Why ADHD Kids Say I DON’T KNOW So Often

by Yafa Luria/Margit Crane

 

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image25787003Why do ADHD kids say “I don’t know” so often?

Recently, one of my clients (let’s call him Matt) cancelled calls with me 4 times. I knew why: It was because he knew we were going to do some homework together and he didn’t want to. He wanted to ride his bike (Who wouldn’t?). I asked Matt why he kept cancelling and he said, “I don’t know.” That got me thinking about how, in the past, I would have been slightly irritated at him wasting my time, not accepting my help, and being generally defiant.

We often become distressed by our children’s seeming inability to do simple things, like ask for help, put away their clothes, or turn in homework. We become disappointed and ultimately angry, and we confront our child.

“Why can’t you do this? It’s so simple. Everyone else is doing it with no trouble at all. Why can’t you?”

And you know the response, right?

“I don’t know.”

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-frustrated-thinking-woman-image7637378

Gah! Why do they DO that?

ADHD children are very sensitive and having an angry parent is overwhelming to the senses. They may yell at you or try to distract you by talking about your faults. They may hide in their rooms or they may do what you want but give you the silent treatment. ADHD children are rarely able to manage their emotions in the moment, as they’re actually happening. In confusion, frustration, and sadness that they’ve disappointed you, “I don’t know” becomes an easy way to slow things down, to stop the barrage of parental expectations.

Here’s what “I don’t know” really means:

  • I can’t help you. I don’t seem to be able to make myself do what I want to do.
  • Please don’t be mad.
  • I can’t take more nagging.
  • Do we have to keep having the same conversation? That won’t change me.
  • You can keep asking but I don’t have a different answer.
  • I feel like a loser and I’m trying to cover it up.
  • I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
  • I’m embarrassed by being a failure.
  • If I could answer to your satisfaction, I would.
  • My mind is (actually) blank.

This is why ADHD kids say “I don’t know” so often.boy with post-its

It has little to do with defiance and a lot to do with self-esteem and/or not being able to access information in a timely manner.

The truth is that Matt wasn’t wasting my time. I still had my time.

He wasn’t refusing my help. He just couldn’t handle this particular responsibility.

He wasn’t being defiant either. In fact, his response had nothing to do with me. He was simply postponing relief and prolonging his misery because he didn’t know how to make a different decision.

Change your response

The solution is to change the way you respond. Believe me, I know this is difficult. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get an answer that contains some real information!

Instead of being frustrated, put yourself in your child’s shoes.

  • Imagine what it must be like to know that you’re having a regular conversation but you can’t respond in a regular way.
  • Imagine what it’s like to disappoint your parents, yet again.
  • Imagine experiencing this for an extended period of time.

My childhood experience

I remember, very well, the absolute confusion and disappointment I felt when I vowed to be good and couldn’t manage to hold it together for even 30 minutes. I had NO IDEA how I got from Point A to Point B, from my vow to my misbehavior.

This isn’t a moral issue or a problem with your child’s integrity. This is an Executive Function challenge. The pre-frontal cortex hasn’t developed enough to handle the demands being made.

One thing you can do to help your child is to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t give you much time to think about this. I would really appreciate it if you’d take some time to think this over and let me know your answer. I’ll check back with you tomorrow/in an hour/after I get home…”

The moral of the story is:

Don’t take it personally, Don’t assume defiance, Practice patience, Be encouraging, and Give your child or teen the grace and dignity to JUST. NOT. KNOW.

When they do know, they’ll tell you.

Do you have any thoughts on this issue that you can share with another parent? Just scroll down to the comments section. I love hearing from you.

xo, Yafa

Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved

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© Aleutie | Dreamstime.com - Teenager With ADHD Photo

What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?

