Struggling Mom of an 11yr old ADHD brain


#1

Hello! I happened to come across the TEDx video on FB and decided to watch it (even though I’m at work on the day after Christmas). My daughter is almost 11, and we have the somewhat typical story (if that exists)- in second grade she started having a bunch of trouble in school- not staying on task, not progressing into harder work, only choosing artistic or creative work (she goes to a Montessori school so she is free to choose). The teachers were complaining, and truthfully, looking back, it probably was evident even before then. They wanted her tested, which we balked at. There was nothing “wrong” with her. She was so incredibly bright. Must just be that she’s being too “social” in class and because she can choose her activities- she’s just not being accountable to get her work done. We started a cycle of withholding privileges if she didn’t get her work done, she spent time in her room, extra curricular activities were withheld, the teacher would send her to the office for non-compliance. It was just such a behaviorally focused time. We finally relented and took her to see an ADHD dr for diagnosis, which was just a survey of us, her, and the teacher. I didn’t feel it was thorough, and he immediately and ONLY suggested medication. I was clear we wanted other options and only medication as a last resort as I still didn’t believe she had it.

We sought a second opinion from a family counseling center, and basically a third opinion from an evaluation center that did IQ and disability testing. The IQ test was very high, but showed anxiety and reading difficulties that were affecting her ability to progress at school. She had somehow missed/not retained some of the basic sight word and grammar rules. So, while she could read- she still struggled with common words, and developed a work around approach to use her energy to “read” for the most important content, because then she could ACT like she knew everything she read. The testing center director said it was very uncommon for someone to be able to read for content so highly but have a bad ability to retain regular words. And, oh my gosh the spelling issues…

The counselor we found said she wouldn’t contradict the dr, but she would work with my daughter on her emotional state because she was very unhappy and full of self-esteem issues. We went 9 months of counseling before relenting and trying medication because I had such a bad perception of medicating a child. Luckily our family doctor worked with my wishes, which was to try the lowest dose, most minimal medication first to see if it did indeed help (we were told to try the medication and if she had ADHD it would help/if not it would make her hyper-- and THAT’S how we could tell if she ADHD for sure).

So, she’s been on medication on school days for the last 2yrs. She feels it helps her. She says she can stay focused much better with it and not get distracted. She is doing better at school and seems happier.

The problem is-- I’M struggling and making it worse for her!! I, ME, I’m struggling with understanding that her brain works differently. That her not paying attention isn’t willful. That her not “listening” because she’s already acting/reacting isn’t a choice. Her constant forgetting of materials, things she needs, permission slips, important dates, etc isn’t really her fault. It’s not a FAULT… but somehow in my frustration of managing things after they’ve been forgotten… in the 11th hour of a deadline… in the second trip around the block to go back and get things… I make it a fault. And I say things like “What is WRONG with you!!!” and “You KNEW you needed this!” and “Too bad, I’m not going back. Maybe next time you’ll remember!”

I feel like a monster and I make her feel horrible… and I love her. And I need help to manage my own emotions and behavior in order to not make her experience of life totally suck. Because right now I feel like I’m getting this whole “Mom of a Brain” thing totally wrong!

Christine


#2

I understand this story well i have a boy about the same age and can understand having to deal with the stigma around medicating children and all that goes with it.

Through my sons diagnosis our pediatrician recomended that my wife and i get tested also. Because statiscaliy you will have a 50 percent chance of also having ADHD. It turned out that i have adhd. And i am now medicated.

There are a couple of very important things that i wish i new when my sons school first raised it with us ( he also goes to a non mainstrem school with a focus on self directed learning). This is all information that i have found and i am not a dr.

  1. Its not your fault. Its nothing you have done wrong.

  2. If the condition is there the consiquences of not treating it are bad. Huge ongoing impacts on educational and social development and as the kids get older increased risk of them self medicating with other substances.

  3. ADHD in children and medication is easily the most researched neurlogic disorder on the plannet. And its complicated but the treatment is simple and highly effective in over 80 percent of cases.

  4. Non medication treatments WITHOUT the concurrent use of medication has a success rate of under 2 percent.

From my personal experiance before being medicated myself and fully understanding the huge positive changes it has made for me i was similar to you. I struggled with the constant inattention from my boy and when he became overwhelmed with the constant preasure of trying to perform everyday with one hand tied behind his back and he would lash out or break down and that would upset me again. Because i was struggeling with the same things he was but i am an adult who had learnt a few coping stratagies over the years i didn’t recognise it.

If you are still having big problems with your daughter this is the best advice i can give you.

  1. Listen to her and spend time with her to work on solutions for those everyday tasks that seem to cause the most agrivation. Routine routine routine and reward reward reward. ADHD brains are alllll about instant gratification . With us its get up make and eat breakfast ( even if your not hungry) put your lunch box in your bag and brush your teeth have your medication. Thats it nothing else and then he is free to get on his ipad (the reward part ) then as the adult we just support the rest of the morning. Ask him if he has done his jobs remind him he needs his bag and hat. And so on ( this was a struggle for me before medication because i would not be fully engauged because of my own ADHD. And we would have issues with tantrums aswell.

  2. Fully engauge with the medical process. Spend the time to find the correct dose for the medication. I can tell you first hand that a dose that is too low can cause its own issues. Again talk to and listen to your daugter. Give her input and controll of her condition. Make it interesting for her so she wants to learn about it (again the reward part ). Dose is somthing that is completely personalised and is affected by quite a few biolgicall differances. And that is the same for the medication choice. If you spend time to adjust dosage and you dont seem to get the bennifits listed on the box try a different medication or delivery method ( slow release / instant release).

