National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Finding Joy in ADHD
By Carolyn Dunn
After many years of frustration and exasperation, my homeschooled, eighth-grade son was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), inattentive type. I was overwhelmed by the thought of coping with this diagnosis and figuring out what I was supposed to do next.
I experienced many emotions as I came to terms with the diagnosis, but I knew I had a choice about how to respond. I chose joy, knowing that this test could be a great gift. It could bring me the joy of knowing and loving my son more deeply, while remaining his mother and strongest advocate. And so I embarked on an adventure which, in the end, brought out the best in both of us.
We found that finding a doctor who specialized in ADHD and starting my son on medication were most helpful. We were both overjoyed at his improved ability to focus. Next, I recognized the need for consistency, structure and accountability for him and an exhaustive understanding of ADHD for me. Always scoring high on IQ tests, I realized that my son was gifted.
Then it came time to transition to college.His hard work and passion led to his becoming a National Merit Scholar. His choice, a Big 12 private institution, had an honors business program and success center with free disability advisors, free tutoring, accommodation advising and counseling. It seemed like a good environment for him, but I wondered if it would be enough.
After a freshman year that brought challenges, tears (mine) and a GPA not reflective of his abilities, we knew he needed a private ADHD coach. A coach was needed to provide executive processing skills, to help him focus and prioritize and to encourage him to improve his performance. Through his coach, he is doing well academically and has maintained his full-ride merit scholarship. In fact, he won the Shire ADHD Scholarship his junior year. His coach is part of our team and welcomes our input. Coaching with a well-trained professional is well worth the investment. Choosing to respond with joy when my child was diagnosed with ADHD was certainly the way to go. My son is truly unique and oh, so loved. I recommend that other families approach ADHD with joy. It sure beats the alternative.