In my last newsletter, I shared with you my ADD moment of the year: tripping over my daughter’s wedding gown during the ceremony and nearly flying down the aisle. That story alone took up much of the issue and garnered lots of responses from you- mostly supportive and kind (thank you!).

There were more ADD related incidents that day. Of course! When you combine stress, non-stop activities, planning, socializing, having to be places on time, feeling overwhelmed, etc etc, there are bound to be problems.

But this one pertains to my younger daughter, Mackenzie, whom I write a lot about. She’s my ADHHHHD+++ kiddo. Meaning, she has ADHD (emphasis on the H) plus all kinds of other issues, including significant sensory hypersensitivities- something we often see with our ADHD. Lucky us.

When I present or work with families, I always suggest that parents “see it coming and have a plan.” In this case, I knew Mackenzie would have a rough time with the sensory overload of the weekend’s events. So I made all kinds of plans ahead of time to help her through the weekend; we talked about what she thought would help her, and then we put those plans into place.

They included:

  • Ordering foods she would eat
  • Bringing a backpack filled with snacks and activities
  • Making sure she wasn’t hungry or over-tired
  • Don’t laugh, but this was a must: I booked a room at the hotel where the wedding took place just for her- just for the day- where she could retreat to if she felt overwhelmed. We talked about using the room before feeling overloaded.
  • Bringing extra clothes she could change into late in the evening should her bridesmaid dress become uncomfortable
  • Scoping out the various rooms over the weekend (rehearsal dinner restaurant, hospitality suite, etc.) and finding a quiet place she would retreat to as needed.
  • The bride, my older daughter, came up with a brilliant idea: she purchased huge headphones for her iTouch that Mackenzie could wear if the noise overwhelmed her. Better, she decorated it with her monogram on one side and a glittery star on the other. Mackenzie was promised that once she was able to walk down the aisle, she could don the headset for the rest of the evening.

I thought we covered all the bases. However, one big mistake I made was not making sure she was rested enough for the week’s events. So…the night of the hospitality suite gathering, where friends and relatives from all over the US and Canada came to mingle and socialize, I was faced with a very overwhelmed daughter. Too much noise. Too many people in one room. Too many questions asked. A new dress that didn’t “feel right.”

It all led up to a major meltdown. Even after running her to the designated safe, quiet place, it was too late: she let out a shriek and cried her heart out. Once she gets into the overwhelm “mode”, it’s almost impossible to talk her down.

The next day was the wedding and I was more than a little worried. But…she came through! She walked down the aisle, all bright eyed and smiling. Sat down and enjoyed the ceremony. And probably had a good laugh at my fall as well.

But then things took a turn. For the worse. We began posing for photographs and Mackenzie, being extremely sensitive to the cold, announced she was freezing. I had brought a sweater just in case but it didn’t do the trick. She began her descent into sensory hell…

The sit down dinner came next, but by then, Mackenzie could only sit for a short period of time, eating the salad then announcing she couldn’t manage the cold, the music, the noise. Now, Mackenzie pretty much is unable to sit anywhere for more than a few minutes, and I knew that trying to persuade her to do so would only escalate her stress and bring on another meltdown. So I reminded her of her hotel room. While this was happening, the speeches had started and I was “up.” I felt torn- how to help my daughter get through her angst while trying to enjoy my older daughters special day.

Luckily, my sister-in-law, sensitive to our situation, took me aside and told me she was taking over for the evening. “This is your daughter’s wedding and you need to be enjoying it with her.” I could have cried- in relief but also in sadness that even during such a special family event, my daughter’s special needs are always in the forefront.

At any rate, the wedding turned out to be a huge success. Knowing Mackenzie was in good hands and nestled into her hotel room, I could now enjoy the wedding.

Until she came rushing in the room, wearing a bathrobe over her beautiful dress, with sweat pants underneath.

I had a choice to make: feel the angst of her interruptions and unusual dress or…going with the whole thing and appreciating her wacky sense of humor. I chose the latter.

What did I learn? (You knew there’d be a lesson here, right?)

That even with the best of intentions, raising kids with ADHD and other special needs doesn’t always go as planned even when you think you’ve got all the bases covered. At which point you need to decide: are you going to fall apart? Or are you going to go with it and do your best?

When things begin to fall apart, ask yourself: how does your child feel? He/she isn’t choosing to over-react. She isn’t happy to feel out of control. He doesn’t enjoy having a meltdown. Put yourself in their shoes as best you can and move on. And learn for the next time.

What would I have done differently? I’m not sure. And that’s the truth.