In 21 days, my husband and I will be packing up all our stuff and moving to a community of at-risk youth where we’ll be house parents for the next year. The kids we’ll work with will be 10-18 years old and (as far as we know) will all be boys.
Considering the fact that around 12% of adolescents have ADHD and boys have even higher chances of it, odds are that we’ll have a few kids throughout the next year who have the disorder.
I can’t even express how grateful I am to have been working on this blog for the past six or seven months. I’ve learned so much from my own research and other people’s comments about their own experiences. And yes, I’ve even learned from the not-so-kind comments a few people shared!
I thought this would be a good time to write down some of the most prominent things that’ve stuck with me this past year about loving a child with ADHD. I want to write them down so I’ll have something to cling to when I’m struggling to parent a child or teen who has it.
I want to find encouragement, insight, and wisdom in the biggest things I’ve learned! Because, let’s be honest, it’s not just about loving a child with ADHD.
It’s about loving them well.
Here are the 10 most impactful statements I want to remember:
1. ADHD brains really are biologically different.
I could go on about this forever. I might have had my doubts about the physiology of ADHD brains several years ago, but now that I’ve seen the scientific evidence, I’ll never go back to that old way of thinking.
When “fostering” children with ADHD, I want to remember that their brains are wired differently and sized differently in different areas than most brains. Their symptoms aren’t made up.
(If you haven’t read about the specific science behind this, see my blog called “The Physical Differences of an ADHD Brain.”)
2. ADHD effects more than just ability to focus.
It effects A LOT of things! If I foster an ADHD child, I want to remember just how many “differences” they’re actually dealing with on a daily basis. I’d be cranky every once in a while, too, if I was dealing with all of that.
3. Having ADHD means higher likelihood of having other disorders.
People with ADHD are more likely to have other disorders like Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety, Autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or Bipolar Disorder. I want to remember that they might have more symptoms than just ADHD symptoms.
4. There are three different types of ADHD.
I had no idea this was true until I started my blog last fall. How did I not know? Common misconceptions and media portrayal I would assume.
I want to remember the three types of ADHD when raising foster kids (Inattentive Type, Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined Type), but I also want to remember that other adults in their lives might not understand that those differences exist. I want to help them advocate for themselves about what their symptoms look like – not what people think their symptoms should look like.
5. ADHD often goes unnoticed.
Yes, ADHD is often over-diagnosed. HOWEVER, there are also a lot of cases where ADHD is missed altogether. You would be shocked to find out how many people are diagnosed with ADHD after they’ve already reached adulthood.
So how do those people get missed? Quite frankly, it’s usually either because the child shows abnormal ADHD symptoms (meaning the caregiver didn’t recognize them) or because the child’s ADHD symptoms are attributed to something different (such as poor parenting or simple “bad” behavior).
I want to remember that there are Inattentive Type ADHD kids out there (often girls) who are quieter than most. They’re not bouncing off the walls or talking incessantly. Sometimes they’re the daydreamers. I want to watch out for those kids, too.
6. People with ADHD have so many strengths.
I could go on about this for days. Weeks even. Kids with ADHD have to be parented in unique ways, but there is so much reward in it.
Here are my four favorite blogs about how amazing ADHD kids are:
I hope I never, ever forget these things!
7. Although ADHD is genetically predisposed, environment can change a lot.
I’m not sure what I used to think about this. I remember noticing that ADHD was more commonly diagnosed amongst low-income families, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Was it malnutrition? Less educated parenting? (< which isn't always true, by the way) Less access to healthcare during pregnancy? Through researching for this blog, I learned that ADHD cannot be solely caused by ANYTHING!!! You cannot see an ADHD child and blame the parent for causing it. Environmental influences can cause a child's ADHD to "activate," so to speak, but they cannot cause it. Children must be born with a genetic predisposition to having ADHD or they will not develop it. May I always remember that when meeting with the parents of any future foster kids I have! 8. Diet makes a huge impact on ADHD symptoms.
There are so many ways to manage ADHD symptoms without medication (not all of them work for every child), but diet is one of the biggest ones.
Food dyes and sugar have been proven over and over again to heighten ADHD symptoms. Eliminating those things from a child’s diet will not eliminate their ADHD, but it can certainly give them a better footing to handle things with. It can make the mountain a little smaller for them to climb.
Since we’ll be cooking for the kids that we’re “house parenting,” I want to remember how crucial it is to feed them healthy, whole foods whenever we can.
9. They see, hear, smell, and feel everything all at once.
I wrote a blog once “through the eyes” of an ADHD child. I put myself in the shoes of my nephew (who is five and has ADHD) and wrote about what it was like for him to go to the store. His mom read it afterward and almost cried because she knew that it was spot on.
I want to always remember how overwhelming it must be to notice everything. There would be so much overstimulation in a grocery store that I would feel uncomfortable and act out, too.
10. They are as perfectly and imperfectly human as everybody else.
May I ALWAYS remember the truth of our creation. We are all different. We are all unique. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we all have an impact on one another’s lives.
We all have the choice to either empower one another’s strengths or to thrive on each other’s weaknesses.
I want to be one of the adults who says, “You are enough, just the way you are.”