I asked Sarah, Stuart and Lauren to share a little day-to-day information so you can see just how ADHD effects life as we know it.
What is a typical morning routine?
Coffee is needed to kick-start me. I don’t do breakfast but I do “need” a coffee before the madness starts. Stuart is usually very bouncy and loud in the morning (before medication). He can get very argumentative and torments his sister and the cats. It’s often a battle to get him to do as I ask. We do have rare days when everything just fits well. So instead I usually have to point Stuart in the right direction with incentives, like a cup of tea or a threat of privileges (PC, TV, etc). Often I’m hurrying Stuart out the door, handing him his tablets on the way, so that they are working by the time he gets to school.
Lauren tends to get on with things in her own time.
I then either have to dash around myself if I have things to do early or I get the luxury of another coffee and maybe some quick housework done before going out.
Weekends are much more relaxed unless we have to go out.
What’s for mealtimes? Do you have to regulate food? In what way?
I don’t tend to have breakfast, I usually have food around 11am. I function better this way. Stuart needs poking about breakfast otherwise he’d forget, but I don’t force it if he’s not hungry. But he does like Pain au chocolate, and at weekends fried egg sandwiches, or a cooked breakfast. Lauren likes crumpets, pain au chocolate and bacon sandwiches.
I do have to watch what Stuart eats, so I avoid most cereals that are aimed at children as these can be full of stuff that make his ADHD worse. I have to avoid sweeteners, annatto colouring, paprika and ginger, MSG, Anthocyanins, no caffeine and anything artificial.
Stuart has got used to not having these foods, so he has got to know what to have and not have. Although sometimes he’s allowed a treat and I allow some restricted food, in moderation. The effects are usually short-lived.
Drinks can be very difficult as most sugar-free styles have sweeteners in them and they are a BIG NO because they have a really bad effect on Stuart. He has been drinking cups of tea since he was about 7 years old after learning they were often the only safe option for him when we went out anywhere.
I avoided taking him to restaurants/pubs/café’s for dinner when he was younger because I couldn’t guarantee what he was eating but as he is getting older he is able to manage himself when he is bouncy and not become difficult towards others. Food plays a big part in our life, any new products have to have their ingredients checked out before I even contemplate trying them. Stuart has school meals because they are now a lot more friendlier. If Stuart has food that is no good for him at lunchtime, his afternoon tends to be difficult.
Do you usually plan your day?
Yes, although it’s a general plan that can be changed depending on stuff and not just Stuarts ADHD either. Weekdays when the kids are at school tend to be the same, up, school and the evenings follow a weekly pattern. This does help Stuart to know what day it is and what is planned. Monday nights are spent with their Dad. Tuesdays Stuart goes to Warhammer in town, Wednesdays they have a babysitter who does things with them and I get to escape to the pub, Thursdays is Scouts and Fridays is chill. Weekends are planned during the week and its normally chill and tidying up until they go to their Dad’s on a Saturday and then more relaxing on a Sunday or a day out. I tend to arrange a day out once a month as Stuart’s bounciness builds up and this is a good release for him.
Are you usually able to get everything done you want to in a day?
No and this frustrates me a lot, I am always playing catch up with jobs and seem to be treading water in that slowly jobs are getting done and slowly more appear but it’s a fine line in which an avalanche of jobs could appear and I would not be able to get through them as quickly as I would like. Stuart was given a project to do at the start of this term and I had to drop things on my list to ensure he gets this project done and in on time, whereas with Lauren you can supervise her but allow her to do the work.
With Stuart you have to sit with him, prod him, give him ideas that will then allow him to get his own ideas. I have sat with him each time he has been working on his project to ensure that he is following what the school wants and that the brilliant ideas he is coming up with are then put in legible sentences with correct grammar. This takes around 2 hours a time and therefore it’s two hours lost that could be used doing other things that need doing.
Stuart got an A mark for his project and an award. All that hard work was worth it!
What kind of problems, if any do you face?
Although Stuarts ADHD is not a problem it causes them. Stuart cannot play out with other children because they do not understand him and Stuart will be picked on or seen as a bully. Also school are more involved with Stuart and although this is not a problem, the other children see him as different and this causes problems within school. When Stuart goes to Scouts I cannot relax until he is home and I appreciate all parents go through this but I have the added thought of is it because of his ADHD or just a normal boy issue that might get in the way.
When Stuart starts his new school I am already having to contemplate what might happen. What may I be dealing with regarding Stuart and his transition because he cannot handle change very well and this may make life more difficult for a while. I would like a more tidy house and have had to come to terms with the fact having Stuart at home taking up more time and energy than a normal 11 year old means this will not happen. The rest of my life is taken up with the normal problems all parents of “teenagers” face.
What’s the best thing about a day with Stuart and Lauren?
With Stuart it’s what he comes out with. Here are a few examples of what he has said over the years and made the stress worth it:
- “I need to get home before I digest“, said when he was around 8 years old and what he meant was dehydrate, he had been learning about it in school that day but because of the mix up of words I was of course giggling like a lunatic.
- “but I don’t want an ice cream when it’s hot, it will melt“, said when he was 6 after being refused an ice cream on the grounds it was too cold.
- “are all people on bikes practicing for the Olympics” said just last month after seeing lots of them whilst going to and from a day out.
