Our Story

ADHD Looks Different In Everybody

Our two kids have radically different symptoms.

by Jami Demuth
Originally Published: 
Kids can have very different symptoms of ADHD even in the same family
MoMo Productions/DigitalVision/Getty Images

When our first child was diagnosed with ADHD, we didn’t know much about it other than what we had seen in the media or interactions with family members with the condition. We had a pretty simple picture: the kid who can’t sit still, stay quiet, or turn in homework assignments. And the early years were a struggle, trying to figure out what medication worked best and how to get teachers and school staff on board to support him while he struggled with handwriting issues and impulsivity. We were trying to keep our heads above water.

Ten years later and after an ADHD diagnosis for our second kid, I know more. Most of all, I know that ADHD is so much more complex than that old stereotype. It’s more than blurting out in the classroom, disorganization, hitting a friend when angry, or struggling with classwork. It’s so much more than what you see in snippets on TikTok, and it’s different from person to person, even within the same family. It’s not even necessarily all negative. And as the parent of two wonderful kids with ADHD, I want you to understand, too.

Our two kids’ symptoms are radically different. One struggles with time management, procrastination, motivation, and organization. Our other child struggles with impulsivity, emotional regulation, and hyperactivity — yet excels in time management, is never late, hands assignments in on time, and remembers all the items they need for class.

Kids with ADHD can be quiet, never say anything inappropriate but may be inattentive, and so unsure of where to start on school projects that they almost seem paralyzed by indecision. Their rooms may be messy, much like their backpacks or desks. They can’t remember items they need to bring to class, and they may do their homework but forget to turn it in because it’s lost in their backpack or locker.

They can also be hyperactive — constantly running, slamming into things, hitting kids in class unintentionally because they are too busy moving and unaware of how their behavior affects others. This same child may say inappropriate things because the areas of their brain that control inhibition are not fully developed.

For parents like us with multiple children with ADHD, it’s been interesting to see how it affects them differently.

Our child that struggles with inattention has always been mature and began speaking in whole sentences at an early age. The other child didn’t talk until he was two, and his maturity lagged behind his peers. One has always taken longer to make friends; the other, with primarily hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, has always been a social butterfly. One struggled with handwriting yet excelled in learning new concepts quickly. The other, who has inattentive ADHD, can be hyper-focused and therefore has a vast knowledge of topics of interest.

It’s all so nuanced. And it changes as your kids get older, and you face new challenges together. It’s struggling to learn how to drive because of slower processing speed and difficulties with executive functioning yet at the same time excelling in academics. It’s also struggling to manage interpersonal relationships while at the same time coming up with creative solutions to problems.

But the good news is with early intervention kids with ADHD can flourish instead of flounder. And as parents, we have certainly learned a lot along the way.

Jami Demuth is a freelance writer based in the Midwest because she likes a challenge and who doesn’t love extreme temperatures? She’s a mom to three teenagers and two fur babies who all think she takes too many pictures of them. She enjoys writing about the joys of parenting, relationships, and health. In her free time, she marvels in the evocative power of the written word and its ability to move the soul. She’s been published in the HuffPost, The Mighty, Motherly, and Attention magazine. Jami has a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in English and History, both from Drake University. You can follow her at webfreelancewriter.com.

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