If your child has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, you might be asking yourself some questions. You’re probably wondering what to do. I can help. As someone who has lived with ADHD my entire life, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
ADHD Diagnosis and Your Next Steps
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Nor am I a licensed mental healthcare specialist. I’m just a guy who’s been through the ringer with ADHD. This is a list of things I’ve come across. It’s not meant as a diagnosis. Nor is it meant to take the place of professional help.)
1. Before accepting that your child DEFINITELY has ADHD, have an optometrist check for “Convergence Insufficiency”. They don’t check for it all the time. It’s a MAJOR missed diagnosis for ADHD. Basically, the eyes aren’t working together, but the brain tries to force one eye to work more with the other which causes eyestrain and loss of attention, headaches…and a whole slew of things that present as ADHD. You can get glasses with prisms that correct it, or if you have the time and money, you can do vision therapy that corrects the issue. Also, your child could have ADHD as well as Convergence Insufficiency. This could exacerbate your child’s ADHD symptoms.
2. If it’s not their eyesight…please, please be patient with them. When they are acting crazy and talking 900 miles an hour….THEY CAN’T CONTROL IT. Yelling at them or getting cross is just going to make things worse. Please, be patient. (And, yes, I know…it’s hard. But, you can do this.)
3. If it’s not eyesight, you can also look into therapy. They can teach your child coping mechanisms. Is your child’s ADHD have some OCD mixed in with it? If so, that could be anxiety. There are things you can do to lower anxiety and make them feel more comfortable. A therapist can help you guys discover what works best.
4. Medication is also an option. But, please don’t medicate them to the point that they are zombies. It’s not super common, but I’ve seen more than one parent at the end of their ropes medicate the kid for THEIR sanity. Please, don’t do that. If you are feeling the need to give your kids medication just to ‘shut them up’ or give yourself a ‘little quiet time’, then #6 is for you.
5. Love your child. Let them know that you love them non-stop, unconditionally, until the world stops turning and several years after that. They get more judgment from their peers and teachers than you can possibly imagine. BE THERE FOR THEM. My family didn’t always understand what I was going through. They didn’t know about how my teachers put me down or publicly shamed me for forgetting homework etc. In my time in school, I had one teacher in 6th grade tell me that I was such a blockhead that I didn’t get dandruff; I got sawdust. Then in 7th grade, I had a teacher tell me that I was a poster child for the reason they invented birth control. Not every teacher was like that, mind you, but they are out there.
6. This one is very serious. Take some ‘sanity time’ for yourself. You and your spouse will need to work out how, but you both need some alone time away from the non-stop channel changing that goes on in the mind of someone with ADHD. Maybe one day you do all of the grocery shopping ALONE. Or, perhaps, you have a couple of hours where you just go to Starbucks and have a cup of tea…alone…in the silence… Whatever it is, you need that time. I had one mom tell me that when her child would go to bed at night that she would just sit and stare at the wall in a darkened room and wonder if she could handle what was coming the next day.
7. Sleep. This one is vital and one of the most under-appreciated things. Everyone needs sleep. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, it will make their ADHD worse. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will hinder your ability to deal with their behavior. Make sure you are all getting enough shut eye. It’ll make a huge difference.
8. Excercise. Kids these days aren’t getting enough exercise. I’m not talking about working out. I’m talking about running around and playing and doing fun things in the backyard until they get sweaty. I’m consistently shocked at how little time kids in elementary school get for recess these days. My oldest is in Kindergarten and he gets about 30 minutes for lunch and recess combined. There are days that he comes home and he’s a nightmare to deal with. We send the boys outside to play and lo and behold their behavior gets better after they have a chance to burn off some energy.
9. There is no nine. What were you thinking this was a Top Ten list?
Really, it’s all about finding balance. When either of you are out of balance, it will affect the entire family. DO NOT STIGMATIZE the child with ADHD. The last thing they need to feel is that they are a burden to the family.
Mostly, I say “Good Luck.” and, “You’ve got this.”
Also, here’s something I wrote when I got my official ADHD diagnosis:http://dadswhochangediapers.com/blog/im-broken/
If you’d like to read more about Convergence Insufficiency, here’s a great resource: http://www.visiontherapy.ca/adhd_convergence.html