My 16 year old daughter was diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder and then, at the age of 57, so was I. A lifetime of struggle was placed into a context that made sense of a lot of failure and frustration. This blog documents and celebrates what has happened to me since.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

a constant struggle....contstant and perpetual mindfulness

It's never licked.

It will last for as long as I do.

On our way to a wedding yesterday I was navigating. The schematic map was a mirror image of what it would be for North and South to be oriented as they were on paper: The words "Portland" and "Coast" at the left and right hand ends of the line representing Highway 26 were opposite of where they should have been.

But the fact is that no one else of whom I know was puzzled because no one else had a problem getting there.

We were late by ten minutes because I didn't read the words--I just looked at the lines representing the roads and told my wife to turn south when we needed to turn north.


Attention to detail. Looking but not seeing what was really there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

new challenges

I am starting my own business...wowsers!

Sure. I am 60 years old, I have a daughter just started college, another four years behind her. I have a good job with good pay and good benefits. Hey, I think I'll become a consultant.

An accountant I talked to about handling my books argued with me about the wisdom of doing this but his wisdom was all dollars and cents and lacked sense or even a sense of what was at stake for me.

This raises a lot of issues for me, of course, but I want to comment on the ADD piece of this--and it's actually only one ADD piece of this, for me.

It's about transitions.

Everyone knows ADD is about attention span and impulse and all that. But few appreciate how much it's about the difficulty of making transitions. A therapist I know, who works with children, told me that ADD and ADHD folks make transitions like drivers shift gears without a clutch.

The truth of that is something I contend with every day. Short attention span and impulse control--sure, sure, sure. But I linger, sometimes, with a project, rather than move on to another. That's often as big a challenge for me.

The whole thing about starting a business--especially a one person business--implicates all the difficulties created by being ADD.

It's not about the dollars and the cents. It's about the sense, and the sense of it. It's about a lifetime of self developed therapy that takes the oddest forms, at times.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

..easier than parenting...

A friends sent me a collection of satirical billboards and in them was one that said "So much easier than parenting...Ritalin."

My first response to that was negative, as I am sure that most people feel when the problems they face in life are discounted by satire.

Ritalin, or any of the drugs used to even the playing field for people who are afflicted by the cluster of conditions grouped under ADD or ADHD, is indeed easier that parenting--as swimming is easier when an intervention removes the rocks from one's pockets. It's makes parenting easier in the same sense that a splint for a broken arm makes parenting a child who has one makes parenting that child easier, in the sense that an anti-biotic or an immunization makes parenting a child easier.

There are children who should not be medicated, who do not suffer from the maladies for which they are medicated, and so a drug regimen is not appropriate or helpful. But two points need to be made:

1. Ritalin is not a drug that "chills" a kid out and makes her easier to deal with, and

2. Ritalin, alone, is rarely effective even with kids suffering ADD or ADHD. In fact, behavioral therapy is the other half of the equation and, if not included, the course if treatment may well not work.

My daughter ran into a classmate this last week who, not knowing her condition, starting spouting what he no doubt heard his parents say over the dinner table--that there is no such thing as ADD or ADHD. And my wife heard a psychologist who works with children "riffing" about how middle class parents are unwilling to accept their children as they are, that they want some of diagnosis and treatment to make their children "better."

I went through about 57 years of my life untreated for ADD, pulling together various behavioral strategies to cope with the condition from self help and time organization books. When I was diagnosed, and given medication, things fell into place.

My daughters, both diagnosed but not having the better part of a life time of experience trying to figure out how to stay on task, how to transition, how to organize and move successfully through this culture, are now on medication and developing those behavioral strategies through a course of therapy, not "hit and miss" as I did. Their school performance, their life in general, is much more productive and happy than it was before the diagnosis and treatment.

"Placebo" said my daughter's class mate, the one who "knows" that there is no such thing as ADD or ADHD.



All you can do is tell the truth, manifest the truth, and wait for everyone else--mostly people who don't have any understanding of the situation except what they might have picked up from a two column inch story in a newspaper or from a professional nay-sayer--to catch up.

And, you know, an inoculation for chicken pox? Yeah--from cows, cow pox. It'll make you grow horns.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Graduation Time

One going to college, one going into high school...


And we all know that transitions are hard for those with the ADD/ADHD, so this last week or so has hit RR, LG and I with challenges.

RR has graduated from high school and is headed for that small Quaker college in North Carolina she wants to attend. It's the only college that she applied for--the ONLY one. Two years ago, at the time of her ADD diagnosis, we were thinking about "a year off" between high school and college for her. But between medication and therapy (aimed at organization and study skills) RR created a record of constantly improving academic improvement (3.5 this last semester) and successfully argued (to that small Quaker college) that this, and her passable entrance exam scores, justified admission despite an overall GPA that didn't make the cut. We were really wondering, two years ago, whether she would every walk across that stage and get a high school diploma and now there she goes...there she to college. College!!!

