Why Inattentive ADHD Often Goes Unnoticed

Inattentive ADHD Classroom Child School Identify

Girls with ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed because they are more likely to present with Inattentive Symptoms

According to the DSM-5 ADHD affects about 5% of children but occurs in boys more than girls at a ration of 2:1.1

Often girls with ADHD stay ‘under the radar’ in the classroom because girls are more likely to have the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation of ADHD, rather than Combined or Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation. See my guide here to understand the terms and to gain an overview of the different symptoms that are linked to each presentation.

I was one of those girls, albeit at a time before there had not been as much research into ADHD – particularly in the UK. That’s me in the photograph up there, ironically highlighted when the reality was just the opposite. I am 7 years old in that picture and in the equivalent class of Year 3. That year my parents would be told at parent’s evening that I was a daydreamer, I never seemed to be listening and I wouldn’t finish my work as quickly as other children. I could do better if I just applied myself, if I just made more effort. I didn’t look particularly different and I certainly didn’t know I was different, I just though I was bad.

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Family Day Out with my ADHD Kids to Walton Hall & Gardens

Big Day Out with Hoylake Chapel - Family Day Out Walton Hall & Gardens with my SEN Kids

Big Day Out from Hoylake Chapel – Family Day out to Walton Hall & Gardens, Warrington, UK

Saturday saw the first Big Day Out from Hoylake Chapel, my local church, and it was with some trepidation that we decided to take the children along. My husband owns a couple of buses so had volunteered to use the bus to transport families to the venue so it was really just a matter of deciding which children to take with us on the day. As my parents and my brother were also going on the trip, it really was a family day out, there was only one potential babysitter. As they were otherwise engaged the choice was made for us. Our eldest, V, and youngest child, G, would be coming with us (with our middle child, E, away on a school trip).

I am always filled with some apprehension and dread with family days out, for several reasons. As you know, my children all have autism and the two coming with us on the trip also have an ADHD diagnosis along with some chromosomal abnormalities. Planning any trip at all, particularly with more than one of them involved, can be complicated. I knew that both children would find it very difficult to be with people they didn’t know very well, for this reason I had taken my car along to where the bus was departing and after around 30 seconds on the bus it was obvious that the noise and the unfamiliar faces was going to be too overwhelming so we hopped back into our car and followed behind.

I had packed a bag of snacks for the journey which seemed to placate them and we actually had some good conversations around various television programs and YouTube shows. I was starting to run out of ‘if you could choose one character to go to ….. with, who would you choose?’ questions by the time we got there but we made it in reasonably good spirits.

We parked up in the car park, £3.50 for a Saturday, and headed into Walton Hall & Gardens. The entrance is a bit odd, immediately in front of us was a small area which is currently still being developed, but there was a nice big map so we could see which way to head.

We opted for the Cafe, it had WiFi and a warm drink and the weather had been a little bit rainy off and on during the journey. The Cafe was reasonable enough, nothing spectacular but did the job, and was light and spacious inside. Unfortunately there was one thing that I hadn’t checked before we set out, a family entered with a dog and my youngest immediately declared that he wanted to go home.

All three of my children are afraid of dogs which makes planning family days out incredibly difficult.

There turned out to be a lot of dogs out with their owners for a pleasant stroll through the grounds, but not all of them were on leads and this is something that G really cannot cope with. I hadn’t checked before coming out but I would have assumed that being on a lead was fairly normal for this kind of establishment, definitely a mistake in my planning and it would be one that would signal the beginning of the end of the day.

We left the Cafe and stepped out into a light shower of rain. With G now in a raised state of anxiety and V looking around and finding very little of interest we decided to split up for a bit, tensions between the two children were fairly obviously escalating.

As I took G towards Walton Hall itself the light shower became more of a heavy downpour and again, the anxiety levels were rising. We sheltered under a tree and I took some photographs to try to make it more fun until the rain eased off!

Family Day Out Walton Hall & Gardens

We headed to the play area indicated on the map. I was really impressed with the play area, there was a great variety of equipment, including some for older kids like a zip line and it was all in excellent condition. There were lots of children playing and best off all there were no dogs allowed within the fenced off area so it was perfect for my youngest to run off a bit of his anxiety. We met back up with my husband and V and spent a little time there as the sun broke through and dried off the equipment.

There is a petting zoo next to the play area so I took V around it, partly for something to do for him, and partly to assess it for G.

Family Day Out Walton Hall & Gardens

The zoo was bigger than I expected, there was a reasonable range of animals and birds, though not as many animals as you would expect in the size of the plot. Perhaps they were hiding in their enclosures, there seemed to be a few with just one animal in them which was a bit sad. There were a lot of peacocks though. They were like sentinels sitting on the fences around the footpaths, hence I knew that there was no way G was going to be walking around the petting zoo. It was a shame really but you can’t please everyone!

V started to feel sick, I suspect it is anxiety and tiredness that brings on these symptoms, and it was becoming more and more obvious that he wanted to go home. G alternated between enjoying the play area and demanding to go home because a dog walked past or because one of the other children on the trip tried to play with him.

