What do you think of when you hear the term ADHD? If you’d asked me almost 20 years ago, when I started working as a Speech Pathologist, it would make my heart race and I’d have the immediate thought, “No!! Not another ‘bratty, naughty, annoying, undisciplined kid’ coming into my office! Thank goodness it’s just for an hour.”
Fast forward 10 years, and I have given birth to my first born: An amazing son, whom after waiting 5 years and 4 IVF attempts, I was so blessed to finally have in my arms. A son who, at five days old, the Paediatrician documented in his Blue Book as being “an extremely active baby”.
Fast forward another 9 months, and I find myself sitting in a room with other mums, talking about how their children are settled, in routine, sleeping, sitting up, and playing on the floor. Meanwhile, my precious son had already learned to crawl, walk, and climb everywhere he could!
Yet another press of the fast forward button and I have a 2-year-old. A 2-year-old who is running, jumping, climbing, skipping, talking constantly, interrupting, not listening, and most of all not learning the rules of our house and of the outside world.
It was actually by chance that I came across a website about ADHD in children. It was like reading an instruction manual about my son. Hyperactive? TICK! Impulsive? TICK! Couldn’t do any activity longer than 2 mins, excessive talkativeness, constantly interrupting, not sleeping, risk taking behaviours… Tick, Tick, Tick! And then the one that really stopped me in my tracks: Typical rewards and consequences don’t work for these kids. OH, MY HEAVENS!! TICK.
My gorgeous son was three-years-old the first time we took him to a psychologist. I had no idea how to parent this child. I had read as many parenting books as I could get my hands on, as well as every blog and website about parenting I could find, and yet nothing had worked. The psychologist thought my son fulfilled the criteria for ADHD, although was reluctant to diagnose him because of his age. So, what was the advice we got? Unfortunately, like a lot of parents of children with ADHD the advice was poor – “Be more consistent”, “set firmer boundaries”, “don’t give in to him”, “just ignore the negative behaviours”, and of course ,“You just have to be clear with what is appropriate and provide consequences for the rules he breaks”.
What I didn’t say to the psychologist that day was that I was always consistent, we did have firm boundaries, we never gave in to him when he was having a tantrum, we tried to ignore his jumping on the lounge, climbing up the door frames, and the constant destruction. I couldn’t leave him for a moment, or I would come out to a hole in the wall, or the cupboards emptied out, or stickers all over his baby sister’s face; or all three. His sisters were born when he was three and then four. I was on constant alert. He would never mean to hurt his sisters, but often he was oblivious to their presence and would bolt straight into them. No one told me about the incredible stress, mental load and family disruption of raising kids with ADHD can have.
It’s now almost 20 years since I started my career as a speech pathologist. I have a significant amount of clinical experience working with kids with ADHD and, along with parenting my own children (two of whom have ADHD diagnoses), I have a burning passion to share what I have learned and experienced. I want to help other families and professionals working with ADHD kids, to not only avoid having negative feelings about these kids, but to enjoy working with them and help their amazing brains thrive!
Stick with me and I will show you the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as the incredible and exhilarating highs that can come from being part of the ‘team’ for a child with ADHD. We will discuss how their brains work and how we can help these amazing and unique kids reach their full potential. I’m not going to lie to you – it’s hard work – but oh, how worth the effort of being on their side truly is.