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

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...

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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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A Milestone

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 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.

 

 

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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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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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

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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...

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

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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...

read more

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

A Lack of Impulse Control on a Saturday Morning

…It’s exhausting, right?   Poor impulse control was, for me, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child.  Instead of disciplining Lee for urges her brain couldn’t avoid, I learned over time to talk to her about the feelings that led to the impulse.  We discussed ways she could gain better control by looking at the consequences before an overwhelming desire took her down. 

On a Saturday morning, I tiptoed into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.  Maybe I’d have a few moments to myself before Lee, my high voltage nine-year-old daughter, woke up.  Just when I took my first sip, her door banged open like a gunshot.  Little feet raced down the hall.  I sunk into my chair at the table moments before she hurled herself into my arms.     

“Mommy!” 

My cheek pressed into her soft flannel kitty pajamas, and she snuggled her head against my chest.  Just as my pulse started to slow down, she bounced up and ran to the refrigerator. 

“I want scrambled eggs!” 

I grabbed my coffee and followed, catching an egg carton as it sailed toward me through mid-air.  “Jeez, Lee, slow down.”  Throwing open a cupboard door, she got out the mixing bowl and snatched the egg carton out of my hands.

“Careful honey…” 

Lee cracked eggs, then flung them into the bowl.  As she moved back toward the pantry, I fished eggshells out of the bowl and dropped them into the sink.  Lee came back with a tin of cinnamon and dumped half of it into the bowl. 

“French toast!”

I steadied my hands on the kitchen sink, then took a long gulp of coffee.  Yelling would have felt really good right now, but I heard the occupational therapist’s voice, “Breathe before you react, breathe…”  Hyperventilate felt more like what I was doing, but I tried to stay calm as I scooped cinnamon back out of the bowl.   “OK, Lee, we’ll have French toast.”  

A little while later, we took our first bites.  Lee glanced out the window and jumped out of her chair.  “Mommy, a hawk just flew by!”  She threw open the sliding glass door and ran outside.

It’s exhausting, right?   Poor impulse control was, for me, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child.  Instead of disciplining Lee for urges her brain couldn’t avoid, I learned over time to talk to her about the feelings that led to the impulse.  We discussed ways she could gain better control by looking at the consequences before an overwhelming desire took her down. 

            In the meantime, I tried to reach deep inside myself and find a way to be patient, even when life was spinning out of control.  Although, I do admit to getting through the mornings on many cups of good old joe.

Here’s a great article from ADDitude magazine to help you find some control:

https://www.additudemag.com/impulse-control-strategies-adhd-students/

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...

read more