Encouragement for Parents of Kids with ADHD or Learning Disabilities

By: Jennifer Degler

Are you worried about your child’s future because he or she has ADHD or learning disabilities or, as is often the case, both ADHD and LD? When our son, Jake, was diagnosed as a six-year-old with reading, writing, and math learning disabilities, plus ADHD, my mind went into overdrive creating scary future scenarios.

Because his first evaluation showed that he was at significant risk of complete reading failure, I envisioned him never learning to read. My mind jumped to “What if the other kids make fun of him? What if the teachers don’t see what a sweet, smart boy he is? How will he ever write a paper in high school or complete a job application? There’s no way he can hold down a real job if he can’t even learn the alphabet! And college is just an impossibility.”

Never mind that he was six-years-old at the time—my imagination stretched far into the foggy future and created a soggy parade of worst-case scenarios. And I decided I was the only person who could prevent all those scary scenarios from happening.

 

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The week after we got his first evaluation results, I decided to become an ADHD/LD expert so I checked a stack of ADHD and LD books out of the library and scanned through most of them (the internet was just getting started back then). My husband came home from work to find me in tears surrounded by books. I wailed, “We should never have had children! Both our fathers are left-handed which is associated with learning disabilities. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?” Jeff listened to me rant and then wisely suggested, “Honey, put the books away. You don’t need to know everything about everything right now.”

Next, we took Jake three times a week after school for 18 months of specialized work with a reading specialist. When I investigated the reading program she was using, my mind jumped to “I could get certified in this reading program and then I could help Jake too!” When I shared my idea with his reading specialist, she wisely suggested, “Jake only has one mom. Maybe it would be best for you to do what only you can do. Just be his mom. He’s going to need your support as his mom.”

Are you getting the picture? My worries were relentlessly driving me to do more, more, more, to be more, more, more for Jake. And it’s hard to enjoy your child today when you are desperately trying to control his future.

Fortunately, God provided a helpful quote by author Elisabeth Elliot: “Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me today.”

Whoa, that is exactly what I had been doing with Jake! I was peering anxiously into his foggy future and not seeing clearly what I needed to do today for him. He was six, and six-year-olds don’t need to be able to fill out job applications or write term papers. Someday he would, but right now—today—he needed a mom who would help build Lego projects, read bedtime stories, and teach him to look before he crossed the street. He didn’t need a mom who was a reading specialist and ADHD/LD expert.

My requirements for today were “Be the mom of who Jake is today.” And for the most part, he was doing fine as a six-year-old. He was struggling to read, write, do math, and sit still, but he was a sunny, fun, loving, bright boy who made friends easily and obeyed his teachers.

I wish I could tell you that I never worried again about Jake’s future but that wouldn’t be true. Raising a child with ADHD and learning disabilities is challenging. Some days Jeff and I were incredibly proud of Jake’s hard work and progress. Other days we wanted to wring his neck.

I continued to wrestle with scary thoughts about his future, but gradually those thoughts came less frequently as I saw God provide over and over for Jake. My faith is much stronger today because I raised a child with challenges. Your faith will be stronger when you see what God is going to do for your ADHD or LD child. You will also be a more empathetic and less judgmental person because of who you are raising.

As I write this blog post today, our son is starting his junior year of college majoring in Occupational Safety. He is doing incredibly well and has earned straight A’s several semesters. We would not have believed this possible the day we received his evaluation in kindergarten. We had our doubts when he was lackadaisical about his grades in 9th and 10th grade. But even then, he was for the most part doing fine as a 14 and 15-year-old. He was struggling to organize his schedule and turn in homework, but he was (as always) a sunny, fun, loving, bright boy who made friends easily and obeyed his teachers.

Be encouraged, Mom and Dad. Your child’s future is very likely to be so much better than you can imagine right now.

 

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Bio: Jennifer Degler, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, life coach, speaker, and author.  She is also the founder of Healthy Relationships Rx and CWIVES.

Comments 8

  1. Leslie Ellis
    August 24, 2017

    What an absolutely wonderful post. I plan to share it today. Your words are along the line of what I have shared with parents throughout my teaching career. Wise words, Jennifer, very wise indeed.

    1. Jennifer Degler
      August 24, 2017

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. Kim Ferwalt
    August 24, 2017

    Thank you, Jennifer! I have struggled with the same exact things since Haden was diagnosed with ADD/LD at 6 years too. What a sigh of relief your article has just given me. Way to go, Jake!!!

    1. Jennifer Degler
      August 24, 2017

      It’s good to know we are not alone in this journey, Kim. 🙂

  3. Penny
    August 24, 2017

    “…it’s hard to enjoy your child today when you are desperately trying to control his future.”

    YES!!!!!

    Thanks so much for sharing your happy “ending.” I needed the encouragement as my son starts high school Monday. 😉

    Penny Williams
    Author of “The Insider’s Guide to ADHD,” “What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD,” and “Boy Without Instructions”
    Parent of 2e teen with ADHD, autism, and LDs
    ParentingADHDandAutism.com

  4. Donna
    August 25, 2017

    Wonderful story. Thanks for being so transparent and sharing your story. This a good lesson for all parents, myself included.

  5. Lisa
    August 25, 2017

    One of the things I admired most about Jeff and Jennifer raising Jake is, they allowed him to be Jake. Jake loved nature and adventure, was a VERY early morning person, and had the ability to try things outside the box. As parents sometimes we are more worried about what other people think of our kids, then how are kids feel about themselves. KUDOS!

  6. Sarah
    September 2, 2017

    Thank you for writing this. I often feel like I’m alone in my fight to prove that my oldest son, Braydn, isn’t just a problem child. He was diagnosed at 6 in last half of 1st grade. His 1st grade teacher just wanted him medicated to calm him down so he would “quit being so problematic.” I knew he was bored. He started school in a different county and they were teaching him the same stiff in 1st grade that he had done in kindergarten in the other county. When I tried to explain this I was brushed off. The next year in 2nd grade I finally got 1 person in the school to listen and it ended with him being advanced to 3rd grade. We still had problems with certain people seeing him as problematic. Now he’s in 4th grade and after 2 years of being told yes he’s smart but his behaviour isn’t great I finally feel as though he has a teacher who is going to fight with me to ensure he’s not seen as a problem child. Children with ADHD should never be seen as problematic. It’s not their faults. As parents and educators we should be building these children up to believe they can do anything.

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