February 13, 2018 at 4:18 pm #76400
My entire family is dealing with ADHD right now. I’m 46 and have two amazing kids; a daughter who is 11 and a son who is 8. I was diagnosed with ADHD back when I was a child, and then re-diagnosed when I was an adult in my 30s. My wife was diagnosed 10 years ago. My Daughter was diagnosed 4 years ago. My son has gone diagnosed, but I foresee it coming at some point.
Over the years, I like to think I’m a good advocate, and had to carve through a mountain of shame as I went to college and as an adult. Realizing where my strengths lied, and minimizing my weaknesses, and building up a thick skin to the attitude of “you aren’t trying hard enough”. I put myself into situations where I am judged by my impact, not my “work ethic”, and I’ve done well for myself. I’m respected in my career, and valued at the company I work for. I provide, which is deeply important to me. We want for little, I should have no room to complain.
My daughter started middle school this year. Middle school was a deeply painful time for me, more than I think it was for others. Although you almost never hear people reminisce about that horrible transition. “Middle school! Now those were awesome times!” Said no one, ever. My mom did me the favor of not only saving my stuff from my early childhood but saving my stuff from middle school as well. A scrapbook of sorts with my report cards, pictures, etc… I went through it the other day, and it was one of the most painful and revealing experiences in my life. It was such a deep and sudden transition. One year, I was a kid who had quirks but was acknowledged as smart. I knew the subject matter, just didn’t “Apply myself”. When I hit Middle school, I failed nearly every class. Didn’t turn in assignments, and I honestly have blocked a lot of it out. I know there was serious bullying, and I, in turn, bullied. Few friends. It was just severe, scarring, pain.
I left feeling angry at people who probably don’t deserve anger. They are gone. Why did they let me go on like this? Why didn’t anyone step in, and why wasn’t it effective when they did? God it was painful. My mom tells stories of the depression I felt at the time. Half-assed suicide attempts were made, not to actually kill myself but to end the pain in SOME way.
I went on to do ok, but Jesus it was a long and painful haul. Graduated High School with a 2.0, which was only possible because I took every choir class I could.
I went to college and sucked there too, until, I decided it was time to move on and do better. I think it was expectations from my professor at the time, who knew I could do better and called me out on it. Within a semester or two, I was on the Dean’s list. Graduated. Failed at work in my chosen field. Chose a new field. Refined my work style, and became successful. No small amount of luck was involved in my story, and I can’t help but feel I came out the other side a deeply flawed man.
Now I am a dad, of a kid who struggles in the same way I did. After coming through all this, you would think I would have a great insight into how to raise an ADHD kid, right? I know EXACTLY where she is coming from! I’ve advocated in the ways I know how. When papa bear is engaged, papa bear is a force of nature. I want her judged by her knowledge of subject matter, not her organizational skills.
When her first year started, we were on top of it. She did ok, some As, mostly Bs, and a C. A starting point, and an order of magnitude better than what I did. We can build on this. Second quarter comes, and we work even harder! We re-take tests that she did poorly on, and constantly talking to the teachers who will talk to us. She only has homework in one class, so tracking that was easy enough.
Yesterday was a gut-punch. She did worse in almost every class. Went from an A- in Reading to a D+. D+ in another class. Cs in other classes. In my mind, this is a reverse trend. More effort = worse grades. To say I’m triggered at this point is an understatement.
I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have a clue how to raise an ADHD kid to be successful. On top of it, my wife an I have our own struggles in that area, and learning HOW to do this, is also difficult. I really feel hopeless right now. My daughter was genuinely shocked by her grades, thinking she had done much better than she did. She is starting the same, “I’m broken, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” I said when I was a kid, and no ammount of, “We know where you are coming from” seems to overcome that.
I feel like I should hire a surrogate Dad who knows this crap. A dad who isn’t triggered and thinks it’s the end of the world when I see a missed assignment. Someone who can help her feel proud of her strengths while managing her weaknesses. So she can aspire to things, and not feel like being a Doctor is for other kids who don’t have ADHD. She is on that trajectory of shame and self doubt, and I don’t know how to deflect that.
February 13, 2018 at 6:08 pm #76404
I heard the desperation in your post, and I sympathize completely. I’m new to the whole world of ADHD with my 8-year old son, who’s very different from my teenage daughters. Today was an extraordinarily difficult day, and I don’t even have the energy to type out all that happened. I just wanted to connect with you and hopefully start a conversation. My husband clearly has ADD, but has not been diagnosed. He doesn’t even know where to begin and is often busy running our business, so I’m left with struggling to help our son by myself. I have anxiety, so it’s like someone with tremors doing brain surgery and I’m pretty sure I’m making matters worse. Anyway, I hope and pray for your family and mine that we can figure something out. At the very least, we can help pull each other through this.
