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What Your Son Wants To Tell You About His ADHD

Dear Mom and Dad:

I have Attention Deficit Disorder. It's something to do with the executive functioning in the brain's frontal lobes. I'm like a factory without a CEO. It feels that way sometimes - like no one's in charge and I'm out of control.

When I was little, I was so hyper you called me "the mother killer." I'm sorry I gave you a hard time, but it wasn't my fault. You took a lot of grief for having a brat, but my ADHD was behind it. I didn't mean to run away, smack other kids, jump in the pool with my clothes on and do all the other stuff I did. Stuff that made you unhappy.

That's why I am writing this. I want you to understand how ADHD feels and why I can't control myself.

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My ADHD means that I am easily distracted by things. I can sit in a movie like everyone else, but the man crunching popcorn next to me will bother me the entire picture. When I'm in class, I can't concentrate on the teacher because I'm too aware of the kid who's sharpening a pencil or the construction workers outside my class window. I'm no good at concentrating. Everything pulls my attention toward it - even if it's just for a few seconds. It takes a sonic boom to distract you. But EVERY LITTLE THING distracts me.

My ADHD means I'm impulsive. The popcorn man is ruining the movie for me so I may suddenly smack him. I may tell the boy who's sharpening his pencil to stop making so much noise. Then I'm in trouble for hitting the popcorn guy and yelling out loud in class. I'm always in trouble and making you look bad.

My ADHD means my sense of time is no good. Tomorrow may as well be twenty years from now. I don't think long-term. When my teacher says that this homework is due on Friday and Friday's five days away, I don't care. Five days is forever. Then when Friday comes, I'm dead where I stand because I haven't even started doing the work. When someone tells me that drinking will fry your liver twenty years from now, I don't care. I only care about how good that drink tastes in the moment and that it makes me feel less hyper and depressed. I know it's hard for you to understand, because you have day-timers and appointment books and Blackberries. Try to understand that I can't plan ahead - not even two hours from now. I can't even learn to plan ahead unless you teach me how to.

My ADHD means my sense of judgment is not only off, it's missing. Again, no executive function. I've heard of ADHD kids who die in extreme sports or one ADHD kid who jumped in a lake on a dare and ended up in a wheelchair because the water was only two feet deep. You need to know that I'd probably do the same thing. I'll take any dare offered. I don't see the risks involved because I live in the moment. I just think how cool it would be to jump in that lake and have everyone admire me.

I was lost in school by second grade. For one thing, school was always incredibly boring to me. I know my sister loves it, but I don't. For one thing, half the time they give us tasks I don't understand - like "write a term paper." I don't get how to go to the library, look up stuff, and take notes. If they would break it into small steps, I could do it, but they don't. They just say, "Write a term paper." Everyone else understands how to write a term paper or make a pie chart or whatever. I'm not stupid, but I just can't organize things. That's why I really started flunking out in middle school. I can't organize the work from one teacher, much less five teachers.

I wish they would not keep reminding me how high my IQ is and how I'm not applying myself. Most boys with ADHD have language-based learning disorders. We are not slow learners or dumb - -it's just that the words on the page jump around and we have trouble focusing our eyes on that stupid little print. I can't read very fast and I hate writing. I fail because school is all about reading. I know that there are computer programs and high-tech stuff to help ADHD kids, but they don't have them at my school.

I know you hate the kids I go around with, but they are the only ones who like me. The cool smart kids don't like me because I have a wicked mouth and don't know when to shut up. Also I don't get good grades. They're all worried about college and careers and stuff, but I can't think that far ahead. I don't have any goals and I wouldn't know how to set them.

I spend a lot of time playing video games. Like drinking, they calm me down. I get in the zone when I play X-Box because there's so much going on: shooting, characters, colors, quick reactions. The games work as fast as my brain, but when I stop, I get even more irritable. I know I act worse after I've been at them at day. It would be better if I would only be allowed to play them a few hours a day, but I guess you get welcome relief when I'm in that zone.

My favorite shirt says "NO BOUNDARIES." I can be really hostile to any limits you set. But I've heard that kids like me do better with regular hours for stuff. Like you wake up at a certain time, eat breakfast, and know exactly what's happening every hour. I know that would calm me down. That would take away a lot of anxiety I have inside me that everything is out of control. I also know I feel less jumpy when I get more exercise, but I usually don't bother. I just drift from one thing to another.

Sometimes I think no one likes me and that even you guys are sick of me. I know you wish I was more like my sister, Little Miss Perfect. If I give her a hard time, it's because I'm jealous. If you add up all the times she got yelled at since she was born, it would be less than five minutes. For me, I've been yelled at for whole years and lifetimes. I hate the way you yell so much and I really love you guys even if I don't show it. I wish I didn't have ADHD and I'm sorry I give you a hard time. I am trying hard all the time but it feels like I never get any pay-off no matter how hard I try. Trying really hard only moves me toward normal, it does not make me normal.

Well, this is my letter anyway. Maybe you understand ADHD a little better now. I love you.

Your Son

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