Friday, February 12, 2016

Sequencing for the ADHD Parent and Child

My children's behavior often causes me to reflect upon my own. For instance, my daughter is smart, funny, and highly motivated towards academic success. At her age -- tween -- I, too, was smart, sarcastic, and determined to earn all As in school. Whenever we drive together, she sits quietly in the backseat daydreaming out the window. That was me in 6th-12th grade as well. My son, who I usually compare to my husband, both in looks and behavior, is the complete -- and I do mean complete -- opposite of both my daughter and me. He chats incessantly, makes constant and persistent jokes of the look-at-me variety. He is rarely quiet, rarely still, and doesn't daydream. And while he is definitely smart, and he cares about his grades and classroom success, motivating him to do, well, anything, is a challenge.

I'm in no way suggesting that my son, who is 9, is lazy. But he is disorganized and not terribly concerned about it. I, too, am disorganized, but . . . I care a lot about it. In fact, I care so much about my disorganization that I overcompensate and get micro-managey towards my family, friends, and peers. It's not that I think everyone around me is incompetent; it's that I know I can be incompetent and I have to reiterate the sequencing of priorities, post my To-Do list on the kitchen counter, and tell everyone around me not to disturb the mess on my desk because my sense of order is so delicate that a misplaced paper could upset the entire system.

But, back to my son. I realize that the kid probably has ADHD. He's doomed with two ADHD parents and he has exhibited ADHD behavior (albeit, mild in comparison to some of the kids in his school) since he was in preschool. I'm just more aware of it because I'm correcting his homework, having to stay on top of him to practice for his drum lessons, and just getting dressed in the morning is a chore.

Let's look at that last bit, the getting dressed in the morning. I'll admit it, sometimes I go over my mental list of what I need to do to get ready in the morning to make sure that yes, I put on my deodorant. My son can get dressed on his own without problem when he's motivated (i.e. I reward him with a show or time on his iPod or LEGOs, when time permits), but more mornings than others I find him lost in the process, half dressed sitting on the heating vent complaining that we're going to be late. Another processing -- or sequencing, if you like -- trait that I've noticed he does is verbally acknowledge his to-do list. Almost every morning he comes upstairs while I'm getting ready and announces what he has to do:

Him: "Okay, so I am going to get dressed, brush my teeth, go to the bathroom, and get my shoes on."

Me: "Right. Don't forget we have to brush your hair, too."

This happens, like I said, almost every morning. It's as if he doesn't say the list out loud, he's going to forget to put on his shoes, or go to the bathroom. But I know he needs to do this to keep his brain in order. I see nothing at all wrong with this habit. It helps him and he figured that out instinctively.

As I was getting out of my car after dropping my son off at school this morning, I noticed that while I wasn't verbalizing my to-do list, I was mentally figuring out the sequence for getting out of the car:

Me: "Okay, so I need to pick up my purse, but I also have a cup of coffee and a box of papers and only two hands. Better get out of the car first and walk around to the passenger side to get everything so I don't spill the coffee and dump the papers on the ground."

Maybe we aren't such a mess, my son and I. Maybe he is a lot like me and I like him. Maybe we need a little prompting to put on our pants in the morning, but we get it done . . . usually without spilling our drinks.