A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

…When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18.  As the time grew closer, I researched driving schools in our area and found one that had classes onsite for the written exam, versus doing it online.  Like many ADHD students, Lee needed guidance and help staying on task, plus reminders of what she’d learned. 

 

“Pull a U, Lee.”

“I don’t know how to!”

“Just make a sharp left turn!”

The next thing I knew, our front tires were on the sidewalk, the back of the car blocking the right lane of oncoming traffic.  Fear broke out in silent ripples across Lee’s body.  My heart was racing.  I’d just given the keys to a two-ton SUV to my daughter, who struggled with ADHD and anxiety.  Was I insane?

We lived in California and driving was a skill that cannot be underestimated.  But recent statistics prove I was right to be concerned.  A Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study, published in May of 2019, stated that teens with ADHD have a 62% higher crash risk the first month after getting licensed.  To top that off, 37% of people with ADHD, regardless of their age when licensed, have a higher crash risk in the first four years after getting licensed.  Distractibility, Impulsivity, Hyperactivity…all good reasons why allowing your teen with ADHD to drive is a very serious decision.    

When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18.  As the time grew closer, I researched driving schools in our area and found one that had classes onsite for the written exam, versus doing it online.  Like many ADHD students, Lee needed guidance and help staying on task, plus reminders of what she’d learned. 

The driving school teacher not only made it fun, but he repeated himself over and over.  He drilled the important facts until Lee had them memorized, passing the written exam.  Then, the driving training began and getting Lee out of the house and into the car was the challenge.  We went through four instructors who were all, for the most part, kind and aware of Lee’s anxiety.  Still, whether Lee would get into the car with them was hit or miss.  Finally, Holly arrived, a mom who had fostered many children with special needs and knew how to toe the line between compassion and strength.

Lee and I made it off that sidewalk, but that experience and others convinced her to go at her own pace.  It took two permits over the course of a year and four months for Lee to get her license.  But when she did, she had more experience than the average teen, to say the least.  When it came time for Lee to choose a car, the decision was easy.  The new smart cars with their flashing warning systems, despite their sticker tag, were great back-up.

 When we saw her take off down our street for the first time, we felt she could handle it.  The longer period of time before she drove allowed time for her brain to develop.  Extra experience behind the wheel allowed Lee to gain confidence and cope as a driver when she felt anxiety.  If you have a child with ADHD who is about to drive, below is the link for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study.  It’s worth the read!

https://www.chop.edu/news/teens-adhd-get-more-traffic-violations-risky-driving-have-higher-crash-risk-regardless-age-when

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A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

...When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. ...

read more
A Milestone

A Milestone

...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...

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Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

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Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative bounced me to the editor, who offered me a running blog on their website.  I felt a little nudge inside my heart.  I saw those steel-grey eyes.  Now, it was time to get my child’s consent.

“Will it help other kids?” Lee said a hopeful smile

“Does your daughter know you’re writing about her?”  The man spit out his words, his steel-grey eyes drilling into me.  My fellow writers shifted in their chairs.  I felt like a bug pinned under a microscope.  No one had ever asked me this question in all the previous conferences I’d attended.  I shook my head no.  My cheeks burned under his gaze. 

The workshop leader said, “If you have personal questions for Jennifer, please ask her after our class.” 

I’d just read an essay of a morning when my child’s ADHD had spun out of control.  Desperate to cope, I’d written the story, looking for perspective.  Now, I felt my struggles had been human, might give other parents hope, and this workshop was my way to see if other writers agreed with me.  But, I hadn’t thought to show it to Lee, who was only nine years old.    

When the bell rang for lunch, the man leapt out of his seat and came over to me.  “You should wait until your daughter is old enough to give you consent.  She may never forgive you for writing about her disabilities.  Think about it.”  He strode out of the door.

As I watched him leave, I wondered if he was right.  My heart hammered, and a wave of shame rippled through me.  I pushed out of my chair.  If I kept my child’s ADHD a secret, under lock and key, then what message was I giving to her as her mother?  Lee needed courage, not fear, to face her challenges. 

I’m not here to sweep Lee’s disability under the rug, I’m writing to advocate. 

I returned home and told Lee I was writing about raising a child with ADHD, the ups and downs of our days together.  Since it wasn’t going anywhere yet, I didn’t see why I had to ask her approval.  Over time, my essays piled up, and I started to look for a place to publish them. 

When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative bounced me to the editor, who offered me a running blog on their website.  I felt a little nudge inside my heart.  I saw those steel-grey eyes.  Now, it was time to get my child’s consent.

“Will it help other kids?” Lee said a hopeful smile.

“More like the moms and dads.  But I won’t do it without your permission.  And, I’ll give you a pseudonym.”

