As parents of children who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, we often ask how they will succeed, in school and in life:
“Are we really helping our son or daughter?”
“Are our strategies and plans making a difference?”
“Will our kids be OK?”
To explore answers to these seminal questions, I turned to two kids with ADD and ADHD who are obviously OK, Kristen Sczepanik and Jason Edward Audette — the winners of the first Novotni College Scholarships, awarded last May.
Both are successful students who, with the help of their parents, worked hard to overcome ADHD symptoms. They’re doing well in their first year at college. Jason attends The New England School of Communications, in Bangor, Maine, and Kristen is enrolled at Texas A&M, studying wildlife and range management.
What led to these ADDers’ success stories? What’s their take on how their parents made a positive difference to get them here from there? And what did the parents think made the biggest difference in their child’s development? We asked them.
Kristen’s Secrets to Success
Kristen was diagnosed with ADHD in the first grade. Elementary and high-school teachers admired her determination to succeed and her willingness to ask for help and to take advantage of available resources for students with ADD.
“I was fiercely independent,” says Kristen, “but I learned that I had to ask for help if I needed it. I refuse to let my ADHD symptoms control me. With hard work, I will overcome the obstacles that ADHD sets in my path.”
Kristen thought that her parents did many things right, but, to her, the most important were:
- Early diagnosis. My parents knew that I was a good kid and that I was intelligent. When I started getting into trouble in first grade, they suspected that something wasn’t right and took action.”
- “They believed in me, and they were always there when I needed them. They worked hard to get me organized.”
- “They encouraged me to do my best. When I wanted to give up, they taught me to fight my ADHD. Without the drive they instilled in me, I wouldn’t have made it.”
From Kristen's Mom: Early Diagnosis, Positive Feedback, and More
Kristen’s mom echoed her daughter’s conclusions:
- “I established good communication with Kristen’s teachers early in the school year, and stayed in the loop.”
- “I helped Kristen understand her limits and her strengths. It is wrong to focus entirely on the negative aspects of ADHD. I offered positive feedback regularly.”
- “I rearranged my schedule, so I could be actively involved in Kristen’s life—at school and at home. I had to give up some activities and change appointments in order to be home when Kristen was. It was worth it.”
Jason’s Climb to the Top
Like Kristen, Jason Audette was diagnosed with ADHD in the first grade. He hasn’t had an easy life: He was raised by a single parent, and has a sister with severe disabilities and autism. His family struggles financially. To help out, Jason worked two jobs in high school and continues to work in college.
“I am a good example of how a student with ADHD can progress and achieve what he puts his mind to,” says Jason. While taking medication, getting help from tutors and teachers, and using a planner have helped him in school, he admits he couldn’t have done it without his mom’s help.
“My mom made sure I got to all my appointments with the counselor and the doctor. And she worked with the doctor to adjust ADHD medications as needed. I thought of myself as a ‘pill boy’ in school. Every day I thought everyone was watching me go to the nurse’s office for doses of medication during the school day. I loved it when I started taking a time-released med, and no longer had to make those visits.”
Other things that Jason thought his parents did right:
- “My mother stayed in close contact with the school and teachers all year long.”
- “She encouraged me to sign up for ADHD-friendly sports and other activities—and supported my efforts. When I got bored and wanted to quit, she made me stick with the activity throughout the season. She taught me to finish what I started.”
- “When I hit stumbling blocks, she taught me to pick myself up and move on.”
From Jason's Mom: Prompt ADD Treatment, Teaching Accountability, and More
According to Jason’s mom, Pamela, the most effective things she did in raising her son were:
- “I recognized signs of ADHD in Jason early on, and sought treatment right away.”
- “I worked with Jason’s teachers to get him help. I made sure the teachers heard my concerns, and I listened to their strategies.”
- “I allowed Jason to take responsibility for his assignments in the fourth grade. I stayed involved—making sure he followed through with assignments and took advantage of resources—but I let him do the work.”
- “I sought counseling for Jason, and I made sure his medication was adjusted. Switching to a longer-acting form of ADHD medication improved Jason’s attitude about taking it, as well as led to a positive outlook on managing ADHD.”
Do you ever wonder, Will my child succeed? How will he make it through college or hold down a job if he can’t get up on time in the morning?
I hope these success stories brighten your outlook, as they did mine. While the moms and their teens had different opinions about what helped most, the common thread was parental support and encouragement. That seems like a great place to start.
For more information regarding the Novotni College Scholarship for college students with ADHD, go to www.add.org. Donations welcome!
This article comes from the Spring 2009 issue of ADDitude.
To read this issue of ADDitude in full, buy the back issue.