Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brilliant and Three Years Younger

As my son Chris was growing up with ADHD and learning disabilities, one of the priceless pieces of information that sustained me was my understanding that most children with ADHD have a developmental lag of about thirty percent, or approximately three years.

Every time I was ready to tear my hair out, I would remind myself that Chris was not really his chronological age, but was three years younger. This always served to help me calm down and see the situation in a new light. With this insight his “inappropriate behavior” was not so inappropriate after all. And my response then could be geared to what he could understand and appreciate.

Dr. Martha Denckla, our closing plenary speaker at the CHADD conference in San Francisco earlier this month, added a new twist to this insight. She suggested we consider our children with ADHD as both absolutely brilliant and three years younger than their actual age. What a fantastic combination.

Your precocious and delightful seven-year-old is hiding in the body of a ten-year-old. That sixteen-year-old teen who wants desperately to get his driver’s license is really a twelve-year-old who wants to do what all the big kids do. No wonder there is such a sense of disconnect with what is expected in life and what our kids do.

Today my twenty-five-year-old son is a well-grounded and successful twenty-one-year-old. He is thriving as a junior in college who has found his passion in life. He is my late bloomer. And he is blooming beautifully.

Ruth Hughes, PhD, is the CEO of CHADD.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CHADD—A Shame-Free Zone

Just back from CHADD’s conference in San Francisco, and it was incredible. More than 1300 people heard fantastic presentations and information. And then there was all the connecting with old and new friends.

Mark Katz, a clinical psychologist and contributing editor of the Promising Practices column in CHADD’s Attention magazine, was our inspiring plenary speaker on Friday with the intriguing proposition that “There’s never anything so wrong with us that what’s right with us can’t fix.”

Mark’s presentation reminded me that part of the purpose of CHADD is to provide a “shame-free zone.” It doesn’t matter how inadequate you often feel as a parent or as an adult with ADHD.

CHADD is the place where everyone understands what it is like to live with ADHD. In the CHADD community we can talk freely about our lives. We can celebrate our many, many strengths. And we can laugh at our ADHD moments.

In our struggling with what is wrong each day, we often forget to recognize what is right. So today build a “shame-free” zone or time in your life. Maybe the kitchen is the place where only the positive is allowed. Or maybe there is a time of the day when you routinely reflect on your strengths and what is right with the world—at dinner or when you tuck the kids in bed at night. The power of positive thinking and positive feedback is absolutely amazing and it is simple. Harness this power and reap the rewards in your own life and in the lives of your family members. You will increase the feelings of hope and happiness for everyone involved. And you will be learning and teaching an enormously important coping skill for dealing with life’s challenges.

Thanks, Mark, for reminding all of us how important it is to see what is good in ourselves and in each other.

Ruth Hughes, PhD, is CEO of CHADD.