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Roller Coaster - 19 yo Son w/ADHD

Posted by jan_in_wisconsin (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 20:43

I really need some experienced parents to help me gain perspective and direction with our 19 yo son, who has ADHD and is struggling to get a start in life.

First - some background - We adopted our now 19 yo son at the age of 4, after he had lived with us in foster care for 2 years. He was busy - extremely, crazy, over-the-top busy, impulsive, and stubborn! Eventually, he was diagnosed with ADHD. The evaluating physician said he was one of the worst cases she had ever seen. This disorder is now known to have more to do with self regulation than hyperactivity alone. Hyperactivity is an effect of the lack of self regulation. Also resulting from the lack of self regulation are problems with self control, i.e. spending money, delayed gratification, persistence with tasks, and lack of emotional control. Our son has taken medication for his ADHD, which has helped him cope with the condition to some degree, to the present time.

Being a very mechanically inclined person, our son has been drawn to the industrial arts, and in high school, with the encouragement of his tech ed teachers, he decided to pursue a teaching degree in the tech ed field. We fully supported this choice, however, we were concerned about his ability to succeed as a student away at college. In high school, he managed As and Bs without studying at all. He scored a 25 on his ACT test.

Well, fast forward - He was kicked out of college after two semesters due to failing grades. I feel so bad (much worse than he does) about it because he really wanted to do this career. He admitted to skipping classes and failing to study for tests and work hard on assignments etc. He was busy doing other things he enjoyed more (lack of ability to self regulate again).

So, he declared that he would rather pursue a degree at a different but nearby college for a fire medic career. He is presently a volunteer firefighter and really loves it. And, he has passed a couple of firefighting certification classes. We are supporting him in this new direction.

He was supposed to live in the dorms at college #1 over this summer until we could make arrangements to find an apartment. But, this fell through when his academic performance fell so low, and he was literally barred from staying for the summer at the first college.

So, he is now in an apartment with very few necessities, and he is working full-time for $10/hr as an apartment maintenance staff member. Right now, our son is taking an EMT course to prepare for his new fire medic program that starts in the spring of 2014. He reports that he is doing alright so far.

We presently pay about 2/3 of his total support.

He just signed a lease for the apartment a couple of weeks ago, and now, he drops the bomb that he wants to enlist in the National Guard. He spoke with a recruiter who sold him on the big bonus and tuition benefits, etc.

Here is the problem: The recruiter told our son not to list his ADHD and current medication on the recruitment forms. It's my understanding that this is a disqualifying condition because he has been taking medication all along. I became very upset when our son told me today that he would lie about his ADHD and medication. His plan was to go off of it for the few days prior to the medical exam and not list it on the form, which is another whole problem because it needs to be tapered. This sort of dishonesty is also a felony (fraudulent enlistment)! I am SO upset.

Not to mention that doing this National Guard thing will postpone his ability to continue with college until 2015 for the fire medic program. Also, he could be deployed. This is a serious commitment, and I know that our son should not be in the military with this ADHD problem. He is far too impulsive and could definitely be a risk to himself and others in a combat situation.

I shared my concerns, and he is willing to pursue a waiver for the ADHD vs lying about it, but he is dead set on going forward with the National Guard. Even if he gets the waiver, it's my understanding that he would need to function successfully off of his medication for at least a year. I'm not sure if he could enlist or start training in the meantime. Is anyone familiar with this? Without his medication, his performance could really suffer as well.

He has always been so very stubborn and seems to lack empathy for others, especially if their viewpoints differ from his. I question his conscience when he can so easily rationalize his behavior. We did not raise him that way. He is not thinking long term. He only thinks about right now. Though he is very bright and talented in many ways, he lacks the skills to manage his life.

We cannot afford to pay for so much of his expenses for this next year while he delays starting at the new college and then continue to pay for expenses over then next few years after that as well.

In my heart, I think this is a big mistake, and I realize I need to let him make his own choices, but this is SO hard, because the military is not something that you can just change your mind about after you have committed.

Maybe he will be denied anyway with all of the problems he has surrounding his ADHD, but I'm not sure. The recruiter has been unethical in so many ways (lots of lies), and I am very upset about that. This National Guard idea does not really help with anything in terms of getting his fire medic degree (We were paying the majority of his tuition anyway). I really believe the only reason our son wants to do the National Guard is for the money.

Plus, raising him has really been difficult (lots of ups and downs with his behavior at home, in school, and the community), and it seems like there is no end in sight. I don't know what to do or what to say any more. I don't like the way he talks to me. He is a know-it-all and has a HUGE ego (narcissistic?). It hurts me, the way he treats me.

Maybe he'll land on his own two feet somehow, but I can't seem to stop worrying. I constantly waffle between wanting to be supportive of him in a positive way and wanting to jump in and rescue him from himself.

Need support . . .


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Roller Coaster - 19 yo Son w/ADHD

Jan_in_wisconsin, neither of my kids had ADHD, so I don't have the voice of experience to help with that aspect of it. I can tell you my thoughts, but I don't know if they fit the situation or not. Hopefully someone more experienced than me will chime in.

