The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Month: October 2015

Want to remember everything? Write it on the wall.

People with ADHD forget a lot — a lot of things, and very often.

We frustrate ourselves. Even worse, we frustrate, hurt, and disappoint the people we love. ADHD is cruelly egalitarian, in that we forget our spouse’s birthday as easily as our dry cleaning.

Even if we lived in total isolation, we’d still generate the same ideas over and over again, wishing we could remember them at the right time.

My solution: shorten the distance between myself and a good container for my thoughts. I call this “storing my brain outside my head” because my brain is such an unreliable container.

I’ve learned it the hard way, again and again: I need to write everything down. Everything. If I catch myself thinking, “that’s too important, I know I won’t forget it,” it’s a huge red flag.

Not only do I have to write everything down, I have to do this before I forget. It happens in a matter of seconds. As a result, I maintain writable surfaces all over my house: post-its, dry erase boards, chalkboards, you name it. Even the bathroom mirror. If there’s anyone out there who considers me a good friend, spouse, parent, or relative, it’s because I never trust myself to remember anything.

Instead, I remain vigilant for ideas — pen in hand.

Collecting ideas

There are some potty training methods that — bear with me here — require constant vigilance, so you’re ready to airlift your naked naked toddler to the potty just as he empties his bladder onto the floor. I picture my brain as this naked toddler. The moment it thinks of something — anything — I need to whisk it to a writable surface.

I should mention I use David Allen’s Getting Things Done system religiously to process all my notes. Allen insists that you need to be able to trust your system — or else you’ll get discouraged. “One of the main factors in people’s resistance to collecting stuff into ‘in,'” Allen writes, “is the lack of a good processing and organizing methodology to handle it.”

When I’m running a tight ship with my GTD system, I’m much more enthusiastic about writing down my thoughts. If you haven’t read Getting Things DoneI highly recommend it.

Our home’s writable surfaces

Bathroom mirror

DSC_3367-001There’s a reason you have so many ideas in the shower. You’re relaxed, relatively free of distractions, and experiencing a nice dopamine rush from the hot water. Your brain is primed for idea generation.

I keep dry erase markers near the bathroom mirror so I can write a quick note before I’ve even dried off. The mirror is also a great place to leave a loving note or drawing for your spouse. When I worked in IT, my mirror notes reminded me to do early-morning server maintenance from home. Visitors occasionally spot our markers and join the fun, too.

Pantry door chalkboard

Our home is on the small side, making a big, common-area dry erase board impractical. Instead, I created a cute and functional chalkboard on our pantry door. It’s not as easy as tossing a few dry erase markers in the bathroom, but it’s a project pretty much anyone can do. I sanded the finished wood lightly, added a couple coats of primer, then applied this Rust-Oleum chalkboard paint. My son has taken over the bottom panel, and we use the larger top panel for grocery lists, reminders, fledgling Spotify playlists, and anything in between.

DSC_3431

 Small dry erase board

I purchased a small dry erase board for my dorm room door when I left for college. Somehow, I managed to keep it for over a decade and through several moves. This former clutter object now hangs on the side of the fridge and collects phone messages.

Post-its, post-its, and more post-its

I keep a pad of post-it notes in almost every room: on my nightstand, on my desk, in the basement, next to the coffee maker, in the car. I order sticky notes in bulk packages meant for large offices. Walking more than 10 steps to the nearest sticky note feels like too much.

Isn’t there an app for that?

I didn’t include any electronic note-taking tools here. There are some great ones available — Evernote, Toodledo, Google Keep, and PlainText, for example — but I find computers and smart phones too distracting. When I unlock my phone screen, I rarely make it to my note-taking app. Several minutes later, I realize I’m checking my Instagram feed and have no idea why I grabbed my phone in the first place. A simple pen and paper works best.

How do you capture ideas, especially when you’re in a place where you can’t easily write something down?

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Conquering the automatic “I have ADHD & I suck” response

I love using the line, “I’m bad at that” (or some variation thereof). The underlying message being, funny story: I have ADHD and I suck at some things.

I’m not proud of this.

In all fairness, it’s true. However, I suspect many of us use this mentality to avoid certain tasks and responsibilities. We use it as a reason not to challenge ourselves.

For years, I’ve proudly labeled myself “not a runner.” Though I might give you an excuse about sore joints, or a proclivity for excessive sweating, or the fact that running in hot weather makes me feel puffy, the biggest obstacle is in my head: I’m bad at creating and sticking to habits. I’ve long thought I could only maintain a running habit by running every day.

