There are some similarities (as was shared in yesterday’s post) between ASD and ADHD. For Liam, it’s mostly his lack of attention and disorganization. Both have to do with a deficit in executive functions – the administrative assistant in the brain, if you will (I will probably talk more about this later – it is a bit part of my presentation to teachers). But Liam is only inattentive when asked to perform non-preferred tasks (who isn’t?). I have seen him even at a very young age play with his letter and number floor, or a video game without taking a break, for hours on end (haha – bad parenting admission there). But ask him to clean his room? I will find him playing with something in his room after one minute.
We began to actively avoid having Liam paired up or playing for any extended amount of time with boys with ADHD. It never went well for Liam. It was as if the other boy realized, hey, here’s a kid who will process a little slower than me, or that I can make cry, or that will annoy me because he doesn’t pay attention to what I want him to. I’m sure that I am overgeneralizing, but there were a few boys strategically placed throughout Liam’s life, at church, at school, at the playground we visited, at summer camp, that would invariably cause him to have a meltdown. They didn’t share, they made fun of him, they didn’t let him play, etc. Usually, when I talked to the child, it was easy to see how frustrated he was with Liam’s inability to play a game without getting upset, keep up with a conversation (or be interested in what the other kid was saying), or show interest in what the boys was doing. Eventually, Liam would feel bullied by the child who was working to say he didn’t like playing with Liam (maybe without words, or nice words). I learned quickly that it was not really bullying. It was frustration on both ends.
Honestly, just yesterday we were having a conversation about a boy at recess who consistently gets Liam out every time he tries to play block ball. He is not Liam’s friend, recognizes Liam’s lack of coordination, and has been frustrated in the past with how Liam has “whined” about getting out. As soon as Liam steps into the game, he is targeted by this boy and his other friends as the person to get out. Astonishingly, Liam doesn’t mind it as much as he used to. (In 6th grade, he announced to a group of kids from a different elementary school that they were “playing the game wrong.” Sigh). He says that he’s just happy to get a turn and he should be quicker if he wants to stay in the game. What? Who is this young man? This is definitely different from how he felt in the past.
Our strategy was usually to explain to Liam how things “looked” to the other child and to give him strategies to understand the situation differently. I used to say, What did you notice about his voice, his face, or what he was saying? Did you ask him why he did whatever it was that made you upset? Sometimes helping Liam engage in the situation and show interest would help him make a connection with the kid and lower that child’s frustration. More often, our strategy was to find a different group to play with, or another activity. In 7th grade, it was so bad with block ball that I had Liam play chess in the library instead. Now, I know that I was giving up on some level, and maybe Liam still is not good at block ball (although he’s a wicked chess player), because of my poor choice. But in situations where Liam was overly upset and the strategies didn’t work – the kid or kids weren’t changing their attitude about Liam, Liam needed to realize that he would not always get along with everyone or that everyone would not play the way he wanted them to. I’m thrilled that he has a better attitude now and that he has choices: play within the group rules, make your own group to play with, or find something else to do.
Not every child that Liam has had difficulty with has actually had ADHD, but his brother does. And, as I mentioned yesterday, there are times when they are extremely frustrating to each other.
This photo still cracks us up!
Liam will come out of his room where they were playing saying, Kieran is cheating (and he is because he hates losing to Liam so often), or asking, why is he talking so loud? Kieran will come out of Liam’s room where they were playing saying, enough with the rules!
I think that Liam has helped Kieran’s patience and Kieran has helped Liam grow more attuned to sarcasm, a lot of talking all at once, and how to handle it when someone doesn’t follow the rules (a huge life lesson).
This year, I’ve even seen Liam keep his cool in a timed Count Down Round in a Math Counts competition: http://www.eveningsun.com/story/news/education/2017/01/10/competition-shows-ok-to-love-math/96242426/
I believe that God gives us what we need and not more than we can handle. Kieran has been a blessing to Liam’s growth, to be sure.