A frustrated child and a suffering parent is not a good place to be, especially when home educating. Eventually, perhaps, when the anxiety attacks, depression, and unmet expectations are too much, the child and the parent submit to testing and evaluations — because learning is hard and avoided and a cheerleading parent is no longer enough.
Taking my son in for testing was psychologically hard for me. What did I hope to learn? If they told me everything was fine, that would be a relief but not progress. So, should I hope for something to be wrong? What if everything is wrong? See? That’s tough.
Thankfully, we did the testing and got some feedback that can be put to use. Mommy instinct tells me we are far from finished pursuing an additional diagnosis or two, but at least now we can begin the walk to recovery.
The diagnosis we have is ADHD. There is a lot of misinformation about ADHD, so I had to dive into scientific research to teach myself what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder actually is. So far, one of my favorite experts is Dr. Russell Barkley. Just in case ADHD is a diagnosis you are contemplating, here are some facts that I have learned so far:
- ADHD is a neurological (brain) disorder that is passed down genetically, although some people can acquire ADHD with brain injury.
- Contrary to popular belief, ADHD is not caused by watching too much TV, eating a poor diet, or bad parenting. However, there is a correlation between individuals with ADHD being attracted to watching TV, people eating junk food and feeling bad, and parents misunderstanding ADHD and parenting ineffectively.
- ADHD cannot be cured, but an individual can take measures to improve his or her quality of life. Ignoring ADHD is not an effective treatment.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a terrible name because hyperactivity and inattention are among the least noticeable traits, especially in adolescents and adults. A better title for this disorder is “Executive Function Disorder” (EFD), which involves a pattern of chronic difficulties in executing higher-level tasks, such as …
- Analyzing a task
- Planning how to address the task
- Organizing the steps needed to carry out the task
- Developing timelines for completing the task
- Adjusting or shifting the steps, if needed, to complete the task
- Completing the task in a timely way
- Because the root cause of ADHD is neurological, a person with ADHD often has one or more co-occurring problems that are also neurologically based, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GED).
- Many people cope with the lack of executive functioning by externalizing a system of reminders (i.e. Google calendar alarms) and rewards (i.e. finish math, then have breakfast) designed to keep them on task. Delayed rewards and delayed punishments are virtually of no effect because, for the ADHD mind, all time is NOW.
- Despite having the word “hyperactive” in the title, noticeable physical hyperactivity is often rare. Most of the hyperactivity is brain hyperactivity. Consequently, many people with ADHD do not sleep well.
- Many kids are diagnosed with ADHD in late elementary school because this is when a lack of executive functioning skills begin to stand out (which can trigger anxiety and depression).
- ADHD is a spectrum ranging from mild to moderate to severe. It used to be that ADD and ADHD were separate diagnoses, but that is no longer the case. Even in those with no outward hyperactivity, people with ADHD have hyperactive minds.
- One neuroscientist has described ADHD as having a “race car brain with bicycle brakes” – meaning that people with ADHD are impulsive. They think faster than they can control themselves, which might mean they talk a lot or too quickly or at inappropriate times, interrupt others during conversation, or feel strong emotions before logic can kick in.
- ADHD kids have the potential to be very emotional (i.e. anger, embarrassment, anxiety) if continually prodded by a domineering adult or teasing peer. Many ADHD kids will over-correct their own disruptive behavior by going into fight (anger) or flight (withdraw) response.
- ADHD is not an indicator of intelligence. Kids with ADHD can fall anywhere on the IQ spectrum. It is my own personal observation that very bright kids with ADHD almost seem to suffer more from the disorder because they are self-aware and are able to mask some deficiencies with their intelligence and, therefore, not receive any help.
- Classrooms are THE MOST CHALLENGING atmosphere for a kid with ADHD because it asks them to perform all of their deficient skills at the same time — some of those skills being staying on task, progressing through an assignment in a timely manner, ignoring distractions, and not distracting others. Most kids with ADHD are very at home and quite charming in free-range social settings, in clubs with rules (i.e. chess club), and even on sports teams.
- People with ADHD are often described as “time blind,” meaning they aren’t aware of the passage of time and often struggle to use time effectively. They often need reminders like “In five minutes, we will put away our science folders and line up for P.E.,” so they can wrap up what they are doing. If you spring it on them, as in “Science is over. Put away your folder now,” you might find opposition.
- Most ADHD children (like other children) try very hard to please their teachers, parents, and friends; but, unlike other children, this effort often does not come across well. It is best for those in authority to operate on the assumption that the ADHD child wants to behave properly. If he or she feels the authority is an adversary, the ADHD child might shut down to prevent embarrassment.
- Especially in a classroom, it is important for authority figures to ask themselves, “Is this child acting obstinate or is this an ADHD trait?” before responding to perceived disobedience.
In the next post, I will discuss some of the possible co-occurring diagnoses that often accompany ADHD and how all of this fits into a CM education.
Until next time, I’m reading:
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (family read aloud)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lanceyln Green (with my Y2 student)
Moderately challenging books:
The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge (with my Y2 student)
- The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
- Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents by Dr. Russell Barkley
- Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Khan
- A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
- Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason and Karen Glass
- Volume One: Home Education by Charlotte Mason (for my CM study group)