With Lauren we’re currently going through the “tweenage” years she is proving difficult at the minute to the point you daren’t look sometimes! I think what I like the most (and as horrible as it sounds this is the truth) it’s the fact she is no trouble and I don’t have as much worry about her. She knows to take her mobile when she goes out for me to be able to contact her and has maturity to make the right choices when she is out. Lauren is also an amazing cook even at the age of 10 and makes some mean biscuits and cakes.
Is Stuart in mainstream school? Is this choice or circumstances, and is it what you prefer?
Stuart is in mainstream but with a high level of support, he has a learning mentor, separate behaviour and education specialist teachers and generally every adult in school is watching him. When he moves up in September he will be going into a form of just 10 students with a form tutor and additional support teacher with them at all times. This is to help him during the transition and give him the space and time to adjust with full support. I was very concerned about what the senior school would offer because with support Stuart can be in a mainstream school and it is what I prefer as it minimises the differences between Stuart and other children. Again the school are going to work with Stuart to eventually get him into a full size class but allowing him the support he needs. I now feel a lot happier about Stuart moving up knowing just how much support her will have.
What are their favourite subjects? Why?
Lauren likes numeracy because she likes doing sums (her words).
Stuart likes any subject that has a topic of army or war. This means it could be any subject from English to history or even science. If the teacher has a lesson that interests Stuart then they are in for an easy lesson but if it doesn’t interest him the lesson becomes very difficult with Stuart loosing interest, getting distracted and distracting others.
How does ADHD effect Stuart’s schooling? Has there been an effect on Lauren’s schooling?
Both Stuart and Lauren have been greatly affected with schooling because of Stuarts ADHD, until Stuart went on the medication getting them to read their books was impossible, Stuart refused point-blank and I couldn’t sit with Lauren and read hers with her because Stuart would be causing havoc in the house. Once he was on the medication it was slightly easier.
Because of the lack of support available at home Lauren has struggled to be on the same level of the
rest of her class, although admittedly Lauren doesn’t actually try and needs a lot of encouragement to be able to do what she is capable of, is this because of Stuarts ADHD or just laziness? I don’t know.
Stuart for the first two years of school learned nothing, this was not due to anyone’s fault but the school had enough trouble just keeping Stuart in his classroom never mind getting him to do the work the rest of the class were doing. Once on the medication he was able to sit down and do the work but had 2 years to catch up on, however within 8 weeks he had caught up a lot. He is not necessarily in the bottom of the class in regards to levels but he is in the lower section. Without the ADHD I do believe that the earlier years would have been easier and I would have gotten both me and the kids into the habit of more reading, more encouragement and support with developing their education.
Are there any other health concerns connected with ADHD that you have been worried about?
Health? No, however before the medication Stuart had no fear of anything (except tall grass and trees) and didn’t see himself as different. Since going on the tablets he has become anxious and afraid of pretty much anything and needs a lot of coaxing to do things, once he has done them however the anxiety is lower and this is something that I am sure won’t have a damaging effect on him. The fact he feels different will stay with him for his life and I spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep his self-esteem high. I have sought out counselling for Stuart to ensure that he grows up knowing he is no more different than anyone else and that there is no such thing as normal, I have also checked in with his senior school that should he request it counselling is available there.
What time is bed? What kind of routine do you have?
The children go to their rooms for 9pm, they are then not allowed back downstairs apart from going to the toilet. This means I get some time to myself to start looking for my marbles! Stuart usually watches a film and Lauren reads or does a word search.
What is the biggest effect of ADHD on your, and the kids lives?
I believe our whole lives would have been different without ADHD, less stressful, tidier house, a better educational start for the kids, the possibility of me not having Chronic Fatigue. But then I wouldn’t have Stuart but a different child and maybe would not have been the parent I am, I learned very early on that I had to deal with Stuart differently to how I would have possibly handled things.
What are the biggest restrictions that you and the kids face?
I honestly think that its society that creates the restrictions on us rather than ourselves doing it. Because society dictates, tries to compartmentalise and influence people they have deemed that Stuart is different and rather than allowing him to be himself and find a way for him to work in society they have to give him the label ADHD saying that he is not normal because he doesn’t have the same attention span or activity levels of other people around him. It is because of society I have had to look to medication for Stuart to allow him to be ‘normal’ and function within society’s requirements. Without the medication and being allowed to do what he wanted Stuart would have no problems, however because he has to do things that he doesn’t want battles ensue and life becomes very stressful and difficult for all people involved.
What are your words of wisdom as a Mother who has a child with ADHD?
Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff! Basically say goodbye to any idea of a calm peaceful tidy house or choose to allow your child to not conform to society and do what they want for that peaceful quiet tidy house. Pick your battles, is it really important or is it worth letting go because there is another thing you just have to deal with that will cause a battle. For the sake of your sanity (whats left of it) control their diet, take out all the crap and also look at natural things that might set the child off. Read up on ADHD and what makes the child tic, what helps and what hinders them. If you believe your child has ADHD then get it checked out, don’t accept the doctors/health visitors/health services first answers (which is generally that its all the fault of the parents for various different reasons), get the school on board too and fight to get what your child needs because once they have the right diagnosis, help, medication life can become a lot better and you can have a quality of life with your child/children. Learn to laugh, watch comedy films, read funny emails… that’s what has helped me get through the tough times without going too much insane.
Incidentally when I next visit my friend Jen she will have a very large coffee and chocolate muffin in for me!!