"Arnau-Dewar's gritty and inspiring debut memoir chronicles the challenging experience of parenting children with ADHD (and eventually being diagnosed with it herself)." Booklife
Does ADHD keep you up at night? When I had young children with ADHD, it sure kept me up at night. Every night I’d crawl into bed, grateful that I’d managed to prevent my accident-prone kids from harming themselves for one more day. Visits to the emergency room were so frequent that I would joke that if they gave frequent flyer miles, we’d have a trip to the moon!
Unable to sleep, I’d toss and turn in my bed, worrying that my children would never have the skills to succeed in school or hold a job. Many parents worry about their children’s future, but I had two hyperactive children diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities. The deck seemed stacked against them.
It was my childhood déjà vu. I’ve always felt that there was something wrong with me. My brain was a runaway Ferris wheel, spinning faster and faster around. I couldn’t stop talking or sit quietly in class.
I was constantly in trouble—with family, friends, and especially teachers. My brain had no filter. I was always saying the first thing that came to mind, which often made people mad. This left me feeling sad and depressed. Despite high scores on intelligence tests and strong reading and writing skills, I struggled in school.
Teachers called me an “underachiever” and told me to try harder. I did try harder, but found it difficult sit still and listen for long hours in class. Completing homework was another problem. Even if I managed to finish, I'd lose my work before I could hand it in. Or worse, I'd skip school entirely and end up failing classes by default. At 21, and on academic probation, I dropped out of college with a vow to never return.
Back then, I rationalized that since I wanted to be a writer, I didn't need a college degree. This early aspiration has been my saving grace. Writing offered a silent—and socially acceptable—way to practice my hyperverbal skills. I have spent my life pursuing this dream, as a published fiction writer, journalist, and academic author.
Remembering the rejection and pain I felt as a child, I decided to learn everything I could about ADHD. My research led to a stunning realization: My own problems in school were due to having ADHD. This diagnosis was confirmed in 2000.
Learning I had ADHD gave me the courage to return to college. In 13 years, I earned a B.A. in English and Print Journalism, a M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Both from Minnesota State University Moorhead), and a Ph.D. in Education with a cognate in special education from the University of North Dakota. As a child I hated school, but I was shocked to find that as an adult, I not only loved school, I was good at it.
While working on my Ph.D., I began teaching composition and media studies for the University of Phoenix's online program for first year students. Since a high school diploma was the only criteria for admission, some entering freshman were woefully unprepared for college work. First year teachers offered extra support to students with academic challenges and/or learning disabilities.
I loved working with these students because I'd had my own struggles in school. My job also reminded me of helping my own children. Although my mission to help people with ADHD began with my children, teaching renewed my passion. That's why I call myself a mom on a mission.
My own children are grown now. I'm happy to report that they have both become successful parents and hard-working adults. Getting their ADHD diagnosis when they were young has worked out well. For me, the decision to give medication to my children was a leap of faith. The idea of giving stimulants to overactive children seemed counter-intuitive. I worried that they would become overly reliant and addicted to the drug. The opposite happened. Teenagers are typically rebellious. My two showed their rebellion by refusing to take the drug once they had finished high school.
A couple of years ago I retired from teaching in order to write and advocate for a new name for ADHD and a new understanding. The current name reinforces a negative stereotype and fails to emphasize the positive aspects of ADHD, such as having increased energy and creativity.
To learn more, see my post, "Why I want to change the name for ADHD." Click on the button to navigate to my blog page.