 

trail runner photo

I never called this perfectionism because I thought it was just the cold hard facts. The first missed day marks the beginning of the end, and I don’t run again for years.

Then I picked up Stephen Guise‘s new(ish) book, How to be an Imperfectionistand it opened my eyes to perfectionism’s toxicity for ADHD adults.

ADHD’ers seem like unlikely perfectionists. Our lives are swimming in imperfection, littered with screw-ups. And yet, perfectionism gives us an excuse, a reason to stay paralyzed.

Guise describes three primary ways perfectionism can paralyze us. All apply to my aversion to running.

  • Context: without the perfect context, we can’t possibly succeed.
    “Running before breakfast is best for me, but it’s dark outside! Maybe after daylight savings time ends…”
    “I don’t own any running pants — only yoga pants.”
  • Quality: we must make sure we’ll be able to do it exactly right.
    Couch to 5K is embarrassing — there’s so much walking, I don’t even feel like I can say I went for a run.”
    “I don’t think I can commit to daily runs right now.”
  • Quantity: we define success only as meeting or exceeding an arbitrary numeric goal.
    “I bet I can’t even run a mile without stopping anymore.”
    “If I don’t elevate my heart rate to 120 beats per minute for 30 minutes, I shouldn’t even bother.”

imperfectionist cover artQuantifiable goals — like “I want to run for 30 minutes without stopping” or “I want to run every day” — give us something concrete to shoot for, but they also quantify failure. Not meeting your goal discredits all your hard work.

In the end, it’s easier to cling to my identity as someone who’s “not a runner” than to figure out how to make regular exercise work for me long-term.

Running, even under the guidance of a program like C25K, requires major league habit-forming skills. ADHD’ers endure constant blows to our self-image, and many of us will choose the couch as our fear of failure kicks in.

Guise points to insecurity as a major precursor to perfectionism:

Those who are secure in themselves are less perfectionistic because they have a positive affirmation bias, which means they’ll assume good things about themselves before considering negative things.

We’re so beaten down by a lifetime of failure, of broken (good) habits, of disappointment in ourselves. Why wouldn’t we turn to perfectionism for protection? Why wouldn’t we seek out explanations for why our failure — or failure to even try in the first place — was preordained, out of our control?

A week ago, I bought the C25K app. I went running in my yoga pants (a surprisingly good stand-in for running pants), in the dark, and I obeyed the app’s commands to walk and run in short intervals. I succeeded in running three times in one week, which is both trickier and more sustainable than running every day. I promised to be kind to myself, to accept any small step in the right direction as better than nothing.

Because it is. Even if we know we’re going to mess up, it’s okay to try. When we do mess up — and we will — it’s okay to try again.

I challenge you to do something, anything, that you’ve been avoiding due to the kinds of perfectionism listed above. Give yourself permission to do a crappy job. Get out there and take one step closer to where you want to be. Eventually, you’ll get there, but only if you have the courage to start — and restart — an imperfect journey.

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Use a signal for bad ADHD behavior…and don’t forget to laugh.

Sometimes — maybe even most times — we don’t realize we’re making a scene until it’s too late.

Many ADHD adults are plagued by emotional reactivity, impulsive outbursts, and overreactions. Dr. Michele Novotni, author of What does everybody else know that I don’t?: Social skills help for adults with ADHD, describes this behavior as “ready, fire, aim.” We progress so quickly from stimulus to response, we don’t understand the meaning of the phrase think before you speak.

This is a source of anger and embarrassment for our long-suffering spouses, especially in group social settings.

Angry outbursts at home leave our partners feeling hurt and confused. Paradoxically, these outbursts often lead to periods of calm, and we may not understand why our spouse is still hurting. “Your angry thoughts are like a flash flood,” writes Novotni, “rushing through gullies and then quickly drying up again.”

Granted, overreactions can be funny. I’ll never live down the time I placed my hands over my ears and wailed “I’m so confused!” in the middle of a discussion at the office. They can also propel a situation from mundane to catastrophic in a split second.

These moments don’t need to be a runaway train. You can install an emergency brake: a signal that communicates hey, you’re doing it again instantly and wordlessly.

