Altering the Language Round ADHD
Not so long ago, Liam lit the toaster. My 10 year old son tried to save time by buttering his bread In front Toasting, although it has often been said that fat is flammable. Liam turned off the lights, set the toaster on fire, and sent his mother to orbit. Again.
Liam is neurodivers. He was recently diagnosed with ADHD and we learned and discussed what that means in our household. It is so important to us that dealing with your health is a positive experience from the start.
We set out to research ADHD and the best ways to address it right away. We were surprised by the language used to describe the condition – “excessive talking” and constant movement and fidgeting are “challenges” and “problems”. I couldn’t find a spotlight on the innovation, creativity, sociability, and hyperfocusing that allow the ADHD brain to thrive and produce such wonders of creativity and challenge limits.
[Free Download: 13 Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD]
I’m not naive or trivializing the challenges that ADHD brings. I’ve witnessed the impulsiveness, the chaos of doing routine tasks, the regular explanations to neighbors why Liam is on the roof of the car (to get a better view of the sky) and the headmaster’s addition to the Christmas card list (a cliché, but so true).
Without neglecting these truths, I think that the starting point for a young person who is beginning to understand their ADHD and realize their potential should be far more positive. Like most kids his age, Liam just wants to be like that and feel like his friends. His questions focus on his differences – How many children in the UK have ADHD? What about my class? Is there a cure?
So we bravely go our own way. We read the recommended literature, but we also devote our family time to discussing Liam’s superpowers, for example what happens when he has a keen interest in something like the family hamster who now has tons of cardboard inventions to make sure while she has a lot of exercise and fun curfew. Liam also channels his hyperfocus in sketches of his favorite characters. He has aspirations at an art school and we have no doubt he will make it. Perhaps his greatest superpower is empathy. Often times, other parents complement Liam with his friendly, caring manner on play dates, especially with their younger children.
That praise is important for the ADHD brain that is low on dopamine, the chemical that stimulates the brain’s happy thoughts. I remembered that after the toaster incident, which was just about to get worse because of my reaction. Instead, I took a deep breath to calm myself down and told him I was secretly after a four-slice toaster the whole time. His kitchen “innovation” had just helped me get one faster.
[Read: How Praise Triggers Better Control in the ADHD Brain]
I learned in a parenting course that ADHD has been around since the dawn of mankind. It is often said that while most of us were hanging out in caves, these neurodiverse members of the pack were foraging, inventing, and taking risks in order to survive and advance. Perhaps it is time the rest of us began to less question and criticize neurodiverse brains – and to appreciate and celebrate them more. In the worst case, what can happen? A little burnt toast?
Neurodiverse Parenting: The Next Steps
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Updated June 25, 2021