Resources for ADHD in children
April 9, 2014 8:37 PM   Subscribe

So... I am 99% positive that my three-and-a-half year old daughter has an ADHD diagnoses in her future. She is the poster child for literally every symptom on the "10 early signs" list, and family members/care providers/random aquaintences have all asked "do you think...?" So while of course I will eventually do the appropriate screenings etc - what I'm looking for here are anecdotes, experiences, research and strategies for a parent of a child with ADHD (or, you know, who exhibits all the behaviors and issues of one who does).

First off, let me preempt the "normal toddlers are hyper and inattentive, don't pathologize the poor kid so early" comments, by saying that I have not come to this assumption lightly. I have family members with ADHD, and I also have many years of experience working with children; so while I'm no psychiatrist by any stretch, I do feel like I have a pretty realistic view of the bell curve of normal toddler behavior vs symptoms of something else. From day one, my daughter has pushed the limits at the end of that curve.

From very early on, she always slept far fewer hours than any other infants I knew (we used to joke that she didn't get any of the AAP memos). I tried everything. She was a spitfire personality, talked late, but was always very interactive and emotionally precocious, so her pediatrician ruled out autism (We actually got a referral to a speech therapist at her two-year well check, but right around that time was when her language skills suddenly exploded; now there is no getting her to shut up - like, ever.) She is the sort of child who yells "hi! look at my monkey boots!" at strangers in grocery stores. She pushes every boundary, breaks every rule, and pulls apart everything within reach, over and over and over (and over). Her curiosity and ability to destroy and conquer are limitless. There is literally no form of discipline that seems to work with her. She is extremely imaginative and clever with physical problem-solving, but poor with things like the alphabet and counting (though we regularly practice them).

But mainly? The ENERGY. At one, she was pushing objects (bowls, wastbaskets) up to bookshelves and coffee tables and climbing onto them. At two she figured out how to climb onto the kitchen counter and from there to the top of the fridge; at three, she scaled a six-foot brick wall in our backyard. The child literally never stops moving. She bolts away from me in parking lots on a regular basis and can escape from any constraint you can concoct.

Friends who haven't met her regularly laugh and nod at my stories, and then when they actually see her in action, I get universal comments of "oh... wow" and "man, you were seriously not kidding" and "holy moly my kids are not like that" and my favorite, "is this... normal?"


Assuming this craziness keeps up, and whether or not we get any sort of official diagnoses, please suggest to me all your best books, articles, websites and personal anecdotes on how to be the best mother to this little walking tornado that I can be.

Elimination diets have had nodiscernible effect. I am currently making a strong effort to keep sleep and such on a steady routine and give lots of one-on-one attention, which helps. She does also have a younger brother who is (by all accounts) pretty much developmentally and behaviorally average. Oh, and stuff about older kids is fine too (if you have ADHD yourself, what do you wish your parents understood/did differently/etc??)
posted by celtalitha to Human Relations (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't want ask mefi to diagnose your kid for you, you probably shouldn't have posted a list of symptoms. Maybe to run off a derail, let's just emphasize the actual question a second time:

Assuming this craziness keeps up, and whether or not we get any sort of official diagnoses, please suggest to me all your best books, articles, websites and personal anecdotes on how to be the best mother to this little walking tornado that I can be.


if you have ADHD yourself, what do you wish your parents understood/did differently/etc??

In any case, as someone with ADHD, here is what I wish my parents did for me: Spend hours and hours and hours with me learning how to create a schedule and stick to it, from an early age. No matter how much I fought. Sitting with me every single day and doing my homework with me, as soon as I got home from school.

My parents just kind of threw their hands up early on and I was left to figure it out on my own, which I've never really been able to do.
posted by empath at 8:46 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Quick clarification: Sorry, I explained the behavior in case anyone knows anything relevant to these specific issues (i.e. "my child was like that and here's what worked best re. redirecting the energy" or "here's a book that addresses X.") Its longer and more rambly than I intended, because I'm posting from a phone. I'm less interested in formal diagnoses at this point and more interested in "this helps with this, here's why" which may or may not be ADHD-specific.
posted by celtalitha at 9:00 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does your school district/city/state offer early intervention?

