The ADHD Circuit® (Article 4): ADHD Is Not an Excuse!
We’ve done a few “special article” series before, but nothing has lit up the blog comments like the topic of ADHD. I’ve enjoyed the questions and feedback. There are excellent questions coming through and I hope to expand on most of them in future articles. Keep them coming!
One of the comments came from Rita, who wrote the following:
“My child is just being diagnosed and I do think in retrospect that (we) his parents probably have a mild case also. One thing is that I want him to see it as a challenge, not a sentence….
When I first realized that I might also have ADHD, I wanted to use it as an excuse to stop striving and kind of just say, ‘Well I can’t do that because I have ADHD.’ However, before I thought I had it I just worked really hard and was very successful. ‘”
I can relate to how she feels. When I first began to suspect ADHD in myself, it threw me off-kilter. My whole understanding of my struggles in school crystalized. It was refreshing to understand the reason for my struggles, but mind-boggling to realize that there was actually a REASON.
The mind can pull funny tricks as you wander down certain trains of thought, wondering how things might have been different, if only you understood ADHD much earlier in life. As you start to recognize the challenges from ADHD, it is tempting to lull yourself into excuses.
Just like Rita, my evolving understanding of ADHD has been enlightening. However, it also comes with the price of being even more vigilant. Every time I am consciously aware of an “ADHD moment,” I have two possible reactions: I can think, “Well, I should be excused for screwing that up because I have ADHD.” Or, I can think, “Alright…ADHD Moment noted. Gotta move on…”
Human nature will naturally push us towards Apathy Lane. It takes a lot of work and mental energy to fight inertia and turn onto the Proactive Expressway. The choices -and the consequences- are entirely up to us. And, that choice is not a one-time commitment. Each commitment lasts long enough to get us to our next ADHD Moment. With the next episode, we have the same ‘ol choices again.
Guiding Children Down the ADHD Road
How do we help our children manage those ADHD Moments? How do we encourage them to avoid Apathy Lane?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. First and foremost, recognize that everyone is human. Even the most strong-willed and determined person is going to prefer Apathy Lane every-now-and-again. We need to accept this from ourselves and our children. The key is to avoid this path as much as possible.
2. Next, arm them with factual information. Help them understand the indisputable biology of ADHD. All too often…in fact, almost entirely…ADHD is explained in terms of a person’s behavior. This explanation leaves a person feeling like they should be able to simply flip a switch and improve. But, when they can’t find that switch, they feel like something is wrong with them. Factual information about the BIOLOGY of their condition will be incredibly liberating for them!
3. Foster an empowering attitude: “You have ADHD. That is occasionally a frustration and occasionally a blessing. Let’s learn how to cope with it.” When I was first diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I had no idea what it was. Lots of people around me were acting like it was a death sentence. I needed to learn more.
I was 19. It was BG (before Google), so I went the library. The first book I pulled off the shelf about Rheumatoid Arthritis seemed as if it was speaking directly to me. The introduction said something like this, “So, you have Rheumatoid Arthritis and you have no idea what that means for you. What it means is that you will have some challenges. But, if you are open to it, you can minimize them. Rheumatoid Arthritis doesn’t have to be a curse. It can open many doors for you, if you choose.”
Those were incredibly powerful words to read! Before I even understood what I had, I received the indelible message that I had control of it. It was up to me how that story would play out. I’ll probably never truly appreciate how blessed I was to pick THAT exact book and open it to THAT exact page at THAT exact time in my life. It created a very deep, yet very positive foundation for how I would respond to my illness.
The same message applies to everyone with ADHD. It can sometimes be a curse, but it can be a blessing! (The “blessing” side of things will be explored next week.) This message can have a profound impact on us, our children, and our students.
4. Finally, consider how the “real world” will respond to ADHD. The Real World is not forgiving. It has to keep rolling and dishes out consequences, regardless of the excuse or explanation. I’d rather have my son learn how to manage his challenges and take responsibility for them now when the consequences are not life-altering.
Explain this to your child with relatable, real-world examples. My son tried to use his ADHD as an excuse once. I replied with this: “Mark, I know you have ADHD and that makes it hard for you to follow directions. But, you have to learn how to follow directions before its too late. Someday, if you have a job and turn in a project that was wrong because you didn’t follow directions, what would happen?” Mark replied, “I would get fired.”
“Yep. Or, what if you somehow break a law? Will a police officer or a judge accept the excuse that you have ADHD?”
Mark learned that lesson quick! That was the last time he tried to play the “ADHD” card. If he doesn’t learn to accept responsibility for all of his actions now, the University of Real Life will see to it that he does eventually.
ADHD causes a lot of frustration. We can minimize the negative impact by understanding the biology of ADHD, developing an empowering attitude, and being a little more forgiving of ourselves. It does not take long before it becomes much easier…and more natural to make the positive choices.
When a friend of mine was in grad school studying psychology, he was a research assistant for Bonnie Cramond, a professor at the University of Georgia. They interviewed hundreds of teachers. Half of them were asked to list traits of creative students. The other half were asked to list traits of students with ADHD. According to my friend, he two lists overlapped by 95%. Why is this? I suspect the Circuit Model can shed some light on this. We’ll explore this topic next week.
Article 1 – Introduction to the ADHD Circuit®
Article 2 – A Breakdown of the ADHD Circuit®
Article 3 – My Personal Journey Through The ADHD Circuit…for a Cup of Milk!
Article 4 – ADHD Is Not an Excuse!
Article 5 – Is it Creativity…or ADHD?
Article 6 – How to Avoid the “Tasmanian Devil Tailspin” of School Work
Article 7 – A Simple Learning Solution Hiding in Plain Sight
Article 8 – “EVERYTHING Is Wrong With My Kid!”
Article 9 – Improving Social Skills
Article 10 – When ADHD Children have ADHD Parents