February 14, 2018 at 10:20 am #76427
The dad you are offers empathy and compassion, the two most important parenting traits. YOU are the dad she needs. It can be tough when the parent also has ADHD, but you also bring valuable insights and experiences to the table:
Now, I am concerned about the lack of communication from teachers/school. When a student’s grades slip like that, or are incredibly low, teachers should notify parents. I’ve had the same struggle for several years. Now, in high school, SPED staff tells him that C’s are average and good, and tell me that he’s passing his classes when it’s time for report cards, so all is well. Grrrr! Makes me crazy! Most schools have a policy/approach to do as little as they can possibly get away with when it comes to special needs students.
I would make a formal request that you are notified when her grades drop below a C. If she has a 504 plan or IEP, ask that this accommodation be added. If not, it may be time to pursue more formal support in the school:
ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
February 15, 2018 at 1:31 pm #76542
I appreciate the responses and I agree that getting formal support from the school is crucial. It did come up early in the year, which I was really surprised at the lack of support we got from the counselor. She basically hinted that getting IEPs or a 504 Plan formally will diminish her chances at getting into AP classes later and in college admissions. Now that I say that “out loud” that sounds horrible. Is that the case in your experience?
February 16, 2018 at 8:46 am #76571
No. Getting accommodations and using them in school will actually help to get the same or similar accommodations in college and on tests like the SAT. It absolutely should not bar a student from taking AP courses either, if the student can handle the work. To say that kids with IEPs and 504s can’t take AP classes is blatant discrimination, and should be reported to the US Department of Ed’s discrimination office if it happens.
I am so sick and tired of schools doing everything they can to deny kids the accommodations and help they need and deserve (not to mention have a right to by law!)!
ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
February 21, 2018 at 2:37 pm #76864
You get it, and like Penny said, that is important for a kid. I heard my husband say a beautiful thing recently – he told our son that he wished his mom helped him like I am helping our son. My mother-in-law loved her kids, but didn’t get what they are going through. My husband was diagnosed with dyslexia, but probably is ADHD, too. I am tentatively diagnosed with ADHD, and our son has been diagnosed for 4 years now. He originally was involved in SPED for early childhood delays, but when he was discharged from his IEP because he was supposedly doing well enough in kindergarten, he started failing miserably without the 504 support they promised him. So eventually back into an IEP (partly due to the ADHD diagnosis) and in 5th grade now. We are heading into middle school next year and are worried about the workload and how he will cope.
I second what Penny said about communication with the school. If you let things go on autopilot, the school will do what they are used to doing, which (human nature) is the minimum standard they are held to. If the Common Core people are the most vocal, that is who will get the most attention (curriculum review, etc.). But if there is a vocal parent staying in contact, making sure they are updated, making sure their kid is supported, that parent/child will get a little more attention and cooperation than you would have otherwise. It sucks, but it has been our experience. Last year we had a good teacher, but she allowed all sorts of things to slide and then gave bad grades. Never asked us or SPED teacher for more help/support or to change anything. From her point of view, she probably thought we were happy with how things were set up, and who was she to rock the boat? Many parents could have been upset with her for suggesting changes or saying things didn’t seem to be working. My mother-in-law (bless her heart) wasn’t looking for the teachers to suggest things, just wanted the kid to get through school one way or another. So you can see why the teachers might not try to do more. They have undoubtedly been burned in the past and have to choose their battles, what to spend their time on. They do what they can to help a kid within their own classroom, but without a sign that someone is interested in working together, that is all they do.
The grades didn’t really matter so much to us, but was our son learning? Not really – she was letting him slide. It felt like social promotion. Move the kid along, give “accommodations” of shortening assignments, but don’t tell anyone until the IEP meeting because you don’t know that they have the time / inclination to spend any time on it. So we raised heck and got some more meaningful goals in the IEP, got accommodations documented, etc. for this year. We are still struggling this year, but it is different. It is more purposeful. Sometimes I wonder why we are doing it, but it is because we see progress. We gave the teacher permission to send home work that was not finished. She did so after the due date, which added a lot of pressure. We asked her to please send it home before it was already late; she said then he might not have anything to do in class. We said, “look at him – he won’t get ahead of the class for now, and if he does, you can stop sending the work home.” So now she sends it home even though the other kids don’t have homework. It’s the only way for our son with slow processing speed to get enough time to learn to break down the problem (executive function), tackle it, and see that he can have success. He gets to learn and practice the skills he will need to be successful. It’s not fun or even always pleasant, but as reflected in my husband’s comment that he wished his mom had helped him, it is better for the student. It shows him someone believes in him, shows him he can be successful, teaches him how to do it, and should prevent some of what you later figured out on your own as an adult.
