You can’t fix it.

When my son started struggling in school (from Day 2 of kindergarten, mind you), all I wanted to do was fix it. I was on a mission to put an end to his problems in the classroom — I just had to figure out how.

After a year, I realized I needed help with my fix-it mission. Every DIY approach I had concocted had failed. One-hundred-and-seventy-nine days filled with painful school experiences proved that this issue was bigger than me and my little boy.

I marched into the pediatrician’s office bewildered and desperate, and marched out of the developmental doctor’s office three months later with a name for this school-spoiling beast — ADHD (autism wasn’t added until years later).

“Fantastic!” I thought. “Now I have a name for the problem. Now I can fix it.”

Do you see what was wrong with this picture? Do you see the valley of quicksand and how I was going to continue to move in place in that muck for a long time to come? Two long years, to be exact?

I see it so clearly now, in hindsight. My need for perfection, and how impossible it is. But, from that vantage point, entrenched deep in that muck, all I could think about was rescuing my boy. I wanted so badly for him to be a happy and successful little boy, like any other 5-year-old.

 

If only it were that simple.

You see, it was my goal of fixing my son’s troubles that cemented my failure. For one thing, there is no “fixing” ADHD or autism — there is no cure. It’s a difference in the brain that will always be there. Secondly, trying to “fix” a disability is asking for perfection, and we all know there is no such thing as perfection.

The only way to achieve success and happiness for your child (and your entire family), is to let go of perfection, and trust the process. Changing behavior, getting a grip on ADHD and/or autism, and crafting strategies and coping mechanisms is a process. And, because this process takes time, you have to trust the process and keep your eye on the horizon.

 

5 Key Ingredients to Successfully Raise a Child with ADHD or High-Functioning Autism (i.e., the process):

  1. Accept that you cannot “fix it.” Truly accept that fact and stop fighting your child’s diagnosis.
  2. Seek treatment. Whether it’s medication, talk therapy, occupational therapy, tutoring, etc., nothing improves if you don’t address it.
  3. Remember that your child is two to three years behind their peers developmentally, and set expectations accordingly.
  4. Focus on the positive. Praise and reward the behavior you want repeated. Nurture your child’s gifts, talents, and interests and offer lots of opportunities for success.
  5. Address individual weaknesses by creating strategies and/or coping mechanisms that your child can use all their lives.