…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.
I’m so excited to have an excerpt from my memoir published this month in MER, Mom Egg Review, the Ages/Stages MER Online Folio! This is a wonderful literary journal about motherhood and all its complexities. In my essay, “Mothers Come First,” I face both the fears and...
Thrilled to have an essay included in the current issue of Dorothy Parker’s Ashes. It’s an honor to be among so many talented writers. The theme is “Lost,” and my essay is about losing my neurodivergent child in the mall at the same time I was losing my mother to...
As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to thank all the special moms who supported me through the years. Parenting a neurodiverse child is challenging and makes it difficult sometimes to find understanding friends. When I was struggling, long before my child’s ADHD diagnosis, two moms stepped forward and gave me hope and the gift of friendship. This blog is in honor of them.