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    The Healing Home - The ADD Answer: How to Help Your Child Now

    Excerpted from
    The ADD Answer: How to Help Your Child Now
    By Frank Lawlis, Ph.D.

    Lynda, at age ten, was the youngest of three sisters and enjoyed being the baby of the family. Her older siblings had strong personalities. Judy, who was five years older, was a star volleyball player; Lorri, three years older, excelled in academics, particularly math. Being the youngest among high-achieving siblings had advantages and disadvantages. On the downside, many of Lynda's teachers expected her to perform at the same level as her sisters. They set the bar high for her, based on the sisters' performance, but Lynda had unique challenges.

    She would sometimes solve difficult problems and complete complex assignments, but then completely fail on other assignments that were no more difficult. Lynda also was easily distracted. Her teachers complained that she talked to girlfriends rather than listened in class. She often came home from school lamenting that she didn't understand the homework assignments or the lessons of the day.

    Lynda's parents did not pressure her to get high grades, but they assumed that she would have success in her areas of interest, which were drama club and the debate team. But Lynda struggled even there. Her parents had been conditioned to expect their daughters to be self-motivated. They reacted to Lynda's lack of success by accusing her of being spoiled and unmotivated. They decided to fire up the parental engine to motivate her.

    Lynda's dad, John, identified himself as a "Molder type of parent because he had high expectations of his children and demanded that they live up to them. Not surprisingly for someone of this personality type, he was the CEO of a large department store. He conducted his business in a direct, no-nonsense manner. He was performance and results oriented at work and at home.

    He told Lynda's mother that it was now time to directly engage Lynda about her responsibilities as a member of the family-before she got any older. Talks would begin on a daily basis, said John.

    Lynda's mother, Gloria, had a parental style that complemented her husband's. She was more permissive and she was comfortable letting him play the family leader, although she was very effective as a behind-the-scenes power broker. Normally she remained passive while John dictated how the girls were to behave. His demands required adherence to a code of standards usually inappropriate to the generation in which Lynda and her sisters were growing up. Often, when John was not around, Gloria would help the girls find ways to do what they wanted without upsetting their father. In some ways she was acting more like an older daughter, conspiring to circumvent the strict rules of their demanding father.

    Within this context Lynda lived out a highly personal internal war. Instead of adopting the social role her parents expected, she began to live out a private life, withdrawn from the public eye. She felt different from her sisters and other kids, and was not interested in much of what they talked about. Her inner world was one of chaos and confusion, and it was only due to her high intelligence that she was able to keep just enough focus to get by in school and in the other parts of her life. But school tasks were getting harder, and she knew that sooner or later she would be discovered. She was terrified of the day when the world would realize that she was mostly faking her way through, and she had a real fear that her family would abandon her when she was found out.

    One of her teachers thought that Lynda was depressed and recommended that she see a counselor, but Lynda was afraid of taking oil her mask. She claimed to be upset about the death of her dog and promised to do better. Lynda's mother had similar concerns about her at the time. She'd attended one of my presentations and she called me to ask if I would speak to her daughter.

    When we met, Lynda was at the edge of panic. But after ten minutes or so, she began to feel safe. She asked me to commit to an ironclad promise never to tell anybody the story that she was going to confide to me. Later she released me from this promise in order to discuss the issue with her parents. We spoke for nearly three hours. She told me how her mind would seem to jump from one unconnected idea to the next, and how it took great effort to remain focused on any one thing for very long. She said that her mind would drift off during class and that when the bell rang at the end of a class period, it often seemed as though she'd been far away the entire time.

    Lynda told me of losing her way when she walked or rode her bike to school because her thoughts would keep her from concentrating. She would forget the names of her girlfriends. She'd feel embarrassed when they talked about things she did not remember doing with them. In class, she was often frustrated. She might know the answer to a teacher's question but then forget both the question and the answer. She stopped participating in class as a result of her concentration problems.

    In short, she thought-no, she knew-that she was going crazy, and she feared that it was only going to be a short time before some men with white coats came to take her away forever. Lynda's fears were very real to her. I tried to help her understand that she was not going wacky, but she was fragile. I arranged to give her some tests. The results showed that Lynda had concentration and memory problems consistent with attention deficit disorder. Although she was pleased to learn that she was not "nutso," she was still frightened, particularly about how her father would respond. The had screamed at her for forgetting the keys to the house, she said. What would he do now?

    When I explained the problem to Lynda's parents, I was not prepared for their expressions of disappointment in her. It was as if they had just discovered that Lynda had lied and cheated on them. They felt shamed by the diagnosis. They had no clue how to help her. Initially, it seemed they simply wanted to walk away and leave her to me for repair and salvage, like some damaged appliance.

    Their disappointment and shame seemed out of proportion to my descriptions of Lynda's situation. Her case was not all that severe. But I've encountered similar reactions from the parents of children diagnosed with ADD.

    Some parents grow emotionally distant when confronted with the ADD diagnosis for their children. They feel frustrated, and if they believe they cannot help, they withdraw. Then they will turn to a doctor, a psychologist, or someone else from outside-not as a consultant, but as a savior. Unless they reinvest in their child's future, the family's problems deepen.

    Thankfully, Lynda's family avoided that fate. Lynda, John, and Gloria pulled together instead of falling apart. With some guidance and after reflection, they became open to working together as a team. They worked at communicating. They identified the best ways, based on their individual strengths and weaknesses, to deal collectively, as a family, with Lynda's challenges. Her parents accepted that she was different from her high-achieving sisters and that she was not a mere projection of their desires. Along the way, they learned to accept not only Lynda but each other, embracing strengths and weaknesses too.

    The family found ways to help Lynda function much more effectively. Her acupuncture points were stimulated with sound, a treatment that has been found to be very effective. Her body was cleansed of lead, and she undertook a changed nutritional program. But the true healing was in the relationships that were at the very foundation of their family. That healing produced new and deeper understanding for them all. It was such a life-changing experience that each family member told me independently during the treatment process that Lynda's ADD diagnoses may well have been the best thing that happened to them.

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