Last Updated on March 20, 2018

It was as if I was watching a Polaroid photo develop. First, a vague figure appeared. “You know, we have a family history of ADD.” Then, the shape took on more definition: “Is he a ‘young’ five? He has a hard time paying attention. And he got so frustrated when we were practicing handwriting.”  And finally, the whole seemed to reveal itself there in full-color as I read the DSM-IV symptoms listed beneath AD/HD, Predominantly Inattentive Subtype.

By God’s grace, I am not dealing with the “H” in AD/HD—the hyperactivity. (Well, anymore than with a normal five-year-old male. And yes, I realize this may be often overdiagnosed or overmedicated.) But as a homeschooling mom—and P.S., one trying to move a family out of the developed world in five months—this was a blow to my already besieged perseverance.

A snapshot of my last two weeks, as my new world as a mother and educator develops:

  • I’ve learned what things like “Vanderbilt” forms are.
  • I checked out a daunting heap of books on ADD/ADHD from the library, some more helpful than others. At this point, I am tremendously grateful for books by Sandra Rief—also a new name to me.
  • I’ve Googled things like “nutrition and ADD.” Bought DHA gummy vitamins from Wal-Mart. Attempted a few food eliminations.
  • I developed an e-mail string with my son’s pediatrician for the first time.
  • I have wrestled with feeling inadequate because I have not exhausted every possible nutrition option, yet am examining our options with medication after a near “perfect” score on said Vanderbilt forms.
  • I have wondered why God put my son’s needs of structure in my care: me, who essentially loves anything creative. (Structure is my mother’s middle name—not mine!)
  • In response to my son’s need for structure, I have plastered my house with clip-art to-do lists in page protectors, reward charts, and step-by-step cards for chores; I’ve purchased kitchen timers that blare reminders.
  • As of last week, I now understand why ADD medications are similar to speed, and why they work.
  • I have struggled with anger as I now see my son’s processing difficulties everywhere; with embarrassment that I didn’t put it all together sooner; with grieving over the characteristics I’d thought he’d grow out of, but now may be sticking around for awhile.

But along with all these new chances for faith—and failure and fear— I’ve seen that God is here in this new world of ours, too. And not just in the obvious ways of solutions and doctors and nutrition and medication and education experts.

Perhaps one of the best ways can be summed up by a conversation I had with a friend in a parking lot. Talking with her, I was reminded of the challenges her own son had faced with entirely different obstacles his body presented. Rather than him remaining emotionally paralyzed by a weight that any of us would find almost crushing, this elementary school student looked to God’s promises of victory. Of being more than a conqueror. He prayed and journaled and cried out to God for the help he deeply needed. And he clung to God’s plans to such a degree that when his mom suggested a possible avenue of relief, he responded that God had given him this burden. He didn’t want to reject it. “He’s more mature than I was at thirty,” she told me. Her son has a profound intimacy with God because of the load he bears.

The moral of the story: God made my son’s brain this way, in its weaknesses and in its unique strengths of persistence, creativity, and eagerness (as one author puts it). He’ll use the weaknesses, in fact, as an avenue for special strengths.

As a family, too, He has knit us together. ADD is part of the story God is writing for my son. It is thus part of my story. I have grown up a little more in these last two weeks—in holiness, in my skills as an engaging teacher, in my compassion, in my humility and honed definitions of “success,” and in my renewed love for my son and his distinctive creation by God and ways of seeing the world. Because it’s true: “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9


Understanding and Helping Those with Attention Deficit Disorder


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  1. Melissa Hutsell says:

    I can relate to your fears and frustrations. Thanks for sharing them! W is one blessed boy to have you praying and loving him!

    1. Thanks, friend. It's been a steep learning curve in the past few weeks, but God's been doing something pretty cool in showing me how to love my son. Grateful for your encouragement!

