My son, Connor, has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 5 and with ADHD when he was in 2nd grade. The lines of communication are very open in our household, and I spend a lot of time talking to Connor about his body and why his pancreas doesn’t work and his mind functions a little bit different than his peers. He asks a lot of questions, and we learn together.
One book that we often read together is All Dogs Have ADHD because he can relate to the dogs in the book who share so many of the traits that he has as a child with ADHD. We laugh as we read it together and point out the similarities between him and the silly dogs in the photos and their crazy antics. I constantly point out the positive, unique things about Connor. I praise him for his creative, strategic mind. I encourage him to draw elaborate pictures of fantastical creatures. He distributes black and white photocopies of his drawings to his friends as coloring pages upon their request. I point out how his hyperfocus is cool because he can create sandcastles and Lego structures that far surpass the abilities of most adults that I know. His ability to make new friends and find commonalities is amazing! He is always surrounded by packs of kids who linger on every word and view him as their leader. He creates original fantasy games at recess and after school, and even kids much older than him surround him and want to be part of Connor’s world. He’s a naturally gifted wrestler because of his intense need for sensory input and desire to be the best. He is compassionate and empathetic, especially to others who have disabilities or who are left out. He notices those children and instantly befriends them. He is loving and affectionate towards people and animals. He’s inquisitive. He’s amazing in so many ways, and I thought that he recognized that in himself.
A good friend of his from school came to spend the night this past weekend. I had not realized that his friend also has ADHD until he mentioned that he would have a hard time sleeping without Melatonin. Since Melatonin is also in our arsenal of tools as parents of a child with ADHD (and as his mom too), I casually asked if he has ADHD. He looked at me like I am a magician or a mind-reader. “Yes! I have ADHD. How did you know?”. I told him the Connor also has ADHD, and the look on the boy’s face was golden. He completely lit up to find out that his good buddy has something else in common. He ran into the bedroom where Connor was playing Legos to compare notes about having ADHD. They huddled on the bed to talk about it, and I was touched.
The next morning, I was working on my first Contributor blog for A Mom’s View of ADHD. I thought of the two boys sitting on the bed talking excitedly about the fact that they both have ADHD. What better resource for material for my blog post could I ask for? Why not ask the boys to write about what it’s like to have ADHD? What’s good about it? What’s bad? Draw some pictures about ADHD from their perspective. They were thrilled with this assignment, especially after I agreed to let Connor’s friend stay at our house longer that day. The boys each took a notebook and pencil outside and sat on the curb filling up their pages with words and pictures about having ADHD. I walked outside to check on them and peek at their work. I expected a few negative things and a lot of positives, but what the boys wrote was real and raw. It was not what I had wanted to read as a mother, but it was the truth. Unfiltered and straight from their hearts. There were a smattering of things that they recognized as being positive, but a lot of what they wrote broke my heart. I hadn’t realized how self-aware my son is about his own struggles. I was reminded of that famous line from the movie, A Few Good Men. “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”.
Would you like to see what the boys wrote? Their illustrations about ADHD? Here’s Connor’s work:
Bad (and good) things about ADHD by Connor
2. getting in trouble easy
4. getting bullied
6. can’t make up your mind
7. hard to make friends
9. cry a lot
10. hard to take turns
13. easily distracted
14. good at sports
15. lots of energy
17. fast learner
19. making friends
Illustration explanation: I asked Connor about the picture he drew with the boy and his brain with the thought bubble. He said that’s what he’s always thinking about: Nature, War and Creatures.
The picture at the bottom is what he says he feels like all the time. Happy and devilish at the same time. Like a two-headed Ace. He heard me talking about the idea for my blog about the Queen of Spades. I was considering a different title of “The Ace is Wild”. He drew that picture at the bottom as an illustration of himself as “The Ace is Wild” – a two headed ace from a deck of cards. The eyes rolled off to the side is typical for Connor. He gives that silly smile and eyes off to the side when he’s telling me a goofy story.
Here’s Connor’s friend’s work (no explanation needed because he spells better than my son):
I wonder what is going on in the brain of your child with ADHD? Have you asked him or her to write about it? Draw a picture about it? Do you want to know? You might learn from them. After all, they are the best teachers about their own disorder. I have to remember that I have a lot to learn from my son, even if I am the one who is a Teacher. We have a long road ahead of us, but at least now I know what issues to address and to overcome.