This day started obscenely early for a person who got off of work at 4am. I should of paid more attention about the time the keynote started and slept in. Beyond that this day was really interesting, inspiring, and jammed full of information. Regular readers here know how uncomfortable I am with the medicine culture that surrounds ADHD. This day included talk of medication but it was not the focus. It was about shedding stigmas, information about tools and tricks, some education on biology of ADHD, and coaching. There were ADHD adults parenting ADHD kids, non ADHD parents with ADHD kids, and ADHD adults.
ADHD Aware was founded by Natalie Knochenhauer in 2008. She has ADHD as do her four children. I can’t imagine the chaos of five ADHD people in one house. The opening remarks by Dr. Anthony L. Rostain were perfect. He came across as a very proud Philadelphian and his warmth and knowledge gained my attention as well as Ryan’s. It was followed by the keynote address by Dr. Patricia Quinn, she was a warm woman who started her talk with, Hi I am Pat and I have ADHD. She talked to the parents and the kids and when Ryan interrupted her talk she used the interruption to interact with the rest of the conference goers. Her key points were work with your ADHD, not against it and trade hopelessness for hope.
Being someone who studied science in college, I was fascinated by Dr. J. Russell Ramsay’s discussion on the science of ADHD. I had a true light bulb moment when he discussed the ADHD brain and why homework is hard. I missed some of this discussion because my ADHD husband locked himself out of the house and I had to help coordinate getting him some keys to get back inside since it was a 100 degree day.
After this talk I moved to the back to a table so that I didn’t have to juggle the laptop on my lap. Back at the table I met the author of the blog, Jeff’s ADD Mind. He and I had a great conversation. I knew he felt like home and I later found up he lives near my Mom on Long Island, where I grew up.
The next panel was about creating a more ADHD friendly family. I walked away with some helpful tips on living with ADHD around me. Some of those tips were very general to everyone like eat well, sleep enough, and exercise. Other tips spoke directly to me like trying to be patient, learning to laugh through ADHD glitches, keeping life simple, and focus on being loving, encouraging, and cooperative within the home. Dr. Quinn who gave this presentation has ADHD herself, with three of her four kids having ADHD, and possibly an ADHD grandchild.
Robert Tudisco next spoke about ADHD after High School. My instincts wanted to put my fingers in my ears and shout nah nah nah nah nah my son will never be old enough to go to college but common sense told me otherwise. Structure, support, and accountability is crucial for college students with ADHD. Kids with ADHD are thrown into the very unstructured environment of college after the supportive environment of high school and it can be a very hard adjustment. The laws change from high school to college and choosing an ADHD friendly college is important. Involving your kids in their 504 plans and IEP planning meetings from a young age will teach them to advocate for themselves later on in college.
During the lunch break I had to run home because I forgot the charger for my wireless internet box. I got home, ate a cold piece of pizza, and high tailed it back. I regret not going to lunch with some of the people at the conference but that is what next year is for.
Next was a short workshop with Diane Dempster, who coaches parents of ADHD kids. She talked of taking the information learned at the conference, of goals, the anatomy of goals, and how to take the information at the conference to make change in our communities. I was struggling with this session. The lack of sleep was catching up to me and my concentration was wavering.
I chatted with a few folks. I wanted so much to show the woman I met from Utah (I never caught her name) and her family the sights of Philly, I wanted to talk to Jeff more but he and I can find each other easily in cyber space. My one criticism was the lack of time to interact with the other conference goers. I guess, the breakfast, was the time to do that but when you are like me at events, a little shy at first, I felt I missed out on the opportunity to mingle.
When Ryan came in to meet me he was excited and animated. He talked of the group of five boys who he spent the day with who were all close to his age and had ADHD — JUST LIKE HIM!!! As we left the conference three boys shouted out, Bye RYAN!! He chatted about his day with so much confidence. He enjoyed the activities, the camaraderie, and in his words everything. On the way home he spoke of hanging out with the founder, Natalie’s son. In Ryan’s eyes the kid was a rock star to have a Mom who organized a conference about ADHD. He came home happy, and after the school year we had, it was nice to see the confidant kid I left in preschool, again.
The day was about shattering stigmas and taking it back to our communities. I come home a changed woman with a kid who is empowered and happy. Being the first year I see the room for growth, I would love to have more time to talk to the other attendees and network, I felt overwhelmed at the brevity and can’t wait till it is a whole weekend! To wind up, I loved this worthwhile conference, I adore the organization, and I can’t wait to see this conference grow.
Now is this is not a PunkyMama T-shirt I don’t know what is….