When my first grader comes home from school, I always take out the work she brought home from school and we go over it together. It’s a part of our after school routine before she starts her homework. I ask her questions about her assignments and she tells me what her favorite assignments were and why. I always make sure I make a big deal about her wonderful handwriting, the unique colors she chose to use to color a picture, and I compliment her on the effort she put into her work. One of the assignments she worked on was a Time Capsule for her to open in four years. She had to write a letter to her fifth grade self and I when I read the words she wrote, my heart sank.
She wrote: “Are you still sad about having ADHD?”
Heartbreaking, right? I took a breath and as calmly as I could asked her why she was sad about having ADHD. She answered, “Because it makes it hard for me to concentrate at school. I just want my ADHD to go away.” Now some parents in this situation might say something to their child like, “If I could take your ADHD away, I would.” When my child was first diagnosed and I didn’t know much about ADHD, I would have said the same thing. Now that I understand much more about ADHD and how it affects my child in a positive way, I said this to my daughter instead:
“Your ADHD is a gift, not a disability. Your ADHD is what makes you so incredibly unique, creative, smart, and fun. ADHD is not a bad thing or something to be ashamed about. It is like a hidden super power that allows you to think outside the box and see the world in a much funner way.”
I then reminded her of some famous people who had ADHD just like her. She wants to be an artist when she grows up, so we talked about Leonardo da Vinci. Her favorite famous person with ADHD that we talk about often is Walt Disney. I told her that I bet if Walt Disney didn’t have ADHD, Disneyland wouldn’t even exist, because to create a place like that takes incredible creativity and leadership, which are qualities many people with ADHD possess.
I am not sugarcoating ADHD to make it seem like it’s all sunshine and rainbows. It most definitely has its thunderstorms and my daughter knows it. Living with ADHD is hard for her at times and as her mother, I see her struggle with it on a daily basis. A lot of hard work and effort is put into her getting through tasks “normal” people have no problem with. But would I take her ADHD away if I could? No, I wouldn’t. I truly do see her ADHD as a gift, not a disability. Although it is not who she is, ADHD is a part of what makes her my beautiful, intelligent, fun, silly girl. What I would take away if I could though is her negative perspective of ADHD that comes out every now and then, which is what the purpose of the talk I had with her was. After my little pep talk, her demeanor changed and she breezed through her homework afterwards. I am sure we will have many more talks like that and I don’t mind at all. Children with ADHD need constant assurance, praise, recognition, support, and love and I know my fellow parents and I will always, always, be providing these and more for our children. We will always be their biggest cheerleaders, fans, and advocates.