I know you’ve seen him. You’ve definitely heard him. He’s a blur of constant motion and a symphony of noise. Sometimes it’s words, sometimes sound effects — but always noise. You know when he’s in the room. He’s joy and fun and has a million questions. You’re never bored when he’s around.
I also see the sideways glances and stares. The whispers about my parenting, the perceived lack of discipline. We don’t get many birthday party invitations. Life can be lonely for a child with ADHD.
But he is also the most interesting, creative, intelligent human I have ever met. His brain is unique and has challenges, but it also connects in a way that makes every interaction with him an experience. He asks questions I’ve never thought to ask. He connects dots I would have never connected. I hope everyone has the great fortune to have a person with ADHD in their life.
Here are a few things I wish you knew about my ADHD child and others like him:
1. This diagnosis was not made lightly.
We did not self-diagnose or receive this diagnosis after a quick visit to the doctor. In fact, we spent months on a waiting list for an evaluation that took seven hours and over $1000 out of pocket. The evaluation ruled out everything from sleep disorders, learning disabilities, autism, and food dye allergies. ADHD is not a trendy diagnosis for us. It is a very real neurological disorder that affects every part of his life. This article does a great job explaining the neuroscience behind ADHD. The miscommunication and processing issues with his neurotransmitters makes him very impulsive and reactive. It is not something that better parenting, practice, or “trying harder” is going to fix.
2. He can hyperfocus.
It’s a real superpower. ADHD is often associated with inattention and lack of focus. That’s part of the dopamine dysfunction. But every now and then, when a topic, game, or toy gets his attention, he can lock in for hours at a time. I’ve seen him build some really amazing Lego structures. He figured out snap circuits at six-years-old and now understands how the wiring in our house works. He knows everything — and I do mean absolutely everything — about animals. His ability to hyperfocus really is an amazing gift that will undoubtedly serve him well in his life.
3. He is motivated by novelty and urgency.
For many years, we struggled with how to get our son to focus and do what we were asking him to do — an extremely common problem for kids with ADHD. In my attempt to learn more about how to help him, I came across articles like this one. ADHD brains crave novelty or new experiences. We try to put new spins on mundane chores, like doing homework with a pack of special fun pencils. He also sort-of-unfortunately needs urgency to complete tasks. He is a classic “works better under pressure” person. We have just accepted that he’s going to wait a little past the point that I am comfortable, but he’ll get it done.
4. His heart is the loudest part of him.
My son has a lot of energy, makes constant noise, and struggles with focus, but you will not find anyone with a bigger heart for the people around him. He loves so hard. We’ve actually learned this is pretty common for people with ADHD — their love matches their energy. This can backfire on them a bit, though; it’s called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria. Those big outbursts you see from kids with ADHD often stem from a perceived rejection by the people around them. If there is one thing I wish more people understood, it’s that the big emotional displays and meltdowns you see from my child are almost always because he’s afraid of being rejected.
ADHD can make life more difficult in some ways. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s a real disorder that needs real treatment for a reason. My child is more than his ADHD, and he is amazing because of his ADHD. I love how his brain enhances his life and mine. I love the way it works so uniquely different that I am in awe everyday of what he can do. I love him exactly the way he is and hope the world can learn to appreciate him for his unique strengths.