Like clockwork, when my ADHD son is confronted with a problem he doesn’t know how to solve, he quits in frustration. Well, often he just says he is quitting, not going, or not doing whatever he had originally been looking forward to hours earlier. My son, Builder, is also diagnosed with Asperger’s in addition to his ADHD. This combination means he has the ability to be intensely focused for short periods of time, and is also easily distracted. Thus, guests to our home are greeted in the front yard with his wood and motor building projects, at the front door they are surrounded by Builder’s Lego projects, and then each new room holds a half started, never to be finished project.
Builder’s interests also change rapidly with each passing day. He needs a wet suit. He wants a motor bike. We live in the suburbs in the Midwest.
He has participated in hockey, karate, basketball, track, and lacrosse. All with heavy parental support, cajoling, and sometimes even coaching. Some of those activities din’t last longer than a day or two. The only activity he has kept since first grade is scouting. However, this week, Builder is quitting Boy Scouts, an activity he has always loved. Until tonight, when he failed to plan his long term badge requirements. As a good friend always states, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” All ADHD parents nod in agreement here. But how to teach our children how to plan ahead? And how to help them when they want to give up and quit? Because quite honestly, some days, I want to give up, quit and stop ensuring my child is behaving responsibly, politely, and slowly maturing.
In sixth grade, the boy scouts are expected to be more responsible for themselves and their badge requirements. I believe it is a task beyond my son’s abilities right now. He has made great strides in the past few years. He can get himself to the regular weekly meetings. However, he doesn’t remember any extra meetings planned. He can participate while at a meeting; but any home work or extra tasks assigned will not be completed. At this level, the parents are not as involved; and not expected to be helping their sons.
However, for a child with ADHD, we parents are the child’s right hand man and executive planner. This is not to be confused with helicopter parenting. This is simply helping our children to proceed on the path to independence without losing most of their clothing, lunches, and personal belongings along the way. We do need to be proactive and assist them with organization, planning, and getting tasks done. We need to send follow-up emails and make phone calls to keep our kids on track.
As an elementary education teacher, sometimes I argue against the help I give. “Natural consequences,” “He will figure it out,” all refrain in my head. Except, I remember, the students I taught who did need the extra time, help, and assistance while they were in middle school. The other children did not need this type of intense support. but, some kids do. It doesn’t mean they always will; but it is our job as parents and teachers to provide the support they need.
We are not letting Builder quit Boy Scouts in spite of his frustrations. We are trying to help him complete his badge requirements; but maybe he won’t get all of the badges. In the mean time he will know there are caring adults who want him to eventually fly…like an eagle scout.
Kim Stricker is a Chicago-area elementary education teacher, writer, and mom to two tween boys. Kim shares the unconventional experiences of parenting an adopted child with ADHD and Asperger’s, as well as his younger brother, at her blog, LifesLikeThis . She is also a parent advocate and blogger for Empowering Parents.