Inspiration through Connection at the 2022 CHADD Conference
Last November, I attended the CHADD conference, the annual international conference on ADHD. As promised, here’s a blog with my take-aways from some of 2022’s valuable workshops, along with a heartfelt reminder of why the conference is so important to me.
As my plane touched down in Dallas, my mind traveled back fifteen years to the moment that started this journey. I’d been a weary mother in desperate need of help for Lee, my child who had recently been diagnosed with ADHD, SPD, (sensory processing disorder) and anxiety. I thought I’d receive helpful tips by going to CHADD’s (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) annual conference on ADHD. What I didn’t expect was the community who embraced me and offered a myriad of coping techniques and support.
This year, I was on a hunt for more information, not only as a mother whose child was now a young adult but as a writer. Over the course of the pandemic, I’d stayed behind my computer, blogging my experiences about raising a child with ADHD, then turning them into a book. It was time for me to crawl out of my writer’s cave and reconnect with the ADHD community.
One of the biggest topics this year at the conference was the deep impact that anxiety was having on the ADHD population. Dr. Sharon Saline, a foremost expert on the subject, led a workshop that included parenting tips for children struggling with anxiety. She highlighted her five “C’s” for parents: self-control, compassion, collaboration, consistency, and celebration. Tools, as she also terms them in her blog on her website, for parents to “…reduce your stress, create peace in your family, and increase cooperation and love all around.” Tools that I could use with Lee, now a young adult, as we navigate our relationship over time.
Another topic that several workshop leaders addressed was communication. In the first lecture I attended on this subject, Dr. Tamara Rosier called many of our family problems “picadilloes.” These were problems that might seem small but can cause bigger ones. It made me think of how the sound of scraping silverware could trigger Lee’s SPD and cause a meltdown. Dr. Rosier recommended that the family discuss the picadillo and how to problem-solve it. Just putting in the effort might keep the problem from escalating.
Dr. Elaine Taylor-Klaus also stressed the importance of problem-solving within the family in her talk on collaborative communication. Similar to Dr. Sharon Saline, she outlined five steps for parents to commit to calm: stay calm, quit taking it personally, be open and transparent, don’t use the word “should,” and ask permission (“would you be willing?”) One of my favorite quotes from her lecture that day was, “Just because we say it, doesn’t mean they heard it. It’s how we say it. Show you’re listening.”
At the end of the conference, I slipped into a packed elevator with other conference attendees and punched my hotel floor number. The elevator stopped at its first destination, and I stood, waiting, my brain too exhausted from a marathon of back-to-back lectures to pay attention to the floor number flashing.
The woman standing next to me said, “Did someone want the 5th floor?”
That brought my thoughts around and a blush to my cheeks as I tried to step out of the closing doors. Too late, I jumped back and said, “Wake up, Jennifer!” with an embarrassed laugh.
“That’s OK, honey,” the same woman said. “We’ve all got ADHD. You’re in the right elevator.” The other people smiled, and I could feel their warmth and understanding.
I don’t have ADHD, but that didn’t matter. This community has had my back through every misstep or challenge. If your child or you have been recently diagnosed with ADHD, reach out to CHADD for resources and guidance. If you can, go to their annual conference. Their support can be your best ally.
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.
Over the years in my quest to help my child with ADHD and now complete a memoir about it, I accumulated many books on the subject. Maybe it’s the teacher in me or just my passion for books, but I ended up with a pretty good collection. This month’s blog focuses on some of my favorites.
Even though I’d heard that communication is a skill we learn and practice, no one told me how important that would be in raising my child. Between Lee’s inability to focus, a lot of hyperactivity, and emotions that were hard to regulate, it became my challenge to find a different way to communicate. In this month’s blog, I put together the tips that worked for me over the years. Hope you’ll find one that works for you!