What Does it Mean to "Treat" ADHD?

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“Acceptance is not submission. It is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation, and then deciding what you’re going to do with it.” Kathleen Casey Theisen

True to my DNA, while at the CHADD conference I never stopped. I was in constant discussion, taking the time to delve into issues I don’t often get to explore thoroughly. It was exhilarating. It’s all still percolating in my brain, leading to the $20 million question:

What Am I Going to Do With This New Awareness?

I was moved when Dr. Hallowell talked about the value of hope. He finds joy in acknowledging ADHD for patients, teaching them to accept it and helping them to understand that they can change things. He was impassioned about the importance of “yielding” to structure.

Dr. Hallowell’s words struck deep. If I’ve been managing this ADHD family of 5 for so long, with such awareness and acceptance, then why aren’t we further along on the “you don’t have to live like this” scale? Why is it still such a struggle?

One thing I’ve done really well in managing my ADHD is to hold myself harmless –- I am not making myself wrong by asking these questions. I have acknowledged and accepted the ADHD in my family and me. We’ve done a great job of laughing, finding humor and joy in each other and our nuttiness. We bask in the creative energy of our playful home, a space that is welcoming and energizing, encouraging people to be themselves, and to find that expression in the world, whatever that means.

But to be honest, I think I got a little too comfortable with the “acknowledgement/acceptance” stage. My conviction that it doesn’t have to be this way has definitely taken a back seat to my desire to empower my children to accept and love themselves. I’m not sure I really embraced the next steps as firmly as might have been helpful.

I Started Looking at My Family Dynamics.

When things work, there is a structure supporting it. When they don’t? No surprise, no structure.

On our “CHADD Debrief” tele-class last week, one mom talked about the dramatic improvement in her daughter’s education after diagnosis. What worked? A resource center that met with her daily, initially, and worked with her to learn structures to support herself. One of my kids is doing great in school, despite both ADHD and Dyslexia. Why? She craves structure –drives the rest of us crazy sometimes, but it really works!

My “aha”? While we’ve been busy managing our ADHD, I’m not sure we’ve done as thorough a job as we could in “treating” it. More accurately, we’ve treated it sporadically, when what is really required is a direct, systematic approach – not easy for two ADHD parents.

So, what am I going to do about it?

What Does It Really Mean to “Treat” Our ADHD?

1. Have a conversation with each member of my family to introduce hope, teaching them that:

     a. their brains work differently
     b. that doesn’t mean they have to accept things as they are

2. Get a support system in place for myself. For me, it’s getting an ADHD coach, but other options include therapists, organizers, etc. Then I’ll look for what supports will work for each of them.

3. Look for fun treatment options so that my family will buy in to the process of wanting to create change. I bought an inexpensive online “brain training” program as a start. They are enjoying it – and so am I!

4. Focus on holding my family and me accountable to using structures, rather than to the outcomes themselves. Start emphasizing the value of structure, and explaining why it’s important (see #1).

So What About You?

Where are you in your “treatment” of the ADHD in your family? I strongly recommend that you start with acceptance and acknowledgment – they are critical first steps. But trust me – don’t stop there. What are you going to do about it? How can we help?

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