I ask because there are LOTS of parental support that comes with that - like brhavorial classes for parents, in home instruction, and respite care.

Don't put it off. Being unable to manage daily dangers is unnacceptable for you and your child.
posted by jbenben at 9:40 PM on April 9, 2014

#1. While I don't know what services are available in AZ, you still want to contact your public school system now and see what programs are in place for early intervention. You want them to screen your child as soon as possible. Screen them for speech issues, screen them for OT issues, screen them for sensory issues. Effectively you want to start building your child's network of resources, and you want an IEP in place. Every cognitive "test" your child fails now is a chunk of resources to help them pass their tests later.

#2. Talk to your pediatrician. After your next wellness visit, schedule a followup to specifically discuss behavioral concerns.

#3. Declutter their play area. Things have to be organized and if your child gets over-stimulated, you need to minimize the stimulation. Everything has a place. The legos have a bin. The duplos have a bin. The action figures have a bin. The blocks have a bin. There's a place for coloring books on hand.

#4. Put up a schedule. You are going to want to schedule up time to bed time for your child. Ours is a gigantic posterboard laminated with small velcro squares. Adjacent to it is a picture for every activity our child may have (with duplicates). We're flexible with free time and fun time, but having a schedule means we know what we have planned and can help our son transition easier. Also, the choice of some activities is in our son's hand and that means that he can somewhat pick what he'd like to do.

#5. Color code your books. On the spine of all his books is a color (Red, Blue, Green, Orange). At bedtime we sometimes say "Two red books, or 1 blue book, or 4 green books. We don't have time for an Orange book." That means there's choice, but its limited to a reasonable amount.

#6. There's a star chart next to the schedule. The star chart has flexible goals like "Eat your vegetables" or "Organized transitions" or "Picking up toys". There's also a rewards page where he can grab and change out the activity or "prize" for earning stars. Not all rewards are equal. Some rewards are: going out to dinner, going out for ice cream, small toys, tablet time, favorite show time, extended bed time, favorite show, movie night, the pizza night wildcard, etc.

#7. Book: Taking Charge of ADHD

#8. Gymnastics was a better fit for our children than dance was for our daughter. My son has benefitted from Karate, but he started that at 5 years old. Soccer was a bit of a disaster the first season (he started early), but the second season wound up being a lot of fun for him.

#9. HUGE: Your child's self esteem is the most important thing. That means you may pull them from some activities, or spend a lot more time in meetings with instructors and care providers.

#10a. My son's team: (a) My wife and I (b) Pediatrician (c) Early Education Teacher (d) Speech and Language Pathologist (e) Occupational Therapist (f) Child Behaviorist (g) Psychologist (h) gymnastics coaches (i) Karate Sensei (j) LSW

#10b. We are just starting to form a team for our daughter because lightning struck twice. She'll be three in July.

#11. My wife and I accept that it is unlikely that she will be able to grow her business much more than it already is until we have them a lot older than other kids his age. This takes time... and yeah, some days are rougher than others.

Feel free to memail with any questions
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:06 PM on April 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh for heaven's sakes... yes I know how to use the library, my child is not in physical danger (wtf?) and early intervention is not something our family would be eligible for even if my daughter were still under 36 months.

On preview: thank you Nanukthedog, that's the kind of thing I am looking for.

Her pediatrician agreed at the last appointment that it's a strong likelihood but thought she might be a little young for definitive diagnoses.
posted by celtalitha at 10:12 PM on April 9, 2014

Definitely get her checked out for ADHD, but also look into sensory issues/sensory integration disorder. It often mimics ADHD. I have a highly-gifted kid that needs a sensory diet because her body craves it so much. So, in the morning she bounces on her exercise ball. She jumps on the trampoline. She may blow some bubbles in a bowl full of water and dish soap. I'll give her some deep compression hugs. Her brain NEEDS these movements.

Once she satisfies her cravings for physical activities that stimulate her vestibular system, she's much, much better. She can focus. She can actually do pretty amazing things. But she absolutely needs the sensory input first. So -- your comment about the ENERGY made me think that maybe you should explore the sensory path, too. I know it well.