Words can put an already volatile ADHD’er on the defensive, especially if you’re tempted to say exactly what you’re thinking. Look for a discreet hand sign or gesture. Make sure it’s something you both feel okay about and, ideally, will smirk at even if you’re angry. “Instead of criticism and belittlement, try humor,” suggests Gina Pera in Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

Our outburst signal was born years ago, at the dinner table. I don’t remember what provoked me. Maybe I’d had a long day at work. Maybe the salt shaker fell over. It doesn’t matter. What matters is I pounded my fist on the table so hard, several months’ worth of crumbs ejected from the crack where the leaves join together.

A tense silence stretched between us as we stared at the line of food bits bisecting the otherwise smooth surface.

Then we laughed until our sides hurt.

Now, when my husband sees me start to tumble into meltdown mode, he makes a tabletop with one hand, looks me in the eye, and lowers his other fist onto it.

Signs are objective, general, and can remind us of a funny moment — even if it’s a dark comedy.

Have you and your partner tried signals to help derail bad behavior? How do you send a message without making things worse?

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I can’t stand coins (things I never knew were ADHD)

coins

As someone over 30 who writes about what it’s like to have ADHD, I sometimes assume I’ve run out of surprises. It’s easy to think I’ve learned all the little ways ADHD affects my behavior.

That’s simply not true. It probably isn’t true for any of us.

The other day, I had a revelation — an, “I can’t believe it’s ADHD” moment — while paying for food at a local cafe.

For some reason, I paid with cash — something I rarely do — and noticed I could give the cashier a few coins to round out my change.

Coins.

I’ve never been able to abide coins. In my retail days, I’d suppress the urge to yell, throw a stapler, or punch the cash register while watching customers pluck coins one by one from overstuffed purses.

It was excruciating. I wondered how they could inflict this kind of torture on another human being. From then on, I resolved to use coins as seldom as possible. I apologized every time I found myself breaking this rule. When I sensed people looking at me as I counted my change, I withered inside and berated myself for causing such a holdup.

On this day at the cafe, it hit me just as I muttered my reflexive, “sorry!”: the coins have never been the problem.

It’s me.

I feel this way — I’ve always felt this way — because I have ADHD. When I count out a few coins to simplify the change a cashier will give me, I’m not forcing an awful feeling upon her. She’s probably not about to start tugging her collar and frantically glancing around the room, as though her skin might leap off her body if she’s made to wait any longer.

Well, unless she’s a 17-year-old with undiagnosed ADHD. But I can’t assume that of everyone I meet. I should probably just stop feeling guilty about giving cashiers exact change.

How about you? What surprising manifestations of ADHD have you discovered lately?

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Fired for my ADHD: have you been wrongfully terminated?

If ADHD has ever cost you a job — or if it’s about to cost you one — you may feel like your employer fired you for having ADHD. That’s illegal, right?

Well, yes and no.

Wrongful termination suits are inherently complicated, and perhaps more so for adults with ADHD. Yes, it can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and no, an employer can’t discriminate against you because of your diagnosis.

However, ADHD isn’t always covered under the ADA. The burden of proof is on you to disclose your condition to your employer and demonstrate impairments rising to the level of an ADA disability. You can request reasonable accommodations, but you also need to be able to perform the essential functions of your job without them.

To get a clearer picture, let’s make sure we understand those three key phrases: reasonable accommodations, essential functions, and disability.

Disclaimer: I’m a blogger, captain, not a lawyer! This article is based on my own research and my experience as a human resources manager. If you’re dealing with a serious employment issue, use this only as a starting point for getting qualified legal help. A blog post should never be used as honest-to-goodness legal advice.

documentation photo

What is a disability under the ADA?

The ADA doesn’t have a list of qualifying mental conditions and disorders, just a loose guideline: you have a disability if your ADHD “substantially limits” a major life activity compared to the general population. A few examples of major life activities: interacting with others, concentrating, working, learning, reading, or communicating. If you can prove you have substantial limitations compared to your neurotypical coworkers, then you have a disability.

However, every case of ADHD is different, and every job is different. At age 16, I got my ideal job in a bustling copy center. Most people quit within two weeks. I thrived, for the same reason many ADHD’ers thrive as emergency room doctors: I loved operating in a perpetual state of crisis.

Did I have a disability at that job? Nope. Years later, working in a self-directed administrative job, I phoned our Employee Assistance Program and started stimulant medication. It all depends on your brain, your job, and how the two interact.

If your situation does qualify you for ADA protection, you’re entitled to request reasonable accommodations from your employer.

What are reasonable accommodations?

