Generally, ImpactADHD does not use the Featured Expert article as an opportunity to promote organizations and their services. We are making an exception to this policy for a special non-profit, ADHD Aware. Like us, ADHD Aware is about building communities. We bring parents together, and they bring kids together. We are so excited about what ADHD Aware is doing that we want to share it with you. Consider it a public service announcement, from us to you.
With a new school year right around the corner, more than likely you are busy focusing on all the details of raising children with ADHD. IEP’s and 504’s probably top this list. Backpacks that hold and will not lose your children’s papers would run a close second.
So it may seem odd when I suggest you start thinking about something completely different. It’s just as important to your child’s growth and self-esteem: community.
Individuals with ADHD are often stigmatized. We are “different,” and “difficult to deal with.” Kids with ADHD suffer the burden of these attitudes every day at school, in their neighborhoods and sometimes even at home. They feel isolated — different from their peers, underestimated by adults. Helping our children overcome this isolation is vital to their confidence and sense of self.
How can we help our children with ADHD feel valued? How do we enable an isolated kid to feel part of a community?
We would like the answer to be found at school. Yet even the most enlightened and best-intentioned educators struggle with creating positive, welcoming classroom environments for students with ADHD. Helpful as it might be, there's no way to make “having friends” a goal in an IEP.
If these questions have you stumped, join the club. Literally.
Last month, ADHD Aware, a national nonprofit, hosted the first National ADHD Youth Leadership Conference at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. What began as a little girl's wish to have a club for girls like her, affected by ADHD, culminated in an empowering conference for boys and girls ages 7-21. Kids and parents came from across the country, and as far away as Trinidad. They spent the day talking, dreaming, drawing and moving. They discovered their own ADHD community.
When ADHD kids get together, they quickly find that they not only encounter many of the same challenges, but also share many of the same strengths. They learn from each other, they gather strength from one another, and they celebrate their differences. Perhaps best of all, they can relax and be themselves. They have fun as their self-esteem grows. We witnessed it on a large scale in Philadelphia last month, and it was absolutely inspiring!
Here's the good news: if this kind of connection appeals to you, you can replicate the joy and connectedness of this conference in your own community. With less effort than you can imagine, you can form Go Girls or Go Guys clubs for kids with ADHD.
Here's the challenge: all parents have full plates, especially we parents of ADHD kids. While you recognize all these clubs have to offer, you may doubt that you can commit the time. As a mom with ADHD, raising four children with ADHD, I have found that the commitment is manageable, and the rewards are immediate.
Here's the added bonus: while your kids are enjoying the company of their club mates, you'll build stronger connections with your kids. You'll see first-hand how your kids interact, and will have new opportunities to share your thoughts and impressions together. Besides, sharing with peers is just as important for parents as it is for kids. Your circle of like-minded, helpful friends will grow just as much as your kids' will. Your family can connect with thousands of others. .. and that means empowerment for the entire ADHD community.
Special Note: ADHD Aware Clubs are informal and can start with just 3 or 4 members. Meetings are held monthly, in the afternoon or evening -- whenever works for you. All it takes is a few engaged parents to get one started. ADHD Aware provides training and resources, including connections with other clubs. You'll find a world of support . . . and your kids will, too.