To help gain awareness about ADHD in children, I conducted an interview with two extraordinary six year olds (One with ADHD and one without). I posted the interview on YouTube and it gained popularity very quickly. (It currently has over 210,000 views.) The positive feedback I received from the public is astounding and I want to thank each and every one of you for your support.
When I tell people that my daughter has ADHD, they automatically assume she is constantly running around nonstop like the Energizer Bunny and a nightmare for her teachers. Neither are true, of course. There are three types of ADHD: 1. Inattentive, 2. Hyperactive-impulsive, and 3. Combined (what my daughter has). While it is true that some children with ADHD may appear like they never stop moving, there is so much more to ADHD than that. ADHD affects children in many different ways and it is not something people can simply “see.” Besides not being able to focus well, there are many other issues that can coincide with ADHD, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
There are many misconceptions about children with ADHD and most people do not realize how much ADHD can affect someone’s life, especially during childhood. I have come to find out that despite a parent’s and teacher’s best efforts, all childhoods are not equal. To get people to better understand children with ADHD, I interviewed a six year old with ADHD (my daughter) and another six year old without ADHD. Although both children were asked the same exact questions, I got very heartbreakingly different answers. The questions covered primarily dealt with school, social situations, and self-image.
While many children enjoy going to school and playing with their friends, my child wakes up every morning crying and pleading with me to not take her to school. Simply getting her into her school uniform is a daily challenge and requires both my husband’s and my assistance. You would think that a first grader would want to play with other first graders, but some children with ADHD have a difficult time making and keeping friends due to their poor social skills. Other parents sometimes suggest I put my child in more groups with other children to help her develop better socialization skills, but what they don’t know is that ever since my child was a baby, I have been taking her to playgroups at the library and the YMCA. She was in daycare and dance class before and she is now in karate and choir. While I do think these groups and classes have had a positive influence in her life, they still unfortunately haven’t helped with teaching her how to wait her turn to talk for example. Despite her best efforts to control it, it is simply too difficult for my child to refrain from blurting out and she has lost friends because of it.
While a classmate is being fought over by his friends about who gets to sit by him at lunchtime, my child is sitting on a bench by herself, sad and lonely. After school, I see parents handing out invitations to other parents for their children’s birthday parties. Don’t they realize all the children see this, especially my child? One time in kindergarten, my child innocently asked the parent, “Where’s my invitation?” It was an awkward situation for everyone. Since my child has begun attending elementary school, she has only been invited to two birthday parties. My child is one of the most imaginative, funny, and compassionate kids I know, but because she can be a bit eccentric at times, her classmates label her as “weird” and tease her for being “different.” Even at the young age of six, children are recognizing the differences in each other, purposely excluding the different children, and letting those children know they are different. That is why it is no surprise to me that my daughter would rather play with her three year old sister than her classmates.
Despite developing a great education plan with the school for my child and the teacher helping her find classmates to play with at recess, my child still comes home every afternoon telling me how horrible her day was. When my child takes tests, a teacher’s aid sits in the hall with her so she is not distracted by the other students. She does very well on the tests, with a B being the lowest grade she has ever received. Even though my husband and I let her know how proud we are of her for getting good grades and reward her with prizes, movie nights, and special dinners, she is still not proud of herself. Nothing seems to ever be good enough for her. As she mentions in the interview, even if she got an A on a test, she is upset that it wasn’t an A+.
What takes an average child ten minutes to complete their homework takes my child about one hour. It depends on how well she is able to focus and what her level of frustration is if she makes a mistake. Before she was clinically diagnosed with ADHD, she used to cry before she started her homework, during her homework, and even after completing her homework. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand how to do her homework. She was crying, because she felt overwhelmed and didn’t know how to begin. She was also very bored with the subject matter. To make homework more fun and stimulating for her, I have to pull out all the bells and whistles I can think of. I turned homework into a bit of a game show by having her use a buzzer when she knows the correct answer and reward her with prizes. To hold her attention, I have to use a cartoon voice when quizzing her on spelling words and come up with songs to get her to remember the names of the seven continents. It is absolutely exhausting, but if it gets her to do her homework without tears, it is all worth it.
Even though children with ADHD are very creative, imaginative, and intelligent, children with ADHD are never the first to boast about their good qualities or brag about their accomplishments. Like many children with ADHD, my child has low self-esteem. Although I make it a point to compliment her about her positive qualities every day, she doesn’t see herself as smart or pretty. Many children with ADHD only seem to focus on their negative features and put themselves down a lot. It is not uncommon to hear my child say negative things about herself, like “I’m stupid” and “I wish I was someone else.” She is aware of the fact that she is “different,” but she explains it as being “bad,” which absolutely breaks my heart. In the interview she explains that when she has a bad day, she becomes negative and grumpy and when she has a good day, she becomes positive and happy. This is true, but it is more like bad moments and good moments throughout the day. I never know what the day will bring, but whatever comes our way, I am ready. I will never stop advocating for my daughter, loving her, guiding her, and cherishing her. Each day is a challenge and a gift at the same time.
The interview ended with a question for my daughter: “What do you want other kids your age to know about the kids that have ADHD?” Her heartbreaking answer: “They could help them by telling them that ‘Whatever you do is still right, because you tried your best.’” I am so happy she said that, because it made me realize that she listens to me. I always tell her to try her best in everything she does and that is all that matters to me. All children deserve and want to be loved. No child should ever have to feel the way my daughter feels, but the sad reality is that there are many children that feel the same way as her, despite their parents’ best efforts.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 5% of children ages 4 to 17 are affected by ADHD. Having ADHD and other coinciding issues is a lot for a child of any age to handle and it is absolutely heartbreaking for them and their families. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for parents of children with ADHD. Although our children will not “grow out of it,” ADHD is definitely manageable. Very successful people had/have ADHD, such as Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Will Smith, and Justin Timberlake. Believe me, I know how difficult raising a child with ADHD can be, but now more than ever, our children need us to help them, love them, and just allow them to be themselves. Children with ADHD are very unique and know they are “different,” but I don’t see my daughter’s difference negatively. It’s what puts a smile on my face and makes me proud to be her mother. She is fiercely creative and passionate and I know it is because of her ADHD, so I not only celebrate her being different, I encourage it and look forward to what her future holds. My child is amazing and I wouldn’t change a single thing about her.
To the parents of children without ADHD, there is at least one child with ADHD in a classroom of 30 students according to ADDitude Magazine. That means that there is most likely a child suffering from ADHD in your child’s classroom. We need to teach our children to show love, kindness, and compassion for all of their classmates, no matter how different they are. Simply asking a child with ADHD to play with them at recess would mean the world to them. Instead of coming home from school and saying they had a bad day like they usually do, your child could be the reason a child with ADHD happily announces, “Guess what, Mom! I had a great day at school!” Know that you and your child have the power to positively influence the way a child sees the world. You can change childhoods. You can change lives.