I came across this on the internet, originally as “Ten Commandments of Parents with Kids on the Autism Spectrum” by Mari Nosal. I thought it was excellent and after a little tweaking I used it as my closing speech at the Swindon ADHD Inspiration Day in October 2014. I then used it again with a couple more tweaks at the One Education SEND conference in Manchester in March 2015. It got a really good reception and a few people asked me if they could have the text to use in their schools, as they felt it was that powerful. So here it is …. but full credit must go to Mari Nosal!
The Ten Commandments of Parents of ADHD Kids
1) Thou shall not avoid me or my family.
ADHD is not a disease and you can’t catch it; it is merely a way of life. Spend time with me and my family and learn about us. Once you understand our challenges it will be self-evident that we have hopes, dreams, and feelings too. We love our children just as much as anyone. Who knows, you might grow to accept us if you give us a chance.
2) Thou shall not judge my family.
When my child has a meltdown or is aggressive, don’t assume I am a bad parent – or my child is a naughty child. Don’t ask me why I can’t control him, or tell me that he needs to be punished. My child is already punished enough by the challenge of living with ADHD. I am doing my best to be a good parent, and negative remarks hurt me greatly. Instead, say positive things, for they give me the internal strength to go on.
3) Thou shall be patient.
My child may be forgetful, disorganised, scatty or inattentive. Don’t get frustrated when he can’t wait his turn, speaks inappropriately, swears or fidgets. Take time to get to know my child. You will be surprised at how wonderful he is.
4) Thou shall not snub my other children.
It’s not easy growing up with a sibling who has ADHD. My heart breaks for my daughter child when she misses out on treats because of my ADHD kid. It’s difficult trying to balance attention to both my children. Please make a point to make all my children feel welcome and wanted.
5) Thou shall not judge my organisational skills.
My life may occasionally seem to be in disarray. That disarray is a sign of love; a sign of a family that has placed priorities on school, family and having fun over organisation and tidiness. We balance jobs, housework and childcare , just like the rest of society. And don’t forget ADHD is genetic – I may have it too!
6) Thou shall believe in my child.
Don’t call my child stupid, lazy or spoiled. My child has a neurological disability that affects processing skills, focusing, memory, emotions and internal control. There is an old phrase, “We become what we hear,” and the self-fulfilment prophecy is alive and well. My child tries hard to learn, control his behaviour, socialize and join in. Please tell him what is good about him, not what is wrong. And be the person you want my child to be. Children become what children see.
7) Thou shall accept me and my child for who we are.
If someone’s in a wheelchair, we know they have mobility problems. If a child is wearing a plaster cast, we know they have a broken arm. But children with ADHD look the same as other children When you deal with my child, please remember that his emotional age might be behind his chronological age. Keep that in mind when creating expectations for him. My child cannot be fixed, but he can be smothered with acceptance. His ADHD has created the young man that I have grown to love and admire. I would not change him for anything – but he and I both needs society’s acceptance.
8) Thou shall not assume my child is being defiant.
My child’s frustration with the challenges he faces can seem like defiance. When directions are not broken down into literal simple steps, he may appear to ignore you. He is not being defiant. He simply didn’t understand what you meant. Tell him to pick up the books, put them on the bookshelf, then sit down, and he’ll most likely do it. Don’t just say “Put the books away”. He most likely won’t know which books, where, when, or how. Be patient, as he really wants to please you.
9) Thou shall tell parents of ADHD kids what they do well.
While struggling with our child’s needs, we’re also attempting to find time for our other children so they don’t feel left out, carving out time for our partners, holding down jobs, managing a home, loving and accepting unconditionally. We parents are occasionally insecure when it comes to our parenting skills. We are not immune to the glaring looks, and mumbles of disapproval. We need support and understanding from you. We feel as helpless as you when we cannot help our child during a meltdown. Just sometimes, please tell us what we do right and offer to lend a hand. It means the world to a parent of a special needs child to receive a compliment about them or their child. It helps us to never give up hope.
10) Last but not least, thou shall remember that we are all on this earth to make a contribution to society…
…and children with ADHD make contributions as well. You just have to look a little deeper. My son has taught me to be more patient, he’s humbled me, he’s taught me to make the most of what is good now and not worry about what may or may not happen ten years down the road. Because of my son, I don’t take things for granted. As a family, we’ve learned the meaning of teamwork. Most of all, my son has taught me to never underestimate what he can achieve in this world., even though it may be on his terms and not mine. We are climbing to the peak of the mountain. There might be the occasional slips, but we’re climbing higher every day – and we will reach the summit.
All too often, children with special needs, and their families, are set up to fail, and support is only offered as a way of picking up the pieces. Instead, let’s work together to ensure our kids are supported to succeed … in education, in society and in life.