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What I Finally Understand About Mornings For My Daughter with ADHD

I started a blog post over a year ago, and never published it. Now, a year and some months later, I am back to finish it. And, I am armed with new information and tactics -- and a story of success!

But first...lets go back to May 26, 2016...

This is not a blog post filled with advice and inspiration. Because I have none on this topic. It is merely a reflection on my daughter's difficult (peculiar?) behavior in the morning, and a question of "Why?" More like, "Whyyyyyyy" while raising my hands in exasperation, scratching my head stumped, googling for answers, and looking for help from our therapist.

What does this behavior look like, exactly? Well before I go into the details, let me backtrack a bit to before I had kids and what I imagined it would be like getting them out of bed in the mornings. In my head, I pictured a serene setting. My daughter would be calmly sleeping and I would go in quietly. I would pause to observe her sleeping, so peaceful and beautiful. I would gently put my hand on her back, softly rousing her to wake. I would whisper "good morning, sunshine, time to wake up." She would slowly open her eyes and smile, "good morning, mom."

Now, back to reality. The first part of my vision was correct. My daughter is a peaceful, beautiful little sleeper and I like to pause to watch her sleep. This is the calm before the storm. I gently put my hand on her back and whisper "good morning, Madi, time to wake up." Her eyes dart open. Immediately she is glaring and her body tenses up. "GET OUT OF MY ROOM!!!!!!" she yells.

OK, so she isn't a morning person.

But, it's actually more than that. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I know it is somehow related to her neurodiverse brain and her difficulty managing transitions.

Over time, we've figured out how to get her up out of bed in the most productive, and least stressful way. Giving her a few extra minutes is sometimes necessary. Incenting (or bribing) can cut the time in half...

And that is where I stopped. Reading it again takes me back to this difficult time, not only were the mornings hard - but practically every hour of every day was hard. There would be constant meltdowns, major tantrums, and out of control or peculiar behaviors.

It. Was. Hard.

Hard on us. Hard on her little brother. And hard on her. We didn't know if we had the most defiant child ever, if we were the worst parents ever, or if something else was going on. Then, in September 2016, Madi went through a full day of neuropsychological testing to better understand HER. And from this we had an official diagnosis of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, primarily seen in sustained attention, slow processing speed, hyperactivity and impulsivity. An additional diagnosis of an anxiety disorder was also uncovered. The neuropsychologist said it best when she explained that Madi came into this world as a sensitive, reactive and emotional girl -- in her WHOLE self, and possibly shedding light on other issues like eczema, food allergies, and sensory issues.

Waking up is a transition. It's a transition that is difficult for Madi. She's not being defiant or lazy. Children with ADHD can be inherently disorganized and have an impaired sense of time. These are some of the challenges that can make it difficult for Madi, and others with ADHD, to start their day. I understand now that Madi responded the way she did back then because she was responding impulsively on her first emotion -- which was anger.

Since then, we've made several adjustments that have helped Madi tremendously. Things like removing artificial dyes and watching sugar intake, keeping a consistent routine, working with a therapist to help develop coping strategies for anxious feelings and ways to get "unstuck" in her thinking, and finding a medication that helps Madi think clearly and reduce some of her anxiety.

Madi is the same little girl she was when I first started writing this blog post. We've just helped remove some of the clutter in her brain to bring out the best of the best. She is creative, full of life, and strong-willed. She loves to be silly and tries constantly to make us all laugh. There are still hard days and hard times. Having ADHD and anxiety is not something that just "goes away" with treatment. And it's not something that she will grow out of. This is part of her. Over time, she has developed strategies to help her function in all environments - home, school, etc. But she still gets overwhelmed. She still has a hard time focusing. It's just part of who she is. And that is OK. As she gets older, she will figure out what works best for her -- and what doesn't. She is a remarkable girl and I can't wait to see what's in store for her as she gets older.

And this morning, when I woke her, it took a few minutes but then she was smiling and excited for all the Halloween fun that was planned for the day. It's not quite what I had envisioned all those years earlier, but it's exactly what I want now. I love this girl and the joy she brings to our lives!

Here is a great article that really resonated with me if you'd like to learn more: 7 Facts You Need to Know About ADHD.

Thanks for reading, and Happy "last day" of ADHD Awareness Month!

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My almost 6 year old daughter took this picture of me, hence the unappealing camera angle.  But this is how she sees me, so even though it's not the most glamorous picture, it works.  This is me.

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