Acceptance is More Than Accepting a Diagnosis

Accepting that your child has ADHD is the very first step in my online parenting ADHD course, as well as a webinar on the crucial elements of parenting ADHD that I teach. I’ve come to realize, however, that true acceptance is a process that takes a great deal of time. Yes, starting out, you will only spin your wheels if you do not accept that ADHD/ASD is part of your lives and it’s not going away — you have to give up the “fix it” mentality to find success in this special parenthood. But, true acceptance comes much later, and depends a lot on hope. Here’s my personal journey to truly accepting my son’s disabilities, and the freedom it created…

There’s No “Fixing” It

The very first step on the journey to genuine acceptance of your child’s ADHD and/or autism is the recognition of the fact that you cannot “fix it,” as is a parent’s instinct. When my son was diagnosed with ADHD in 2008, at the age of 6, all I wanted in the world was to fix it — to take away his pain and struggle. What momma wouldn’t?

I spent years (YEARS, folks) looking for a way to eliminate his ADHD symptoms. How can I get him to sit still in class? How can I make him finish worksheets as quickly and successfully as his classmates? How can I get him to stop crashing his body into things? How can I make him stop and listen to me the first time I ask him? Now, I cringe at the thought of this place I languished in for more than two years. I so badly wish I could go back to the beginning and be the mom I am today for my son (the wiser part, I can do without the older part).

There is no “fixing” ADHD. There’s no cure. Nothing will erase it’s symptoms. Rationally, I knew that all along, but I couldn’t accept it in the beginning. Once I did, we began to survive, and eventually even thrive. I was allowing ADHD to be a barrier to success and joy by fixating on making it better. When I realized that I couldn’t’ make ADHD better, but I could make life with ADHD better, things took a drastic, positive turn forward.

Our job is to make life better, not to make the disability better.

A parent's job is to make life better, not to make the disability better. Accepting ADHD + ASD.Click To Tweet

 

Following the New Compass

Once I had that proper direction, I was finally working toward genuine acceptance. My focus became really understanding my son (through the lens of ADHD and autism) and crafting effective treatment, strategies, coping mechanisms, and work-arounds for a fulfilling life with ADHD.

I accepted that medication would be okay for my son, but never great, and stopped the never-ending search for a magic treatment.

I accepted that my son’s gifted IQ did not equate to A’s and B’s in school, and made peace with mediocre grades and academic performance.

I accepted that my son acts 2-3 years younger than his age, and that being a sensitive boy has a lot of positive attributes, too.

I stopped trying to change my son’s differences, and, instead, validated his feelings, showed empathy for his experiences, and focused on his strengths, interests, and talents.

The new goal — crafting a fulfilling life with ADHD and ASD — was attainable, and I fully committed to it. Now, that doesn’t mean I gave up on improving ADHD symptoms, it just means that I was locked mostly on the things that would really make a positive difference for my son.

 

Genuine Acceptance Actually Found Me

Earlier this week, my husband and I attended freshman orientation with our daughter at the university she will be attending this fall. I was not practicing acceptance of any sort. Instead, I sat in meeting after meeting, hearing about her soon-to-be new life without me, feeling sorry for myself. I don’t want her to leave home. I don’t want her to grow up. I don’t want to be the age at which you’re old enough to have a child in college. I was certainly having my own little pity party. I was not practicing the acceptance skills I had been honing for disabilities. Not at all.

In the very last parent session the second day, we sat in the theater and listened to a panel of university staff offer various advice on how to help our kids achieve success in college. The panel was lead by the disability services director, a very animated and jovial man. I found myself hoping my son will have the opportunity to work with someone as good-natured when he gets to college.

And there it was… true acceptance. A feeling of peace washed over me in that moment. I remember how freeing it felt.

I know he’ll be okay, whether he goes to college or not. I know I am preparing him and doing the very best I can to cement a positive future. It’s been a long journey to get here, but it feels great!

 

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Penny Williams
Author. Parenting Guide. Journalist. Speaker.
Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD. Penny is the current editor of ParentingADHDandAutism.com, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.