Justice and ADHD - Quality advice based on experience

A Parents Perspective

Marie Paxton

I am Marie Paxton and I am the parent of 2 young adult children.  Both have had interaction with law enforcement as teens and in their 20's.  As you can imagine, I was pretty horrified.  Our family was educated about ADHD and we had talented mental health professionals on our treatment team.  My children had been involved with Scouts, took music lessons, had a regular bedtime, library cards, curfews, and caring extended family. My husband and I saw a therapist for customized parenting advice.  This was not supposed to happen to us!
 
I once heard it said "The Brain is the Boss" and I think that sums things up for my family.  Their impulse control was unreliable.  And since 25% of people with ADHD will have issues with alcohol or drugs, that just complicated things.   So all of the "normal" protective measures against risk-taking behaviors weren't preventative at all.  My children were like cars with brakes that only worked part of the time.
 
So we entered the world of juvenile/criminal justice.  And surprisingly it wasn't as frightening as I imagined.  Don't get me wrong...I would really rather have avoided this whole chapter.  And the experience is probably different in each community.  We did encounter officers and court personnel who just didn't "get it" that made darn sure I felt humiliated.  I'm very glad I enlisted the help of attorneys to protect their legal rights.   But most law enforcement staff were educated about mental health and my children had access to diversionary programs (often called ARD, or Recovery Court/mental health court/drug court).  
 
Accountability was a key factor in all of these programs.  But my kids had the opportunity to rise above their mistakes and could end up with clear records if they complied with the rules.  They were court-ordered to attend programs that they would have balked at if I had been the one suggesting it.  
 
In true ADHD-style, they did not sail through these programs.  Those with ADHD tend to be late, or go to the wrong building, or forget they couldn't bring their cellphone into court.  In everyday life, these behaviors are an inconvenient or possibly rude.  In juvenile/criminal justice settings, these have serious consequences.
 
This period of our lives was very painful and if I think about it too much, I start to cry. But if I'm very honest with myself, I realize that law enforcement accomplished what I was not able to accomplish - holding them accountable for their actions.  Some things are just wrong, no matter what the reason.
 
I did a lot of work to understand my own emotions and reactions and to know how much help to offer my kids.  Today I have two young adults who are on a path to higher education.   We genuinely enjoy each others company. We learned how to respect each others' feelings and not to take things too personally.  
 
I live in a small town, so I see newspaper articles about "our" judge and I smile, instead of bristle.  I see "our" probation officers at the deli and we nod and smile in recognition.  I'm still irritated at a nasty car impound lot owner, but I don't dwell on that.

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