You can ask your pediatrician for a recommendation for a pediatric occupational therapist. Start there and get an evaluation.
posted by Ostara at 10:13 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

My child had those issues. It turned out to be sensory processing and extreme anxiety and so on. Treating the anxiety has been the best approach.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:22 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

The sensory processing (and anxiety for that matter) can also be comorbid with AD(H)D, from personal experience, so it is definitely worth looking into. The sensory stuff is easier to start working into your lifestyle from early on, as far as making sure that her sensory diet includes the things she needs to be able to function well, which are different for everybody. I have a lot more things I need to exclude than things I need to include, but there are people who are exactly the opposite.
posted by Sequence at 10:40 PM on April 9, 2014

I have adhd and I was your daughter. 2 of my kids are formally diagnosed and none of us were diagnosed at a young age. Fwiw self esteem and scheduling seem to be the biggest issues. A schedule is so important to me and my kids. I cannot stress it enough. Esp when she enters school. Also exercise is important on a regular basis to boost dopamine and burn off that huge amount of energy. For my kids we ended up with a trampoline and it was great.
posted by lasamana at 10:47 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

To add self esteem issues have been on ongoing issue. You cannot IMO tell her enough that she's good and she's wonderful just the way she is. I find with my kids (all 4 but the two adhd kids in particular) there is simply so much they want or need to do but just can't for whatever reason and it wears down on them. I wish I had been more proactive on that part when they were younger.
posted by lasamana at 10:54 PM on April 9, 2014

Mod note: One comment deleted. If you don't actually have resources to recommend or helpful anecdotes to share, please just pass this question up. Important Reminder: There's no need to answer a question if you have no answer for the question.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:06 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kudos for keeping tabs on what is normal behaviour for kids and what qualifies as something else. No specific resources here besides personal experience, but as someone who had to search for their diagnosis as an adult before they finally got an answer I have to say that what I wish my parents would've done differently is that they would've recognized/reached out (had they noticed that the symptoms weren't just bad personality quirks).

Even without a diagnosis, I think utilizing whichever tools you can find for dealing with losing focus/
houseworkorganizationthings as soon as you can is going to help LOADS when your kid grows up. I've never found anything that works universally across any ADHDer's I've known, but I personally find that using a timer (ten minutes focus, five minutes fun) type routines work better than anything else I've ever tried.

I'm sure you also know that having it isn't a total burden - my parents may not have known enough to help me with what I struggled with as a child, but they sure loved my creativity/spontaneity/ vivid imagination.

Good luck, I'm sure you guys are on the right path and are going to raise a well-adjusted, wonderful kid.
posted by rideunicorns at 1:21 AM on April 10, 2014

Lots of nature. Taking her to the park, getting her to grow simple plants (even if you end up having to regrow them because of her very enthusiastic tending) and lots of natural type toys - sticks, collections of leaves, shells etc. instead of brightly coloured plastic. If you have a back-yard, make it kid friendly and let her run riot around there for ages digging and hollaring and playing. Natural settings are open-ended and full of tiny details and changes that invite a range of close brief attention and lots of big physical play.

My toddler is high energy and extremely confident, although she has a long attention span, but taking her to a park is one of the easiest safe ways to get her worn out to be quiet and focused.

She's actually downstairs right now at our neighbourhood park with my husband who is sending me doleful snaps of her climbing trees, trying to climb fences etc. while he retrieves her. She came home from school and tore the house apart playing, so this way she will be settled enough to eat dinner and read some books and sleep.

The regular sleep is great. Mine has never slept for long either and it's painful because you have no downtime and get exhausted while they're chipper little creatures prying open your eyeballs at 7am after eight hours of sleep, and you slept at 2am because you had to clean the house and get work done without the tornado. I am slightly bitter. Can you get her toys that she loves that she can only play with in the morning or evening at bedtime so that she is prepared to go to bed then? Ours is allowed Peppa Pig on the ipad at night in bed because otherwise I would die from sleep exhaustion.

