Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir by Audrey R. Jones & Larry A. Jones, MD
A blend of love, humor and real-life irony, FALLING THROUGH THE CEILING makes sense of the nonsensical, shedding light on the challenges of living with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). These stories offer the real-deal reality of living with a house full of ADHD, including the ups, downs and chaos of what happened and the consequences of such. The authors, a married couple of 45 years, offer experience, practical insight and what they learned from counselors, research and their own mistakes to assist people coping with children and adults who are affected by ADHD.
Sharing their personal life challenges with the effects of ADHD, this is a real, sometimes painful, story written to help families recognize and navigate to controlling chaos and unlocking the gifts of ADHD in their children and themselves.
“We were struggling to make it and created codependency and unhealthy enabling habits. What we did, and what we didn’t do, to help our sons didn’t work, many times. The behaviors simply continued and morphed. If we had it to do all over again, we would have done things better and differently. We feel that other parents, by walking with us through our journey, will gain strength and courage to move from frustration to stabilizing behaviors and living resiliently.”
— Audrey and Larry Jones, authors, FALLING THROUGH THE CEILING
Suffering in Silence
“Defiant, daring behavior leading to failures, including sexual acting out, running away from home and inviting danger, were our reality in our house full of ADD.” – Audrey and Larry, parents
We were an upwardly mobile, middle-class family. If you asked our friends, they would have said we were loving, active, hardworking and provided for our children. As our careers took off, we earned more income, moved to better neighborhoods, upgraded schools and cars, and we did the things most people want to do … we weren’t trying to keep up, we were the “Jones family,” after all.
Yet our friends and others didn’t know what was happening on the inside. What happened in our house stayed in our house. Our house full of attention deficit disorder (ADD) was an open minefield of poor decision-making, risky choices, immature behavior as well as lyin’ and denyin.’ We had issues and covered them up by solving the problems, enabling the behavior and giving in to the bright ideas of the day.
Our sons were well-mannered, handsome and smart, yet our house was full of failure, impulse and self-focus, especially as our three boys aged. Nobody ever knew what was happening because we, the parents, got them out of trouble. As the years went by, more and more “below-the-surface” activities started emerging. These behaviors were not obvious to the naked eye but were present and intrusive, just like the unseen foreboding presence of an iceberg. Eighty percent of an iceberg is under water, massive and dangerous, able to sink ships like the Titanic. This is how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect families, especially when undiagnosed or ignored.
Without humor and hope, we would not have made it. If our stories resonate with your family experiences, perhaps we have something in common.
Advocating for Children with ADHD
“As the parent, it’s up to you to find the resources necessary to nurture and support your child(ren) in growing through ADHD.” – Audrey
Once ADD/ADHD is suggested by the school, the primary care physician should be the first resource consulted beyond the school. Be aware that some schools have a psychologist who may have seen the child by the time the school reaches out to the parents. Once the school report is released to the physician, he/she can screen the child with a tool to assess symptoms of the disorder and refer you to a psychologist for testing and counseling to substantiate or refute the school’s concern.
If the results of the evaluation(s) by the school and the outside psychologist are consistent, then medication may be considered and initiated. When the primary care physician prescribes medication, regular follow-up is required to review the effects of the medication and make adjustments as necessary. Multiple studies have shown that the best results in treating ADD/ADHD happen when medication and counseling are used together. Thus, parents should expect an ongoing relationship with these professionals.
At this important juncture, it is essential that school staff who interact with the child (including the school psychologist), the outside psychologist and the primary care physician, along with the parents, are all operating as a seamless team for the benefit of the child. This can only occur if release forms are signed by the parents to allow these individuals and entities to talk to one another. This is also necessary to accurately develop the individualized educational program (IEP) for the child.
If you have no insurance or limited coverage, medical services and psychological services can be obtained at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) or municipal and county clinics, which usually have both medical and psychological services. You can also refer yourself and your immediate family to an employee assistance program (EAP) if this benefit is available through your employer. An EAP offers employees assistance with personal problems that can impact their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
As a last resort, testing can be obtained through the school. However, getting tested there can take up to one-half the school year to be completed and the IEP developed. The IEP is reviewed and revised yearly when the team is assembled to assess the child’s educational progress.