We managed to get them on a little road train that was made up to look like Thomas the Tank Engine but at that point we knew we were just playing for time. It was about 2.00pm and we had been there for around two and a half hours. The events that were planned for the Big Day Out were scheduled to start at 2.30pm and in hindsight it was a mistake not to wait until after lunch before heading out. Had we arrived at around 2.00pm we would have been able to get involved a bit more, although I’m not sure V would have been any happier about it!

I tried to convince them that we could walk around the formal gardens and that they were probably really pretty but it was evident that they’d given what they had to give and needed to go back home. I left my husband with our friends and family, as he needed to stay to drive the bus back, and we set off home. It was far quicker than the journey there as we traveled directly home, driving to the bus and following it to the venue had been another mistake but one I can learn from.

There’s always a part of me that wonders why We Bother trying to take part in day trips.

I’m not sure if it’s just a selfish part of me knowing it inevitably will end in shouting and screaming, e.g. with a dog off it’s lead or with fighting between the kids, which it did several times as V really wanted to be left alone and when G gets worked up he starts to express it by hitting out or saying things to deliberately upset the other person. Those parts seem so big when they happen that they drown out the good bits.

I try really hard not to look at other families who seem to find a family day out to be a lovely, happy experience from start to end. There may be the odd upset over a dropped ice-cream but that can be smoothed out with a replacement one, whereas with E a replacement just wouldn’t be good enough because she’d need that same exact ice-cream through some feat of magic.

V didn’t want to be there, he really struggles with anxiety and with self-esteem issues and would rather have been in bed with his mobile phone than outside anywhere at all. G wanted to be part of it but was on the sidelines, wanting to take part but not feeling able to. He spent a lot of time playing by himself or watching the other children. I think part of the reason I dread family days out is that I hate seeing that. I can’t figure out a way to make it all better for any of the kids. Each trip is a reminder of just how different my children are, of how much they struggle to enjoy things that other kids seem to find so easy. I always feel disappointed and guilty that I couldn’t make it easier for them. I end up feeling that I’ve let the whole family down.

Family Day Out Walton Hall Gardens

Focus on the moments that make you smile

I only have to look at that picture of G to see that despite the frustration, the tears and the fighting he was enjoying himself. There were some real moments of laughter from both V and G during the day and it is those moments that make it all worth it. I have to accept that a family day out with my children may not run exactly the way I picture it in my head, that I may feel exasperated, frustrated, disappointed and at some times saddened, but those moments will be outweighed by seeing the kids smiling, hearing them talking and laughing together and looking back at the day to see how much they’ve tried. I’m so proud of my kids, I love them to bits and they deserve the same opportunities and experiences of any other child.

A day out looks different to every family, our family day out is unique to us and spending two hours at a great location with family and friends around isn’t a failure by any stretch.

Father’s Day – Family Fun or Logistical Nightmare?

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So today is Father’s Day, one of the many days in the year where things are expected to be a little different to other days. Each of these special days should be fun, relaxing and full of love, friendship and generally warm fuzzy feelings. It’s not always that simple though, especially if you have ADHD, a family with ADHD and Autism and a number of father’s that need to be catered for.

Some of us have lost their father so it’s already a day charged with emotion, with loss and sadness but hopefully some happy memories. I came very close to losing my father last year but he pulled through so I was able to celebrate this one with him which for me is quite emotional. My husband on the other hand lost his father a number of years ago, he’s not a sentimental man so he doesn’t seem to dwell on it, but I’m always mindful of his loss.

As you know I have three children, my eldest child was born out of my first marriage. Remember the guy I moved away with when I was 18? I married him and we were married for three years before it ended, I was six months pregnant at the time so there are two fathers to bear in mind when planning cards and presents and general day running. My first husband lives in Scotland so sending a card in advance is essential and this year I actually managed to remember to get the card bought, written and posted so I’m definitely seeing the benefits of these new planning strategies that I’m writing about. In fact I was able to actually ask the children which cards they wanted to buy and make sure I had gifts sorted and, once I’d remembered where I’d hidden them, they were all written and sealed last night ready to present this morning.

The logistics of the day, however, we’re less well planned and organised. This is a journey, and I’m not at the destination yet! The biggest problem that we face as a family is that planning days out is a risky business. We have three completely different children, and all three of them have very different ideas on how they’d like to spend their time. We find that we have to be spontaneous in our decisions to fit with our youngest child, who struggles greatly with waiting for things, yet it leaves the other two ill-prepared for what to expect.

The kids wanted to give their Dad the cards and presents first thing, and for them, their duty was done at this point, they just wanted to go back to their ordinary day. We had anticipated this to an extent and so all three of them were left with my mother-in-law  while my husband and I went to church so we could see my Dad. It would have been nice if the kids had come too, but I was willing to give them a bit of time out and I was able to give my Dad a hug and a card and know that I had the rest of the day for some family time with the kids.

I wanted to do something special, like go out for a meal, but trying to convince the others of this plan wasn’t easy. By the time we had finally convinced all three children to go out for lunch there was no possible way of booking a table. This was definitely an issue and is not recommended! I am yet to come up with a solution for going out as a family that does not end in frustration and tears for at least one of us.