We were really intensive with the leash for about a week and she hated the restriction so now the threat of it is enough to make her hold hands when she crosses the road. I figure screaming melt down and the shitty looks of other parents beats the terror of watching them sprint away in a shopping mall. Oh and safety tattoos with name/contact number if she gets lost.

Also - what works one week may not work the next. I know consistent disciplining etc is the gold standard but for some kids, you gotta do what works now. Time ins this week, removing toys the next week. It does help to ask the kid what they think the consequences should be, but don't feel like you're failing for not sticking to one method. Some kids need variety and creativity.

We put away 80% of our kid's toys and books in a storage room, and it's easier and she's playing more intensely and happily with the few she has. Then we rotate them every few weeks and she's all "oh my god, it's my doll!" in bliss. Helps with the organisation and clean-up too.

You have my utter sympathy. No one offers to babysit our kid after they have met her. She's adorable, but dear lord, she's exhausting. At a school trip, the other kids were roaming around maybe 20m from the teachers. She went up and down floors, close to 100m radius in distance exploring. Crazy making.

Take care of yourself. Imagine if you were parenting regular kids but twins in terms of energy required. Sleep as much as you can.
posted by viggorlijah at 3:03 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My son is also a tornado. He doesn't have ADHD, he has an anxiety disorder with bi-polar tendencies. It is important to set up areas where your child can be wild without getting fussed at. My son enjoyed digging holes at a very young age. So I let him dig holes, which eventually led to gardening, which helped a lot. I also gave him things to be responsible for (chores) because I found that, if he had something specific to do, he felt more in place in our household. Instead of being the problem, he was a part of things. Chores gave him a positive place to be. It is important for my son to feel a part of things, to be part of the action. My dad saved my son with all the work that he did with him. Thanks to my dad, my teenage son is a fire fighter and a certified EMT. The kid can clean an entire fire station, including the trucks, in a couple of hours. Basically, what I am saying is, find what your child is obsessed about and then set her up to for success in that area. A child who is always getting into trouble ends up feeling bad about themselves and then acting out more. If you can establish trouble free areas then you have a better chance at building your daughter's self esteem and teaching her to want to behave.
posted by myselfasme at 4:47 AM on April 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

I highly recommend the book The Out of Sync Child has Fun as an interim support while you figure out all of the medical side of things. It's a great resource for all kids, I think, regardless of where they fall on a sensory processing spectrum. It's full of ideas for calming activities, activities that safely fill the need for movement, and just fun things to do with your child. Much like occupational therapy, the activities are fairly magic in how they can calm a kid. It's an easier and less theoretical read than The Out of Sync Child, and you can download the kindle version and have an idea of three fun things to do with your daughter in fifteen minutes of scanning the chapter and activity headings.
posted by instamatic at 5:11 AM on April 10, 2014

Like everyone above, I wouldn't be quick to assume it's ADHD -- sensory processing is also a possibility. (I had a lot of similar behaviors as a kid, but no ADHD. I probably had -- and to a small extent still have -- sensory processing issues, but those weren't really a thing when I was that age and I've never bothered getting a formal diagnosis as an adult.)

It would be worth getting an assessment with an OT and asking for resources they would recommend for this. (An OT would be helpful regardless of whether this is sensory, too.) There are a TON of different ways to have sensory integration issues -- they can affect any sense, and in multiple different ways. So the strategies that work for one kid may not be appropriate for another kid. It would be worth getting professional advice there.

Also, trampolines are awesome for deep vestibular pressure, burning off energy, etc. But make sure you check with your home insurance carrier -- some carriers will drop you, and some will require control measures like a fence. Trampolines are awesome if used correctly, but they're also dangerous.
posted by pie ninja at 5:27 AM on April 10, 2014

I'm a pediatric occupational therapist. Playing with your kid is my full time job and I love it. Look for an OT clinic that has a nice sensory gym. You're looking for things like swings, giant crash pillows, places to climb...if you don't see these things, keep looking.

It sounds like you are eager to learn, looking for suggestions and willing to work with your daughter at home. You would be the best kind of family to work with and I'm confident you would see positive results.

You don't need an outside diagnosis to access OT and she's at a great age to get started.