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Thank you for ‘being there’ to share your wealth of knowledge and personal experience with us who are ‘floundering’ and ‘lost in the forest’ when it comes to ‘dealing with special and difficult circumstances’. Gratefully yours, Rochelle H, Alberta, Canada xox ((((BIG HUGS)))

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Freedman April 20, 2016 at

Wonderful, we’ve got to be patient, they didn’t ask for this challenge

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Margit Crane Luria April 20, 2016 at

No but they (and you) were blessed with it!

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Lynn Mathers April 21, 2016 at

My daughter and her 9 1/2 year old daughter are going through the exact life you’ve described. Now she has a half sister with a different last name and a soon to be born little brother with a different last name and she’s not sure where she fits and she’s been behind up to 20 pages of homework that now her mom has taken almost all of her belongings away and won’t give her anything back until she earns it back and all it’s gotten to the point of more anger, more yelling, more loss of heart. I am just a mom and can’t say anything because my daughter then says she can’t do anything right (she has ADHD also) and it’s a losing situation all around. Any suggestions would be grateful.

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Margit Crane Luria April 22, 2016 at

I would let her know about this site. You can tell her that you know parenting AND grandparenting is hard for many people with ADHD children and grandchildren and you found something to help both of you.

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Anonymous April 22, 2016 at

Wow thank you for this information about childs with ADHD. For me it helps a lot really. I ‘ ll keep this mesg or info to my fb acct so that it reminds me always what I’m going to do .God bless
you.

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Margit Crane Luria April 22, 2016 at

You’re very welcome! I’m glad it was helpful. xo, Margit

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Beth April 24, 2016 at

Hello,
Our 9 1/2 year old says this often at home and at school. Her teachers say that she often says “I don’t know or I can’t” before she even tried the task. She does have executive functioning issues and receives learning support. Do you have any advice or suggestions?
Thanks!

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Margit Crane Luria May 2, 2016 at

Hi Beth, be sure to sign up for the weekly parenting tips ezine (the “Start Here” page) – that’s the hub where you can find exactly what you’re looking for. I’d love to help you out, but I need more specifics. Otherwise, you can look at the catergories drop-down menu on the left for more specific posts. Thanks!

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Glen Jenkins July 11, 2016 at

Hi Margit,My son and i both have ADHD. I am 45 and my son is 14. My Dad dosent have ADHD. Sometimes i feel i am saying things to my own Son that use to annoy me coming from my Dad. Dont get me wrong, he is a great Dad. I know how i could be frustrating to him at times when he didnt understand what was going on with me.I would be great to be part of your forum. Please feel free to send us any imformation. Thanks Glen. Melbourne ,Australia.

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Margit Crane Luria July 11, 2016 at

Hi Glen! I’ll sign you up for the weekly parenting tips. And, at the end of the month, I’ll be debuting an online video club that I’m sure will be a big help. Hundreds of videos, available 24/7. Check in the weekly newsletter for the subscriber’s code. Subscribers get discounts! Cheers, Margit

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Diane July 11, 2016 at

How do I know if my 2 year old has adhd x he’s become really naughty lately and laughs at you if you give him wrong x help x is it hereditary as his birth mother has adhd x

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Margit Crane Luria July 11, 2016 at

Hi Diane, 2 years old is too early to diagnose ADHD. 2 and 3 year olds often behave the way you’re describing. However, if you want a diagnosis, I’d check with your child’s pediatrician. I’m not a diagnostician but a doctor is. Hope this helps, Margit

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Debbie July 11, 2016 at

This is great advice if it works. Our daughter is 18 and still can’t tell us why she won’t ask for help in school or why she can’t get assignments in on time. She is going to college in the Fall and we won’t be there to help keep her on track. My fear is that she will fail because of the two above mentioned items.

What is your advice for getting them to remember to ask for help and to get assignments etc. in on time. Also to start working on an assignment once it is assigned NOT one of two days before the due date. Any help would be much appreciated. FYI, our daughter is also Hearing Impaired, has anxiety, OCD, sensory issues and processing issues.

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Margit Crane Luria July 11, 2016 at

You’re talking about self-esteem issues, it sounds like. In our society we’re often taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Despite what you’ve told her, the media is filled with examples of “heroes” doing it on their own. To ask for help means to expose your doubts and weaknesses.

