We have one member of our family who has been diagnosed with both Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD. Of course, if you are familiar with both of these, you probably know that it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins. ADHD is just one of those things that is present in a lot of individuals with Autism.
Although there was some adjustment in having a child with these conditions, it was almost second nature to me. You see, I’ve spent my entire life living with someone who, though not medically diagnosed, I think it’s a safe bet to say that they fall somewhere on the spectrum and have ADHD. I won’t name names, but I’ll just say that there are two of them in my life and I went straight from living with one my whole life to living with the other one. So, I’ve just lived often making accommodation that, as it turns out, has made life a little easier for Noah because he has a Mom who gets it.
A caveat: I’m trying to talk about other people in my life, but I feel it’s only fair to fess up something. The other day, while I was trying to tell Eric a story, I couldn’t get to the point because I started three other stories while I was trying to get to the point. After I started the third story, I said, “I’m sorry. Let me finish one story first before I start another.” He raised his eyebrows at me. I retorted, “They decided that I didn’t have ADHD when I went in for the testing.” He smirked. “Yeah, you tell yourself that.”
Okay, now back to my original thoughts about family members with ADHD, because I, myself, have passed those tests, despite giggling through an entire test where I had to say the word blue so many times that it lost all meaning.
Tips for Dealing with Family Members with ADHD
If you think that they aren’t paying attention just to annoy you, you’re probably wrong. Sure, that may be the case from time to time, but for the most part, they would really like to be able to focus more on what you’re telling them. It can be upsetting to them that they have no idea what you were just talking about by the time you finished. So, show them grace and know that it’s not by choice that their mind wandered. Their mind is moving faster than you’re talking.
Ask Follow Up Questions
Apparently I started this technique as a very young child, going so far as to ask, “What did I just say?” if I suspected that I wasn’t being listened to. It’s possible I did it to be obnoxious, but what I know of stories of myself as a child, I suspect that wasn’t the case. I was just always mature and probably realized it was just what I needed to do.
In my experience with my three lovely ADHD’ers, I know that I sometimes think they’re listening when they’re not really. But, you know what the kicker is? They actually think they’re listening, I’ve come to realize.
While I often let things go like that, these follow up questions are especially important in stores with one of these people. You see, she gets worried when she can’t remember where I went, even though I told her where I was going and she said, “Okay.” So, as a way to head off those worries ahead of time, I say where I’m going and if I get an “okay,” then I follow it up with a “Where did I say I was going?” More than half the time, this is responded to with, “I don’t know.” (I feel the need to mention that this is not a child that I’m leaving somewhere in a store. This is a very intelligent and competent adult. Please don’t think that I walk away from my kids in stores.)
Don’t Take it Personally
It can be easy to take inattentiveness personally. You are in the midst of what you feel like is a very important story about your day and they all of the sudden blurt out something that makes you realize that their focus is not really on you. That’s tough. Just try to remember – it’s not about you, so don’t take it personally.
Well, you know, I take that back. If you tell a lot of boring stories, then maybe you can take it personally. But, otherwise, it’s probably more about them than it is about you.
Things like television and computers in the vicinity are just like giving someone with ADHD an invitation to be distracted. There can be many other distractions for them, but these are some biggies. Know the things that distract your loved one, and watch for those. If you want to have a serious conversation, it might be best to turn off the television, rather than to get angry when their eyes keep darting from you to see what’s going on. By helping them remove distractions when you want their attention, you’re not only helping them, but you’re helping yourself.
A note here, however, is that you should remove those distractions with love. Don’t do it in an angry huff when they are in the midst of not paying attention. Instead, say something like, “I have something really important to talk about, would you mind if I turned off the TV?”
Show Them Love
Life in a world full of easy distractions is not a picnic for those with ADHD. It can be frustrating. Show them love instead of more frustration. Try to make accommodations for them because you care about them. They’re worth the effort!