Ezra,  Special Needs Parenting

Moving beyond the ADHD diagnosis: this is a journey

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It was a long, arduous path that led us to getting our son diagnosed with an ADHD diagnosis. It was years of unanswered questions and doubts, wondering why…

Why won’t he sleep?
Why won’t he stop hitting me?
Why doesn’t he respond to discipline?
Why can’t I take him to story time?
Why is everything so hard?
Why does it keep getting worse when everyone says it should be getting easier?

When I finally sat down with a piece of paper in front of me that said, “ADHD,” “adjustment disorder,” and “definite sensory processing differences,” I can’t explain to you the relief that flooded over me.

There’s a lot of people in this world that eschew labeling children, especially young children. But labeling my child was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Suddenly, all of the questions had answers. Things made sense. And for the first time, I started to really understand my child.

Over the past six months, I’ve settled into the ADHD diagnosis and learned how to help him. I’ve learned therapy approaches, scripting, and parenting strategies that have made a huge adjustment in how I deal with him.

Instead of demanding he do what I say because that’s what kids are supposed to do, I have learned how to work WITH him within the framework of what he is capable of – and what he is not. I’ve made my demands and expectations more reasonable because I understand how his brain works, and how it doesn’t.

I’ve looked at him through different eyes: eyes of compassion and understanding instead of frustration and resentment.

We are both better for it.

18 weeks E blog

This week he will be graduating from inpatient therapy. He will be moving on to a school setting. And at first, I wasn’t sure he was ready. The behavioral labels loomed over him, threatening failure. Maybe he can’t do this because…

But through the encouragement of our social worker, I was reminded to believe in him.

I sat with our qualified professional and social worker again last week, and we talked about this some more. This point when you have to take the ADHD glasses off and see him as a kid who is capable, strong, smart, and talented. To take him out of the box and push him to be more.

There’s a point where we have to move beyond the ADHD diagnosis…the label.

It’s a fine balance, and one that I know we will probably never perfect. It’s going to be a lifelong process, for both him and for us as his parents.

The ADHD Choices Facebook Page says it this way:

You know it can sometimes be daunting to decide whether to give your child some slack due to his ADHD…..yet to not let him use the diagnosis of ADHD as a cop out for behaviors you feel he can control. But, the truth be told you do have to decide and it sometimes can feel like a thin line. With this in mind, you have to trust yourself to make the right decision. No one knows your child like you do…

I had someone ask me last week, “is he really special needs?”

Based on two medically justifiable diagnoses, a recommendation for inpatient therapy, and his inability to function in a typical school and peer setting (for now), I can answer with utter certainty, “Yes.”

Do I expect him to always have challenges related to his ADHD diagnosis? Yes.

adhd diagnosis 1

Do I think he can overcome them? Yes.

adhd diagnosis 3 (Ezra excited about graduating therapy)

Over the past month, both in therapy and at home, us as his parents and his treatment team have worked incredibly hard to push Ezra. We have made the boundaries firmer, raised the expectations higher, and given into his “inabilities” less and less.

I think a combination of his gained maturity with age, the last few months of acceptance and extra love and support, and consistency has made responding to this approach so much easier for him.

adhd diagnosis 4 (Working on a baking project together, quite successfully)

adhd diagnosis 5 (Ezra is now picking out his own clothes and dressing himself every time!)

Last summer, the only answer people had for us was “You’re the parent. You’re in charge. Just be consistent.” Which seemed to mean, “If he disobeys, spank him every time, because you are bigger than him and that’s what good parents do.”

This wasn’t working.

Now, we are learning that consistency truly is a key part of parenting, but we have so many other tools at our disposal besides corporal punishment. I have learned how to be less emotional and reactive in how I parent. We have learned how to problem-solve as a family.

adhd diagnosis 2

I’ve learned how to “not give in” and “be consistent” in ways that still make Ezra feel respected, emotionally validated, cared for, and loved…but most of all, capable of cooperation.

adhd diagnosis 6

It’s a journey. And this is just the beginning.

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