AD(H)D (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been a blessing for our family. We are better parents, all our children are successful in their own way, and we are able to be a therapeutic foster family.
I sometimes wonder --if we didn't have AD(H)D, would we be so fortunate?
There were the years of guilt, frustration, hopelessness, and many other emotions. My son, Ray, was difficult, moody (including drastic mood swings), very unhappy and by age six wanted to "make himself dead." We sought help with different professionals, agencies, playgroups - you name it.
Then one day we found the guidance our family needed from a therapist. For three years we saw him and he educated us in many ways.
Ray was improving but was continuing to concern all of us. He was referred to a psychiatrist who we continue to see today.
We had rules and consequences in our home, but didn't have consistency or structure. This didn't mean we were bad parents, but our children were receiving mixed messages. Behavior modification has changed that and continues to be our foundation.
The first thing we did was to make a rules and consequence list for the entire family. Age appropriate rules were designed for individual child(ren). Consequences included time outs, lost privileges, and so on. Making this as a family and posting it in clear view made the child responsible for his choices. As parents we made sure the rules were followed, but the child was in control of his choices.
Goal charts were set up. We would pick five goals to work on. Four were for problem areas and one was a happy one, whose purpose was to help with self-esteem. Rewards for reaching goals were simple and creative. The rewards were incentives, but my children felt a sense of pride when they totaled up the check marks, stickers or happy faces. A little self-esteem began to grow.
We believe that a parent should never disagree with another adult about a consequence in front of the child. Wait until the child is not in hearing distance. If a change in consequences occurs, the person who decided on the initial consequence should be the one giving the new one. Seeing adults working together builds the support system; it creates a sense of security for the children. The child - seeing all working as one - will slowly start seeing the effect his choices have on him.
Using medications for AD(H)D was a very difficult decision for us. We agreed to Ritalin for one month only. Seeing the positive results, we continue to use it. Prior to this we had tried many alternatives. Ritalin is not a cure-all. It is only the seasoning on top of the main ingredients: Behavior modification, consistency and structure.
Two of my biological children are AD(H)D. The youngest has the additional "H" for "hyperactivity". Watching them together at times can be interesting. They appear to feed off of each other. Rainy days have definitely put a few gray hairs on my head. As they grow, they have taught us so much. Being very aware of their diagnosis, they are able to share their views with us.
People tell me I'm lucky, because my children are not affected like other AD(H)D children. It's not luck, it was following through with B-mod, consistency and structure. It took many years to get here, but the rewards show daily in their faces.
I will never forget the pain of hearing my son say, "Make myself dead." However, it was that day that made a difference in our life. In sharing this with you, maybe I can give you a little piece of hope to hold on to.
Don't ever let go, your child's bright future is on the other end.