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ADHD Aversion to Car Travel

How my daughter with ADHD learned to cope while riding in the backseat of our car by communicating effectively with me. The solution? Her Nintendo DS.

Natalie surprised and impressed me recently by “using her words” to describe a specific ADHD-related phenomenon: the difficulty she has tolerating riding in the car.

I’ve written several posts in this ADHD parenting blog about Nat’s aversion to car travel. Think about it: what’s not to dislike, if you have ADHD? When riding in a car, you have to sit relatively still, and if you don’t, your seat belt will forcibly “still” you. Riding is all about waiting. You start at one place, and sit and wait to get someplace else. If you happen to “have a need: a need for speed!” like Natalie, then riding with a law-abiding driver, like me, just might drive you crazy.

The obvious solution? Keep busy in the backseat. For Nat, this is an instinctive kind of coping skill that manifests itself like this: she frantically, compulsively grabs handfuls of toys every single time I herd her out of the house and into the garage. Crap accumulates in the backseat of my car to the point that my 12-year-old, Aaron, would choose being seen sitting with me at a G-rated movie over the embarrassment of offering a friend a ride home in my car.

Lately, Nat’s keep-busy-in-transit tool of choice has been her Nintendo DS. That’s fine with me. If you put aside Nat’s propensity to lose or break its expensive games and accessories, her DS is great choice for in the car–small and brightly colored, making it easy to spot when half-buried in fast-food wrappers (it’s the red Mario edition), and it won’t grow mold or melt.

A few days ago, when it was time to leave for school, Nat scurried from bathroom to kitchen, to living room, to locker, searching for her DS to play on the way to school.

“Come on, Nat,” I said. “We have to leave right now!”

“But I need something to focus on in the car!” Nat replied.

How’s that for “using her words”? That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

I waited while she found her DS. By describing her ADHD-driven need concisely, she was able to get that need met! She’s a smart one, that girl. I’m proud of her.