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Oh, No, Did I Really Just Say That?!

When my impulsivity leads me to put my foot in my ADHD mouth, I’ve learned to use humor to lighten the mood, and hang on to my self-esteem.

It was that time of the year last week, time for my youngest daughter’s IEP meeting. For those who don’t have children with learning disabilities, an IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. Kids with LD don’t fit into the mainstream education pathways very well. They learn at variable rates, usually much slower than their peers, and the IEP helps the school district, school administration, and the teachers all work from the same page. The IEP we worked out last week will follow my daughter into high school next year. IEPs are wondrous things.

It helps, though, if you refer to them correctly. In e-mails and reminders days before our meeting, I used “IED” instead of “IEP.” It seems like a simple mistake. What American middle-school educator doesn’t have to deal with improvised explosive devices on their way to a staff meeting? I can see it now. Students gingerly stepping on their way to class… Humvees rumbling down the hallways…Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians hunkered down with gear by the cafeteria.

When I arrived at the meeting, though, the new psychologist nervously read my e-mail subject out loud. “IED?” she said with her eyebrows arched and the faintest hint of a quaver in her voice. In the past, my self-esteem would run and hide in the corner of the room. Oh, no! I did it again!

What I learned years ago is that humor is the best defense. I don’t mean, “Ahahaha! I was just kidding!” Nobody buys that. I mean, take responsibility for the inanity that comes out of your mouth and make light of it. Grab that embarrassing bull by the horns and wrestle with it before anybody else has a chance to.

Since they decided to change the meeting-room location, I had a chance to joke about my gaffe with my daughter’s teacher as we walked along the hallway. Then, once we were situated in our new location, I made funny quips about it again with the school district nurse. By the time the psychologist joined us, people were laughing and smiling and the gaffe was no big deal. The FBI was never contacted.

I try to teach my kids that self-deprecating humor can help with their self-esteem when they put their foot in their mouth. The trick is to not mock you from a position of self-loathing. Don’t be needy and defensive, either. That’ll just make everybody uncomfortable. The trick is to make people smile. It doesn’t work with everybody. Some people like to judge.

However, people with ADHD have these wonderful yet bizarre moments when their lips fail to echo what their brains were thinking. With a little bit of practice and confidence, you can learn to put people’s minds at ease and maybe get a laugh or two out of it.

Yep, Dad did it again. It’s a good thing I’ve spent years developing humor as a coping strategy for ADHD blunders. Boy, have I had practice!