So don’t lose heart, and I know that each kid is different. But dialogue with any teacher that will talk to you, make yourself seen and heard (in a nice way if possible – more flies with honey than with vinegar), and keep loving your daughter. The grades won’t matter in the long run, but the sense of love and confidence of knowing her parents have her back, WILL.
February 21, 2018 at 3:18 pm #76867
I don’t have ADHD but my 10 yr old does and we realized my husband does too after getting our daughter diagnosed.
For us, the public school system was beyond useless. They didn’t recognize ADHD and learning disabilities when it was staring them in the face, they discouraged us from getting her tested, then once she was tested had absolutely no understanding of what she needed (let alone agreeing to provide it). Not only was she not learning anything, her self esteem was in the toilet and she had absolutely no idea how smart she is. Fortunately we found a paediatrician who specializes in ADHD and we moved her to a school that specializes in ADHD and learning disabilities. She has flourished.
Although I don’t have ADHD my brother does but wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood. I saw what he went through growing up(‘smart but doesn’t apply himself’, lazy, total screw up, etc). I didn’t want that for my daughter, We started a ‘trial’ of meds as my brother said they completely changed his life. Wow. It was like flipping a light switch. Literally tests/homework that she was completely unable to do off meds on Friday, she aced while on meds on Monday. So much so, that a math ‘learning disability’ she received on formal testing disappeared once she started meds. She now gets an ‘A’ in math. She continues to take meds on school days.
Look for support in your community. Even as a non-ADHD individual who is an aggressive advocate, I needed outside help. Find a paediatrician or ADHD clinic that can help you get on track and access any resources that you have locally. Look at alternate schooling. We tried to take the pressure off our daughter by telling her WE had placed her in the wrong school. That her TEACHERS didn’t know how to teach kids who think outside the box. Then we promised to find her a situation that was the right ‘fit’.
I am happy to say she is now ‘caught up’ and getting largely A’s. We are considering transferring her back to a mainstream school in the next couple of years with some outside supports in place.
You already have likely given your children more than you (and my brother) received as a child — an understanding of what is behind their struggles, support and advocacy.
Best of luck.
February 21, 2018 at 3:37 pm #76872
I am a teacher with add – so I see both sides!
Middle school becomes a challenge due to so many different teachers, homework and ORGANIZATION that is required.
Color coding helps – ask her to choose a color for each class and think why…so she remembers the color.
When is the last time she got her eyes checked? (By an eye dr. NOT pediatrician. Also double check hearing just in case.
Practice taking notes at home. My kindergartners can watch a movie and take notes so… practice with a cartoon. Oh spongebob is yellow..write yellow, his friend is patrick…write patrick. he’s driving…write driving.
Taking notes takes practice, but they get faster. This forces an add person to pay attention and also helps them remember what they learn. (our church has fill in the blanks – and it keeps you from daydreaming).
If she wants to watch extra tv – ok…but she has to take notes.
Watch sleep. Add needs LOTS of sleep, so push back the bedtime. Also watch nutrition – more protein esp breakfast less sugar!!
go to dr. daniel amen’s website for lots of good info.
also hormones can affect add – he has a book 7 types of add and also the female brain (or something like that).
Most important of all…find out what she’s good at/likes and promote that (you have to feel good about yourself!!)
Is it sports, art, music, photography (ansel adams had add) grow her passions
also check for dyslexia (can occur with add)
tell her about famous people with add (google them) so she knows she’s not alone!
no tv in bedroom, possible no computer and no phone during homework time / may need to take away at night
no electronics 1 hour before sleep – interferes with sleep
check for snoring (sleep apnea) not getting enough oxygen – not restful sleep
tell her you love her and share your struggles – everyone has struggles hence new years resoloutions – so she’s not alone
celebrate success no matter how small
February 22, 2018 at 7:15 am #76972
You are very much describing my childhood and my 4th grade, 2e daughter’s experiences. I also hit my wall in middle school and very clearly remember my teacher telling me that she was worried about me (I think because she thought I was lazy). I had no medication, no accommodations, and no counseling or any help. My mom was a single mom who did the best she could.
My daughter is on an IEP and it helps, but she has such trouble with even starting her work at school, and due to that, what she ends up with for homework is crazy.
