National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Learning to Support our Daughter with ADHD

By Carolyn Palmer

Mackenzie is our adopted daughter. She was 8 months old and weighed 10 pounds when she came into our lives. She had been neglected. She was walking at eight months and running by nine months. She would not sit in a high chair, was always on the go and slept very little. Once when my husband was putting Christmas lights up, we found her on the roof of the house.

She had horrible temper tantrums. She would throw herself on the ground and start kicking and screaming. I thought she was going to hurt herself so I picked her up and put her on the living room rug. One day I was so tired of her extreme tantrums that I threw myself on the floor and kicked and screamed. She stopped and looked at me and said, “Mommy you look silly.” And I said, “This is what you look like so stop.” She never had an extreme tantrum after that.

Mackenzie was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The more I kept her involved with her doctors and the more we read about ADHD, the more she understood what was going on with her brain. I got her into sports at an early age to keep her busy. She needs an outlet for her extreme energy.   

The most helpful thing for Mackenzie has been her teachers. They understood her strengths and worked with them. I would get calls from school indicating that Mackenzie had done something wrong and it was almost always because her medications were not right. She could not sit in a class or function well without her medication.

I was given a resource on survival tips for parents with children with ADHD. It was a lifesaver. It teaches parents how to work with their children. It recommends that, instead of telling your child to go clean his or her room, sitting in their room and telling them step-by-step how to do it is more effective. Many children with ADHD would just look at the mess, feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Then they would just play instead. However, if you are there to tell them to do one thing at a time, with time they learn how to do it themselves. We have used this approach with Mackenzie and she knows how to clean her room now.