My son and I both have ADHD. He's the only one who's been officially diagnosed, but I know I have it too because we have the same issues. We have ADHD without the hyperactivity. Only our minds are hyper. But if you've seen a hyperactive child who can't sit still, just imagine that silently going on inside someone's head! It can be frustrating, confusing, chaotic, and exhausting. We have virtually no ability to stay organized. We can GET organized, but staying that way is a different story. Focusing can be extremely challenging, especially when we have to focus on something we don't want to do at the moment. It's a huge struggle to keep our minds from wandering. But when something does capture our attention, we are so hyper focused on it, that it's nearly impossible to drag our minds off of it. I find this especially true when I'm worried or upset about something. I dwell on it constantly. My mind won't rest from it. Sometimes I want to scream at my brain to shut up! It would be great if we had a power off button on our minds, so we could shut it down for awhile, at least long enough to get some sleep. Forgetfulness is another issue. It's like we have so much running around in our minds that we can't keep track of everything. Our thoughts get lost in the mess and we forget to do things. Or we're so hyper focused on one thing that we forget everything else. And the effort involved in trying to stay organized, stay focused on what is necessary, and remember things is so exhausting that we get mentally and physically worn out fast. There have been times at the end of a day when I've caught myself staring at a wall for several minutes and not seeing or hearing anything around me. Living with ADHD is extremely challenging. We get frustrated at ourselves because we feel like we can't do things that come naturally to other people. Other people get frustrated at us, making us feel like we are idiots, because they don't understand how these simple tasks can be so hard for us. Since my son and I are both trying to learn how to live with this, we've been working on several ways we think will help. The three main ways are through diet and home remedies, a behavior plan (including routines and lists), and exercise.
Diet and Home Remedies
I’m not against medication for ADHD, but at this point we are not going that route. There’s been a lot of debate on the pros and cons of medicine. I’m not a therapist or a scientist, so I can’t make that call. I’ve known lots of people on it who say it’s beneficial, and a lot who have been on it who say they don’t like how it makes them feel. I would say, do your research and find out what’s best for you. Right now, we are not doing medication, but I’m not going to say we never will. I just don’t know at this point. That being said, let me discuss what we are trying to implement at this point. Notice I said, “trying.” It’s not easy for us to maintain this new lifestyle, and we are just getting started, so we still have a long road ahead of us.
The first and most difficult thing we are trying now is to work on our diet. I believe our brains and bodies work better if we feed ourselves healthy food. However, this is one of the hardest things for me to do. I’m a full time working mom who hates cooking. Not only do I not have a lot of time on my hands, but in the little time I do have, the last thing I want to do is cook. With my busy lifestyle, I got into the horrible habit of grabbing fast food or most of our meals. When it wasn’t fast food, it was frozen pizza or frozen chicken nuggets—not much better. So, we developed a horrible habit of living on pure junk. The meat we ate was processed, we didn’t eat much fruit, and we never at vegetables. Our brains were starving for nutrition. As my son got older, he was getting more disorganized and scatterbrained. I knew we had to make some major changes, but how? Since I knew it would be almost impossible to completely change our eating habits immediately, I finally decided to make the changes gradually.
My first step was to add fresh fruit to our diet. I replaced cookies, chocolate, and candy with bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes. I noticed when I had fruit in the house along with the candy, my son would ignore the fruit. But when fruit became his only snack option, he began to devour it.
The second step was adding the vegetables. That’s where we are now. This was much harder than the fruit, and we have backslidden several times already. Other than raw carrots, Dylan hates vegetables. We spent several meals having to endure him gagging while trying to eat them—not very appetizing for us. But I did notice before this last backslide, he was starting to do much better eating them. So, if I’m persistent, over time, he will eat them just fine. During this step, I decided to make it a rule that we have to eat one serving of fruit, and one vegetable at every meal. We’ve tried to cut back on fast food too, but when we do have it, we still have to have a fruit and a vegetable with our hamburger or pizza. When we aren’t eating fast food, we usually make quick meals for the main dish. These aren’t necessarily very healthy, but as I stated earlier, it’s a process.
My next step will be to add healthier meat and fish to our meals. That’s where the big and time consuming challenge will be. But since we are having to start over with the vegetable step after back sliding, we aren’t there yet.
So, how do we make ourselves eat what we really don’t want? We’ve just had to find what works for us. Dylan enjoys learning, and so do I, so it helps us to read up on the nutritional benefits of food. For example, if we know that spinach is good for our memory and mental clarity, it will be easier for us to eat it. We just imagine it helping out our brain. When Dylan has an especially hard time choking down a food he doesn’t particularly like, he will ask me to remind him what the vitamins in that food are helping.
The Behavior plan
The behavior plan is something that was originally introduced by our psychologist, but I’ve adapted it a little to better meet our needs. This “behavior plan” works on an economic system of teaching children real life values while helping them address their adhd. This system is valuable because it isn’t just a temporary childhood reward system for those dealing with adhd. It teaches important skills that will carry them through adulthood. It helps them understand the real world. Since organization does not come naturally to us, we suffer greatly trying to function in a chaotic world. This system has brought organization to our lives. It includes routines and lists. Getting Dylan and myself into an established routine has given some method to our madness. The biggest challenge is getting into the habit of the routine. We have to make it stick. The routine helps us tackle our forgetfulness, a huge issue with adhd. The lists include reminders of things so we won’t forget.
Here’s how this system works. We have a morning routine, an afternoon routine, and an evening routine. Sometimes one step in the routine will refer to a list that needs to be checked. On the list, there will be some reminders of things that are easily forgotten. Here is an example of our morning routine:
We have a different routine for weekdays and weekends. Our week day morning routine is what we do every morning before we leave for school. The afternoon routine is done as soon as we get home from school. Here is an example of our afternoon routine:
After the routine is finished in the afternoon, he has his free time. He can do things he enjoys such as play outside, draw, play legos, play a video game, etc. The evening routine starts after supper. Here is an example of the evening routine.:
The goal is to get in the bed no later than 8:30, but if he makes it to bed by 8:00, he can read in bed for 30 minutes before going to sleep. I’ll be honest, so far he has not made it to bed before 8:30. Some times it’s later.
So, how do we enforce this routine? He doesn’t just naturally do it all because he’s perfect. He must have some kind of incentive to do it. Face it, if you didn’t get paid for your job, would you work as hard? Would your work even get done? Probably not. This is where the economic system comes in. Just like an adult with a career, this is his job. He gets paid for doing his job, but gets no payment if it isn’t done. This is how it works. For every item on the routine he gets paid a dollar. This economic system works on fake money, but it can be later traded in for real money. I’ll explain that later. So, if he does everything on his morning, afternoon, and evening list, he gets paid fifteen dollars. So far, he’s rarely gotten all fifteen. We are still working on that.