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ADHD awareness and acceptance

By Kelly Wilton

With October being ADHD awareness month, it only recently dawned on me that this is the first year of adding this very important acronym to our family list of diagnoses.

Families with kids with co-morbidity health issues, know only too well that we can’t deal with everything at once. Different things – problems, symptoms, issues etc – take priority at any given time; for us, ADHD ‘symptoms’ have been around, but flying under our radar for so long, that we have become used to them just being there. We’ve only really started tackling things and getting to know ADHD properly just recently.

I didn’t know much about ADHD, only what I had heard about from other parents, and what I read about in Source Kids magazine. I did know it was a neuro-developmental condition, a neurodiversity for many people, and for a few people close to me.

ADHD presents itself in a variety of ways however we don’t always recognise them until over time, things start to add up.

It’s taken 10 years to receive a formal diagnosis of ADHD for my medically complex son. It’s a just as important diagnosis as the others he’s received over the years – : CP – Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy; ABI – acquired brain injury from HHE Syndrome; a Hemi-warrior (he’s living life with half a brain). And more recently, for his twin sister, who presents with many ADHD traits (currently on wait list for confirmation – but when you know, you know right?!).

The following list is just a few of the different ways ADHD has shown up for us:

  • Difficulty following and staying on track with conversations
  • Inability to focus, even if there are no obvious distractions
  • Problems focusing on things even if they are of interest
  • Executive dysfunction – ie day to day function needs repeated instructions/visual queues – ie eat breakfast, get dressed, then put your shoes on.. put your hands up if this one you can relate to!
  • Poor impulse control – have you had a shoe to the head while driving?!
  • Hyper fixations
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Losing items all the time
  • Forgetting thoughts after immediately having them

If you are reading this and think that it may be worth looking at getting support for your child, ask their current therapists their opinion and whether gaining a formal diagnosis would help with the holistic approach of therapy. There may be a very clear answer as to why your child is just not engaged in therapy. If I had known this years ago that my son had ADHD, I could have saved myself a lot of angst!

It might give you some peace knowing that there is a reason why battling with therapy is not just about resistance – and it’s to do with so much more.

When we read the list above, we can appreciate how even just a few of these key traits could impact kids in their learning environment. Many times, instead of support, they are penalised for their behaviours. I know for us personally, my daughter ticks each of the above list and yet still doesn’t have a formal diagnosis, but she certainly was penalised in her formative years of primary school for what was deemed as ‘misbehaving’.

It has come to the point now, where our kids should not be waiting until they are a grown adult for a formal diagnosis. Trying to minimise and shut down the impact that ADHD traits have on a person that is clearly struggling, is not the way forward. We need to be recognising and supporting those traits to help strengthen a person’s sense of self.

Neurodiverse minds are fabulous, interesting and full of smarts that should not be made to feel ‘wrong’ or ‘inferior’. Yet ask most newly diagnosed adults what their experience has been, and more often you will hear it was hard for them.

Let’s not make it hard for this generation of kids.

Let’s celebrate it, nurture it and empower these young people – isn’t that what inclusion really is about – awareness and acceptance?

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