I think you did a good thing getting him to commit to pursuing a waiver for the ADHD rather than lying. Lying about the issue sounds like a big problem in the making.

We cannot afford to pay for so much of his expenses for this next year while he delays starting at the new college and then continue to pay for expenses over then next few years after that as well.

My advice is don't pay for something you really can't afford. Decide what you will and won't pay for and follow through on that.

In my heart, I think this is a big mistake, and I realize I need to let him make his own choices, but this is SO hard, because the military is not something that you can just change your mind about after you have committed.

If he is over 18 I doubt you can stop him from enlisting in the National Guard if that is what he's determined to do. You can provide advice and support, but in the end he is an adult and he will have to choose to succeed. You can lead the horse to water but you can't make him drink and all that.

Plus, raising him has really been difficult (lots of ups and downs with his behavior at home, in school, and the community), and it seems like there is no end in sight. I don't know what to do or what to say any more. I don't like the way he talks to me. He is a know-it-all and has a HUGE ego (narcissistic?). It hurts me, the way he treats me.

I sympathize completely. We try so hard as parents to do our very best. It's hard to watch them fall, and it hurts when they treat us badly.

My suggestion is that you and your husband go get counseling from a counselor familiar with college-age ADHD young adults. My 20 year old daughter was recently diagnosed (not with ADHD) and my husband and I went for counseling. We told the counselor when we made the appointment that we wanted someone to help us decide where the line was between supporting and enabling. It sounds like that's what you need.

You probably really need advice from someone who works with ADHD young adults.

I don't like the way he talks to me.

You can probably fix that. A counselor can help you with that.

My thoughts are with you. I hope you find something that works for your family. My heart goes out to all the young people, too, who struggle with issues like ADD or ADHD.


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RE: Roller Coaster - 19 yo Son w/ADHD

First and foremost you need to report the recruiter now!! He gets paid to recruit people and he knows darn well your son would not be excepted with his ADHD and medication he is taking!!! He is breaking the law.

Next, you need to sit your son down and tell him your money stops now. You are not helping him. I know ADHD kids that are doing very well on their own. Your son needs a push to do this. You aren't helping him by doing all that you do. I'm not saying don't help him, just scale a lot of it down. He has a long road ahead and he needs to know how to stay on the right side. Is it hard to stop, yes it is but it needs to be done and soon. Putting yourself in financial difficulty doesn't help anything. Get tough!! It will help all of you in the long run..


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RE: Roller Coaster - 19 yo Son w/ADHD

Yes, you should report the problem. Your son cannot go into any service if it is as severe as you describe. My son was like that only years ago they did not call it ADHA. Yes he was on something. He went into the AF and survived but did have some serious problems which he took care of. Yes he still has problems today, but we used tough love all his life, and still do today. He is married, and they decided not to have children, which they both accept is ok, and it is with us. We have helped him out more that we should have, but insisted he pay us back and he does--eventually. Besides the meds you need to suggest very strong he watch his diet. Sugar and preservatives are the big culprits. They need to be monitored.


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RE: Roller Coaster - 19 yo Son w/ADHD

First, thanks so much to all of you who responded. It is immensely helpful to hear from other parents.

From your feedback, we are now working up a new financial plan whereby our son will have to pay for all of his own living expenses and educational expenses. We will save money each month for his ongoing education, but we will not give it to him unless he passes his classes and makes satisfactory progress. I also bought a book about setting boundaries with adult children, and it is helping me discern the difference between helping and enabling. The enabling has to stop. Counseling is also a possibility, and it would be critical that the counselor understand the functional impairments such as lack of self regulation caused by ADHD.

We reported the National Guard recruiter to a supervisor, and he was disciplined for encouraging our son to stop his medication (recruiter is not a doctor) and lie on the recruitment forms (felony). We were right that the ADHD medication would need to stop and that our son would have to prove successful functioning for at least a year before he could hope to get a medical waiver. He has decided against this route (cannot tolerate delayed gratification for enlistment bonus), and we are relieved about that.

Unfortunately, the drama continues, as we just learned that he will not be passing his EMT class because he did not submit his immunization paperwork in time to complete the required clinical portion of the class. I cannot even tell you how upset I am with his disorganization and irresponsible actions. Plus, he blames everyone and everything else (the state, the college, his instructor, the "system", etc.) other than himself. We are not paying for him to retake this class, which is a pre-requisite for the fire medic program. I believe he was only achieving a "C", which is the bare minimum to pass, anyway. I have serious doubts that he can succeed as a student at this time. He has failed to modify his behavior whatsovever.

I'm finding it hard to like him right now. Lots of parents brag about their children and are so proud of them, but I'm stuck feeling used and disappointed. His personality is so much different than ours, and it's hard for me to see his life such a mess (literally and figuratively). He cannot discipline himself to ever clean up anything, so when he comes home and I see his truck full of trash (inside and outside), including soda cans and food containers, grease, etc., it seems like a metaphor for his life. He is having so much trouble getting his act together. I pray that he will learn and mature with time.

In the meantime, it's tough to only be called when we are needed for money or some other problem. My heart is broken.


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