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The Amazing Race: My Daughter Doesn’t Have an Off Switch

When dealing with hyperactivity in children, parents need to remember to give kids the space they need.

On the first day of school, Lee and I walked into Staples, holding the teachers’ supplies list. When we saw the lines that snaked from the cashiers to the back of the store, Lee turned on her heel, ready to bolt.

“I’m going to the car, Mom. Give me the keys.”

“No, honey. You need to pick out your own supplies.”

I should have known better; the place was a zoo. We headed for the spiral binders, only to find a crowd of people in the narrow aisle. Ten minutes later, we were still waiting. Lee hopped from one foot to the other, eyes wide, breathing quickly.

“I can’t do this. Let’s go home.”

I can’t do it from a typical kid usually leads to a reminder for patience. When your kid has attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), it’s a reminder for the parent. We fled.

Through the years, I learned that Lee is not biologically equipped to be still without suffering anxiety. Of course, like many other parents of ADHD kids, I found that out the hard way.

[[Self-Test] Could My Child Have ADHD?]

The minute she learned to walk, the chase was on. To the top of the jungle gyms, through amusement parks, down the aisles of a plane. We lost her at Target. We lost her on the grounds of a hotel. Her feet had wings. We were the only ones holding her on the ground.

One night, we went to dinner with two other couples and their children. By 10 p.m., the other five-year-olds were asleep, heads down on the table. Our friends watched in amazement as Lee kept running around and around the table. Where, they asked, was the off switch? I thought, I would love to know.

When Lee turned seven, her pediatrician referred us to a neurologist to confirm the ADHD diagnosis. During her assessment, the neurologist watched Lee touch every single one of the 200 toys on her shelves in less than two minutes. After filling out a pile of questionnaires and a physical exam, she grabbed her black sharpie and a piece of paper and wrote ADHD, underlining the HD a dozen times and waving it in our faces. The truth made my heart sink. There was no off switch.

In the early years following the diagnosis, I realized we needed to accommodate the hyperactivity, not try to make it go away. We found the shortest lines at the grocery stores or banks and the aisle seat in concerts or movies. At birthday parties, we asked permission for Lee to stand as soon as the birthday cake was eaten.

[Your Free 13-Step Guide to Raising a Child with ADHD]

Now, as a teenager, she tells us when she can’t slow down. But it isn’t always bad when she’s on the run. We went back to Staples after dinner, the time when most kids are settling down for the night and mine is gearing up for action. She raced down aisles, just like she raced around the table when she was a kid. Grabbing every supply on her list in a flash, she set a record for shopping for school. Then I set a record for getting her home and into bed.

But I knew, even though I reminded her that we were supposed to be back on a school schedule, she probably wouldn’t fall asleep anytime soon. Not until her body decided to turn the switch to off and recharge for the race tomorrow.