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ADHD, its challenges and it's strengths

I recently attended some training on a evidence-based course for parents of children with ADHD. While a lot of the things on the course were about topics I was already aware of, I saw a fantastic list stating most of the challenges our children (and soon to be adults) face.

I was absolutely delighted to see it in black and white and think it will be an amazing tool for parents and I cannot wait to get started with it. I honestly wish I had seen this list when my son was younger and first diagnosed in primary school. I could have argued, made more of a case for him and stood my ground. Instead I thought the teachers were experts, when some of them clearly were not. I actually think seeing them laid out in black and white would have given me a better understanding of my son and the challenges he faced.

You may or may not know all of this already, but for the benefit of raising awareness and understanding, I'm sharing it below. On some of them I will share personal experiences, on others the explanation says it all.

In sharing this, I'm also thinking of those parents who are considering, or have been told by a professional, that their child might have ADHD and are doing research to find out more about it and have came across this blog.

Impulsivity. Acting without thinking, taking risks without thinking of the consequences. One of the reasons behind this is because the impulsive signals in the brain coming from the amygdala, don't reach the area of reasoning, (also known as the frontal lobe) on time, if at all. Examples of this include climbing without thinking about how safe it is or how they are getting down, running out into the road when they see something they like or want, or not thinking about their thoughts before blurting something out which could well be inappropriate or seen as rude.

Inattention. Thoughts can shift from one thing to the next, they may find it hard to concentrate, look or listen. If a child finds the topic boring, their mind may jump to something they enjoy instead or simply just float through each thought as it comes up.

Emotional regulation. Children can find it harder to regulate their emotions and these emotions can seem huge and even dramatic to the unknowing, and are intense. Emotions such as happiness, joy, anger, sadness, frustration etc. Some would call it an over-reaction but in truth, these emotional outbursts can be exhausting without the ability to regulate in the same way that others do.

Hyperactivity. The more obvious are the children who never seem to stop moving or run out of energy, unable to sit still. For others it looking like fidgeting or an uncontrollable urge to move despite trying to be still; a restlessness.

All things sensory. Consider of your 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) and think about them being over stimulated or under stimulated. For those that are overstimulated, these flavours, textures, lights, noise and smells can become too much and they are overwhelmed and can get distracted and may need to remove or be removed from what is causing it. For those that are under stimulated, they may meet those needs by seeking them out e.g. constant stimulation such as music or movement. When the right balance is met, individuals are better equipped to focus, relax or calm down.

Hyperfocus. Most individuals with ADHD are able to concentrate when doing something they really enjoy. You may find they spend too much time on something really interesting, and switching from this to something they have no interest can be difficult e.g. for my son it was Spongebob versus homework.

Low self-esteem. When something is said often enough, it can have a huge impact on our children and young people, especially when they are already struggling with the expectations of others day in and day out. Everyday routines and social situations are already difficult and to then hear criticism and negative comments from those around them can leave them feeling bad about themselves.

Sleep difficulties. A brain that never shuts off with racing thoughts and hyperactive energy levels can mean that individuals with ADHD may have trouble with falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up, especially if it is early. Please remember there are children who, despite all the best efforts, simply do not sleep. My son could never sleep before 1am despite medication and a tried and tested bedtime routine. Getting up in the morning was also an absolute nightmare. Even as an adult he has tried to hold down jobs that start at at 7am. This has not worked and we know that 9am is a realistic time for him.

Organisation. Children with ADHD may find it difficult to manage time, have issues starting something, as well as losing the things they need for the task in hand e.g. homework. From personal experience this can put added stress on routines. For us it was in the morning, we could never find a school tie and in the end I went out and bought some spares to save the stress. When the last one was used (the old ones never found), I went out and bought more.

Oppositional Behaviour. Sometimes an individual may be resistant to demands, requests or suggestions, even when they are doing things they normally like. Impuslvity can come into this.

School Issues. Our children can be easily distracted, have difficulty following instructions, make errors in their work and act in socially inappropriate ways. This can cause issues with teachers, classroom assistants and their classmates.

Co-morbidities. In other words, having ADHD and another diagnosis such as Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia. My son is autistic with ADHD, as am I.

And then there are the strengths. These, to me, are what helps our children shine in a world that can be complex and difficult to navigate. ADHD individuals have the ability to think outside the box, have amazing masses of energy, drive and determination.

Energy. For some, the energy and the need to move might mean that they excel in a certain sport or dance, hyperfocusing on this. It can also translate as enthusiasm and spontaniety.

Creativity. The creative side of things could mean the arts, be it the written word, painting, the stage, or the world of design e.g. architecture, computer programming, video games.

Intuition and Problem Solving. The intuition allows individuals to make strong connections between two seemingly different ideas. They can often pick up things other people may miss and be very insightful.Some are great at looking for solutions for problems, often looking at things from a different perspective.

Impulsivity. This can mean that ADHD individuals are often in the moment, enjoying life without thinking about the long-term consequences, and if you happen to be with them, it's creates amazing memories. There are entrepreneurs with ADHD and their impulsivity meant they were prepared to take risks that others wouldn't. Others have communication skills that can assist them in many different ways in business.

Resilience. This comes from the fact that ADHD individuals have faced setbacks and recover from them on a regular basis. ADHD individuals face challenges every day, and they overcome them.

While not everyone will have all of these strengths as everyone's experience with ADHD is unique, by focusing on their strengths and finding ways to manage their challenges, children and adults can thrive.


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