Why is it so hard for my child with ADHD to leave the house on time?
Last week, I went through all the things I usually do to help my son transition out of the house.
He had a doctor’s appointment at 2:00 PM.
We needed to leave the house at 1:30 PM in order to find parking and be in the waiting room by 1:55 PM.
At 1:15 PM, I ask this child to get his shoes on. (I know it can easily take 15 minutes to get shoes on.)
Y’all, it still wasn’t enough.
He needed to do some pull-ups and snuggle his dog. He remembered a snack he’d abandoned about 4 hours prior. He thought maybe he better check his hair in the upstairs bathroom (did I mention he is a teenager now?).
At about 1:25 PM, my rule following, always wants to be on time but almost never is these days heart, began to race a bit. I tried to cajole him. I kept reminding him about the shoes. I gently tried to physically place myself between him and the rest of the house.
On this day, none of it mattered.
You see the socks had “clump nuggets” and aggravated his sensory issues. Then the shoes didn’t feel quite right. Finally, the anxiety over the doctor’s appointment itself kicked in.
We got the shoes on around 1:40 PM (yes, almost a half an hour later) and were a solid ten minutes late to the appointment. The craziest part? The entire drive there, he was concerned about how late we were and a little bitter towards me for making it so.
There are some moments in my motherhood that, no matter what, I cannot win.
Getting out the door is one of them.
If you do not have a child with attention issues, this may seem extreme, lazy, or even an example of my poor parenting skills.
If you do have a child with attention issues, you are nodding your head and saluting me with your cup of coffee right now.
One of the most basic elements of parenting a child with ADHD is helping them manage time – and trust me, it is an ongoing need.
Although I wasn’t surprised last week when we were late to our appointment, again, I did ask myself a question I have asked over and over.
Why is it so difficult for my child with ADHD to leave the house on time, no matter what I do to try and help?
For the past week, I have been thinking through how I would answer this question if I were asked it by another mom. In doing so, I have been reminded and even comforted to remember that there are some very valid reasons for this daily struggle.
It is So Hard For My Child With ADHD To Leave The House On Time
These five points are what I want to remember the next time we can’t get out of the house on time.
1. Time Means Something Different To My Son
It is a proven, well researched fact that the passage of time and perception of time is quite different for someone with ADHD. Often referred to as “time blindness,” it has been said that ADHD actually disrupts the passage of time.
For my child, this looks like a ton of questions and confusion around how long an hour really is, and stress over not knowing how long it will “feel.”
I have an entire post about time blindness and our day to day experience HERE
For my child, this is a constant battle. Accepting this, rather than getting frustrated and impatient, is important if I am to truly understand and help him.
2. My Stress Will Only Increase His Stress
I was able to stay calm and not lose it last week, but please know, this is not always the case. I have my own emotions and feelings related to being late and having to deal with the glaring receptionist. Sometimes, these emotions get the best of me and I show signs of stress in my words and demeanor.
This does not help.
I repeat, for my own benefit as much as yours, this does not help.
When I show that my stress levels are increasing, his do as well. When that happens, the chance of focusing and getting out the door significantly decreases.
Instead, I try to remember to speak in a low calm voice, remind myself that it is not the end of the world if we are late, and try to position myself at the door as I help him move from one task to the next.
3. Attention Issues Are Real
This may seem silly, but sometimes, I have to remind myself that my child is not purposely making this exit a challenge. He has a brain difference that effects his ability to focus, stay on task and perceive time. Of course this is something we need to work on.
4. Sensory Issues Are Real
The same is equally true for sensory issues.
When the “clump nugget” in the sock derails our departure, I have to remind myself that my son experiences the socks differently than I do. His level of discomfort is significantly greater than mine might be, and he needs help navigating it.
4. Like It Or Not, My Child Needs Accommodation
Because of all the factors I’ve shared, leaving the house is not a straightforward event for my child. When you look at this list, it seems obvious that he requires some accommodation and learning in order to be more adept at it.
Rather than waiting until 1:15 PM next time, I might start at 1:00 PM. Or, I might have him get his shoes on and play outside before we plan to leave so that one step is eliminated.
No matter what I decide, embracing the need for accommodation is the very best way to ensure that we leave the house smoothly, and most importantly, that my son learns over time how to do it on his own.
In the meantime, I expect we will be late again – maybe less often than before, but still, late.
My son and I are both just doing the best we can everyday.
For more resources on parenting a child with ADHD:
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.