The struggle I’m having now is that she’s in the gifted academy and even with the accommodations it just feels so overwhelming. I almost feel like she needs a para to keep her going at school. I’m not sure pulling get out will help or not – she had trouble with this in general education. My daughter loves the project based learning, but I don’t think she’d have nearly the homework. We’re revisiting this at the end of the year.
I completely understand the pain you have in watching your daughter struggle the way you did. Part of me wants to shut down, but of course, that’s not an option. I am essentially getting an additional grade school education with the side by side help she requires at home.
I agree with the other comment about ensuring she had an activity she enjoys and where she can excel. My daughter loves drama, so she’s in a little song and dance group that only rehearses 2 hours a week and has maybe 3-4 performances a semester. She loves it and she shines!
I have told others that trying to help her is like trying to teach her a language I don’t know.
I know I don’t have much to say that you don’t already know, but please remember that you are not alone in your struggle.
February 23, 2018 at 11:21 am #77119
I am dealing with the same issue – my entire life has been the “worst case outcome” side of those ADHD pamphlets as I was not diagnosed or treated until my oldest was almost 1. He’s 8 now and diagnosed – we started meds over a month ago but I am having so much trouble with how to proceed/handle his treatment – my own treatment was suboptimal until a couple months ago (his diagnoses spurred me on to approach my own treatment with more seriousness as now I am responsible for Both of our treatments and I don’t want to screw his up!) his teacher and school are great but I feel so inconsistent in my efforts and worry they will give up on him – ive hired a parent coach for an ADHD parent and ADHD child which starts this coming week and have to make an appointment with his paediatrician today to get his meds raised/possibly changed to 2x a day since they wear off in afternoon. (Only thing longer acting than dex spansules is vyanse and I bet we’re not covered for that. He may have to take meds at lunch in school office?) I wish someone responsible and consistent could just take over for at least the beginning of his treatment and/or tell me exactly what to do! I’m floundering in a million directions I feel. I’m in Canada not sure if it’s the same in schools re 504 type plan but so far the school and teacher seem very cooperative and helpful but it’s totally up to me to direct them – I also feel that (how dumb does this sound!?) both the resources I’ve contacted and his paediatrician are far too agreeable with me like they agree with everything I suggest right down to his medication choice and dose and I guess I have the ADHD typical huge self doubt but it reminds me of every job I’ve ever had where I just “faked it” acted like I knew what I was doing and got away with it until it all fell apart and came crashing down in some drama/crisis. I learn almost everything from this website and wish dr Dodson lived here and could help us im sure a lot of people on this site wish he could treat them as ive never seen the issues written out so perfectly anywhere else. I really think you are doing great for your daughter you’re further along and way more “on it” than I am – also to the teacher who posted above with ADHD – thank you so much for those tips and words of encouragement. Wish you all the best!
February 23, 2018 at 1:38 pm #77133
Your story has struck me to the core. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was 36 but always knew I had it. Just had those parents who said, “get your head out of your a$$ and focus.” Boy, do I resent them to this day for that because since I did not get the proper help I needed, I struggled through school and eventually dropped out. Never went to college and by the grace of some higher power (most likely just me busting my a$$) I am successful!
Fast forward to me being a mom of an 11-year-old boy who was diagnosed with ADHD and SPD in Kindergarten. He started middle school this year and we knew it would be difficult because his struggle has always been with the organization. Learning has never been hard for him, but remaining focused and organized in middle school has been one giant disaster. So much so that he was recently diagnosed with anxiety/depression because he’s expressed the thought of suicide to us a couple of times. He says that it’s just too much pressure and the expectation of him is too much especially since he’s a “smart” kid.
I find myself obsessing over how I can help him because I don’t want him to feel this way and I want him to be proud of who he is but I always end up feeling so lost. 🙁
February 23, 2018 at 5:24 pm #77160
Hello, I’m a parent of a 9 year old who from pre-k was forced to get evaluated. He scored off the charts. However he has major issues in the classroom. He can’t sit still, has been diagnosed adhd. He is super smart and does well most of the time. I know it is going to get harder as he gets older, school here is super competitive. He has a 504 in place. Doing homework with him is exhausting and can take hours. The hardest part is that he is aware of his struggles. I think he is being somewhat mmanipulative lately and using it to his advantage. I Tried giving him l-theanine and he became hysterical, told him it was a vitamin. Anyone else have luck with l theanine? I’m trying to hold off on meds
February 23, 2018 at 9:14 pm #77165
As a child and family therapist, I heard “her grades are going down,” and that you feel “hopeless.”
These are indicators of depression which is often co-morbid with AD/HD, but needs to be addressed
separately. Talk to your pediatrician and ask for referrals to therapists who work with adolescents and who understand AD/HD and the depression and anxiety that often go with it.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login