I have spoken many times about talking to your child- and to your family- about your child’s ADHD diagnosis and how it is being treated. And I have spoken about talking to people close to you about how it affects every aspect of your and your child’s life. I have also spoken about talking to your ADHD child’s school and teachers about it, and asking for their help, especially since we do not have a formal individual education plan in South Africa.
There’s one aspect of talking about your child’s ADHD that I’ve never covered here.
Talking to your boss.
Are you frowning at your screen?
Think about it.
If you have a school-age ADHDer, how many times a month do you need to ask your boss for time off to dash to the school for an emergency of some kind, attend a meeting at the school, or take your child to the doctor?
Speech therapy, occupational therapy, extra lessons, play therapy, seeing your ADHD treatment specialist, psycho-therapy and various other appointments can’t always be scheduled after working hours or for weekends. If you’re lucky your child may have access to some therapy specialists at his or her school, but that doesn’t happen very often. This means asking for time off for various doctor’s appointments for your ADHD child. And since ADHD children are often overly adventurous because they can’t imagine the consequences, you may spend a lot of time getting stitches and x-rays too, which means suddenly having to leave work early or going in late because you’ve had to get to an emergency room. And I’m speaking from experience here.
Sadly, there is such a pall of shame associated with having an ADHD child that most parents would rather nobody knew about it, and whilst I hate to compare ADHD to other illnesses and disabilities, I can illustrate my viewpoint better with an example. Keeping quiet would not apply if your child was afflicted with a visible disability, or an illness like asthma or diabetes. Asthmatic or diabetic children have everyone and their dog know about it because their parents want to make sure people are aware of problematic symptoms and can take steps to prevent a potential problem, or contact mom should the need arise. If your child was physically disabled you wouldn’t be ashamed to tell people, and in all likelihood your bosses and colleagues would know about it too. If your child had a physical disability, or cancer or asthma or diabetes, you would probably be asked what to do in an emergency- or how to handle your child in general.
But we don’t talk about it.
And as a result of never talking, we as parents are labelled as lax or negligent.
In my opinion- and again this is a lesson I took too long to learn- everyone you interact with on a regular basis will be affected by your child’s ADHD at some point (directly or indirectly), and they should know about it. Whether they “believe” ADHD is a real problem or not, they need to understand that it is very real for you and for your child. And it will affect your job on occasion.
Telling your employer you have a special needs child means that they are forewarned for when you need to dash off to yet another doctor’s appointment, or are summoned to the school or aftercare again. Your boss knowing you have a special needs child may make him or her a little sympathetic when you come to work with puffy eyes after crying yourself to sleep for the third night in a row. Telling your employer doesn’t mean you are looking for sympathy- your boss is not a social worker or a shrink after all- but your employer needs to know when there’s something going on that can affect your job.
And telling your boss you are raising a special needs child creates awareness in another person, who may well be dealing with a special needs child themselves.