It can be uncomfortable when you realise that your family is not picture perfect. We struck it lucky with the second pub we tried in finding a table but our youngest son, who had been reluctant to come along but had changed his mind at the last minute, immediately decided he had made a mistake.

In my haste to get out of the door and actually get to a pub or restaurant before he changed his mind I had not considered bringing anything with us that could keep him occupied. My ADHD was in ‘let’s just do this’ mode instead of ‘wait, what will make this work?’ mode. Within around 30 seconds of sitting down at the table our little boy announced that he was bored. So bored in fact, that he wished he’d never come with us. I felt the tension radiate from my husband and tried to encourage everyone to choose something to eat whilst ignoring the small boy who was becoming more audible about his displeasure.

The couple on the table behind us actually moved to another table. Again, I felt the tension rise on the right hand side of me and tried to speed things along. This was not the lovely family meal I had pictured, so while my husband dutifully went and ordered, I tried to distract my son by talking about computer games. We talked about the new Lego Dimensions characters that have been announced and how the new Skylanders expansion would be different to all the others.

It sort of worked, but by not taking five minutes to gather some things together before we left, I had essentially doomed the meal. We ate as fast as we could, our son refused to eat or drink anything, and we were back in the car before we’d swallowed our last mouthful. Had I used any form of planning today? No, I had not. I had fallen into the trap of being so pleased that I’d sorted out all the cards and presents that I thought Father’s Day was covered.

The rest of today has been disjointed, it’s fallen to fire fighting between the younger two children as our youngest still hasn’t wound down properly and myself and my husband are taking turns in trying to keep them apart and keep him occupied. Not really the warm fuzzy feelings I was hoping to conjure up but it’s all a learning curve.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be trying a few things to see if I can come up with ways of dealing with spontaneous family outings. Next weekend there’s a big day out planned from our Church and my immediate reaction is to just leave all the kids at home as there is no way that they will cope. But maybe I’m more worried about how I will cope, than how they will manage the day, so I have a week to plan the perfect family trip and see if I can get at least one of them to come with us and actually enjoy it!

If you have any suggestions for me to try, feel free to leave them in the comments section or contact me here. My first step will be to make a kit list for each child, but I’m going to need a brainstorming session. Good thing that this ADHD brain of mine has a way of thinking up creative ideas!

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Struggling with ADHD? Let’s take control!

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Do you wake up each morning full of ambition and determination that today is the day that you are going to tackle that To-Do list?

Do you go to bed each night feeling like a failure, resolving to try harder tomorrow?

That’s how I used to feel – until I started seriously looking into current research and available help and advice sources to actually take control of my ADHD, instead of letting it control my life.

I couldn’t believe how many people struggled with the same problems that I did, and I had no idea that it was my ADHD that was behind these issues.

All I knew about ADHD was that it affected concentration and focus, and was probably behind some of my more impulsive actions as I was growing up. Can you believe that I went home one day when I was 18 and told my parents that I was moving in with my boyfriend who lived 100 miles away, and that I was leaving at the weekend? I was so excited about it that it never crossed my mind that it might have been a bit of a shock to them, and that maybe I should slow down a bit.

I always assumed that everyone thought the same way, when I was studying I thought I was just too lazy to write my assignments, always leaving them until the very last minute and then pulling an all-nighter to get them written. One night, when I was finishing my degree at The Open University, I actually drove 60 miles in the pitch black darkness to put my assignment through the front door of my tutor because it was the actual day of the deadline. Cutting it fine? Definitely! – but it was the only way I could get things done! I got my degree in the end, that’s me in my graduation robes up there. My graduation ceremony was in 2004, and I was already a mother to two children by then. I may have taken a bit of extra time, and had a few course direction changes along the way, but I made it!

The biggest revelation I had was that the constant negative self-talk that I had in my head, that voice that just said “Wow, you really are useless”, was part of my ADHD. The Doctor hadn’t mentioned that when I was diagnosed; he just explained that my general lack of ability to keep the house clean was due to my brain finding it too dull to bother with. I mean, seriously, isn’t that most of us?

I was given some pills back in 2012, you can read about that here, and for a while they made a difference, but although I gained some energy and focus, it was another three or four years before I finally realised that medication wasn’t the magic answer that would transform my life and make me into a ‘normal’ person.

When I started to seek out more information, when I took an interest in what it means to have ADHD, I realised that I had just been trying to ‘fix’ myself. I was ignoring the fact that my creativity, sense of humour, intelligence and hyperfocus could actually be a great thing. That the good bits are worth celebrating!

I had been beating myself up about my failings, letting my self-talk grind me down, leaving me feeling that it was pointless to even keep trying. Now I have accepted and even embraced my ADHD and I want to share that with others out there who may be stuck where I was, who need to be pulled up, brushed off and shown that there are worse things you can do than forgetting to brush your teeth, or pulling into the driveway only to remember that you were supposed to pick up milk on the way home.

If you feel that your ADHD is a disability, if you feel that it makes you worthless, if you are frustrated by your constant battle to get through each day, then you have come to the right place.  I have learned to embrace my ADHD, and you can too!

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