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Home Alone…with ADHD

“My seven-year-old son has ADHD. I don’t. Can I give him the support he needs when I don’t share his perspective?”

A friend wrote to me to tell me the younger of her two children was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Three out of the four members of her immediate family have it.

It’s almost the reverse in our house. Since she wrote me, I have given a lot of thought to what it must be like for my seven-year-old son Edgar to be the only one in his home with ADHD.

He is sandwiched between two parents and two brothers who do not have ADHD. The contrasts between Edgar and us are striking. He is driven to move a lot, and we, by and large, prefer to sit still. His nervous system requires him to touch everything in his path; we pretty much keep our hands to ourselves. His impulsivity is met by our decided and steady deliberation.

As I thought about my friend, who has ADHD, raising children who have been diagnosed with it, I felt a little wistful – surmising that the support she offers her children, support borne of personal experience, is more to the point and at a level my husband and I can never attain.

Her situation raises many questions for me – none of which can be answered. Does she have a deeper understanding of what her children endure every day? Can all the research in the world – the reading, writing, thinking, and empathizing – ever take the place of living with ADHD? Will her children feel more accepted, more understood in their home than my son will because their mother shares their condition?

Even turning our perception of ADHD on its head – we see it as a strength while most of the rest of the world sees it as a limitation – highlights the distinctions between Edgar and the rest of his family: He views the world in color; we often see it in black and white. He sees a sculpture in a roll of Scotch tape; we see how much is left on the spool. He stops to converse with a worm in the backyard; we step around the slimy guy.

We are aware of the differences between Edgar and us, but we are in awe of who he is, how he sees the world, and how he interacts with it. He may not be “like” us, but he teaches us, every day.

Although four out of the five people in our home aren’t living life with ADHD, we are his and he is ours. We get to join him on his amazing journey. For him, I hope that will be enough.