March 11: You Aughta Know This Week

This week, how to help an ADHD parent and how not to treat autistics who dislike your so-called “autism awareness” book.

This Week in ADHD

Every time I discuss an article that is several weeks old, I worry it is stale news. Then I remember it is quintessentially ADD to find something late and provide your own spin. So on that note, here’s an article from February 5: How to Help an ADHD Parent.

Becoming a mother is a great way to get a late-in-life diagnosis of ADHD, as I’ve found. The systems we use to keep it together on our own tend to stretch beyond usefulness as we add in the needs of children. The author of the piece above, How to Help an ADHD Parent, had four kids and the youngest was six before she was diagnosed. My hat is off to her for making it that long. I was only three months into two kids before I discovered my ADHD.

That said, her suggestions may work well for her, but I have some other tips, should you find an ADHD parent in your midst in need of social accommodations.

1. Details are for Neurotypicals, Calendar Invites are for ADHD Memory

Did we plan a playdate for next Saturday? Worried I will forget? Send a calendar invite!

Calendar invites rule my workday life. I have “drink water,” “stand,” and “walk around the building” in my daily calendar because I will forget to do all of the above and sit at my desk for six straight hours, forgetting lunch, without simple reminders others store in their head.

But I’ve realized calendar invites can handle so many other things like changing out my toothbrush (repeat once every three months), making sure we have supplies for the boys (repeat every two weeks), IRA contributions (repeat each payday) and ensuring cards are sent for friends’ birthdays (repeat once annually a week before the birthday).

So my husband gets calendar invites for all my appointments and random items I will otherwise forget. But sending it to someone outside of the trust circle never goes well. It is usually mistaken for anal retentiveness, rather than an ADHD coping strategy. That’s where fellow parents can help, if so inclined, by shooting off a calendar invite to me, or understanding how critical calendar invites are for basic ADHD parent survival.

2. Schedule things with my husband, not me

Some may think we are purposely breaking gender norms with our scheduling practice in my household. And while that’s a nice side benefit, the reason we do it is simply that my husband is better at it than I could ever hope to be. From my son’s therapists to childcare and socializing, my husband is the gatekeeper. He makes the plans. He sends the schedule. I check with him before I accept any invites because he is the boss of our family calendar.

3. Over Communicate About Expectations

It’s hard for people without ADHD to understand how different our minds are compared to the average neurotypical person, and there is no better example of this than frequent failure to be on time.

For example, time passes in a very weird way for us due to hyperfocus and other related attention issues. “Come any time between 10-11,” doesn’t work if you want me at an event by 11 am. Tell me the surprise party honoree is expected at 11, so I know I need to make sure I get there by 10:45. I’ve heard this from other ADHDers, parents or not, that’s often timeliness is a result of knowing why particular timing is critical. I know a lot of people tell those who are chronically late that an event starts earlier than it actually does, in order to match the standard lateness pattern to the actual start time. I’m not saying that is always wrong, but at some point, you have to have determine whether start time is the most important factor.

I once was close with someone with ADHD, decades before my own diagnosis. Now I see why he was always late: he forgot our planned meet up, or seriously underestimated how long it would take to do something prior to leaving, or should have allowed more time between different events. And on my part, instead of yelling at him when he was late, I should have told him I would be hangry by 7 and that’s why I wanted to meet at the restaurant by 6:30 for dinner. If he agreed to that, I needed to make him write down in his planner the dinner. Or send him a calendar invite.

This Week in Autism

Last week I discussed the author who wrote a book that included abusive behavior toward her son. On Friday, the author responded to her critics on her blog. Read the post here if so inclined, or check out the WTF excerpt below:

You adults with Autism who are reaching out to me in brilliantly worded protest, you who are capable of self-advocating, organizing, who have children of your own – you in no way resemble Zack. Just as I do not know what it is to be you, you cannot know what it is to be Zack.  Or me. You personify independence, and as such represent what so many of us parents of autistic children dreamed would be our own children’s outcome.

Again, I hate to criticize other autism parents but this really rubbed me the wrong way. If you are autistic and capable of self-advocacy, then you cannot understand this woman’s son. Except, how does she know? How does she know the breadth and depth of an autistic self-advocate’s autistic circle?

This idea that if someone can self-advocate then they can’t understand what it is like for someone who can’t do so is just wrong. Actually, having the so-called “best case scenario” of a condition still provides more understanding than not having the condition at all. For instance, would you say that someone who had given birth via c-section couldn’t understand an unmedicated natural delivery better than a person who had never given birth? If you did say that, you would be incorrect. And I’ve had both, so don’t test me.

The reality is, just like with c-section mothers, there are so many things that may not be visible to the naked eye but still impact someone’s life. Someone without autism may not know the similarities amongst those with autism. An autistic self-advocate may be dealing with significant impairments below the surface. As someone with ADHD, I’m sure parents could view me as too “highly functioning” to understand what their child is going through and again, no, we still have attention issues in common that only someone with ADHD could understand.

The media I consumed this week: https://youaughtaknow.com/2018/03/10/march-10-on-a-related-note/.

3 comments

  1. When I say that a person with autism can speak volumes about their autism, but not my kids – I am looking at the personality factors – not the diagnosis. I should clarify that, I guess. I agree that a person with autism can tell more about their experience living with autism than I ever could say anything about autism. But they won’t be able to tell you what my make my kids happy, what my kids triggers are, what helps them sleep, what helps them cope, etc. Those are things they would have to say, or I would have to say for my youngest. Not that I agree with the woman above. The way she wrote that rubs me the wrong way too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree with you on that. The mom in question wrote a post about forcing her child to go to a Sesame Street Live performance that was hard to read. She holds him down and forces it. That’s why autistic adults had trouble with her book and when they reached out to her, that’s when the idea that they were too “high functioning” (awful term) to understand her kid. That comment was the punch to the gut for me. I think an autistic person, no matter how well they cope from an outsider’s POV, still should be able to speak and self-advocate without it being used against them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my gosh! How horrific! I can’t believe someone would do that, write about it and then get offended and then criticize in such a way. Absolutely, I totally agree with you!

        Liked by 1 person

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