Many years ago, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD after being identified as having a learning disability. At the time, there was no internet, etc. so I resorted to the few books and documents available about ADHD which gave little information about what to do and what the future held. In seeking a diagnosis, I was fortunate enough to have a pediatrician who had studied ADHD and was an amazing resource and mentor. In seeking information and assistance, I found people with information and resources in how to work with the school and advocate for my child’s needs. Through that assistance, I soon found other families and people who were on the same path to gain knowledge for their child. As I learned; I shared and a small support group began in my pediatrician’s office.
A few years later, I was asked to interview for a position with a new non-profit in South Carolina where I could teach and support other families in advocating for their child’s needs. Fortunately, I got the job and even more fortunate I was able to learn and share more knowledge about ADHD. I always felt that I was on a mission to help families understand and assist their children to become successful adults. It has always been my belief that God does not give us gifts to hold on to. Those gifts are given to us to share and pass on. I have been gifted with knowledge, understanding and experience with ADHD that is mine to share.
Through 30 years experience working with families of children with ADHD and some adults with ADHD, it is evident there is a need for group support and sharing. As the parent of (now adult) children with ADHD it was always helpful for me to be able to share and learn from other families and professionals who had lived experiences and challenges. ADHD is a hidden disability which really makes it more difficult for those not familiar with it to understand it. Learning about ADHD is most critical in understanding and being able to assist in their situation or that of their family member. There still exist: many myths around ADHD; school issues with students with ADHD; lack of appropriate diagnosis; medication myths and misunderstanding; lack of appropriate modification and accommodations to create a level playing field; and lack of approaches to assist young people to embrace the strengths and abilities ADHD presents. A support group can and does assist in coping and addressing all of the above.
In listening to the parents, young adults and adults who have participated in past support groups I have realized the need for peer to peer support is still needed today. A couple of adults have shared that due to the group they have now received a diagnosis and the group has helped them understand why they do some of things they do. One parent stated that she now understood why her child did some of things he did, that it was not willful behavior, it is part of his ADHD. Another parent felt that the ability to share with those who understand her experience has most beneficial.
“Stephen talks too much.”
“Stephen can’t stay in his seat.”
“Stephen doesn’t live up to his full potential.”
These were the common themes found on nearly all of my report cards which accurately described the reality of my life as a student. When a thought popped into my head, it came out of my mouth. Sitting still in my desk was an exercise in futility, and, while my grades weren’t terrible, they could’ve been better. My teachers knew it; my parents knew it, and I knew it. I felt like I was just as smart as the kids at the top of the class, but, for some reason, I couldn’t do what they did, and I definitely didn’t think like they thought. Thankfully, I graduated high school and went off to college where I majored in psychology. While taking an abnormal psyche class, the professor randomly assigned each student a particular topic for a term paper. Ironically, my assignment was Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As I did my research, it was as if a light came on. I picked up the phone, called my mother and excitedly proclaimed, “Mom, I think I have ADD!” To which she responded, “I know. I’ve known for a few years. I told the school counselor, but she encouraged me not to get you diagnosed because they would’ve taken you out of honors classes and put you in special ed.”
Because ADD goes hand in hand with procrastination, I didn’t bother to get a diagnosis for another five years, but, without a doubt, that diagnosis changed my life—in a good way. With medication, I could actually pay attention in class! (I was in my fourth year of graduate school at the time.) I could read books without having to reread every page, and I could even wait my turn to speak. Oh sure, having a diagnosis and taking meds doesn’t magically make all of the symptoms go away. I still struggle with many of them every day. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yes, having ADD means there are certain aspects of life that are more difficult for me than for others, but, on the other hand, there are also quite a few gifts that come along with it—greater creativity, the ability to think outside the box, more energy, and a multitasking superpower.
It’s been 25-years since being diagnosed with ADD. In those years I have maintained a happy, healthy marriage, sustained a wonderful career in ministry and have been raising two amazing daughters—one of whom also has ADD. So, if I could say one thing to those who are struggling themselves or who are parents of an ADD child, it would be this: Attention Deficit Disorder isn’t a death sentence on your future. It’s a gift that makes you special. In addition, I encourage them to take part in this support group. In addition to helping overcome some of the obstacles, it also helps that specialness shine!
Until recently, I knew little about ADD/ADHD. My knowledge was limited to my college years and being part of a team project with one member being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and was on medication to help stay focused.
About five years ago, I found myself in a professional work environment with someone with ADD/ADHD and becoming very frustrated with having to interact with this individual. The person is smart, an out of the box thinker and full of energy. However, this person comes across as very disorganized, easily distracted, missing important deadlines and not fully communicating with the team.
Being involved in the open discussions provided by this support group, I have developed a greater understand of ADD/ADHD and how to properly prioritize tasks. Shared experiences on addressing time management, family/team dynamics and communication have been very useful. Plus it is always good to know you are not the only one.