Figuring out what you need
When your child is first diagnosed with ADHD or high-functioning autism, you don’t know what you need. You need something — a lot of something — but you have no idea what that something is.
The diagnosis is overwhelming. The emotions are doubly overwhelming. I felt like the world kept swirling and swooshing around me, but I was frozen in place. I didn’t know how to move or where to go. It was like I’d been dumped in the middle of a lake with no life jacket, and I didn’t know how to swim.
I knew I had to move in some direction, so I started by reading all I could about ADHD. I tried out all sorts of recommendations, but still felt I wasn’t making any progress in the world of ADHD. I wasn’t really helping my son.
I did figure it out, mostly, after a couple years of trial and error, and a whole lot of obsessing about ADHD (the autism diagnosis didn’t come for another six years after the ADHD diagnosis). Looking back, nearly eight years after the first diagnosis, I can see what I needed in those first months.
What parents need after a diagnosis of ADHD or high-functioning autism
The first thing I needed was information. And not popular opinion about ADHD, but the facts. Try these reputable sources for factual information about ADHD:
INSIGHTS FROM PARENTS LIKE ME
Raising challenging kids is very isolating. It feels like you’re the only parent who can’t control your child. Or, you’re the only parent whose kid can’t succeed. We watch everyone else’s highlight reel on social media and feel like an outsider.
One of the most helpful resources for me was other parents raising kids like mine. It helped me realize that my child’s struggles weren’t my fault. I learned valuable lessons from other parents who were a little ahead of me on this journey too.
Here are some parenting ADHD and/or autism communities to join:
A PLAN OF ATTACK
All I really wanted was a plan of attack. I wanted someone more knowledgable about this special parenthood than me to tell me what to do first, and then next, and so on. I really longed for a guidebook or a map. Since one wasn’t available for me, I ended up writing a guidebook for parents raising kids with ADHD — What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD — and creating an online course to walk parents through step by step. The following two books helped me formulate a plan of attack the first year:
[Tweet “I really longed for a guidebook or a map. #parenting #ADHD #autism”]
I don’t have a therapy background, so I had no idea how to improve my son’s unwanted or inappropriate behaviors. I certainly had the desire and fire to help him, but I didn’t have the tools to do it successfully. Ross Greene’s book, The Explosive Child, was a huge help to get me started. And then I just learned strategies as time went on, by reading, communicating with other parents, and reading some more. Our therapist was a great resource of strategies as well.
Here are the top strategies I learned:
THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
Starting out with a diagnosis of ADHD, all I could see was the negative. I was stuck spinning my wheels in the muck. What I’ve learned though is a positive perspective is most effective when raising kids with ADHD and/or high-functioning autism. I know it’s probably not the way you were taught to parent, but it’s by far the most effective for our kids. Here are a couple resources:
Several years ago I was having a lot of heart palpitations and some trouble breathing. After a 30-day heart monitor, the cardiologist advised me to eliminate caffeine and greatly reduce my stress. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t able to be discrete about my eye-roll at the suggestion that I reduce my stress. Of course, I wanted to be less stressed. But I had no idea how to do that as a parent, especially as a parent of a special needs child. This special parenthood brings extra stress, of that I’m 100% sure.
So, I had to find a way to at least reduce my stress. Learning more about my son’s differences and needs actually helped a great deal over time, because it helped me stay calm when the going got tough. Taking time for self-care helps too.
TO KNOW IT TAKES TIME
Oh, how I wish someone had told me that this special parenthood is a marathon, not a sprint. Listen up! Improving life with ADHD and/or high-functioning autism is a process and it takes time — a lot of time.
HOW TO CHANGE BEHAVIOR
This is a biggie, right? Of course, we want to change our children’s unwanted and inappropriate behaviors. It’s not that simple, though. First, we have to recognize what we can and cannot change — there are many things related to ADHD and autism that we cannot change. Second, make a list of behaviors you’d like to change, and target one or two at a time, never more.
We talk a lot about behavior modification in the Complete Guide to Parenting ADHD Online Course
What else do you or did you need after receiving a diagnosis of ADHD or autism for your child?