On-the-job accommodations can include:

  • noise-canceling headphones
  • higher cubicle walls to reduce visual distractions
  • extra checklists and cheat sheets
  • authorization to work from home under certain circumstances

You can get as creative as you want, as long as your requests remain reasonable. “Reasonable,” in this case, means they don’t cause undue hardship for your employer. Some requests may be cost prohibitive or otherwise infeasible.

These measures are intended to reduce distractions that keep you from working, not enable you to do a job you’re otherwise unsuited for. You still need to be able to perform the essential functions of your job — with or without accommodations.

fired for ADHD

What are essential functions?

Having a disability doesn’t entitle you to any job you want. Reasonable accommodations can level the playing field, but you also need to find a job that’s right for you and your ADHD self.

Essential functions are the basic things you must do in a job — in other words, the reason that job exists.

For example, at a job managing office IT, I had to know basic computer repair and server maintenance. I was incapable of remembering anything reported to me verbally, which led to a ban on ambushing me at the coffee station. Remembering what people told me wasn’t the reason I came to work every day. That gave me a right to insist that any problem worth solving be written down.

In contrast, an executive assistant’s job exists to keep another person organized. She may need to communicate on her boss’s behalf and manage an overwhelming email inbox and calendar. An overlooked detail, social misstep, or time management failure could be catastrophic. If these skills aren’t your strong suit, it’s not the job for you.

Can you make a case for wrongful termination?

Wrongful termination for ADHD requires a perfect storm of circumstances. Before pointing any fingers, ask yourself:

  • Does your ADHD qualify as a disability according to the above definition?
  • Did you officially disclose your ADHD to your employer? Is it documented in your file?
  • Have you requested reasonable accommodations? Has this been documented (saved emails count)?
  • Even without reasonable accommodations, are you qualified to perform the essential functions of your job?

A true wrongful termination case for ADHD is rare, and the downsides of officially disclosing your diagnosis often outweigh the benefits.

Some tips for the future

Losing a job is terrible. Rather than suffering in vain, try to use what you’ve learned to make your next job more successful. Some things to remember:

  • If medication helps you manage your symptoms on the job, take it — and take it consistently
  • Weigh your decision to disclose your ADHD to an employer — it may serve you better to ask for accommodations without using the official language. For example, “I work better in a quiet environment — may I move my desk to the corner, out of the thoroughfare?”
  • Set yourself up for success. Find a job you like, one that allows you to capitalize on your strengths. Avoid jobs that place heavy demands on your weak points.
  • Document, document, document. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation again, start being proactive right away. Save emails, save notes from meetings with your supervisor, and if you want a record of something that was said to you informally, ask for it in an email.

What have you done to prevent your ADHD from costing you your job? Have you ever been fired? How do you think your ADHD impacted your employer’s decision to let you go?

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Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

life changing magic book reviewEver since I made the uncluttered space – uncluttered mind connection in my home, I’ve loved tidying up and paring down.

It’s still the most overwhelming project ever.

If you feel the same way and you’re looking for a different angle, try Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpFor those who find typical minimalism or organizing self-help books off-putting, prepare for a breath of fresh air. Kondo helps readers deal with the guilt, emotional attachment, and indecision that prevents so many of us from cleaning up our homes.

That said, even though the author insists you not do this, I’m giving you permission to take this book with a small grain of salt. More on that later.

First, the good: Kondo anthropomorphizes pretty much everything, which — to our American sensibilities — can feel almost silly. This may strike a pleasant chord with quirky, abstract-thinking ADHD readers. It got me out of my rut and out of my head just enough to make some tough decisions about my stuff. It’s easy to think circles around your complicated relationship with an object, but what if you just asked the object? What if it had feelings? How does that affect your decision to keep it in your home out of a sense of guilt or obligation? You get the idea.

life changing magic review pull quote

Likewise, Kondo’s central question — does it spark joy? — provides a refreshingly simple barometer, especially for sentimental items. Kondo gives the reader permission to let go. Those old love letters will live on inside us forever, and we don’t need to cling to them in the present.

The book’s prescriptive nature may put off some readers. Many of Kondo’s instructions sound like a tall order for larger families and/or people with small children. Including more of these families in the anecdotes may have made the book more approachable. From Kondo’s descriptions, most of her clients seemed like single people living on their own.

I wouldn’t write off the possibility of adapting the strategies to larger families, but Kondo insists on making no modifications to her program. I understand why  — she wants to promise her KonMari method will work for you — but I ended up feeling inadequate for the task. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say, and people with ADHD must be especially creative with their solutions. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up promises to change your life, but only if you do things exactly as the author says. I’m not 100% sold on that.