  2. Oh, Janel. I'm so sorry. Remember, that it is Satan who is trying to make you feel inadequate. You are not because Christ in you is sufficient and more than adequate. {Hugs}

    1. Thanks, Amy. There are few times in my life (if any) that I've felt His sufficiency like I do now, when everything is so over my head! Grateful for the virtual hugs 🙂

  3. Jan Maniatis says:

    Love your perspective and your honesty and your openness to what the Father has Janel – Hugs to you girl. Jan

    1. Thanks so much, Jan. It is strange to watch His plan for all of this unfold in front of me. I'm learning gratitude in a new way as so many things are completely unexpected :). I am thankful for this part of the journey in ways I could never have anticipated! Grateful for your encouragement, friend.

  4. Our son had similar diagnoses and he's now 17 years old and doing well. He has a difficult time with testing and now that he's a senior in high school, there's not much we can do, but your son will be fine. Be still and know that HE is God!

    1. Thanks for your vulnerability, Sandy, and certainly for your encouragement. God is already doing things I couldn't have expected in this–namely, as we've started medication, I feel like I'm finally really seeing the son I knew was in there. That's esp. as things like his compassion emerge now that he's able to interact with people and step out of his own world. You're right. God has a big plan in this. May He give you special grace as you launch your son!

  5. Christa Martin says:

    Thanks for sharing the things you've been learning, Janel. It really is so encouraging and helpful to me. Im sure it is so hard to sort through everything to see what is right for your child, but Im glad you're finding some help. We'll be praying for you guys as you have so much going on right now!

    1. I am so grateful for those prayers, Christa. God keeps providing the resources I need every day, but it is definitely a steep learning curve :). It's cool to learn to love my little boy in a new way.

  6. Mandi Ware Antley says:

    I'm not sure if I have ADD, but I'm definitely not organized by nature. Some of those things you mentioned (charts, timers) sounds like they could help me! Oh yeah, and my son, too!

    1. Ha! Ditto on that. I needed a little more structure around here :).

  7. Wow as I was reading for a moment I didn't now I was reading someone outs journey… it totally help me to put things into words.. since I have been crying out to the Lord even without words… But I know He listens!!! I have a beautiful 9 year old girl with focusing difficulties and as she is growing, school is becoming a nightmare… since she is so visual math and writing are a huge struggle for her… at this moment we r praying and seeking God's wisdom, there are many decitiones in the way….. thank you for sharing, many blessings to you and your family, big hugs!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story! My son is 15 and has just been diagnosed with ADD-Inattentive. I am experiencing many feelings of failure as his mom. In hindsight, it is so clear to me – all the teachers telling me how ‘lazy’ he is and/or how he could do so much better if he would only apply himself. In my ignorance, I have allowed my son to internalize all of these comments and am now praying that it’s not too late. I pray that he can overcome all of these negative labels and become the man that God created him to be!

    1. I just now saw your comment, Karen–but I wanted to make sure you knew I am praying for you tonight. A year after diagnosis, my son is night-and-day different, and I’m a different mom. May God cover you with His grace in so many ways.

  9. Like Karen, my son 15 has been diagnosed with ADD and I have felt the feelings of failure as well… his second grade teacher wanted me to have him tested~way back then, and I wouldn’t do it, because I didn’t want him “labeled”, for no other reason that I have seen teachers make that an excuse for everything. At the time I was getting married, and he was moving to a farm and knew he would be switching schools and so on, there were lots of changes at one time! I just kind of put it off, and thought he’ll grow out of it. But after 7 years we are still fighting the “Lazy, if would just apply himself. . he has so much potential…” he is an awesome kid. I am just trying to get over the fact that he could be doing so much better in school and not himself feel like a failure when he can’t seem to hand in assignments on time and get things finished! Do you have any recomended reading? God has Blessed us in so many ways, and I know that he led me to your website… just what I needed, I guess! I know it’s been a while since you posted anything on this, but I would love to hear what you have to say! Thank you