From the September-December newsletter Center of Attention
Sam Peters – Sonoma
There is a brief moment of pure joy in the life of a chaotic ADHD family when a name is put to their troubles: ADHD. “Thank God, there is a name for what’s going on, a reason for our misfortune. Now we can get control of what’s going on…” Remember?
Then the new reality sets in. An avalanche of information floods in and our lives become even more chaotic. At this point, when life becomes overwhelming, I suggest that the way to get control is to ruthlessly weed out misinformation and deliberately ignore any information not demonstrably useful to you or your child.
First, you must be able to depend on your doctor’s information. To evaluate the trustworthiness of the information you receive from your doctor, ask yourself these three questions:
- Does the doctor ask about behaviors in different situations? For example, school, church, home, outdoors?
- Does the doctor put you in charge of determining levels of medication?
- Do you feel pushed into taking new actions and responsibilities by the doctor?
(Answer carefully and honestly. Remember that you’re evaluating the actions of the doctor, not how they make you feel.)
A “Yes” answer to each question is important because that means your doctor is doing a thorough job. The doctor is trying to see the ADHD family member as a unique individual and knows that only the family can accurately evaluate the effective level of medication. It also means that the doctor is leading the family toward new patterns of behavior based on understanding. Trust the information this doctor gives you.
A “No” answer to any of these questions should set the alarm bells ringing. Think it over carefully. You may need to insist that your doctor be more involved with your family. You may even need a new doctor.
Second, consider the information from CHADD speakers. When you listen to speakers at a CHADD meeting, look to see when audience members are nodding in agreement or when their questions are endorsing a particular point. (Ignore disagreement – it’s not useful) Ask your doctor’s opinion. Only then, act. It’s better to do a few things well and consistently rather than everything at once.
Third, consider the information from CHADD discussion groups. No serious seeker of information can skip group discussion because the issues raised are right now, not what happened years ago. Listen carefully for what is working, not what someone is going to try. You can always check three months later to see if something worked. Restate a particular point to get further viewpoints. Ask yourself these questions about the group:
- Does everyone get an equal opportunity to speak?
- Do you have a clear idea of each participants concerns?
- Does each participant take home a positive change for the family? This can be as simple as finding the energy to keep after already established goals.
If your answers are “Yes,” hang on to the group. It is a terrific resource. You are getting positive insights from everyone. If any of your answers are “No,” think over how to change it into a more useful discussion group. You must have a forum to safely evaluate the avalanche of information we must deal with. Stay with the group and make it work. Consider volunteering to be discussion leader.
Fourth, consider this general rule: If any speaker or materials are selling anything for profit, ignore them. Another way to say this is, if you’re offered a “cure”, turn them off. They obviously don’t know anything about ADHD. Everything that supports good health, is obviously good for anyone with ADHD, but it’s a blind alley for gathering useful information. You will find that this rule eliminates newspapers, TV and most magazines as sources of information both because they are selling copy by manufacturing controversy and also because of their appalling ignorance of ADHD.
Fifth, consider direct sources of information: Your own family. ADHD is often inherited. From whom did it come? What can you find out about them? Consider their problems but also study their successes. Can you interview them? What did they do well? What would they advise? Don’t forget that the ADHD family member who started you off on your quest for information will be, over time, be your best source of information.
Sixth, consider what sort of books you will read. Call 1 (800) 233-9273 and request a catalogue from the ADD Warehouse. Harvey Parker PhD adds 14 to 20 titles per year, all screened for accuracy and interest. Each title is described in depth and listed with other titles with similar content. You can further narrow choices by looking for authors who have ADHD or belong to ADHD families. These authors seem, in general, to be more direct and clear. If cash is short, get the materials from the public library. If they don’t own them, ask for an inter-library loan.
I am now 10 years past that joyful moment when we discovered that our family troubles had a name. What I have written is my best advice based on my experience. And yes, we did get control of our family problems; however, not in the way you might imagine. Our family attitudes, expectations, responsibilities, mutual support, work and play have all changed dramatically over time. They will continue to do so as we continually search out and evaluate new information.
I would like to collect and organize responses to this article for a follow-up. You 10 year veterans, what would you add or subtract? You beginners, I’m sure you have questions. My email address is [email protected].