I would back off as far as giving her help or trying to get her to remember things. She needs to see where she is, on her own. And it’s good information for you too. You can help by giving her encouragement and by letting her know that you love her and that she’s okay no matter what.

With all she has going on, college may not be right for her. It would be great if she would accept some coaching from a local coach or some therapy. We all need support and she’s got good reason to get as much as possible. I know someone (a therapist) who can work with her over the phone or via Skype. Her office is in Bellevue, WA. Let me know if you want the information. She would be able to help with the anxiety piece which could cover some of the other challenges. xo, Margit

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Sarah Steadman July 11, 2016 at

This hit very close to home for me. I struggle with this even as an adult. I simply don’t function at the same level as the other nt adults or even adhd adults. What can I do as an adult to encourage progress with executive functioning? Does it matter or change the outcome if there are also sensory issues? I get so overwhelmed that it seems some area of my life is always suffering because of my inability to juggle all the different roles and once I get too overwhelmed I just kind of shut down and everything falls apart.

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Margit Crane Luria July 11, 2016 at

Hi Sarah, yup I totally get it. What helps me is therapy. Honestly, I’ve pretty much always had a business coach, a life coach, or a therapist. I don’t see how adults with ADHD can get to a better place in their lives without help. With the overwhelm you talk about, it sounds like therapy might be great. We’re all just big chemistry sets and some of us need more refills than others. Hope this helps. Hugs, Margit

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N....M July 11, 2016 at

My son (just turned 6 on June 30th) has finally been diagnosed with ADHD. I say “finally” bc I have been telling his pediatrician for the past few years that there is something going on with him. I was reaching out for help bc I couldn’t handle the screaming, crying, anger, lack of organization, restlessness, getting red lights at school….and I was told he is a boy and they mature differently. After some testing and observation, I finally have the Dr and school working with me to help make situations/school/home more enjoyable for my son.
The other day I had to send him to his room for his yelling. I told him he could be as angry as he wanted, but he wasn’t allowed to display that behavior in the livingroom. When I went to his room to check on him I could hear him talking to himself. With tears streaming down my face, I listened to him say how much he hated himself and he can never do anything right. It was at the very moment I knew I needed to make more of an effort to have more patience with him.

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Margit Crane Luria July 11, 2016 at

Kudos to you for picking up on your son’s needs so quickly! And thank you for that lovely family story. Heart melting <3

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Anonymous July 12, 2016 at

Hi my son have ADHD and is a special school the gov help parents with children and my son was there and he did a lot of improvement. Name of the school is Emerson .in Victoria . In Dandenong . You can call the school and they are amezing .

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

Australia has a more advanced educational system than the US, for sure! Thanks for your comment!

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Elisheva July 12, 2016 at

Dealing with same issues.. problem is my son won’t remember – when he does know! He can’t seem to hold on to thoughts.. I feel my son’s school which still complains often – I find, they are the lucky ones! At least they see him on his meds! I only see my son when he’s off or coming off of them and he seems frustrated by the wave of distraction.

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

Ma Nishma, Elisheva? Coming off the meds is sometimes very disruptive for families each day. It’s important to keep things very simple when he’s at home. How old is your son? With his frustration comes his need for gentleness. Let me know if I can help. In the meantime, I recommend signing up for my weekly parenting tips: http://blockedtobrilliant.com B’hatzlacha, Margit (Margalit)

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Liz July 12, 2016 at

Hi-
This is amazing! My 5 yr old says this all the time and my husband gets so frustrated with him.
Thank you so much for this insight! It is exactly what we needed.

