October is ADHD Awareness Month. We have a kiddo diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type. He is not hyperactive. He has difficulty focusing on the pertinent information because he notices everything. Our child had previously been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder but we felt that there was more to his story. This new diagnosis made so much sense and connects significantly with his anxiety. In not being able to focus, he missed out on information. This led him to feel anxious because he was constantly trying to fill in the gaps and get caught up. Feeling anxious made it even more challenging to concentrate and be effectively on-task. He looked on-task in class. He was being compliant and his pen was moving on the paper but his internal struggle was very real and we saw the result of this with emotional breakdowns, trouble sleeping, and a sense of self-defeat and incapability communicated and visible at home.
When we decided to reconnect with his psychologist to explore the possibility of an ADHD diagnosis we were asked the question: If it looks like your child has ADHD, do you want to know? This perplexed my husband and I in some ways but not others. We are both educators and we know that there can be an incredibly negative stigma around any sort of “diagnosis”. There can be a fear that this diagnosis will define who a child is, that this “diagnosis” will limit the opportunities that a child may have, and that this “diagnosis” will hold a child back. From our experience both professionally and personally, this is not the case at all.
Our child’s diagnosis of ADHD has been empowering.
With a combination of strategies being implemented at home and at school, along with medication, our child has demonstrated and feels success. He enjoys reading books at school. His reading comprehension has increased. He gets more out of his class time and spends less time out of class putting the pieces of the lesson together. He has learned what he needs to support his learning, which is a part of a formalized plan at the school level, and he is able to advocate for himself as a learner. He will be able to use these same strategies, if needed, in post-secondary education (e.g. writing a test in a quieter space, having more time for tests and quizzes).
This diagnosis has helped us to better understand our kiddo and his amazing strengths and how to support his areas of struggle. It has helped us to communicate these to his school and teachers so that we can work together to help our child work and learn to his greatest potential.
Our child’s diagnosis also made me reflect on myself.
As we were going through the process of conversations and questionnaires, I saw a lot of our kiddo in me. I watched a documentary from CBC The Nature of Things called “ADHD: Not Just For Kids” (https://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/adhd-not-just-for-kids) and the section on women and ADHD really resonated with me… big time. It talked about how females are less often diagnosed because they don’t display the hyperactive behaviour stereotypically associated with ADHD. In the documentary, it also talked about how often when a child is diagnosed with ADHD; one or both parents are often diagnosed as well. There is a genetic component to ADHD.
I have been successful in school and have gone on to post-secondary education, including completing my Master’s Degree in Education. I now teach as a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Education at a local university. I have obviously developed coping strategies and made them work. However, throughout my time as a student, I remember feeling like I had missed a great deal of the lessons and going home and having to hyper-focus on the content outside of school time to get myself caught up. This would sometimes be to the detriment of other activities and social time. Even now, as an adult, I would never volunteer to be the person taking the minutes in a meeting.
Did I want to look into this more myself? The thought of this made me feel very uncomfortable. However, I looked at our child and his journey. He had felt worried about being “different”. He had articulated so vulnerably his struggles with his psychologist and our family doctor. He had spoken up in meetings with his teacher about things that would help him learn. He had been so incredibly brave – at 13. He really inspired me and gave me the strength and courage at 41 years old to say to our family doctor, “I think that I have ADHD”. It was so hard but I did it.
I now also have a diagnosis of ADHD Inattentive Type and I am taking the same medication as our child. I read an amazing book this summer called: “Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential”, by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, that helped me to better understand the specific executive functioning struggles that I have and that our son has as well as specific strategies to support these. I know that I still have a great deal to learn and I am open to it. Our son and my ADHD Inattentive Type diagnoses has been one of the amazing journeys, with all of its ups and downs that has been and continues to be a part of my wonderful crazy adventures as a mom.
To connect with Tiana, you can find her on Facebook, navigating the journey of being a mom who works part-time and connecting with a community along the way.
About the Author:
Teacher | Author | Mama x3
Tiana Fech is a mom of three boys ages 12, 10, and 8 who has been navigating the world of part-time work since becoming a mom. She is addicted to coffee, popcorn and getting up at 5 AM on weekdays to ensure that she has her “me time”, which involves a swim at a local pool or a workout in the basement. She enjoys volunteering at her kiddos’ schools, cheering on her two oldest boys at their hockey games, and practicing piano with her youngest. Tiana has worked in the field of Education in a variety of capacities including as a classroom teacher in both Junior High and High School, a Curriculum Developer, an Early Learning Coordinator overseeing the programs for and providing support to young children with developmental delays, and, now, as a Sessional Instructor at the University of Calgary in the Werklund School of Education working with future teachers. In her spare time, she is building a community and village of support of moms who work part-time with her blog The Part-Time Jungle.