Good luck, and if you're in Minneapolis memail me!
posted by deadcrow at 5:32 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

celtalitha: "early intervention is not something our family would be eligible for even if my daughter were still under 36 months. "

ALL families are eligible for early intervention, regardless of income. Once your child is 3 it's called something else, but you're still eligible for it. It's hosted through your local public school district, and you have a legal right to have your child evaluated by the early childhood experts and you have a legal right to necessary services provided to you, for free, through the public school district, whether or not your child is enrolled in public school.

One of my kids has a sensory processing issue and has a lot of similar issues to what you list. We got him started with OT and speech therapy through the school district when he was 3, and he enrolled in their (half-day, play-based) pre-K when he was 4 and continued to receive services through the school during his school day. It's been extremely helpful, and our transition to kindergarten is going to be a lot easier. We have been through a lot of experts of various sorts, and the simple fact is that by far the best-qualified and most helpful ones have been at the public schools, not the high-falutin' private no-insurance-taking well-known guys we paid for out of pocket who were no help at all.

We do find a lot of outdoor/nature time helps. Our pediatrician also recommended melatonin to help with initiating sleep (the sensory issue makes him bad at holding still long enough to fall asleep; it has always been an issue and he has frequently ended up way overtired). I thought melatonin was nonsense but I tried it in desperation and HOLY CRAP IT IS LIKE MAGIC.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 AM on April 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am an adult with a mild ADHD diagnosis (just recently received) and just had a long conversation with my therapist about what's going on with my children. From my descriptions, she thought all three of us probably had some attention deficit fun! ;)

My son (who is 7) is high energy, very emotional, has trouble sleeping, and cannot keep track of personal possessions or homework coming to or from school to save his life. Conventional rewards and "behavior contracts" like what his teachers use for most kids just don't seem to work. I haven't been terribly impressed with what I've seen of special services for kids with behavior issues in our public school system (they mean well, but are terribly overworked, and pretty high-functioning kids will naturally slide to the bottom of the list). I may pursue that avenue later, as well as getting a "diagnosis" at some point, but there are a lot of things that have helped regardless of that.

What has helped us so far:

1. De-clutter! Keep play areas as tidy as possible. Also homework table clean -- when she gets older.

2. Martial arts. Seriously. There is a great mind-body focus in my son's karate class than has been very helpful. Team sports have been kind of a disaster, but this seems to be really helping him and he enjoys it. My son's program starts with kids as young as 4.

3. Food. Sleep. A lot of time, meltdowns and lack of focus are from tiredness and hunger. This is super-basic, but sill, it's easy to overlook. I have cheese and cracker packages stashed in every bag and in the glove box.

Hang in there. ADHD can present very differently in girls (says my therapist, who is also a PhD teaching neuroscience to social work students) so diagnoses and therapies coming from experts may or may not be a good fit. YOU know her best, so trust your observations and experiences.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:45 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Schedules, lists, visual structure. Use pictures (look on line for visual structure) with the words on them. I have ADHD and the use of tools like this is something I had to teach myself when I was older. Start her now and she'll be prepared early.

Lots of physical, sensory outlets. Look online for sensory diet. A trampoline is a great idea.
posted by dchrssyr at 7:55 AM on April 10, 2014

A regular schedule is all-important. Bedtimes, but also food-times and whatever else you have.

Engage your daughter in maintaining order: keep her room tidy, help with clothes, food, gardening, whatever. Children can help at 2yo, and all that energy might as well be used for a good purpose.

Eat real food! This is essential. Processed foods can enhance problems, and to be honest, it's easier to get a habit of making real food from scratch than to figure out which foods are problematic and which aren't. Engage your daughter in making that food.

Get a pet. If you can. Animals are great for children with social issues. A dog or a pony is best, because you can go to training with them, so there is a purpose and a goal. But yeah, time-consuming and expensive. Pony/dog also aids the nature aspect mentioned above, which I agree with 100%.

Make time. We all need money and jobs to get money, but if it is at all possible, more parent time is an absolute good. OR grandparent time. It doesn't have to be you, but there needs to be an engaged adult more than for "normal" children.

