ADHD isn’t necessarily a condition that qualifies a kid as having “special needs” but it’s part of Daniel’s mix so I am including it here.
So… Daniel was diagnosed with ADHD a year ago. I used to say that ADHD was overly diagnosed and that parents needed to control their kids better… and then I gave birth to a kid with no off switch. Oops.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. (Source: NIMH page on ADHD)
What this actually means: In Daniel’s case, it’s more on the hyperactivity/inattention side of things though he can be impulsive as well. Mostly, he just doesn’t have an off switch so it used to be really hard to get him to calm down to sleep at night. He has gotten better with age but he still has a hard time focusing on tasks at hand.
How we treat it: We medicate him, which can be a controversial decision because I encounter people who make snippy comments about whether I made the decision for Daniel’s sake or for mine. What I’d love to tell them is that if they are so sure that my decision is wrong, they can come and take over my life and take over bedtime with him. They can also try to get things done while there’s a kid bouncing off the walls. On medication, he can focus on things for a longer period of time, which helps with school but also helps at home where I can get stuff done when I’m not having to deal with a kid berzerking around the house. (Then again, it helps to not be having to restrict him to one room like we did when we were living with my former in-laws. Kiddo hates being restrained or restricted and he had serious cabin fever.) He also sleeps better and is happier overall on medication.
Daniel takes an extended-release form of Adderall in the morning and a low dose of Clonidine and a Melatonin pill at night. He used to not be able to swallow pills well and after trying and failing to be able to give him the powder in the Adderall XR capsule or the pulverized powder of a Clonidine tablet, we started giving him his meds with a spoonful of peanut butter. He still hated taking the pills for a long time so we (read: my mom and I and sometimes my dad) used to have to restrain him and give them to him with some M&M’s. He finally stopped fighting us this spring though he still expects the M&M’s which I am currently phasing out.
How you can help out friends with kids in the same situation: Understand that the decision they make might not be the one you would make and they probably don’t need to hear about how ADHD is a creation of the pharmaceutical industry. (Can you tell how many stupid comments I get from what I’ve said over the last few days? Seriously, some people have no filters on their mouths.)
Otherwise, ask if there’s something you can come and help with like doing dishes or folding laundry because your friend might be in the situation where their kid is trying to find things to do (like pry up the flooring) while the parent is otherwise occupied because they’re bored.