AD/HD Sensitivity

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Lately, my two daughters have been emotionally tag-teaming their poor old over-stressed mother. I’m sure that’s not their intent, but the effect is the same. Did someone say drama? These girls are Oscar worthy.

That topic, however, is for another day. I bring it up because thinking about my daughters and their recent behavior led me to another topic, one that I think is far more relevant for you as a parent. It concerns sensitivity.

Did you know that people with Attention Deficit Disorder are extremely sensitive? I don’t mean in just an emotional sense, but in a physical sense as well. For example:

  • Being hyper-aware of things like tags and seams in clothing. You can wear the same t-shirt over and over again, and one day you can’t stand to have it on. You notice the seams, the tag tickling at the back of your neck, and if you continue to wear it, it starts to hurt. Literally hurt. Have you ever had an inflamed nerve? It kind of feels like that. I’ve actually had to take pain relievers on days when my clothing is bothering me and I can’t change. By the way, the next time (or six times) you wear that shirt, you may not have any problems at all.
  • Did your hair ever hurt? Sometimes, if your hair is falling the wrong way, it can be really distracting, and yes, it can hurt, too.
  • Sounds are a huge problem if you have Attention Deficit Disorder. The smallest sound is amplified. If you’ve listened to any of my interviews, think about my son’s experience trying to pay attention in school. If you missed it, think about this: for people with AD/HD, the sounds of the florescent lights buzzing above and the teacher’s voice are equally audible. There is no filtering mechanism that allows you to listen to one over the other.
  • Speaking of sounds and amplification – people with AD/HD often seem to be more sensitive to sound than people who don’t have AD/HD. What seems to you to be a calm, rational conversation with your child regarding some minor infraction is perceived by them as anger and yelling. It’s as though they are experiencing the event with the volume turned up. I can remember many instances when either of our daughters responded with tears and a plea to “stop yelling at me” when all that we felt was taking place was a simple conversation.
  • Probably one of the biggest, most important things that you need to understand as a parent relates to criticism. People with AD/HD are hyper-sensitive to criticism. I can’t emphasize this enough; remarks that you may not even consider criticism will be felt like a knife by your child, and not only that, they will leave scars that will last for years. Think about it: you have a bright, brilliant child who struggles daily in school and with life in general. They already feel like they don’t quite measure up; any remarks from you or someone else they care about will devastate them. Really. Think twice and speak once, if at all.

Different kids react differently when they are bombarded by too much stimulation, or feel overwhelmed by sounds or people’s remarks. You may notice that they over-react with drama or emotion. Sometimes they get angry, using words or actions to express their frustration. They may get quiet and withdraw – this is an important one to note, because you need to work that one out – don’t let it fester and grow.

The other important thing to remember is to keep your cool. And yes, that will be hard at times, but it will be worth it in the long run. You have a brilliant, creative child with an incredibly fragile sense of self-worth. They are capable of great things if you can just get them through school with their ego intact. Do all that you can to preserve it.

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Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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