…I leaned back in my chair, feeling my heart swell. If I had known, when Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, that one day I’d hear these words, it would have given me so much hope. …
“Mom, Alex and I had an argument.” Lee plopped into a chair across from me at the kitchen table.
I paused, mid-bite, and put my sandwich down. A shared confidence from my 21-year-old was like unwrapping a Christmas present.
“What are those things called again? You know, the problem I have with time.”
Boy did I know the answer to that one. “Executive functions.”
“Yeah. He wanted me to drop the game we were playing online and join this group chat. But I need time to process the change. I can’t transition that fast.”
I leaned back in my chair, feeling my heart swell. If I had known, when Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, that one day I’d hear these words, it would have given me so much hope. A self-awareness of executive function problems, whether it be organization, prioritization, time management, or follow-through was crucial to regulating them. And, for Lee, time management was the worst of all.
“Let’s make a bubble chart with executive functions on top, then time under it, the reasons it’s hard for me under that, and the coping mechanisms I need.” Lee ran from the room and came back a few seconds later, skidding to a stop. Colored markers and paper spilled onto the table. “I’m going to use this chart to teach Alex so he understands.”
I had to laugh. Lee was a mini-me in motion. How many times had I tried to explain to teachers when she was in grade school that Lee wasn’t lazy; she was a slow processor. Give her more time, I pleaded, more prompts to turn in homework, more prompts to write it down. Present the information not just on the board, but verbally. And, I begged for more time for any testing.
At home, I started a new system of time. Family activities were written on a magnetic calendar, stuck right on the kitchen refrigerator. The fewer surprises for Lee, the better. When we went somewhere, I added in extra time before we left. If necessary, time to sit in the car before entering the sensory onslaught of a mall, a doctor’s office or even playdates.
I looked at Lee’s chart, now filled with different colored bubbles. “Executive Functions” was in a pink bubble on the top. Under it, a line led to a blue one for “Time Management.” Another line beneath that one led to an orange bubble, “Slow Processor,” with three green bubbles underneath for coping mechanisms.
“So, here’s the ways I deal with time problems, Mom. Reminders, lists, and advance notice. That’s what I needed today.” True, I thought. When Lee was in high school, she used a black sharpie on her hand for reminders, but today it was a phone alarm or a post-it. Often, I found post-its on my desk in the morning, reminding me to remind Lee as a back-up to the alarm. When there were a lot of daily activities, we made lists and added check boxes. Always, I knew to give advance notice, both written and verbally.
Lee grabbed the chart and said, “Thanks, Mom. Alex just needs to understand the way I function. People who don’t have ADHD just don’t get it.”
What a milestone, I thought. What a great way to start this new year.
For my fellow parents who are raising kids with ADHD and other special needs, here is a blog to give you some inspiration for the new year. Long ago, I chose a gift of a little stone with “Love” on it as my talisman to keep me going through the difficult times. In my blog, find yours, and the inspiration for a wonderful year ahead!
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