DO NOT engage in fights or "discipline" IMO, it's already wrong with "normal" children. But with ADHD children, you are creating problems rather than solving them. If your child runs off in a parking lot, you need to find out why she feels that is a good idea, and talk with her about how to do it differently. Respect her point of view, and find a way that works for her. This doesn't mean she rules, but that you help her dealing with stuff she does not understand at all.

Minimize time on computers/iPads/phones. It would be silly to completely eliminate this aspect of modern society, but you can control it. Unlike some above posters, I'd suggest you take it out of bedtimes. In my experience, games and online activities enhance some of the problems ADHD kids have with focusing and relaxing. So you need to get these to be in the morning, rather than at night.

For bedtimes: reading a book is a magical thing. For the child it is a special and lovely time of the day. For you it is something real and palpable which works. Read one or two chapters according to a rule you set out from the beginning. After that, it is night,and nothing can happen. Milk and fruit might be a part of this ritual, but is must be very clear that night falls.

ADHD children need as much sleep as other children, but they are more easily distracted. You need to make it clear that bedtimes are bedtimes and there are no negotiations.

In all of this, remember you are the adult and your child has no idea at all of what is good for her. She wants you to help. Don't fell bad about giving her a framework for living. Who else could do it?
posted by mumimor at 8:20 AM on April 10, 2014

I am in Mesa, AZ. I cannot address the ADHD per se, but did want to make mention that our son had a speech delay when he was 3 (I understand that your child does not have a speech delay). I had him evaluated in the school system and he qualified for free pre-school three days a week to help. The school he attended was completely geared for children with speech delays, on the autism spectrum, ADHD, etc. We are not low-income - this program was available for children who needed the extra help - no income requirement whatsoever. A bus even came to pick him up and drop him off. It was a great resource.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:27 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

As a woman undiagnosed until her 40s, I'd like to thank you for attending to this possible ADHD in your child at an appropriate age. It will make all the difference through her entire life. Thank you for your quality parenting.
posted by thatone at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

CHADD is an excellent resource for parents.

Your daughter can be evaluated at her age, but it is tricky. The Mayo Clinic has a page (young children are at the bottom.)

It may be worth seeing a developmental pediatrician, and perhaps they can refer you to one.

Keep pressing and keep asking for intervention, not just for your daughter, but for you! Those kids are a handful!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:37 AM on April 10, 2014

Nthing the suggesting to look into sensory processing disorder, or SPD. We have a 3.5 year old daughter also who could be described in many ways that you describe your daughter. Certainly she is always climbing (and was from a young age), is very strong, is always active, never wants to sleep, etc., etc.

We got a new pediatrician because our old one moved into academia, and the new pediatrician put us on the path to sleuthing out an SPD diagnosis. Our daughter did meet all of the SPD criteria for what is called a "sensation seeking" child. She now goes to Occupational Therapy and it is very helpful. We also have a small indoor trampoline, indoor swing, and other sensory diet devices to help.

But wait, there's more! By some coincidences, we needed to take our daughter to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. There it was discovered that her tonsils were very, very large. That doctor and our OT both confirmed that there is sometimes overlap between enlarged tonsils, no sleep and SPD issues.

So our daughter will have a tonsillectomy next week and might make some additional breakthroughs, particular with sleep, but also with SPD issues.

I am throwing those things out there as things to consider.
posted by Slothrop at 10:25 AM on April 10, 2014

I know from previous posts of yours that you qualify as "gifted" (graduated high school early or something). What you are describing comes up a lot on gifted parenting lists: Kids that won't sleep, are into everything, have terrible boundaries and make people nuts are often very high IQ. ADHD, sensory issues, ASD, OCD and lots of other things are so common among people of high IQ they get called "co-morbidities" in some circles.

Gifted lists are places where a lot of the books already recommended are frequently mentioned. It won't be anything out of place. But, yes, realizing that part of this may be due to a huge intellectual hunger and not some "disorder" can help you reframe the problem and find some positives in all this.

Also, talking late but then being extremely articulate is something you see among very high IQ kids. I don't know of any other population that does that. My oldest talked late, in part because he felt "stupid" trying to use sentences. He has some other issues (huge output issues) but part of it is just very high IQ plus very little life experience at age 2 = weird, neurotic conclusions.

