Is ADHD real or just a Discipline Issue?

By Jodi Perez | Parenting

Oct 09
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ADHD is not real…

or at least that’s what I believed before my son was born.  As a preschool teacher, I remember being completely ignorant of the realities of ADHD.  I even remember being annoyed when parents acted as if they “just couldn’t control” a child’s behavior. (Don’t hate me… I was young and dumb!)

Back then, I really thought I knew everything.   It’s funny how you get older and suddenly realize you don’t really know anything with 100% certainty.

I’ll never forget the day I realized that my own son might have ADHD.

Aiden is a twin, and to be honest, the signs were there from inside the womb.  I could always tell which side of my belly he was on and how he was facing because he moved constantly, unlike his twin who only gave an occasional kick or roll.

After birth, Aiden cried day and night.  Never content. Always wanting. But the day that I started to question ADHD  was much worse than anything else we had experienced thus far.

My husband and I worked different shifts at the time.  I was a preschool teacher by day, he was a corrections officer by night.   As he drove to work, he’d call to tell me what the day had held.

On this particular day, he sounded a bit timid… almost as though he thought I would be angry.  He was not wrong.

“Babe,” he started.  “Aiden got out today.”

“What do you mean he got out?”

“He got out.  I was in the bathroom and I heard the garage door opening. By the time I got out there they were playing on the swing in the backyard.”

“WHAT?” I was bubbling with frustration.”How’d he get downstairs? Did you leave the gate open?”

“He stacked up boxes and climbed over.”

“HOW LONG WERE YOU IN THE BATHROOM?”  I nearly screamed.

The conversation went on like that for a few more minutes.  I yelled. He defended himself.  Finally, frustrated and tired of being yelled at, he said he had to go into work and quickly hung up the phone.

I ignored the guilty feeling rising up in me and headed down the hall to check in on naptime.   When I opened the door, I did not find two boys sleeping.

Instead, I found Aiden’s bed in the middle of the room. Or more accurately, I found the pieces of Aiden’s bed in the middle of his room. He had disassembled everything he could manage to get pulled apart.

That day, I began doubting my own beliefs about  ADHD.

That was only the first of many beds he destroyed.  That’s Aiden’s brand of ADHD: hyperactivity and destruction.

Not long after that we embarked on a long journey of discovering some hard-earned truths about Aiden’s “disorder” and what we could do to help him.

So then ADHD IS real?

The whole subject of ADHD is not short on controversy.

ADHD has a reputation for being a “manufactured disorder” intended as a ploy to sell more Ritalin.  Those who claim that ADHD is not real often don’t have much evidence to support their conclusion but instead use fear (of medication and its side-effects) to sway parents.

The medical community believes that ADHD is real and insist that it can be proven by monitoring the difference in brain wave patterns.

There is only one thing that nearly everyone agrees on. Parent involvement and discipline play a major role in the severity of the child’s “disorder.”

Meanwhile, moms of ADHD kids everywhere are quietly screaming: “STOP JUDGING ME!” and “SOMEONE HELP ME!

One thing I can say for sure… ADHD behaviors are real. And they have NOTHING to do with parenting.   Do you remember that I mentioned that Aiden is a twin?  Two boys born into the same family – no differences in parenting there.  Two boys born on the same day – No question of birth order.    TWO BOYS – two very different boys. 

Asher could spend many quiet hours on his own and never destroy anything or lose focus.

Aiden cannot make it through a meal at the table with spilling something because he can’t keep his body still.

Both of my boys are incredibly smart and well past their classmates in academics.  But Aiden has a special ability to solve problems.  He’s a very logical child.

Sounds good right?  And it is.  UNTIL his “problem” is figuring out how to turn on our minivan or open the bottle of gummy vitamins or DISASSEMBLE HIS BED!

Here’s the bottom line…
Until you’ve had a child with ADHD, you can not understand how completely exhausting it is to parent one.

I don’t question the reality of ADHD behavior any longer.
But there is something that I do question.

Is ADHD really a DISORDER?

As a mom, a teacher, and an avid researcher I have to admit, the jury’s still out on this one.  I personally have a lot of the same “behaviors” as Aiden.  Although I’ve never received an official diagnosis, I have no doubt that I could easily end up with one if I sought out a professional.

In my childhood, I would have considered those behaviors a disadvatage.  I would have considered myself “different.”   I struggled to sit still and I absolutely hated sitting on anyone’s lap because it felt as though I were being held down.

All through my childhood and teen years, I was incredibly distracted.  I missed questions on tests simply because I would read the first few words and assume I knew the rest.   I was extremely forgetful and often made fun of for that.

However, there were also a lot of positives that came with these “brain wave patterns.”   I was easily able to look at a difficult problem (on paper or in real life) and dissect it down to it’s tiniest pieces.

