Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Adult ADHD: A Gramma's Desperate Plea

(cc) firemindFrom time to time people will contact me for advice. Sometimes they'll contact me just to reach out to a kindred spirit. Occasionally, however, I receive cries for help. That was the case when "Gramma" emailed me last month. I responded to her in the forums, but I'll repost the correspondence here for your edification and assistance. Since I have not heard from "Gramma" I assume her situation is still not resolved. Perhaps you have words of counsel that can aide her as well...

My one grandson is now 22 and was diagnosed ADHD as a young boy. His grade school convnced his mom, my daughter, into putting him into a special school the summer before 7th grade. It was a nightmare. Teachers spent a good deal of the day taking down kids who swore loadly and acted out. We were able to get him out (attorney). He quit highschool at soon as he could. He did get his GED and passed with high marks.

Now my daughter no longer wants him in the house. He doesn't listen, doesn't help with chores, took her truck four wheeling covering it with mud, yells back at her, etc. He has stolen from people in the house as well. None on this is new. My daughter got remarried last year and her husband says a "good beating" like his parents gave him is all he needs. He calls me and asks me what to do, that he wasn't raised like that. I don't know what to do. My daughter let him get away with a lot for many reasons (divorce from his dad who ended up in jail for life; guilt trip, lethargy and head in sand on her part; just didn't seem to know what to do). My grandson doesn't get along with his step father however he got along with other men in her life so I don't know. Actually, his older sister and younger sister don't either. He, my son-in-law came in like gang busters and made immediate changes so I am not surprized.

What is worse is that he is on probation for fencing stolen goods and I am terrified that he will go to jail if he doesn't soon learn how to control himself. Adding to that, his license is suspended (tickets) and my daugher lets him drive her truck because "it is easier than listening to him or driving him". God I hate this.

I feel so badly for him because now all that was allowed in not allowed and he is now the bad person, the one hurting his mom's chance for happiness. I am not saying he shouldn't be held accountable nor that his actions are right, but to just say you hate him and tell him to get out isn't going to cure anything. My daughter said she threw him out after he had a tantrum (repeatly kit his head with the keyboard because she would not make a decision that he wanted) and that he came back.

I don't know what I can do (besides pray) for him. We do email each other. I send him articles I know he will be interested in and tell him it is part of his ongoing liberal education. Later, we often talk about the topics. I recently asked him to read a book I did when I was a young mom and in stress (husband was an alcoholic). It is "Your Inner Child of the Past". I told him there is a great tool mentioned by the author re: listing what triggers you, how you currently reacting to them and how you want to act. I couldn't remember what the author said but I told him when he senses a trigger, to take a slow deep breath and to say a simple prayer, such as, God please help me now. I don't know if he will. Funny thing is that when around me, he listens to me. He said he knows I mean it.

Do you hae any suggestions on how I can forward to my daughter and son-in-law - and for me to help my grandson.


This response has been updated and reformatted for reprinting on the blog:

Thank you for writing, Gramma. My heart goes out to you.

There are usually two things I recommend to parents with a troubled adult AD/HD child: therapy (usually Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)) and/or medication (with conditions). The problem with both suggestions is that your boy is an adult. Therefore, he needs to want to change - to want to improve - before any sort of help can be sought. Unless he has the desire to improve, even medication won't benefit him in the long run.

It is good that you have a solid rapport with him. My recommendation is to first get him to see his life is out of control and that it doesn't have to be that way. I'm afraid your daughter didn't do him any favors by being so lenient, but all is not lost. If you can get him to see that he needs to control his AD/HD or face dire circumstances you might be able to get him into some therapy. Advanced services such as an AD/HD life coach are most likely beyond his use at the moment.

I wouldn't recommend traditional therapy, however. He needs coping strategies to regulate his mind and help him rein in his impulses. A Cognitive Behavior therapist who specializes in AD/HD would be the best bet. Basically, CBT states that our thoughts influence our feelings and our behavior. Control our thoughts, control our moods and behaviors.

Here are some links with more information on this very successful form of therapy:

Find a CBT in your area: http://www.nacbt.org/searchfortherapists.asp 

Therapy is generally expensive, however, but a CBT who specializes in AD/HD can really provide your boy some much needed guidance. He can't wave a magic wand to fix things. Your boy must want to work at changing how he thinks. If necessary, and if the therapist is also a licensed psychologist, he could prescribe medications that could help your boy control his impulses. Just watch out for side-effects. I generally don't recommend meds because they damaged me neurologically and I can not in good conscience recommend them to others. However, that is a decision that your grandson needs to make with his psychologist.

So, in summary:

1) Get your grandson to recognize that he needs help. 
2) Help him want to change. Help him believe he can control his impulses.
3) Find a therapist/psychologist who will teach your grandson coping strategies to help regulate his mind (I recommend a CBT)
4) Continue praying. Pray to soften his heart and help him be open to new ways of thinking. Pray for strength to not give up hope on him.

I wish you the best of luck and Divine Providence. You are in a unique position to truly reach out and help this young man. Don't give up hope. And please let me know how things go.

Best regards,
Douglas Cootey 

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