For whatever reason — family, financial, or just because you have ADHD — you may not feel like you can achieve a flawless implementation of Kondo’s method. I think that’s okay. This book makes an excellent companion to other organizing books, including the more nitty-gritty, but also somewhat drier, ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has, indeed, changed my life. It cleared some major roadblocks in my journey to a tidier home, and for that I’m quite grateful. It’s a fast and easy read, and well worth it for ADHD adults seeking a more tidy and tranquil home.

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How (and why) to tame your hyperfocus

People with ADHD can achieve almost superhuman levels of focus (referred to as hyperfocus) in some situations, yet none at all in others.  That’s because ADHD isn’t an attention deficit, but a broken attention regulation system.

bomb timer

Hyperfocus is our secret superpower. Often, it’s also our undoing. Capable of an amazing state of flow, we’re unstoppable, and it’s easy to get ‘sucked in.’ That’s why it’s so important to reign in our hyperfocus: unstoppable even to ourselves, we become a runaway train…and we all know how that ends.

Unchecked, hyperfocusing ADHD’ers neglect all other responsibilities. Work, school, family, or romantic relationships may suffer. Health may decline due to frequent all-nighters and missed meals (have you ever gotten in the zone and forgotten to eat?).

The good news is, you can learn to let your hyperfocus run wild in a controlled environment. It’s not easy, but here are some tips to get you started.

Know your triggers and risky behaviors

Keep a log of activities that run away with you. What time of day was it? What else was going on?

Eventually, you’ll see a pattern. For example: I don’t particularly like sewing, but it’s one of the few projects that gets me out of control, always wanting to eliminate one more rough edge. When I’m tired or frustrated, I’m more likely to waste time on Facebook because my brain can’t get in gear.

Know yourself. Know when you’re more likely to lose control, even if you don’t necessarily feel like it’s a bad thing (“sure I went to bed at 3:00 a.m., but I got so much done!”)

Limit time spent on high-risk activities

In her habits book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin tells us to “decide not to decide.”

In other words, set boundaries ahead of time and commit to sticking to them. For example:

  • Only one one-hour or two half-hour television shows per night
  • Never open Facebook after 9:30 p.m.
  • Don’t start a new computer programming task within one hour of bedtime

Don’t let your brain talk you out of it. It will tell you things like:

  • “If you just do this one little thing, you can get the program working”
  • “If you sew this side seam, you’ll just have the bottom hem to do tomorrow”
  • “It’s only 25 more minutes, and we need to watch the resolution of this cliffhanger.

There will always be one more thing, even after that one more thing.

Decide not to decide.

You also need breaks — ideally, before you think you need them. Read up on the Pomodoro Technique, which advocates a system of regularly spaced short and long breaks to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

Set a timer. Don’t trust yourself to watch the clock, or even to remember time exists.

If you share an office space, you may want to use a desktop app like Tomighty. At home, we love Suck UK’s adorable — and very loud — bomb timerThe Time Timer provides an excellent visual representation of time, and its ending bell is soft enough to use in a shared space.

Whatever you do, get up and stretch for a few minutes every half hour or so. It’ll break the spell and remind you of the real world — and the people in it who count on you.

Enlist help

Make agreements with family, colleagues, or helpful friends. Tell them to be persistent, even if you resist, make excuses, or tell them to go ahead to the meeting and you’ll be right behind them. Agree ahead of time that this is unacceptable behavior, and ask them to remind you whenever necessary.

Also, remember: you’ve asked this person for their help and support because you’re struggling with self-regulation. Try to listen, cooperate, and be gracious.

Use gentle reminders that involve the senses

If you’re trying to break the spell of someone else’s hyperfocus, avoid getting angry. The ADHD person isn’t fully present in this interaction. They may not remember a conversation that occurs during hyperfocus, and they may not even notice anything happening around them.

Because hyperfocus takes us so deep into the zone, we often need more than a simple, “time to leave for dinner — now.” Create a sensory event to bring consciousness back to the real world. Turn the lights off, provide a gentle touch on the arm or shoulder, or set a timer with a loud bell. If an electronic device is involved, turn it off — but only if you’ve agreed beforehand that this is okay!

You can do this for yourself, too, especially if you invest in something like a WeMo switch or, if you want to go simple, a lamp timer that will turn off the lights or computer at a predetermined time. Apps and browser extensions — like the Productivity Owl for Google Chrome — can help limit time on specific websites.

