When someone in your house is diagnosed with ADHD or any other special need, there are suddenly many things that make sense. There can also suddenly be a feeling of overwhelm and helplessness over what to do now that you know. Hopefully you were lucky and found a care provider who is experienced with, and knowledgeable about your child’s particular special need. More than likely, a good practitioner sent you home with some easy to understand information and a list of helpful resources to get you started. Even with that helpful information, though, we often are not prepared for the reality we need to accept.
Tips for Managing a Diagnosis
Below are some tips for accepting an ADHD diagnosis, but these tips can apply to many of the other “invisible” special need diagnoses.
- Accept the Truth. Who’s to Blame? ADHD or any special need is no one’s fault. So, if you’re a parent and your child has just been diagnosed, your parenting did not cause ADHD. If you’re an adult who has just been diagnosed, please stop beating yourself up over the past. You didn’t do anything to catch or deserve ADHD. I’m happy to tell you, that you were born with it.
- Access Your Starting Point. So, ADHD isn’t your fault, or mom’s fault, or dad’s fault, or even that crabby, horrible 2nd grade teacher’s fault. It is, however, an explanation. An explanation to take into consideration when assessing the past, acknowledging the present, and planning the future. Being an explanation though, doesn’t make it an excuse. We still have a responsibility to treat it, manage it, learn from it, and grow through it to successfully thrive in this non-ADHD world.
- Make Reasonable Goals. Get a good handle on where you are and where your child may be. I’m talking about really coming to grips with reality. This is when you take stock of the current challenges, and how they have and will affect you and your family. Be prepared to have your beliefs, and expectations of how you envisioned the future of your child to be challenged. Letting go of how you thought things were supposed to be can be very difficult. If you are a parent of a newly diagnosed child, don’t be afraid to talk to a counselor or therapist yourself to address this new reality.
- Have Purpose and Direction. I call this the “You are here” stage. Think of this like the first time you visit a large mall. You want to get to the Old Navy store, but you have never been to this mall before. The Old Navy store represents successful management of the diagnosis. You can test your luck and just start wandering around aimlessly, and maybe you would even get lucky and find the store in short order. However, if you want to make sure you don’t end up going in circles, lost, the first place you might look is that big sign with a map of the mall that has that big red dot with the words, “You are here.” Taking a look at your surroundings, you confirm that is where you are at. Gathering your bearings and noting a couple of key landmarks on the map, you are off. With direction and purpose, you are on your way to your desired destination.
This is how ADHD management is going to have the most effective start. Assessing your starting point and accepting the truth about where things are at and what the diagnosis means, knowing what reasonable goals are for treatment and management, and having purpose and direction by noting the direction of travel and landmarks from your map or management plan.
Let Go of Expectations
When you’re facing those moments that you realize life is going to be a little more challenging than how you planned and how you envisioned, realize that it’s OK to feel sad. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, partner, or person to have that emotion. It’s normal to feel the loss of that dream you had. It’s the choices you make moving forward from that point that will shape the future into possibly something better. I encourage you to work towards having an open mind and allow yourself a broader perspective than you may have had in the past. Our expectations of how we believe ourselves, our children, or our lives should turn out can sometimes be seriously limiting. Just because things don’t turn out the way you had believed was optimal, doesn’t mean they can’t be just as great by looking a different way.
― Albert Einstein
To make my point, here are people throughout history who have had, or are believed to have had ADHD and have made incredible impacts on the world.
Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Galileo, Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Gen. George Patton, Walt Disney, Alexander Graham Bell, Beethoven, Jim Carey, Steve McQueen, and Sylvester Stallone to name a few.
With or without ADHD, it is when we accept the reality and truth about who we are, and the gifts we and our children have, that full potential is realized and released into the world. So, where ever your map shows as your starting point, don’t give up hope. Have courage, believe in yourself, your children, and your partners, and know that you are perfect the way you are.