  3. Think about geting tested yourself. Just undergoing the diagnosis process is exteemly educational. And remeber there is a 50percent chance that you will have it (and your daughters father also)

  4. Remeber its hard as a parent of a ADHD kid. Use the tools that are availible to you. You will have moments that it gets to you and you will say things that are not great. But we are just human and will make mistakes. Always try to be better but dont beat yourself up over small mistakes it dosent help you or your daughter.

ADHD is commonly sitting with another issue. For me and my boy its dysgraphia. If she is having other educational problems get her checked and get her the help you can. It will make her life better in the long run and let her grow into an adult understanding why she is having a hard time and not feel like she is worth less than she is and give her the tools she will need to be happy and successful.

I Hope that this helps. Its a great recorce here and check out the How to ADHD vids on youtube they are clear and insightful and full of great information.

M


#3

Also not a doctor, but I agree with the issues of underdosing and I’ve felt day’s off make my memory very very bad for weeks after. I’ve felt better just to get on the right dose and be consistent about it.

I wish I’d been diagnosed as early as your daughter. I know signs were there. I’ve struggled with anxiety, got depressed for a short time which helped me self present for adhd assessment.

So even though this is a hard time, your daughter will be better off for your struggles now and ultimately, I think that’s what every parent wants for their kids.

I recommend this video


#4

Im now to drunk to read it all properly but can make out the basics, i always scored 98-100% in primary school for maths and anything with logic involved so i was considered “smart” and when i didnt do well i was then called lazy etc, the school gave me a hearing test which obviously was fine and then the said well he must just be lazy then, so if you can get it sorted at a young age and treated however it needs to be it will be amazing im sure, i had to wait till about 30 before i got it figured out but if at that young age i had of it would have been life chaning in a huge way.


#5

Interesting that parents may also have ADHD. We joke that my husband does- can’t stay on topic, gets distracted with electronics and tunes out convos, and can never quite finish a project to 100% completion… but I was looking at adult symptoms and recognize some in myself as well. Problem is- the evaluations seem to be questionnaire style which you can recognize the answers that will lead to a positive and negative diagnosis. I do know that some of our difficulties come from me dealing with my own thought processes and need to control my environment. For sure a struggle for me!

We medicate on school days and take weekends and holiday breaks off on the advise of dr to give her a break. We have talked about continuing the medication throughout to keep her consistent, but don’t want dependency issues. The need for this on school days is to keep her focused on completing school work, and I guess I just need to realize that when she’s off on break, she’s OFF ON BREAK, and accept the behaviors as necessary to give her a break.


#6

I think one of the other reasons they put kids on medication holidays in that some of the meds can cause growrh delays In children. My boy is meeting growth targets so the holidays are not a requirmemt but he will sitll not take it on weekends and only when he has an activity where the meds will help on holidays.

Swings and roundabouts and again medication is highly personalised so its a case of what works for the person.

If your husband suspects he has a few of the symptoms get it checked. Yes the diagnosis is Q & A heavy but its a pattern they are looking for not just aenough boxes ticked. If he has it geting treatment could have a very positive effect on his life. Most people will have some ADHD symptoms but its how many and where and when they come out and how much of an impact its having on your life.

And remember dont beat yourself up. As long as you keep trying to do better and let her know that you understand and are doing what you can to help thats all you can do. The other thjngbyou can try is ask her to tell you when your being to hard on her. That feedback from her will help you identify your actions and will make her feel like she is being listened to. (The reward part again)

M


#7

@Christine_Vinion
Your post is very open and heartfelt, and you are here, so you are getting a lot right!

@AMAK’s advice is sound.

I will try and come back to this thread when I have more time. Holiday period is a bit booked up!


#8

I think you’re doing a great job. You obviously love your daughter and are doing your best to help her cope with her ADHD, even as you struggle to understand how it affects her.

Amak gives some great advice too, especially about the routines. Even if you aren’t medicating on the weekends, it might be a good time to start helping her learn planning and scheduling techniques. Brains never really learn this because we can’t focus on something so boring and mundane, but once on meds we can better focus on learning these skills we need to keep organized. On meds we can better focus on doing them EVERY DAY, until they become routine and habit. Then it’s easier to continue the skills when we’re off meds. I have a routine chart for my 4yo to help him remember all the steps that need completing in the morning. Maybe your daughter would benefit from a weekend routine/reward chart to help her remember what she needs to do on “off” days.

I just wanted to pipe up that as an ADHD brain, I don’t skip meds on the weekend. I did at first, but started taking them because I realized that the ADHD affected EVERY aspect of my life and day. For me it’s not just focus on tasks that’s necessary. It’s also the emotional regulation. This is one of the hardest things for me personally. When I’m not on my medication, I am MUCH more sensitive to criticism and disappointment from others. I get angry and frustrated easier, finding it difficult to handle even the most minor setback to my plans. Even the smallest changes to my routine or expected schedule can ruin my mood for the rest of the day. I certainly don’t advocate that you not listen to the Dr. recommendations, but the frustrations you are experiencing with your daughter when she’s “on a break” from the meds, I can almost guarantee they are just as or even more frustrating for her. As a kid it was devastating when I fought with my mother over chores undone, or tasks forgotten. It was awful when I was reprimanded for being “too loud” or “talking too much” or “annoying people” with behavior I often didn’t even realize I was doing. I knew these were “easy” things, and when I couldn’t do them, I felt like a lazy failure and a bad person. It was seriously detrimental to my self-esteem, which i struggle with even now, 20+ years later, even though I KNEW it was my brain affecting my ability to do things. Add emotional disregulation to that, and the feelings of failure are much bigger than the failed task would seem to warrent. Medication can help manage all of that.

TL;DR Maybe discuss with your daughter or doctor or both about seeing how taking medication on weekends might improve quality of life over all and ease frustrations for you and her.