Teens with ADHD

Not Behind the Wheel…Yet!

You can’t get into the fast lane if you don’t have a license and we’re still waiting for our son with attention deficit to show us his drive to get one.

Father teaching yound ADHD teen to drive
Father teaching yound ADHD teen to drive

Today my son Enzo turned sixteen. To a kid like him who can’t think of much else than cars, we figured this day would be a big one! Since he was ten, he’s always dreamed of the scene from Transformers, where Sam Witwicki’s dad drives him to a used car shop and gives him a budget of double what he’d saved on his own.

I would watch him play his video games, racing willy-nilly down highways and back streets, crashing into things, blinking out for a second, and then starting up again. I’d think about the synapses he was building and warn him, “If you ever want to get your driver’s license, you’re going to have to stop playing video games for six months first.” He had other ideas of course: he’d make me sit down and watch him drive legally while others crashed around him.

Seriously. Could someone come up with a driving game where players get points for driving safely? A level you could complete with a certificate a kid could deliver to mom and dad to prove they can muster some impulse control?

But today came and went without a real car. He did get a new driving game, though, which I noted with some relief: When it comes down to brass tacks, playing games is obviously much safer than being in charge of 2000 pounds of hurtling steel, propelled by 2000 explosions per minute.

But it’s curious, isn’t it? He longs to get behind the wheel, and he offers to drive all the time, even though he can’t, legally. Why doesn’t our car nut even have a permit at 16? Why? Because we haven’t really helped him.

Driving is one of those things that you have to be really ready to take on yourself. We could have taken him down to the DMV a year ago to get his permit; we could have found him a class, we could have spelled out all of the steps you need to take to get from point A (being a passenger) to point B (being a driver). But sometimes it’s hard to know, when your kid has ADD, where to let him struggle. He’s already got enough struggles remembering where his bus pass is, and we help him when he needs it. But part of owning his ADHD is grappling with the reality that he doesn’t always know how to begin something, that it’s hard for him to see and follow the steps, and that procrastination comes naturally. With a motivation as enormous as driving, he might stop and look at these things in the next year. Or two.

In short, before he can get the keys to the car, he needs to find the keys to his own mind!