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An Open Letter To My Kids’ Teachers About ADHD

You’ve undoubtedly been working hard the first few weeks of school organizing your classroom and getting to know a new group of students. Among the nervous and excited kids flooding your classrooms, one of them may be a kid with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)… and one of them may be mine.

Please know, not all kids with ADHD are the same. My son and daughter, for example, are entirely different, but at their core, struggle with distractibility and executive function skills. Not long ago, these kids were commonly referred to as “busy boys who didn’t apply themselves.” (My husband was one of them in the 1980s.) Although the term ADHD labels it as a “disorder,” I like to think of it as “dynamic.”

So if you see a kid, most likely my daughter, spacing out in the back of the class, staring out the window or doodling cartoons on the margins of her paper, don’t take it personally. You’re not boring her. Her enterprising brain is exploring a hundred other things randomly popping in. Who knows? She could be dreaming up the next innovation in renewable energy or how best to apply glamorous eye shadow colors. It’s a toss up, and most likely both.

The spirited kid in the back that keeps interrupting and moving in his seat is most likely my son.

The spirited kid in the back that keeps interrupting and moving in his seat is most likely my son. He needs to fidget when he thinks, and although he may randomly blurt out information unrelated to the discussion topic, don’t worry, he’s already processed the dialogue and moved down the brain map twenty spaces. A gentle reminder to the topic can bring him back a few spaces where he can share his brilliant insight.

If my kids are late to your class, I’m sorry. We’re trying. The act of being on time is a monumental challenge for kids with ADHD. Most people possess a form of internal dialogue that pushes us from one task to the other, constantly aware of time, space, and what our objective is. My kids seem to operate in an “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” framework. They stop and find beauty in a cat’s wet nose, gaze into the gallery of textiles in their closet for hours, or stare mesmerized at the mechanical wonders of a Sonicare toothbrush as it vibrates waves of spray across the bathroom mirror.

I do my best at home as an assistant, notifying my kids how much time they have left, keeping things organized, and acting as their missing internal dialogue, “Where’s your lunch box? Get you shoes on. Why is the sleeve of your jacket wet? Get your shoes on. Where’s your homework? Get your shoes on. … Wait! You forgot to brush your teeth!” By the time they leave the house in the morning, I hate the sound of my own voice. But once those dynamic minds reach school, they’re on their own in a sea of distractions.

If you have a kid who forgets to turn in an assignment or two, or three, or four… (most likely any kid with ADHD, including mine) don’t panic. You haven’t lost them, nor are they necessarily headed for trouble. They most likely worked on it for hours, but their fast forward enterprising brain thinks in a “now” vs. “not now” capacity. That assignment was yesterday’s mental homework, not todays. Therefore, it slipped their mind before it reached your in-box. If you notice, please feel free to give a reminder. Most likely it’s shoved into the black hole of their backpack awaiting rediscovery.

As long on we’re on the topic of homework, imagine a sight-impaired child with super hero glasses and a keen sense to learn. At school, this kid may bump into other kids and struggle to read the board, but his super hero glasses help him manage. Now imagine that same kid after school walking a mile home through unfamiliar neighborhoods without his glasses. That’s how my ADHD kids operate on medication vs. without it. While at school, medication helps them like super hero glasses. But in the evening, after the medication wears off, they have a long mile to walk. It may take longer, but we’ll get there.

Although many dynamic, creative and spirited ADHD kids may act like they have ‘the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind,’ most live with daily comments of ‘what they did wrong’ and ‘where they fell short.’

Although many dynamic, creative and spirited ADHD kids may act like they have “the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind,” most live with daily comments of “what they did wrong” and “where they fell short.” So whenever you can, please give these dynamic kids praise. They love to please, and with encouragement, their creativity will flourish.

Yours truly,

The Mom

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