When my youngest son was little, I used to dread getting together with other moms. Jarryd has what I call ADRRRHD — Attention Deficit Really, Really, Really Hyperactivity Disorder. Other parents could tell their children to go and play quietly — and they would! I, on the other hand, always had to keep a close eye on Jarryd for fear that he would swing from the chandelier if I turned my back. My fears were not unfounded.
In addition to being an escape artist — he once wandered out of an attention deficit disorder (ADHD) specialist’s waiting room — Jarryd liked to throw things. He was also adept at taking machinery apart to see what was inside. On one occasion, he jumped out a window after watching an episode of Superman. Fortunately, he was on the first floor and landed safely in some bushes.
Other parents looked at me like I was a failure as a mom. And sometimes, when I hovered and Jarryd didn’t do anything dangerous, friends told me that I was a neurotic worrier. I just couldn’t win.
Knowing I Couldn’t Go It Alone
I knew I needed to find other moms with kids like Jarryd, people who would understand. People who knew that some five-year-olds can’t be left alone for even a minute. People who understood why I was always exhausted.
I found what I was looking for in my local Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) parent support group. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened to a mom speak about her son’s adventures on their roof. I wasn’t alone!
In the years since that first meeting, I’ve attended dozens of other events with parents of attention deficit disorder (ADHD) children. These gatherings have given me some of the best ideas and strategies I’ve found to manage my child’s behaviors. Most importantly, they’ve been an invaluable source of support through the ups and downs of parenting an ADRRRHD child.
As the parent of a child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) or another special need, you may feel alone, frustrated, and misunderstood by “ordinary” parents. That’s why parent support groups and networking are important for us. They can help us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to find support along the way.
With a little effort, you can find other moms and dads whose kids are hyperactive or inattentive, learning disabled or anxious. Two national support and advocacy organizations, CHADD and the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, sponsor networking and educational events at the regional level. The Learning Disabilities Association of America also offers local meetings. All three list chapter locations and meeting schedules on their websites.
In addition, many schools offer support programs and networking opportunities for parents of children with special needs. Check with your school counseling office or parent-teacher association for more information. Counseling centers, or even individual psychologists, are also beginning to offer networking opportunities for parents. Ask your child’s therapist if she or a colleague runs such a group.
As ADHD moms know, nothing is more precious in our lives than time. If you only have downtime in brief intervals, or after your kids have gone to bed for the night, there are many avenues for support online. Join ADDitude's forums to instantly connect with readers from around the country.
No matter how much or how little time you have, you don’t have to go it alone. I wish you well.
My Happy Ending
As he grew older, Jarryd found productive outlets for his energy. After years of throwing things and knocking people down, he became a lineman on his high school football team and was cheered for knocking people down — specifically, the opposing team’s quarterback! Now, Jarryd is a Division 1 athlete in college. He’s won medals for throwing the shot and discus. He’s a model of attention deficit disorder (ADHD) energy used right.
As for me, I treasure the relationships I have with moms who “get it,” those who have been there and are there. In my work as a therapist, I see many parents who have been advised by well-intentioned family members, friends, and strangers about how to handle their kids. These parents are frustrated because much of what they’re told doesn’t apply to their children. But when they meet others whose lives are like their own, they learn they’re not alone.
Many years after attending my first CHADD meeting, I have shared my own story throughout the world. I have seen many parents with tears on their cheeks, feeling understood and hopeful for the first time, as well.