I was outgoing and not at all afraid to step into leadership roles.   Over time, I learned in-depth information about many areas of expertise.

True, FOCUS was never my strong suit.  BUT my brain is filled with an intimate knowledge of multiple skillsets!

So is ADHD Really a disorder?

In my opinion, it is NOT a disorder.

If ADHD is not a Disorder, What is it?

As a disclaimer, I want to remind you that I am NOT a doctor.  My only qualifications here is the fact that I have a child with ADHD and my OWN BRAIN works very much like his.

That being said, I see ADHD  as both a strength and a weakness.
I was first introduced to this concept by Dr. Robert Meilo who founded Brain Balance!
His book, Disconnected Kids, was eye-opening!

Strengths of the ADHD personality

In my time as a teacher, I met a few children, diagnosed with ADHD, that seemed a bit delayed.    But the overwhelming majority of ADHD children in my classroom (and in my home) were incredibly intelligent.

That’s not to say that they were all “book-smart,” as some would say.  In fact, many ADHD children struggle with reading.   Why? Because reading requires focus.  But tuning into the children at playtime gave a completely different picture. These kids are smart, logical, and capable well beyond their years.

Weaknesses of the ADHD personality

Unfortunately, children with ADHD also tend to believe they know everything about everything.  Because ADHD children can frequently guess the ending of a sentence before you complete it, they simply don’t see the value in focusing through to the end.

You’ll probably also notice that children with ADHD do things impulsively for the same reason. They don’t see value in slowing down to consider consequences because they BELIEVE that already know the consequence.

The obvious problem with this is that children don’t have enough life experience to form a FULL picture of the consequences.

So what can I do to help my ADHD child?

Your child’s brain works out thought processes the same way an adult would.  Unfortunately, he simply doesn’t have enough life-experience to make educated decisions.  That is why children with ADHD learn by large amounts of knowledge and experience.

Think of it this way.  If someone told you that dogs can talk, would you believe that? Absolutely not. Your current world experience tells you otherwise. You are completely convinced that the truth you know is THE TRUTH.

But what if someone introduced you to a talking dog?  Would you then believe that dogs can talk?  Sort of.  You would believe that there is A DOG that can talk.

Now let’s assume that someone took you on a tour of a dog school.  In the dog school, they were running a program that was teaching dogs to talk.  Every dog you met in the school was able to talk to some degree.

Would you THEN believe that dogs can talk?  Absolutely!  Seeing is believing.  But just seeing it one time was not enough to convince you that everything you already knew to be true was wrong.  You needed to see that the result could be recreated over and over.

The brain of an ADHD child works very much like this.  Your child has studied the world around him and made specific conclusions about it.  The only way you will convince your child that his conclusions are wrong is to REPEATEDLY prove it to him.

Laymen’s terms, please?

Your child won’t sit at dinner time.  He repeatedly gets out of his seat. He knocks things over on table.  Halfway into the meal, he spills his drink.

What is your reaction? You get up. You clean it up. You change his now soaked clothes and you pour him a new glass, right?

Wrong. Do nothing except sympathize.   “Aww man… that stinks bud. Go grab a towel an clean that up.”

Your child’s quick hands and feet will not slow down until he starts making a concentrated effort to slow them.  Nothing you say, no punishment you give will be enough to change his behavior. It will be the natural consequences to his actions that cause him to WANT to make that change.  Then, and only then, will he make the effort.

(Also, keep in mind that it’s legitimately difficult for him to stay calm. To control his actions and his body.  Yelling and getting frustrated with him will only cause him to feel anxiety over his behaviors and his lack of ability to control them, it won’t give him a desire to change them.)

So what about when the behaviors are dangerous?  Should you simply let him learn from his experience?

This is a loaded question.
In some situations, I do sit back… like the day he decided to jump from the top of his loft bed (only waist high).
But more often, his dangerous behaviors are well beyond my comfort zone.
I typically deal with this by giving him an ABUNDANCE of knowledge.

For example: Instead of letting him jump from the top of the jungle gym, I launch into  Anatomy lesson that sounds something like this:

Buddy, did you know you have bones inside your skin?   Your bones are really strong like wood!  But if you hit them hard enough they will break apart!  That’s why it’s not safe to jump off of super high things!  (This is definitely an abbreviated version.. but you get the idea.)

ADHD kids need to know How and Why… otherwise, they simply will not believe you!

Trust me… I know how hard that is!  There are some simple things you can do to help him calm his body and actions more easily!

Just remember.. You are not alone – there are lot’s of mom’s out their fighting the same fight… Just keep doing your best and remember.. You are not to blame!

I’d love to hear from you!  How many other mom’s out there have a case of self-diagnosed ADHD?

Tell us in the comments below.
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