LG, on the other hand, was "promoted" from middle school to high school last night. LG has the "H" part of the diagnosis--she's ADHD. She is also one of most respected and popular kids in her class--and she's not a "babe." But she has a charisma (and one heck of a volleyball serve) that caused her peers to vote her the Martin Luther King Peacemaker Award last year, and her teachers and staff to vote her the recipient of an award given each year to students on the basis of leadership, academics, attitude, and extra curricular activities. She made the "lead off" speech of the promotion ceremony last night and, at the end, was one of four students who received the award I just described.

I am very pleased with them (I have that Quaker scruple against using the term "pride") but more than that I realize that our recognition of their situation--their condition (which they inherited from me)--has made all the difference in the world for them. I see children whose condition is not recognized and who go untreated, and I see them going slowly down the drain.

There is such a thing as ADD/ADHD, no matter what some people say, and it can be treated. The course of these children's lives will go one way or the other, depending on how their parents and their communities choose to deal with their conditions.

Hey, there is such a thing as ADD/ADHD. And if your children, after professional evaluation, test to be ADD/ADHD then go with the regimen and therapy designed to deal with it. You will be glad you took my advice. Your child's future is at stake.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

the clutch...

A psychologist I know who works a lot with children once told me that ADD prevents children from making transitions. He said that moving from one thing to another, for such children, is like shifting gears without a clutch.

I have thought about that simile a lot, especially when I have been trying to make a transition from one activity to another. It's a good description of what is going on with me. I often linger in an activity or while working on a project when it's time to move on because I am comfortable where I am, momentum carries me along. It seems like a lot of energy is required to move on as I should and I don't want to "get myself up" to do it.

There are always things to do--groundwork to be laid--before one gets to do that which one needs to accomplish. There are pencils to sharpen, or tools to gather. One does not, for example, simply take out the trash; one must first get a trash bag, then walk around the house to gather it from the various wastebaskets in the basement, on the first and then the second floor. Then, too, one must gather the recycling stuff (in our house it's in two rooms) haul it down and sort it. Then, and only then, does one actually "take out the trash."

When I am writing or reading all of that looks pretty daunting (and it looks so simple and easy laid out on the page like that) and so I want to stay with the writing or reading. That means that the time that is necessary to deal with the trash (twenty minutes or so) slips away and when I finally get into gear to do it I only have seven or eight minutes left. And since this is a part of the sequence of a Friday morning it both pushes the sequence into that ever so frequently attained condition of "late" and causes the performance of the task to deteriorate ("Well, the recycling can wait another week.")

This is a trivial example. Projects at work are subject to this same dynamic.

And it gets caught up in the procrastination. If there is a time in the future that I can imagine that I will do some task now facing me then I will tend to postpone it until that future time--not acknowledging, or not remembering, even, that I have already procrastinated some other task into that time slot or the almost inevitability that some other task, at that time, will claim it.

I can hear my father say, at this point, "Well, so just do it now," as he would say "Get off your fundamental--he, the father of boys, would use another term--and take out the trash." But rationality doesn't always enter in to it. In fact, unless one is working in a self therapeutic (what I guess my dad would call "disciplined") mode rationality never enters into it. It's about inertia, and about impulse.

Sometimes it seems that knowledge and insight is not enough to change behavior but I think it might be that it is--at least it is if it leads to "practice." It doesn't lead to instant change, and it doesn't change things in and of itself, I know that, now. I used to say that understanding ballistics will not prevent one from dying of a gun shot wound, and I think that's true. But I also think that insight into how one operates--or fails to operate successfully--is not the same thing.

Perhaps the most useful insight I have--in the light of which I do not always manage to operate--is that motivation/inspiration comes after, and not before, a task is begun. At least, that is true when it is not a task undertaken on an impulse--and impulse which too often arises as the result of a lack of motivation/inspiration to get off of my fundamental and do something else that I need to do. Maybe, better stated, it's the lack of motivation/inspiration to lay the groundwork--tedious, tedious groundwork--to do something I need to do.

Perhaps it is that laying of the groundwork that is the missing clutch. Perhaps I have habitually tried to move right into the task itself, without doing the groundwork (because I didn't think of the groundwork as part of the task), I have learned that it's "hard" to move into a new task and more pleasant to stay where I am.

About Me

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I am a convinced Beanite Friend, a member of Bridge City Friends Meeting, Willamette Quarterly Meeting and North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Notwithstanding the doubts of some who claim the name, I am a Christian who does a Buddhist practice and believes that God talks to everyone, all the time. I have worked in the judicial branch of government, as well as being a trial lawyer, a public school teacher (counselor and coach), a kite merchant, and a Marine Corp Sergeant. I am currently working as a consultant to public and private agencies on issues of child welfare, juvenile justice, and substance abuse treatment courts.