For my oldest, making sure he got physical activity every day, giving him his vitamins, feeding him really well and making sure he got to read helped make it possible for him to sleep. I spent the first twelve years of his life trying to stay on top off all that so that he was able to sleep at night. He was prone to insomnia from birth and just ran me ragged the first seven years of his life.

But, yeah, looked for "gifted" resources too. They do exist and I think that would be a huge revelation for you. That doesn't mean a gifted kid is easier to raise than an ADHD kid but realizing that getting enough mental stimulation actually helps can be hugely life-changing. Anecdotally, these super crazy-making kids often get a lot easier for parents to deal with when they finally learn to read. It certainly made my life easier but I have heard that story from other parents as well, so it's not just my kid.
posted by Michele in California at 12:18 PM on April 10, 2014

As an adult with ADHD, one of the hardest things for me is completing tasks I start. I think that if my parents enforced completing tasks more, that may have been helpful in developing that habit. As in, the process of playing with your toy also means putting it back. You have to put it back before you can take out a new toy.

On the other hand, I think creating similar rules for myself lead to or exasperated my OCD. So maybe not completely rigid rules all the time. I guess my experience is that if everything is chaos and there are no rules, I will make up slightly bizarre rules just to try to have a bit of order.

But your family doesn't sound like the chaos my family is so that is probably way different!

Set expectations high. For instance, when she is learning how to shower, maybe say that you expect showers take 5 minutes max. Maybe she will be able to achieve that. If she tries and tries and can't get below ten minutes, then just make ten minutes the new hard rule. (FWIW I was never told to shorten my showers and it is hard for me to take a shower under 15 minutes. 20-25 is probably average). I also have a lot of trouble doing tasks in an appropriate amount of time so it is helpful for me if someone tells me it should take an hour to do this when really anywhere from an hour to two hours is fine. I will strive towards doing it in one hour, whereas if you told me two hours is okay, it might actually take me three hours.

Situations in school that frustrated me included reading along with the class (everyone reads so incredibly slow, I would always rush ahead and be really embarrassed when it was my turn to read because i had no idea where the class was), anything I did not understand the point of doing (such as busy work or worksheets on something I already excelled at), and math. Someone above said they wished their parents sat down with them and helped with their homework, me too. I learned from a very early age how easy it was to lie to my parents so I could have free time instead of homework time. Being given more challenging work when called for would have helped me.

Small chunks of time doing things for a reward. Like if you work on this homework assignment for five minutes straight, you can go on the computer for 2 minutes.
posted by tweedle at 7:41 PM on April 10, 2014

My answer - Gabor Mate. Reading his book was life-changing for me.

I am an adult with ADD - diagnosed in my 20s. I was medicated for a few years, used that time to get my life in order and establish some routines, and have been unmedicated ever since. I am now 38. I would have been diagnosed with ADHD as a child if it had been better known at that point!

In terms of books: yesterday I was at an all-day workshop presented by Mate (albeit on a different topic) and was reminded about how much his book about ADHD helped me to understand what was going on and how to deal with it. There is information in it for parents and for people who have ADHD. Amusingly, it took me many attempts to get through the book.. I couldn't pay attention all at once.

In Canada, the book is titled "Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder" - with the emphasis on the 'mind' and on 'healing'.

In the US, the title was changed to "Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It" which makes it sound like a problem to be solved and not something that needs to be healed.

Either way, EXCELLENT book to read.

Mate comes at everything from the biopsychosocial perspective which I find really helpful, given how ADHD manifests and how people respond to it. He writes from the perspective of a physician who has been diagnosed himself - so there's a nice balance of "here's what the medical world says" and "here's how it feels" and "here's what research tells us". He also has three children (I think) who were diagnosed with it - so he understands the parenting perspective, too.

I also highly recommend starting with his website - the section on AD(H)D has some info that will help you decide if his perspectives would be helpful to you. He is not a fan of diagnoses, generally, and focuses more on the symptoms and how to help with them.
posted by VioletU at 8:22 AM on April 11, 2014

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