Someone to Play With: Finding Friendship for My Child with ADHD

My son is not socially gifted. Friends don't come easily to him - or to me. But together we're figuring it out.

Someone to Play With: Finding Friendship for My Child with ADHD ADDitude Magazine

In fourth grade, my son finally made a friend - or so I thought....

Mother of an ADDer

Parents are often the last to know when a child has attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). Not because they're unintelligent, but because their love blinds them to certain realities that others easily perceive. If you've been wondering whether your child has ADHD, it might help to ask yourself: "Does my child have friends? Does he get invited over to play with other children?"

Although my son, James, has developed all the other skills in the job description for childhood, friendship has eluded him. This thing "normal" children create so effortlessly must be painstakingly taken apart, analyzed, and synthesized by my child's brain, each step of the way.

I can look back on James's early childhood and see all the signs - of his distress and my oblivion. It started with a call from the day-care center: James wouldn't nap, and he was disturbing the other children. I murmured some vague disclaimer, all the while thinking, "Good for him!"

As a child, I hadn't gone in for napping, either, and my mother had eventually been forced to take me out of nursery school. I was in complete solidarity with my son.

Smiling at his highjinks

The next call from the day-care center elicited some not-so-nice emotions from me (I can't believe I used to wonder where my son got his belligerence). Gravely, the director informed me that Jameswas knocking over the other children's blocks. When I heard this, I had to suppress a laugh.

The image of James taking a swipe at a tower of blocks seemed comical. I admired the nerve of this boy, his willingness to brook the disapproval of his peers. Besides, what could I say? That I'd speak to him about it? He was barely three years old.

The next call was not funny, even to me. The director asked my husband and me to come in for a talk. She could no longer keep James in the program, because he was scaring the other children. She advised us to enroll him in the public school's early-intervention program. We sat gaping, stunned by this rejection. It was the first of many rejections that lay ahead.

Being sorry didn't matter

Still, it took a few more ruptured relationships before I was ready to appreciate the extent of my son's difficulty with other children. I remember the afternoon James was playing outside with a friend's three children. The girl did something that made James mad. He picked up a rock and threw it at her head. Luckily, she escaped with only a bump, but her mom chewed me out: How could I have let this happen? My feeling was, how could I not? James had picked up that rock and thrown it before I could so much as yell his name. My sincere contrition counted for nothing. I was a parent who put other children in harm's way.

The next incident involved a couple we'd seen often before our boys were born. We invited them for the weekend, envisioning our four-year-olds playing happily for hours. At first everything seemed fine. James offered to take the boy down the hill to his "secret spot" in a stand of fir trees, and they set off while I made lunch. It was early summer, and we left the door open in case the boys needed anything.

Then came a wailing sound. The other boy's mom bolted from the table and ran down the hill. She returned with her sobbing son and announced that they were leaving immediately. I got up, mystified and hurt, trailing them to the front door, asking what had happened. The mother just shook her head as she strapped her son into his car seat.

The next day, my husband got the story, man to man, from the boy's father. Apparently, once the boys were far from the house, James had said in a flat, chilling tone: "You're all alone now." Who knows what he had meant.

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