ADHD/AUTISM: Are we making any progress!?!?

by | Jan 24, 2018 | reflections

I think one of the hardest things about living with ADHD/Autism is this very issue: ARE WE MAKING ANY PROGRESS!?!?

First, I think I should share a few things about my kids:

  • My son who is autistic is high-functioning. If they still had the Asperger’s diagnosis, he would fit in that classification most likely. And our pediatrician was very hopeful that with the right therapies, he would “lose his diagnosis during his elementary years. How does an autist “lose their diagnosis” you ask? Well, they don’t truly. He will always be autistic. His mind will always work differently (not a bad thing, I love how his mind works). But he will (with work), lose his qualification for services.
  • This same son who is on the spectrum also has ADHD, but not severely.
  • My daughter who has ADHD is a severe case. Her behaviors indicative of this condition are very apparent and rather difficult for her and us to manage even with medication from time to time.

“Mountain Top” Seasons and “Valley” Seasons

I use the word season here because I mean a period of time. Sometime it’s a couple of days, sometimes it can be a couple of weeks. But it’s rarely shorter. But there seems to be this pattern with my sweet kiddos and their behavior challenges.

I like the mountain/valley illustration for this because it definitely feels like an up and down kind of thing. And it feels almost cyclical, to the point its even routine. Can anyone relate?

Some days it seems we are on the “mountain top” – everything is going well, everything seems to be clicking, and we’re on the “home stretch”. Then other seasons are definitely of the “valley” type  where we struggle, struggle a lot, and struggle hard.

Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

There are definitely times in our progress that it feels this way (2 steps forward and 1 step back). Let me first say that the successes with both Autism and ADHD are HUGE! They are worthwhile and they are AMAZING! Because you work and fight so hard for progress. You really have to celebrate those victories because there are definitely times when they are few and far between. But it does happen that we take a huge leap forward (ergo “two steps”) in one area, only to have a set back in another. This can be very frustrating, as you can imagine.

Say my son who is autistic is showing signs of becoming more interested in others socially. Like, he goes up to a stranger at the doctor’s office (in the “Well Waiting Room” of course 🙂 ) and starts a conversation with no prompting. That’s a win. Then we get home and he screams about and refuses to eat one peanut butter cracker or let us make him any milkshake he wants (because that’s the only protein he will eat) even though this is a hump we’ve “overcome” two weeks ago.

These things do make you think: ARE WE MAKING ANY PROGRESS? Is there an end result? Will we ever get there?

The answer to the first two questions is a resounding YES!

Are we making any progress? Early on, when my son was diagnosed, the 100 DAY KIT (the packet given to every family when a member is diagnosed with Autism) encouraged us to film his progress from the time he started therapy and on so we could look back and see the progress. We did some of that…but when we are discouraged, we do think back to when he was first diagnosed, to 6 months ago even and the struggles we were having. And we do see the progress. We think about the struggles my daughter had last year in school and where she is now. And we celebrate it.

Is there an end result? There will be. But how we define it says a lot about my kids and their ability to meet that goal. And it says even more about us as parents. Will we let our kids be who they are and love/accept them as they are? Or are we constantly looking for the next month, the next year and what that will bring? This applies to parents of all kids. Are you content with your crawler? Or are you eager for them to start walking? Do you enjoy the cuddling phase for what it is? Or can you just not stand it you’re longing for the day when they won’t need you so much? It will come. And you can’t go back. I don’t say this to mom guilt anyone. I just say this to gently remind you to enjoy and accept where you are right now. To remind myself just as much to love my kids where they are in their challenges today. No matter how challenging it is. While it’s okay to not love the challenges, to be careful not to wish this time away.

Unfortunately, the answer to the last question – Will we ever get there? – I believe the answer is NO. At least, I hope not. I hope we will all, in our own way, (my kiddos included) continue to grow, learn, and challenge ourselves (whatever that looks like) until we come to life’s end.

So, my question for you is…what is your biggest victory to date? What is your biggest challenge currently?

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Sara R. Turnquist