Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Conference & A Life Lesson

guest blog by Marie S. Paxson

At my very first CHADD conference, I heard educator Terry Illes explain to parents that "I don't know" is an acceptable answer to the question, "Why did you do that?" Until then, whenever one of my children with ADHD got into mischief, hearing "I don't know" as their explanation only made me more annoyed. I usually followed up with something like "How can you NOT know?" or "Well, you can go to your room and think about it until you know!" I thought I was teaching them to think before they acted next time.

Then Dr. Illes explained executive function and the part of the brain responsible for advance planning. Impulsive behavior means no advance planning occurred. Therefore my kids really didn't know why they caused a problem. And my role wasn't to punish or shame them for skills they did not have, but to help them understand how their brains worked and how to compensate for EF differences.

I had a life lesson a few months after that conference. My 11-year-old son insisted on "helping" me by unloading a warehouse-size bag of cat litter from my car. When he reached our entryway, instead placing the bag on the floor, he simply let go of the bag from about chest high. Dust and clay particles went everywhere. I didn't yell, but my body language indicated my annoyance as we cleaned up the mess in stony silence. A few hours later, my son came to me and said, "Mom, how did you know the bag of kitty litter would explode if I didn't set it down gently?" I answered, "I don't know." AND that was the truth.

I'm so glad I attended the conference, because now when my children say, "I don't know," I realize they are being truthful.

Don't miss this year's CHADD conference in New Orleans! Hear from top ADHD experts; engage in the issues that matter most; learn new strategies.

Marie S. Paxson is a past president of CHADD.

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