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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bits and Pieces

So like everything else we encounter in life, this whole ADD situation is a learning experience. You, dear reader, get the benefit of learning along with us, if you so choose.

The first thing to point out is the distinction between ADD and ADHD. The "H" stands for Hyperactivity, and Audrey does not suffer from this particular aspect. She is quite able to sit still, assuming the activity is a challenge and/or captures her attention (hence the issue with behavior in class as it correlates with easy class work). This is also why people are surprised to hear that Audrey struggles with ADD; they, too, have the idea that it is all about having the crazies. Not so.

The issue with an ADD brain is that it is unable/less able to process executive functions; that is, to compartmentalize, to organize, to clear the brain of clutter and focus on the task at hand. All of this occurs (or does not) in the frontal lobe of the brain.

How does this look for Audrey? *

She can't/doesn't withhold information. If it's in her head, it's out of her mouth. (You may know adults with diarrhea of the mouth as well, but that's a different issue ;)  She is especially prone to correcting others, both teachers and other students, at completely inappropriate times. Where as this may seem like "smart-ass" behavior, I can assure you that, in fact, she has no clue that she is being rude; when it is brought to her attention she gets quite upset. We're talking about an obedient (generally), sweet (except to her brother) kid - and when she comes off as bratty and unfriendly, (and it's brought to her attention) she's quite distraught. The crux, then, is that no matter how upset she gets about it in retrospect, she doesn't carry the lesson over to the next time a situation presents itself. There's no "pause => reflect => choose" button.

She is painfully literal. Her verbal and reading skills are amazing, but nuances escape her. She'll miss social cues. Everything is black and white - right or wrong. If the teacher gives a direction which is the least bit vague, she is stumped. Inference and interpreting are surprisingly, for someone so sharp, at times non-existent. The only example I can come up with right now: in kindergarten, her teacher had the class draw pictures of themselves. Mrs. H commented with amusement that when she asked, "Do you have grass under your feet?", Audrey looked under her own chair. The question was not, "does the picture of yourself have grass under her feet?" or "is there grass under the person on your paper?" ... the exact sentence threw her because it was taken at face value.

This literal nature and obliviousness leads to a deficit in interpersonal development. Audrey has more than once hurt someone's feelings enough at school for the teacher to be contacted -- if you know her that may shock you, but perhaps when you hear that she said, "You can't read," to the kid who ... well, can't ... you can understand the issue. It's not that she was saying, "I can read, you can't, nyahnyahnyah," but rather, A=B. "You cannot read. You are not permitted to choose a book from this section of the library based on that fact. These are books for reading kids." In fact, along with ensuring the rules are being followed (another compulsion), I think she actually considers herself being helpful in these situations.

She is accident prone, physically awkward and self-unaware. She isn't phased by hair flying about into her face (which drives me batty, so I can't relate at ALL), into her food ... She's tall for her age, so I was apt to consider her physical behavior the result of lankiness and growth spurts ... but the truth is, she flails, crashes, walks on tip-toes, frequently injures herself in bizarre ways, and lacks situational awareness. Her clothing is nearly always dirty in some way (yes, I know, kids have accidents and spill things, but trust me; this is above and beyond).

I am well aware of how some of these scenarios appear from the outside. If you didn't know Audrey and read this blog, you might think I'm deluding myself into thinking I have an angelic first grader who never does anything wrong, intentionally or otherwise.

Far from it.

You may also insist that "kids will be kids" and "all kids mature at different rates," etcetc. Yes. And no.

I know my own kid, and I know that among her many sins and faults, being willfully disobedient, not attending to what is asked of her, and insulting/being unkind to others are NOT her bent. And pondering some oddities from infant through age seven, I see stuff.

I can't possibly summarize my kid in a blog post, or can I rehash seven years of her life, our lives ... so I'm bound to be leaving out something that help the reader experience a clearer picture. All I can offer is a periodic update on this aspect of Team Maize, thank you for your MANY kind words of encouragement and for sharing your personal experiences -- both publicly and privately -- and do my best to muddle through this parenting thing, one day at a time.

* Note: I hope that in my outlaying Audrey's shortcomings no one thinks I'm using a public forum to bash my daughter. I love her dearly, she is my first born, my sidekick, my mini-me. I watch others "get a load of her" and it makes me smile; she's striking in personality, not because of an attention-seeking nature but because of a genuine interest in everyone and everything around her. She's engaging. She makes adults smile (some kids don't know what to do with her, I think) and she's always ready for a conversation with anyone about anything. I love my daughter, I appreciate her strengths, am beginning to seek clarity on her weaknesses, and I support her all the while.


  1. I think that's why I like her so much, she makes sense to me, its everyone else out there that I don't get :)

  2. I am completely amazed at your in-depth real life descriptions of these symptoms. I have very close dealings with several kids that have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and your description is spot on. It really makes me question what the clinical difference is between the two. Justin has ADD, but I didn't know him as a child. I can definitely key you in on the adult hurdles that you will face. Please keep the updates coming as I have now made it my personal mission to figure out the differences between Aspergers and ADD and perhaps use this to help others who are struggling.

  3. Kelly - there are as many similarities as there are differences, unfortunately. I have limited experience with Asperger's, but my understanding of the symptoms would certainly make them comparable. Also, it's not uncommon for the two go hand-in-hand, AND, they are both on a spectrum. I suppose you could go so far as to say we all have a touch of something, in every realm, and only when someone ends up with a stronger mix which makes them "different" to the outsider do we tackle his/her issue(s). Fascinating stuff (even if it is my own living science experiment and also my beloved child!).

  4. awesome! both you and audrey :) and the perspective and determination you both give mike and i in seeing our daughters.