Home Again: Clark Kent Goes To College

Pedobear

My college-age son, Clark Kent, has ADHD and Asperger’s. Many of you know him from The Clark Kent Chronicles, which I’ve shared a few of in ADDitude Magazine and here over the years. Some of you have even wondered how college has gone for him, since his miraculous admittance into Texas A&M and even more miraculous graduation from high school. I’ve stayed cagey about it until now, though. That’s because Clark Kent caught up with Superman, and his golden years at Texas A&M ended in only four months. He and his genius brain are back in Houston, working and taking classes at University of Phoenix.

When the events that triggered his return came to pass, he was at first devastated and determined. That was quickly followed by denial and contentment in the status quo. There we have languished ever since.

At first we allowed him to live at his father’s “halfway house,” where he was supervised one week and solo the next, and so on. We gave him a checklist of daily life and ADHD management tasks to live by, and required him to get a job and take classes. His tasks included going to bed at a reasonable hour, getting up by nine a.m., drinking coffee and eating protein in the morning, minimizing his gluten/soy/dairy/processed food intake, supplements that would help his brain, 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times per week, basic hygiene, basic contributions at home, eating good carbs in the evening, using lists, keeping a calendar, answering texts, and not gaming. He refused to resume meds or to see his old doctor, claiming he “needed a fresh start.” (Read that as “didn’t want to tell anyone what happened.” At first, that included his girlfriend of three years, too.)

That didn’t work real well.

It took him three months to find a job, and he only managed two classes all Spring because he couldn’t get it together to sign up for them on time, and we weren’t going to do it for him, because we only want him doing what he is capable of, not what we engineer for him. Social interaction is a necessity for him so that he won’t replace it with gaming, but he hid from people because he didn’t want them to know he was back home.

The life management checklist? Gaming all night and sleeping all day weren’t on it–and were the cause of his rapid departure from Aggieland, in case you hadn’t guessed that yet– and none of the things that were got done with any regularity, if at all.

The good news? He has made an A and a B in his two classes, and he finally landed a job he hated, at Walgreen’s, only after we told him that he would either get the military or Peace Corp in one week if he didn’t find one after three months. (Surprise! He did, in three days!!) And he’s a super nice kid who doesn’t have substance abuse, gambling, or criminal issues. He’s just an ADHD hot mess without meds or lifestyle management, and that makes for a tough time for him and those around him.

We tried an ADHD coach, to work with Clark on the compensations he could make to augment his lagging executive functions. For the most part, this wouldn’t be anything different than the skills we and past counselors/therapists/psychologists had tried to instill in him, but now he was older, and they would be coming from a new source. Well, this guy did his best, but ultimately he said Clark Kent didn’t appear ready for reality yet, and without reality, coaching was a waste of time and money.

“Give him a few more years,” he told me. “Most kids like him are ready for the responsibility of a normal 18-year old by the time they are 25. Send him back to us when he’s a little older.”

Gut punch.

He went on. “My ADHD son is doing great now and finally succeeding full time at school, but he still lives at home.” The son is 25.

I felt like puking.

A relative told me a story about a co-worker of hers. “He was absolutely brilliant. And he didn’t go to college until he was 27. Same story as Clark Kent’s.”

I wanted to cry.

We reset our expectations and tried to get him to reset his.

“I want to go away to school,” he insisted. “As soon as possible.”

“Will you accept accommodations?” his father and I asked.

“No.”

“Will you reconsider meds?”

“I want to try a holistic approach.”

Fancy words, but this was five months into his rejection of his lifestyle changes, whether intentional or because he couldn’t manage them. “You haven’t so far,” I said.

“I want to go to a new doctor and I’ll do whatever they say.”

“Including meds?”

BIG BREAK THROUGH MOMENT: “If they say so.”

“Maybe you would be able to manage the holistic method with a med jumpstart,” I said. “You don’t have to take them all your life. Just when you need them. And we all need something, right? I need hormones, your stepdad needs blood pressure meds, your dad needs occasional sleep and anxiety help.”

“Yeah.”

“But, no matter what, you won’t be moving out next fall. If you can show us by August that you are ready, we will consider January. But we’ll know whether you’re ready by what you have done to make a January move-out happen. And January admittance into another school. You need a lot more hours this summer, with As and Bs, if you have a chance of getting in anywhere.”

He agreed.

“You’ve failed at the halfway house, so it’s time to move back in with your mom and surrender all your electronics,” I told him. (I’d asked for him to surrender them every week, but his father hadn’t cooperated up until then.)

And so, Clark Kent is back home. My house is a wreck. I’m a wreck. His sister is a wreck, and we won’t even talk about my husband Eric ;-) (Just kidding. Clark Kent and his stepdad do better together than any of the rest of us.) Clark Kent quit his job at Walgreen’s, with our permission, and is lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons this summer. He finds out soon if he can take a full load each summer session at Houston Community College.

We have him seeing a new doctor, but they won’t even consider meds until he is re-tested for ADHD in July (it’s now May) at an uninsured cost of $1200. We already know he has ADHD. I am one whisker away from overruling the new doctor and sending him back to the old one. {Parents of young kids, just wait until that 18th birthday when you are no longer allowed to attend their doctor’s visits without their permission, and they tell you they won’t say a word if you do attend. Those are some fun times.}

And it is OK. If he doesn’t take another class in the next 18 months and he slows down and just matures and works, it is OK. If he is happy and developing, it is OK. I can’t enforce my expectations on him. Instead, I can relax, or try to. I can accept. I can enjoy him, and laugh when he shows up at Fadi’s Mediterranean Restaurant to meet us for dinner with his PedoBear half-shaven look, his teddy bear sweater in 90-degree weather, hair standing on end, shorts on backwards and his phone in his “front pocket” looking like a snake fighting to get out of a bag attached to his behind as he walks. It is OK. He is OK, and I have found that I am, too.

It seems like I just keep relearning the same old lessons, like him.

So, who has a story to share about the late teen years in your ADHD household?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother’s Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger’s Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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ADHD teenagers, alternative therapy, alternative treatment, Asperger's, autism spectrum disorder, awareness, behavior modification, Clark Kent Chronicles, coaching, college, counseling, diagnosis, executive functioning, medication, medication break for ADHD, medication vacation, Pamela Hutchins, parenting ADHD, school failure, self-regulation, teenagers, young adults ·

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother's Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger's Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.
  • Dee

    This breaks my heart! (And terrifies me.) (((hugs))) That said…maybe there’s all a pot of gold at the end. Maybe in this situation he will find something perfect for him. Maybe it’s Peace Corps. My 12-year old talks about Peace Corps and I often think it would be ideal for him. But we have years to worry/think/react to that!

    I would send you peace in a package if I could!

    • Pamela Fagan Hutchins

      Yes, we are in a wait and see mode, and it isn’t all bad. One day at a time! And thanks.

  • Andy Drouin

    Thank you so much for sharing the insight that will likely be my life in another 6 years.

    • http://pamelahutchins.com Pamela Fagan Hutchins

      :-) You are welcome.

    • Pamela Fagan Hutchins

      You are very welcome.

The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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