In my attempt to find ways to parent my child and understand her ADHD, I’ve written over fifty blogs.  I’ve gone public on social media and been interviewed on Instagram.  Lee is now 21, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for her support.  Any shame I ever felt has long been forgiven.

 

 

Blogs

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A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

...When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. ...

read more
A Milestone

A Milestone

...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...

read more
Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

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Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

Sometimes A Great Notion

The summer after my father passed away, my family rented a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon.  What better way to remember him, I thought, than revisit a time that still felt magical?  I’d been a young teenager and a budding actress when Dad took us on location for Sometimes a Great Notion.  Thrilled to be around movie stars all summer, I’d relished every moment.   

One of our first stops was the Salishan Coastal Lodge, where my family had spent many fun hours.  As my husband and I walked from the lobby into the old, familiar restaurant, I thought I saw the same booth, just over there, in the center.  I pictured my father sitting with Paul Newman, who directed and starred, and co-star Henry Fonda, next to Paul’s wife, Joanne Woodward, with their friend, the director, George Roy Hill.  Closing my eyes, I traveled back in time and heard my father tell me the story I’d loved so much from his memoir:

“…Paul, Joanne, Fonda, Hill, and I were having lunch.  Paul, as usual, sat with his back to the room so as not to be recognized.  A woman spotted him, however, and approached us with a menu in hand.  She wanted Paul’s signature for her daughter, Nancy.  Paul explained that we were having lunch now, but if she notified the studio, they would send her an autographed photo with her daughter’s name on it.  With that, he thought, she’d go away.  As she started to leave, miffed, she suddenly recognized Fonda. 

“Mr. Fonda!  I didn’t see you there!  Would you please sign this menu for my daughter, Nancy?”

Henry turned on the charm.  “I’d love to.”  He took the menu from her, wrote down something, and then handed it to Hill, who grinned a huge wide grin before handing it to Joanne.  She, too, smiled and shook her head, handing it to me.  I couldn’t quite believe what I saw and gave it to Paul who burst out laughing before handing it back to the woman.  The note said, “Dear Nancy.  Paul Newman is a shit.”  It was signed, Henry Fonda.  The woman walked off without even looking at it.  What a nice surprise for her daughter.”

“Would you like a table?”  The restaurant host shook me back to the present.  I pointed at the booth in the center. 

“That one,” I said, giving my husband a wink. 

“Are you sure?” the host said.  “It’s a big one.”

I could feel Dad laughing, a slight whisper of air moving past my shoulder.  “Yes, that’s the one.”

  

 

Blogs

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A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

...When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. ...

read more
A Milestone

A Milestone

...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...

read more
Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

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Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

… To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community…

In my recent interview on Building Blocks Parenting, Carlee Krichmar asked me if there was one take away, a piece of advice I could give other parents raising children with ADHD.  Three words popped into my head that had given me the way forward and taught me how to believe in myself again. 

 “Knowledge is Power.” 

I’d been so scared.  When my child’s diagnoses started piling up on top of each other, like a stack of teetering stones, I kept trying to hide them, deny them out of existence, and pretend everything was normal.  It felt as if I was hanging onto the side of a steep mountain, too afraid to take the next step.  If I didn’t hold tight to my old beliefs, sheltered by my worst fears, then I’d tumble blindly into space. 

         

But the day came when my child, spinning out of control, said, “Mommy, my body moves too fast and my brain can’t stop it.”

Hearing her words broke through my wall of doubt and shame.  To hell with what other people thought or the obstacles I might face along the way.  I signed up for the CHADD conference and my world did a 180.  From doctors, to psychologists, to educators, to other moms in support groups, I found my ADHD community.        

The knowledge I gained gave me the power to come back and give my daughter’s teachers new ways for her to keep up in class.  I found activities she could do outside of school to build her self-esteem.  And I was honest with other parents, asking for their understanding.  Armed with knowledge, I now had the key to help my daughter with strategies and tools to succeed.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a mother who had given up hope in her child.  Her worries of having her child labeled and the stigma of being judged had left her hanging on the side of that same mountain.  What she didn’t realize, I thought, is what she would feel if she reached out for help.  A solid foothold.  The kind that only comes when you give yourself the gift of navigating a new way ahead.

 

Blogs

Related

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

...When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. ...

read more
A Milestone

A Milestone

...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...

read more
Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

read more

Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie

Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie

Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie

I’m excited to share with you a blog published in ADDitude this month, “Every Child with ADHD Needs a Miss Ellie.”  Click on the link for the full blog.

Blogs

Related

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

...When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. ...

read more
A Milestone

A Milestone

...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...

read more
Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

...When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative...

read more