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

Glad I could help, Liz! That always makes me happy. xo, Margit

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Michelle July 12, 2016 at

I say this all the time as my cop-out (I’m 42). I realize it’s frustrating to people. I can’t tell you how rocky my teenage years were.
For me, it is more like if my mind is already swimming, or I’m stressed out, don’t introduce ANOTHER track to run through my mind to think about. Or, if I am doing one thing, and hyper-focused on it and making progress (laundry, a paper I’m writing, enjoying dinner), I simply get overwhelmed when something else is introduced ( like what I should’ve done, should do, or your way of doing something). There is no way for people to know when my mind is on high gear, so they don’t get when I’m dismissive. I’ve tried to replace this with ‘give me a minute’ but I know I’ll totally forget to go back to it.
: (

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

Michelle, I feel you, sister! I tell people to remind me later, or to write it down, or to text me, or to email me. I put it on them. After all, they’re interrupting me. If it’s a boss, I write it down and set an alarm to remind me to get back to him/her. Hope this helps. xo, Margit

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Kerri July 12, 2016 at

This was not only true for me as an undiagnosed kid with ADHD, it remains true for me as an adult with ADHD. I think it’s often when I say I don’t know that I know the answer is more than I can figure out in the few seconds the person staring at me wanting an answer within.
Although sometimes I really just don’t know.

Thanks for a great post. I shared it with my personal connections as well as our Smart Girls with ADHD group :).

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

Yes, Kerri! Great observation. Thanks for sharing this post. xo, Margit

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H Rodger July 12, 2016 at

My 10 yr old has been given a day to answer me but wont, if allowed time to think he simply doesnt.

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

I would need more information, Rodger. Can you provide more? Like what is he supposed to think about? Thanks!

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Anne Marie Mandell July 12, 2016 at

Hi, this really hit home with our family. When I ask my son or husband to think about something, they always forget to. If I ask them to work on something and I let them procrastinate, they forget I even asked. I try to be patient but some things need to get done in a timely manner and I am only 1 person; I cannot do it all. We lose medical benefits, money for food and mortgage; my husband cannot hold down a full time job. At which point am I an enabler? When does my 54 yr old husband grow up and take responsibility? I am so very overwhelmed and exhausted, married almost 15 years with a 10 year old son who still cannot bathe himself without assistance. Please, I need some help. Thank you.

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Margit Crane Luria July 12, 2016 at

Anne Marie, I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. Here is my opinion: it sounds like your husband may have depression or anxiety, based on what I’ve seen in other men his age. I can’t diagnose and it could be other things as well, but I doubt it’s just ADHD. Whatever is going on, he needs help and so do you. I recommend therapy – individual or marriage counseling. I’m guessing you will need to get some treatment from a medical doctor what with all the stress. Ask around to see if there are agencies that can help out with costs. And God Bless you and your family, honey. xo, Margit

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Sarah Beam July 14, 2016 at

Thank you so much for this. I find that so often I get frustrated with my son, now 13. He was diagnosed at 5. I have recently tried to just slow down a bit and talk to him more calmly. It has helped a lot and this article confirmed that I am doing the right thing. Now to just get his teachers to do the same thing. Unfortunately, school is a nightmare for him and it is so sad because he is such a smart kid. Any tips on that??

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Margit Crane Luria July 14, 2016 at

Sarah, yes!! Just sign up for my weekly ezine and you’ll get a pdf of my book, “Getting Schooled” it’s got exactly what you want! xo, Margit

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Jennifer Noyola July 14, 2016 at

I cried. So glad i read this.

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Margit Crane Luria July 14, 2016 at

Ohhhh. That is such a sweet comment. Thank you, Jennifer :’)

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Morgan July 29, 2016 at

This applies to me and I’m old. But my parents, I think are Narcissistic and I still respond, I don’t know, if I think that I will get yelled or screamed at, for whatever I want to say. Most often if I feel intimidated, I cannot come up with a reply, my mind goes blank, or sometimes I can’t even remember what we were supposed to be talking about in the first place, because when i was about 12, which is also when my screaming step dad came into my life, I started blocking him out when he would scream at me. Lesson, screaming doesn’t help. It makes things worse and chaotic.

