Thursday, July 12, 2012

My part to change an imperfect world - Spreading the word about ADHD

ABC 20/20 story April 2012
Back in April I saw a 20/20 story about how Human Resources at different places still discriminate against people, and one topic that struck me hard was the fact that they still avoid hiring Moms. The story mentioned having the company rep walk out with the candidate all the way to their car to see if they could notice a baby seat or booster chair in the car. Really? People still do that? What a world we live in, huh?

I am doing my part to take away that stigma as well. I talk about being a working mom to everyone at work. They can see how being a mom does not take away from the quality of work I do. They can see I have no qualms about asking for a day off because I need to take my child to a doctor’s appointment, or the dentist, or leave early to go to their holiday recital, because I can still come back the next day and work just as hard to make up for my time. I actually think I work harder BECAUSE I am a MOM, because I know I will take time off, or call in sick when my child is not well, so I make sure my business is taken care off before I leave or in case I can’t come in. And many other Moms and Dads have done the same here in the Bay Area where I live. Coming from Texas and to Northern California I was able to see how the culture over here was much more family friendly. And this did not happen over night. This happened because of people talking and writing about their family life, making it a priority to have certain accommodations, not being ashamed of putting family ahead of work.

I make mention of this because I feel a lot more people would relate to fighting for work/life balance then they would about something more specific to me or my family.

TIME Magazine - Are you Mom enough? May 2012

Back in May, not long after the famous (and for some, the “infamous”) cover photo of TIME with the breastfeeding Mom and the article about “attachment parenting”, I read a criticism about the image and its effect on the child in it when he grew up. The article spoke about how this child may some day be a regretful adult looking back at this picture, wishing it had never happened. Maybe so, but maybe not.

These parents (and I don’t only mention the Mom as both Dad and Mom agreed to the publication) have strong opinions about attachment parenting, and about how they feel the message needs to be out there, that it is OK to breastfeed past a certain age, and the important bonding that occurs, etc. etc. I will withhold my own opinions about attachment parenting, as that is not the point of my mentioning it. What IS the point is that I am confident that with such strong beliefs they will continue to talk about how they parent and how they decided to speak out about it, and this child may very well be a very proud adult that decides to also follow attachment parenting and continue to be a “poster-adult” for the cause.

That is how I feel about talking and writing publicly about what my family faces every day because of our ADHD. I say “our” even though I don’t have ADHD, but when 3 out of 4 in my family have it is like I have it too.

I have written about how my husband was diagnosed with ADHD since he was a baby (yes, it was that obvious and severe with him!). I have also written about how hard it was for both him and I to notice the same symptoms in my daughter since she was little, and then finally face the music and get her evaluated and diagnosed. The every day things are still hard, but once you have gotten as far as getting informed and getting diagnosed, the rest is a lot easier. My son has also recently gotten evaluated and diagnosed as ADHD, but this time around it wasn’t as emotional or hard to take.

I have also learned to talk with my kids’ teachers about what accommodation they need and what they don’t, and I happen to be very proud of the fact that they will talk to people about their symptoms and how they cope with them in a very informed and nonchalant fashion. Why should they act any other way?

I have admitted before that I was afraid to get my daughter diagnosed because I was afraid of having her be labeled, but after getting much more informed and weighing the pros and cons, if a label is what they need to get the accommodations they deserve and for their self-esteem not to suffer as much then so be it.

Many ADHD posts on my own blog, So Perf!

We live in an imperfect world, and it is up to us to change it. In a perfect world people wouldn’t care if you are a Parent to make a hiring decision. In a perfect world they wouldn’t care if a 4 year old were still breastfeeding or doing it in public. In a perfect world they wouldn’t care if you were ADHD or not.

In a perfect world they would see that most parents are super multitaskers and an asset. In a perfect world we would see breastfeeding more naturally and not so shocking, regardless of age or place. In a perfect world they would notice an ADHD symptom and know exactly why it is happening and how to address it and how to even help (like giving them time and space to get over a hurdle). In a perfect world their school wouldn’t need a parent to ask for a special accommodation or plan, because they would simply know that not all kids are alike and they ALL (even those without ADHD) learn differently.

What I am doing by writing about what we as a family go through and how we handle things is what I consider my part to change this imperfect world, if only a little bit at a time.

For however long ADHD has been acknowledged, and people hear about it on TV and in newspapers, the vast majority of people know nothing more than it is a label for someone who gets easily distracted and is more active than most. And that is about as much as I knew about it for over 10 years of being with my husband, and how we suffered for that lack of knowledge. Why would I want others to go through the same struggles that ignorance causes, lack of understanding and empathy, and the heartache?

In the few years my daughter has been diagnosed, the people we interact with at her school have increased their knowledge and understanding of ADHD through us. Some parents have even taken the extremely hard step of taking their kids to get evaluated, and some even came back with an ADHD diagnosis. I think that is a major accomplishment because my daughter struggled with school, her self-esteem, and her social skills simply because we had not diagnosed her. Since then she has been doing incredibly well. Why would I want another child to suffer along several years with ADHD without the right tools to help them?

I am proud that we went to get my son evaluated a whole year sooner than my daughter. We had our suspicions about him around the same time my daughter was diagnosed, but we wanted to give him a chance to mature and either show it was just his early age or that it indeed was ADHD, but at least we did not struggle with the fear of taking him to the doctor. It was easier now that we had all the information.

ADHD is found in families, but no specific gene has yet been determined. Odds are that my grandchildren will be ADHD. In a perfect world, my kids will know so much more about this, their spouses/partners will know as well and not from my family informing them, and my grandkids will have all that my husband didn’t; understanding from others, empathy, and ready for success from the get-go.

I am working towards my perfect world.

What are you doing to help change this imperfect world?

Rossana G-A

FTC Disclaimer: I am not compensated to write this post.

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