Southwest Wake: Opinion

Parent Pathways: Cary women launch support group for parents of children with ADD

Not long ago, Cary residents Suzanne Ballantyne and Noa Ronen were looking for a support group for parents of kids diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. They asked around but couldn’t find any live groups, only online discussion groups and Facebook pages.

Now they’re forming their own group called “Self”ish Parents.

The name of the group speaks to the old adage, “You can’t give to others from an empty well.”

Ballantyne and Ronen envision the group as a place where parents can share without judgment.

“We want them to have this place to share their whims and their not-so-great moments and just let it go,” Ballantyne said. “A place where we can gather to be selfish: to learn strategies from each other, to share our successes and failures and to gather ideas for supporting ourselves through the years.”

Ballantyne is a health and wellness coach at her business, Simply Practice, and she also teaches yoga. She is the mom of three teens, one of which is ADD-symptomatic.

Ronen, also a mom of three, is a professional life and transition coach. When Ballantyne brought up the need for a local parental support group, Ronen said she had several clients who might be interested.

The women will host two informational meetings to gauge community interest – on Wednesday at Eva Perry Regional Library in Apex and Sept. 3 at West Regional Library in Cary.

We used to hear about attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder all the time. But in the past few years, the neurologically based conditions seem to have fallen off the media’s radar.

Certainly, they haven’t gone away. As of 2011, 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 6.4 million children.

“It’s less of a label or a stigma, although that’s what it became for a while, but what we’re coming to understand more is that there are just differences in the way the brain works,” Ballantyne said.

So what do ADD and ADHD actually look like? What challenges do they pose for parents and kids alike?

“Kids often have trouble dividing their attention to get organized and to attend to things that don’t interest them,” Ballantyne said. “It can be difficult to get the big picture. They get attached to an emotion—anger, frustration, disappointment—which seems to block the ability to integrate learning or new information in the moment. They are also impulsive.”

ADD and ADHD often interfere with the ability to switch gears and self-regulate—for example, stopping an activity to eat or to move to the next task.

“Children can be intense and rigid; they are always ‘on,’ ” Ballantyne said. “They have trouble relaxing on their own.”

Ballantyne and Ronen hope the group will provide a place for parents to both vent and learn.

“We want parents to feel like they have a place to run away to, where they can learn about self-care and support their relationships – not just the relationship they may be having with a difficult child, but the relationship they’re having with their partner, the other children in their family and the other people in their lives,” Ballantyne said.