Smile — It's ADHD Awareness Month!

What is attention deficit? And why is it so misunderstood? You can help set the record straight with this information and these tips for ADHD Awareness Week.

ADHD Awarness Advice, Part 2

Talk with Your Children

Your children look up to you and depend on you. They learn best by your example, so displaying your pride will foster self-confidence in them. Teach them that everyone’s brain works differently, and tell them how yours works.

Be open about your strengths and weaknesses; it will teach your children that adults face and overcome challenges. That knowledge will relieve their fear of failure and encourage them to take chances and to try new things. You are the expert on your child, and, having lived with ADD yourself, you are equipped to notice signs of it in him. If you see symptoms, start teaching him the strategies that have worked for you. Celebrate his accomplishments and nourish his creativity, passions, and strengths. Most of all, have patience!

Fortunately, these days, the world has a better understanding and acceptance of ADD than when you were a child. Don’t assume that your child will face the same roadblocks that you did. He has a proud parent who understands his condition and can advocate for him, which is one of the best ways to show your love.

Talk with Your Siblings and Parents

If your parents or siblings never understood you or your ADD, sit down and explain to them what the condition has meant to you. Forgive them if they teased or scolded you. If they still do it, ask them to stop!

Laugh about the times you repeatedly showed up at the library without your card. Most of all, share the secret of ADD with them—that for each weakness or quirk, you have a strength that is worth nurturing and cherishing.

Finally, thank the family members who advocated for you, encouraged you, believed in you. Reach out to them this month—have them over for dinner, visit them, call them, or send a card, online or through the mail—to celebrate the love and support they gave you.

Talk with Your Boss—Maybe

Before you quit your job to join the circus, think about what’s going well at work. Make a list of the things you love about your job, and what you bring to it.

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If you work in an office, tell the human resources department that you’d like to team up with them in making cognitive differences a component of the company’s diversity policy. It’s not just gender and race that make the office diverse; it’s including all learning styles in the mix.

Think carefully before talking with your boss about your ADD. As ADHD expert Ned Hallowell, M.D., says: “It might be better to get your symptoms under control at home and see whether that solves the problems you may be having at work. Not everyone is positive, or knowledgeable, about ADHD, and you don’t want your boss thinking you are making excuses.”

However, if you’re doing well at the job and know that your boss values your contributions, you may want to suggest that you credit your exceptional performance last quarter not only to the fact that you came in early and stayed late, but also to fierce concentration and goal-setting skills, attributes of your so-called “disorder.”

Talk with Your Children’s Teachers

Put down this magazine right now and schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss his strengths. It is the beginning of the school year, and it’s important to get your child off to a good start.

There are many challenges ahead, and there will be many opportunities for the new adults in your child’s life to discover and talk about his weaknesses. Nip in the bud the tendency to focus only on those weaknesses. When you meet with your child’s teacher, tell him about your child’s strengths and the strategies you successfully employ at home to bolster them.

Tell the teacher why you are proud of your child, and identify one skill you would like your child to develop. Check in with the teacher several times during the year, and be proud of your child—together.

Finally, remember that “normal” is a big, fat lie! It’s a social construct that assumes that people who don’t have a standard-issue brain are broken. We are all different—in fact, our differences make us who we are! When you celebrate your strengths, you will encourage the world to reevaluate this so-called “deficit disorder.” Cheers to you and cheers to ADD. Now, where are those champagne flutes?

This article comes from the Fall 2008 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Myths About ADHD, Talking About ADD, Talking with Teachers

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