Three sons, a house full of impulsive, self-focused behaviors and plenty of failures later, the diagnosis hit like a ton of bricks dropped onto the roof of their stately mini-mansion; each of the boys and their father Larry were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder!
A blend of love, humor and real-life irony, Falling Through the Ceiling makes sense of the non-nonsensical, sheds light on the challenges of living with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (AD/HD) and offers practical insight and ideas on coping with children and adults who are affected.
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Interview for Falling Through the Ceiling
Rosie Phillips Davis (formerly Bingham), PhD, ABPP
APA President-Elect, 2018
Professor, Counseling, Educational Psychology & Research
1. What do you think is the premise of Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir?
I liked the metaphor of Falling Through the Ceiling. It may have helped the reader understand more had that story been presented at the beginning of the book. I kept wondering about the title.
2. Were there sections that were powerful or changed your perspective on ADHD?
Every time there was discussion of Larry’s ADHD symptoms it was illuminating. I did not realize that one could be so successful in academics, career, marriage, family, and covering up. It will be inspirational for successful individuals to read about the challenges of another successful family.
3. Did you agree or disagree on the behavioral science presented?
I did not attend to the behavioral science as much because you relayed it in a lay manner. This book should appeal to the lay public because it is the story of parents learning to deal with family issues. It also may benefit married couples.
4. Would you recommend this book to someone?
I would recommend this book to successful African American families in particular because there are no books to help us to understand what can go wrong in our families. I believe we all struggle one way or the other and wish we could do it better for our children. I would recommend the book to K-12 teachers so they can develop a better understanding of the inter-generational aspect of ADHD.
5. Who do you think would enjoy or benefit from reading Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir?
As I said earlier, some of the problems you describe are similar for many African Americans in our generation who are first generation and tried to raise their children in ways that afforded them what was needed for success—the things we did not have. Your story sounded like others I have heard and the families may or may not have had ADHD. There are similarities to our family. Our son has a learning disability and we have “saved” him too often too.
I believe educators would benefit from reading the book because it might encourage them to be more assertive in sharing more information about children with parents no matter the financial status of the parents if they realize that all may not be well in the households and the children’s welfare is at stake.
Book Reviews: Falling Through the Ceiling
Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir, is a poignant book about the challenges encountered by both parents and children as they cope with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The authors, Audrey and Larry Jones, provide a sensitive, knowledgeable, and often humorous account of the obstacles inherent in raising children with ADHD. They describe their personal journey, from dating to marriage to parenthood and grandparenthood. Although they put their experience in the context of every family’s aspirations, they also highlight the unique experiences of Black American families who are navigating the complex process of coming to terms with ADHD.
The authors take the reader through the early childhood years, when ADHD can result in academic frustrations and often dramatic childhood pranks. They then move on through adolescence and young adulthood, when, for youth with ADHD, the launch into independence can be fraught with more than the average obstacles. As the authors tell their family’s story, each of them stops along the way to reflect on the personal impact of the children’s challenges and to share their perspectives on how they might have handled things differently. This book will be an inspiration for the thousands of families who are confronted with ADHD.
–Elaine F. Walker, Ph.D. Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Director Mental Health and Development Program
Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322
I enjoyed reading Falling Through the Ceiling and gaining the perspective of parents raising three sons with ADD/ADHD. I would recommend this book to parents as a helpful way of approaching parenting children with ADD/ADHD. I would recommend it to my clients raising children with ADD. The perspectives of Dr. Jones regarding his own diagnosis of ADD would be helpful to the many adults who discover late in life that they have been struggling to cope with ADD for many years. The chapter on enabling one’s adult children and ways to help them to become independent and cope with their attention deficits would be helpful for all parents attempting to help their adult children maximize their potential for having a productive and happy life.
–Helen L. Evans, Ph. D.,Clinical psychologist
Falling Through the Ceiling provided me with an in-depth view into a family’s endeavors with ADHD/ADD. As an educator for over 20 years, I often ask what the student’s story or experiences are. The section “From Whence We Came” armed me with information of the impact of a parent who has or has not been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and its possible impact on the student. I would recommend this book to educators and families who work or know anyone with ADHD/ADD.
–Dr. Marcie Beard, Executive Director of Schools
Falling Through the Ceiling: Our ADHD Family Memoir is an unabashed memoir of a family’s experience of red flags and ultimately red lights. It’s about proceeding without heeding the warning signs that suggest help is needed. It’s about identifying behaviors that call out for intervention and possibly psycho-social treatment. The premise of the book is an alert to parents to pay attention to the repetition of critical behaviors as noted in the section, “For Parents, Lessons from Our Lives”.
I think this book would be helpful for any parent, it points out they are not alone, in spite of everything looking right, “should be right “, but is not right. I consider this book an essential read for parents who just can’t figure out why their child/children appear to have it all, but don’t do what they need to do, nor do they keep their promise. For the parents who have done everything they can think of to support, nurture and encourage their child/children, but to no avail, the child just does not seem to get it. I strongly recommend the reading of this book. In doing so, parents may emphatically recognize themselves in the many shared stories and, thereby, come to their own “aha”.
–Review by Mary F. Griffin, Parent to grandchild with ADHD, Licensed Master’s Social Worker, Frisco, Texas
I have just completed reading Falling Through The Ceiling and I am still breathless. The central theme of the book — sharing lived experience, with honesty and lessons learned– is wonderful. As we all struggle to raise our children and our grands, as we struggle to understand and get better, nothing is more valuable than shared experience from those who traveled the road before you. The additional beauty and value of Falling Through the Ceiling is exquisite storytelling around difficult and clearly painful subjects. Dr. Larry and Audrey Jones are wonderful storytellers, making the book a pleasurable as well as informative read. There are many things in the book that changed my perspective about ADHD. For instance, I had no idea that there was a spectrum along which the disability travels. I learned that hyperactivity can show up in many ways, including disconnection or disjointed reasoning.
I was particularly moved by Dr. Jones discovering so late that he too had a form of ADHD, particularly when thinking about what his struggle through college and medical school must have been like. I was wowed by the commitment and teamwork — even in concealing some of the negative effects of the disorder on their family– of Dr. Larry and Audrey Jones. As I understand the science of personality disorder or mental illness I think this book is a very good depiction of the interplay between science and society. I also thoroughly enjoyed the race specific observations and analysis. Refreshing!
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand the commonly referred to ADHD, from the real, living and in color perspective of these writers. I honestly think that anyone who wants a glimpse into how a strong middle class African American family deals with the realities life delivers to them would enjoy reading this powerful and poignant story. To the authors I say thank you!
–Sandra Moore, Parent and Attorney
St. Louis, MO
This is a beautiful offering from authors Dr. Larry and Audrey Jones. Falling Through the Ceiling is such an important story which many families and support villages will benefit from reading. Awareness is so important. I especially enjoyed the neuroscience aspect of the book as it relates to ADD and ADHD.
The title is spot on, especially in regards to sharing money and the difficulties of navigating life, as well as the emotional rewards gained through being able to teeter totter and continue onward.
Blessings to the Jones family. Not only should we read Falling Through The Ceiling, but I encourage village discussions to educate and promote awareness about ADD and ADHD.
–Sharron Cummings, Administrative Director Catholic Charities
New Jersey, Fontbonne University Alumni “77
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
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.
1. The earlier ADHD is treated, the better and faster the person can develop positive behaviors.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Be more concerned about the child’s well-being than the label.
5. Remember that your primary objective is to do what’s best for the child.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
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