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Margit Crane Luria July 30, 2016 at

Hi Morgan, I wish you so much love. I hope you will find someone amazing to help you with this. The combination of ADHD and screaming parents is just a nightmare.

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Jacqueline August 18, 2016 at

WOW!! I get that all the time.. good to know why!

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Margit Crane Luria August 18, 2016 at

Welcome, Jacqueline!

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Tanya August 26, 2016 at

Thank you for this. I try so hard with my “patient voice” but lose it occasionally. I had no idea what it might be like from my son’s perspective. I have felt guilty for weeks every time I’ve been too demanding or yelled. I am so happy to have stumbled across this site. Thank you for the information and education!

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Margit Crane Luria August 29, 2016 at

Thanks Tanya. We ALL lose it sometimes. I’m so glad you’ve joined us.

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Gina December 20, 2016 at

Great information! I would love to get new letters! My son is always saying that he doesn’t “think” to ask the simple question of asking for math help in hospital 8th grade class. He said he knows he can’t do the problem but doesn’t think of raising.his hand. He’s ADD although he can’t figure that out? Ever hear of that?

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane January 4, 2017 at

Yes, Gina. What you describe is very common. Raising your hand and asking for help is a radical move and many students don’t want to do it or push the thought away. I’ll sign you up for the newsletter, since you asked. Thanks for commenting!

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JERRY February 1, 2017 at

THIS WAS A GOOD EXPLANATION

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 2, 2017 at

Thank you, Jerry!

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Sheila Robles February 2, 2017 at

Wow, this hit home!

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 2, 2017 at

Glad to help out!

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Sheila February 2, 2017 at

Wow, this hit home! K My son is 15 (16 is April) and that has been his response to everything. “Why didn’t you hand in your homework? IDK. Why didn’t you to that?” IDK. I have find it incredibly frustrating for me. I have been patient and loving, his advocate at all times. But IDK has become a knee jerk response to everything. My husband doesn’t have as much patience, blows up at him because he get frustrated when our son takes a tone with me. We both thought our son was being defiant, and it may be part of it, but yelling and screaming didn’t help. I am going to share this article with him.

I’ve been taking him to a therapist for a number of years, and I was begining to believe that perhaps it was doing more harm than good. Plus the last two sessions he blew off. So I cancelled the rest. He has the tools to succeed, or he knows where to find them. I’m am actually really proud of him this week because he finally, with a prompt from me, he found out when and where he can get help with math and Spanish.

Thank you for writing this. It was a huge relief that others are experiencing this too.

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 2, 2017 at

Hi Sheila, I’m not an advocate of therapy for ADHD. That’s why I chose to be an ADHD coach. More action, more progress, less chit chat. I have some ideas I’d love to share with you. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation: http://bit.ly/ADHDBrilliant

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Kathy February 3, 2017 at

I wish I’d known about this when my kids were young. Now they are all grown. One of them, in particular, I truly believe has been add all her life. But when she was young we could have gotten her the help she needed. Back then it wasn’t talked about as much as it is today so I didn’t know anything about it. I feel so bad.

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 3, 2017 at

Kathy, we all have things we’ve not done perfectly because we didn’t have the right information. I’m sure you did exactly what you could do. There’s always hope for your daughter, if she’s willing to take the leap. There are some great Adult ADHD coaches around the world. xo, Yafa

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Amy Young February 18, 2017 at

Is there a place to find a reputable ADHD coach in one’s own area? My son has been going to a therapist that specializes in ADHD, but they seem to go over the same stuff all the time. He needs more tools. He is 19. He is really struggling.
Thanks,
Amy Young

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 18, 2017 at

Hi Amy, try this website: https://www.adhdcoaches.org/

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Paula Richardson February 25, 2017 at

I’m sure the article is very helpful and with a daughter who has ADHD I would’ve loved to read it.