How about you? Do you struggle with hyperfocus? What tools and tricks have worked for you?

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Is homeschooling right for your family?

Last week, we heard from Meg about homeschooling her oldest child, who has ADHD. Figuring out whether homeschooling is right for your family can be overwhelming. Checking in with Meg as we go, let’s explore a few questions you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.

home schooling

photo credit: Lynde Pratt

Do you have time?

ADHD is highly heritable. If a child has it, there’s a 30-40% chance at least one parent has it, too. We ADHD’ers are notoriously time-blind, making it hard for us to look before we leap.

You need at least one full-time homeschooling parent,” Meg warns. She works part-time managing her own business while her husband works full-time. For now they divide teaching duties to form two halves of a whole.

If you’re already feeling frantic, over-committed, or just too busy most of the time, something will need to give. Force yourself to imagine the day-to-day grind of your new homeschooling life. Do this several times, and with as much detail as possible. Fight your natural tendency to say “oh, I’ll figure it out.” ADHD severely impairs your ability to think through long-term consequences of your actions, and it’s your responsibility to counteract that.

“[Homeschooling] isn’t something you squeeze into your day,” Meg reminds us, “it’s a lifestyle.” Make sure that feels okay with you.

Do you have money?

You don’t have to pay for an expensive curriculum, but newbies may appreciate the structure at first, if only to teach them what does and doesn’t work for their child.

Don’t forget the other costs associated with homeschooling, either. Ideally, you’ll want to take your child on regular field trips, many of which cost money. Group activities, like karate or Boy Scouts, provide vital social outlets for homeschoolers.

And there’s that prickly time question again: will you need to hire help for household chores?  ADHD adults often struggle with household maintenance, and adding to your responsibilities at home may force the issue. Meg’s family discovered they’ll need to pay around $300 per month for cleaning help. “We have two other children and a large, old house/property that requires a ton of maintenance,” she explains. “There’s too much on our plates right now.”

Have you included your child in the decision?

If you haven’t read Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting, I recommend it before proceeding with your homeschooling decision. In business and in parenting, buy-in is critical — and too often overlooked. Your child, no matter his age, needs to feel like an important part of the process. Homeschooling is something you’ll do as a team. If he lacks ownership in this decision, you’ll have a very hard time indeed.

How’s your ADHD management?

Homeschooling requires some minor red tape, but it’s “no big deal,” says Meg, thanks to copious online resources.

Like so many things, poorly managed adult ADHD will make this easier said than done. In Pennsylvania, where Meg’s family lives,  you must keep records for 185 learning days each year (these can include field trip days).  Many families hire a certified teacher to review these records annually. Parents must also notify the school district of their intent to homeschool via an affidavit at the beginning of the year. These steps aren’t difficult, but you’ll need to remember to keep records and complete time-sensitive tasks every year.

Adult ADHD can also cause impatience, irritability, and strained family relations, not to mention poor social skills extending far beyond your front door. Be honest with yourself: will you be able to work with your child, often enduring intense frustration on both sides, while maintaining a healthy relationship? Will you be able to tolerate being together all day? Are you capable of making the necessary social connections with other parents to cultivate friends for your child?

Is school really the problem?

Even if you send your child to traditional school, you’re not off the hook: just ask any parent who’s tried to get everyone out the door in the morning. Then there’s checking in on homework, fielding teacher concerns, attending disciplinary meetings (my parents especially loved those), and helping your child develop coping mechanisms to succeed in a learning environment that seems utterly incompatible with ADHD.

It’s tempting to throw up your hands rather than tackle these challenges. Just remember, homeschooling won’t make the root issues go away, it’ll just give you a different set of puzzles. (I’m reminded of when, as a beginning skier, I got frustrated with the learning curve and decided a snowboard would solve all my problems.)

“I don’t have leisure or rest anymore,” confesses Meg. This is part of her motivation for hiring someone to help around the house. “It’s an unhealthy way to live…I don’t plan to live this way forever, but for now it is what it is. When you believe you’re doing the right thing, you make it work at any personal expense.”

Meg’s steadfast belief that this is the right thing for her son keeps her going when things get tough. If that’s the case for you, too, that’s great. But do some soul searching before pulling your kiddo out of school. Make sure you’re truly acting in your child’s long-term best interest, not out of desperation to offload a set of overwhelming challenges.

Have you considered homeschooling? What would you like to say to parents considering teaching a child at home?

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