One of the scariest things to consider, especially as a person of color, is to have one more “label,” especially one that is considered negative. It’s one of the reasons people refuse to go to counseling and refuse to get tested when it’s clear something is off. Focus on the well-being of the child instead of the label.
Finally, getting to the root of the “issue” of whatever may be happening is the key to creating healthy behaviors, focused children, managed expectations and accountability, laying the foundation for lifelong success.
Larry’s Advice, Especially for Fathers
“Don’t get in the way of progress. Be willing to do everything to make your family whole and healthy, even admitting when you’re wrong or need assistance.” – Larry
I know pride gets in the way of rational thinking and listening. Also, the concerns of a parent may cause you to lose your objectivity. However, if you have ADHD or your child does, it’s important to consider some key things. I’ve created this straightforward list to assist you.
- The earlier ADHD is treated, the better and faster the person can develop positive behaviors.
- Contrary to some of the newer literature, ADD is a recognized behavioral condition. So as a parent, if you are told that your child may have ADD or ADHD, you first need to go to your child’s pediatrician and explain the concerning behavior to the doctor. In fact, it would be good to have the teacher send a letter/note describing the behaviors to the pediatrician. The pediatrician will then have documentation from the school setting and be able to question you about the behaviors in the home setting. There should be no stigma attached to diagnosis and treatment. Treatment should be a combination of counseling and medication as recommended by professionals including a pediatrician, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker.
- Running to the pastor and asking him to pray is not going to cut it. Though seeking spiritual counseling and being active in church life can certainly help the entire family, don’t rely on unqualified persons to treat ADHD.
- Be more concerned about the child’s well-being than the label.
- Remember that your primary objective is to do what’s best for the child.
- If you find yourself going from relationship to relationship, it’s not the other person. You need to get an evaluation. It’s difficult for any individual to do self-counseling or adequate self-evaluation to address the issue. It takes time and a skilled counselor to work with you to help you set goals and boundaries for yourself and an ongoing relationship.
- Frequent job changes may suggest impulsivity and deficient coping mechanisms in accepting criticism. Such internalization of this feedback is not healthy and may be because you have some underlying ADHD traits. The ideal is a combination of counseling and medication. When reviewed in large studies, this combination works better than medication alone.
- A quick temper that results in an action you’ll regret tomorrow is a sign of impulsivity and shows a need for anger management. If you have a short fuse, it is best in those situations to have a restrained or possibly no response at all. Sometimes it’s best to acknowledge the disagreement or the feedback then say, “Let me think about that,” or “Let’s talk about this tomorrow/next week,” rather than erupting.
- Oftentimes, those gifted with ADHD have an easier time showing empathy to strangers, yet in family situations, they display resistance and anger. Be aware of this and address it if you notice this behavior in your family dynamic.
I compartmentalized my diagnosis. I felt I could handle it since I’d been dealing with it myself for so long. Was it always there? Was my life so hyperfocused around the academic that it didn’t show up until well into adulthood? As a child, I was a goody two-shoes; I didn’t get into trouble. When faced with an opportunity to get into trouble, I chose not to because I knew I would get caught—everyone in the neighborhood knew me. As an adult, my hyperfocus at work turned to lapses at home, with my wife picking up the slack. Over time, keeping all cylinders firing all the time, trying to manage four ADD males, took its toll on her health. The added stress led to a long-term and permanent illness. Perhaps if I had gone to counseling earlier, it could have been avoided.
Through counseling, I have learned to address stressors in my life and, at this ripe old age, have worked on trying to find that life-work balance that, up to this point, had been a distant dream. I still like to keep busy and do a lot of different things, but I’m able to make better choices and to consider my wife in those decisions.
( Continued… )
© 2018 Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir by Audrey R. Jones and Larry A. Jones, MD. Published by Enable Tables Media a Division Of Smart Management Inc. No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying form without written permission of the publisher. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the publisher.
Although every precaution has been taken to verify the accuracy of the information contained herein, the author and publisher assume no responsibility for any errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for damages that may result from the use of information contained within.
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