperactivity is perfectly normal in growing, active children. Consider the following symptoms:
- Squirms in their seat or fidgets with their hands or feet
- Has difficulty playing quietly or doing calm activities
- A high level of impatience
- Has difficulty waiting for things they want and waiting their turn
- Lack of attention to detail or careless mistakes in schoolwork
- Boredom with a task after only a few minutes, and frequently switching from one activity to another
Does that sound like anyone you know. When you meet a child that doesn’t exhibit these characteristics, you might wonder what is wrong. Or, you might say, “What a good little boy you are!” We react this way because most of the symptoms of ADHD are the norms for childhood.
Still, it is vitally important that your child is seen by a professional if ADHD is suspected. That is because it is common for people with ADHD to suffer from some other problem that may go undiagnosed. Depression, sleep disorders, and learning disabilities may be confused with ADHD. Or they may come along for the ADHD ride.
In any event, if you have a child that suffers from ADHD, then you and the whole family also suffer. And while it can be treated, it cannot be cured. It is a disorder that the whole family has to live with for a very long time. It can put a strain on extended families and even marriages. No one goes unscathed. Though it will never be easy to live with the more severe cases, there are some things you can do to make it survivable. Here are three:
A person with a behavioral disorder is still a person. They still have feelings. Even parents can lose sight of this with a severely disabled, behaviorally challenged child. What has to stay top-of-mind is that this condition is not their fault. They are the ones suffering. Yours is more along the lines of second-hand suffering. They are in pain that they are emotionally ill-equipped to express. They are not acting out because they want to be bad little boys and girls. They have a problem that often causes others to want to keep their distance.
The Internet is home to many helpful lists full of tips and strategies for dealing with an ADHD child. But a child is not a thing to be dealt with, or managed, or contained. There is no such thing as an ADHD child. There is only a child who suffers. Reminding ourselves of this keeps us in the right frame of mind where we can do some good.
Why would you even try to deal with this by yourself. Your child’s ADHD is not your fault. Even if you are not the best parent in the world, (and who is) you didn’t cause your child’s medical condition, nor can you cure it. You need help from outside parties. Everyone in the family needs to help out and carry a portion of the load.
More to the point, everyone in the family could benefit from family counseling. Therapists Carole Jacobs and Isadore Wendel, PhD, MSCP had this to say on the matter:
Living with a child with ADHD can translate into household chaos. Therapists can help families organize the household so the child with ADHD functions more effectively on a daily basis, and also by removing some burdens from the children who don’t have ADHD so they feel more like siblings and less like parents.
Everyone has seen at least one child with out of control ADHD and wondered how that family could function. The answer is, without help, they often don’t. William E. Pelham, Jr., Ph.D., professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University at Buffalo and director of UB’s Center for Children and Families authored a study showing that parents of a child with ADHD are more than twice as likely to divorce by the time the child reaches age 8. With such stresses on the family, and odds against its survival, it is almost irresponsible not to seek counseling for the whole family.
Remember to take care of yourself
In every family with a disabled or suffering member, there is a tendency for one or more family members to lose themselves. They take on the role of full-time caregiver. Their own goals and dreams are set aside while they devote themselves to the care of another. While that may seem like a noble sacrifice, it often means that the illness has taken two lives instead of just the one.
It is important that every member of the family share in the extra responsibilities without losing themselves to the process of caregiving. Everyone needs a break. Everyone needs some “me” time. Guilt might lead some to skip this important, therapeutic measure. But a burned out caregiver is a liability, not a help. Even professional nurses go home at the end of a shift. They eat out. They go to parties. They pursue hobbies and have a social life. You must do the same.
Some estimates place the percentage of children between ages 4 and 17 with ADHD at over 10%. There are likely many more cases that go undiagnosed. Yet somehow, they manage to grow up and for the most part, live perfectly normal lives. With a bit of help, your child will survive this, and so will you.