However, I got annoyed reading the phrase “ADHD kids”, my daughter is Scarlett.. she has ADHD she is not an ADHD kid. I don’t feel people should be defined by their condition… I wouldn’t call someone a “cancer kid” or “downs kid”.
People have names… it’s about dignity and respect.

This is by no means an attack on your blog just the thoughts of a mother with a child who has ADHD.

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 25, 2017 at

Hi Paula, I agree with you but, in fact, the language is changing, and I’m changing with it. It’s too bad you’re not going to read the article; it’s helped thousands of people, as you can see by the numbers that have read it. Thanks for visiting 🙂

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Paula Richardson February 25, 2017 at

Thanks for replying.
I don’t feel the language is changing, and if it is then maybe the world is going backwards instead of forward. I believe labelling someone is always wrong and would advocate against labelling anyone with a condition. I am also a student nurse and will be working with people with Learning Disabilities as this is my chosen branch… and I strongly believe that we are “people first!”

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 27, 2017 at

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Paula. I doubt that we’re that different. I, too, believe we are people first. I was just talking to a client about labels. We try not to label but sometimes we’re just exchanging one label for another. I am thrilled to have the ADHD label. My diagnosis was a game changer. Plus, I think ADHD is awesome – to me, being called an “ADHD adult” is the same as being called an “awesome, talented, brilliant leader.” The world has the wrong idea about ADHD so it would seem the label is a negative. Also, learning disabilities is a label as well, even when we say “People with learning disabilities.” Neither having ADHD nor having learning differences is a deficit except as we choose to see it as such. xo, Yafa.

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Agnes February 26, 2017 at

This is very helpful. I will use this with my son that has adhd. Any other tips as to how to improve work habits and behavior at school?

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 26, 2017 at

Tons of information on behavior, Agnes! Scroll down til you see the “SEARCH” box on the far right and enter words like: behavior, school, chores, homework. Then hit enter. Also, I have a free 50-minute phone consultation which you can schedule here: http://bit.ly/ADHDBrilliant

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Heather Colls February 28, 2017 at

Our 3rd child a son we knew from the time he was 3 months old was different. If we were doing something he had to be the centre of attention. We were moving and staying in motels so had to go out to eat. I would nurse him before went out and as soon as the food came he made so much noise we could not eat. Finally we decided one of the adults would stay in the room with him and when they were finished the other adult would go eat. He learned a 4 months how to move on his back. At 18 months he unhooked the screens from windows on the 3rd floor of a hospital. He was on my lap and I could not see what was amusing him he was quiet. Thank heavens the nurse saw and quickly informed me. In kindergarten he had a first time teacher and he ran her the whole year, I warned them. He then went to the same child`s physiatrist at our older ADD son. Yes he was ADHD and was properly tested. Our changed life started. I and he had very good psychologist. We had 3 different ones and they all agreed which was comforting. We could only deal with one problem at a time no yelling I counted to 25 or if really bad went for a walk first. We would sit down and talk about what happened he is now 36 still has problems he and I are best friends, he would do anything for me. Yes he has a father but he is ADD and few patience and gets angry when he did things, I stayed calm. He had a wonderful full time job for now 13 years well respected so dependable they know they can count on him to do it right. I am so proud of him and he knows now he gave me a hell of a lot of problems but I never doubted he could do it. If anything ever happened to his father I know he would find a place for the two of us. I always let him do his own thing I only want to know am I cooking for him or not. You can have a successful time with these children it is a lot of work and patience, and help from professionals.

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 28, 2017 at

Right on, Heather!!! Thanks for sharing your story! YOU ROCK!

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Caroline February 28, 2017 at

Thank you for this! My son has been identified as ADHD recently. He is in the 5th grade. He’s always had some tendencies, but this year has spiraled him out of control. It is quite evident that his teacher dislikes him, which makes the situation even harder. Also, her lack of order is causing more problems for him. This article will help us at home to respond to him in a healthy way. Great reminders.

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Yafa Luria/Margit Crane February 28, 2017 at

You’re so welcome, Caroline! Let me know if I can help any other way!

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