By Katherine Quie
Editor’s note: Katherine Quie, who lives in St. Anthony Park, is the author of “Raising Will: Surviving the Brilliance and Blues of ADHD,’’ a tome that chronicles the joys and challenges of raising her son William, who has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This is the first in a two-part series.
“I want to stop talking, but I can’t.”
That’s what my son, William, uttered when my husband, Bill, and I asked him to “zip his lips” in his kindergarten classroom. His teacher had flagged me down in the hallway earlier that day.
“He talks all day long,” she explained, wide-eyed. “Is he like that at home?”
“Yes,” I explained, holding back a nervous burst of laughter. If I hadn’t laughed, I would have cried. His talking rattled my brain, too.
“How do you manage?” she asked.
The truth is, I wasn’t managing well. I was new to Minnesota and I had bitten off way more than I could chew. Somehow, I thought it was reasonable to work full-time as a pediatric neuropsychologist while raising two high-needs kids, the youngest a toddler from China.
On top of it all, William was in his second year of kindergarten. Even so, he was still struggling to do about everything required of a kindergartener, like sit in a circle, write his name, read Go Dog Go, and zip his lips.
That evening, after my encounter with William’s teacher, Bill and I developed a plan.
“You can have any Star Wars action figure you want if you’ll be quiet, Will. Your teacher can’t do her job when you’re talking.”
William paused and stared us square in the eyes. “I want to stop talking, but I can’t.”
I share this story to make a point: Kids with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), like my son, can’t always control their actions.
Thankfully, after raising William, working as a child psychologist for years, and collaborating with William’s teachers, I have learned some great strategies that address hyperactivity without sacrificing a student’s pride.
Some teachers are naturals with active kids, whereas others use punitive methods, like sending them to the corner (yes, this still happens), principal’s office, and banning them from class parties.
This makes me so sad. You know why? Because ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects both structural (e.g., the frontal lobe) and chemical (e.g., dopamine levels) aspects of the brain. According to the Center for Disease Control, up to 6.1 million children and teens 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2016. The real number is thought to be much higher, as only 20 percent suspected of having ADHD are brought to professionals for treatment.
Untreated ADHD is associated with serious problems in children, adolescents and adults, like depression, anxiety, school failure, substance abuse, job loss, higher divorce rates, and even a shorter life span.
That means as a community, we owe it to kids with ADHD (and their parents) to help them walk (or safely run!) this journey with understanding.
That’s why I see no difference between shaming a visually impaired student for not being able to see the board and shaming an ADHD student for not being able to remain seated.
It’s also why I wrote my memoir, Raising Will: Surviving the Brilliance and Blues of ADHD, and founded ADHD&U in 2018. Will is a blues/jazz guitarist, thus “blues” in the title. He graduated with honors from high school and is now a sophomore at Oberlin Conservatory and College.
If you’re interested in my book, you can find it on Amazon. Also, you can check out my website (http://kqadhdandu.com) for my monthly free newsletter, blogs, and Podcast, Finding Your Brilliance.
Quie book signing at Edina Art Center
Quie will read and talk about her book from 10 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 8 at the Edina Art Center, 4701 W. 64th St. The event is free and open to the public. After her presentation, there will be a Q and A session, For more information, go to https://www.edinamn.gov/1304/The-Authors-Studio.