ADHD and other sensory and processing disorders affect millions of people worldwide.
Often times, minor accommodations like diet changes, quiet spaces and schedules can help to make the person more comfortable.
When they're younger, it falls to their parents/guardians to make those adjustments for them until they can do it for themselves.
Is it possible, however, to go overboard with it?
One mom went to Reddit's popular AITA ("Am I The A$$hole?") subReddit to get people's opinions on her experience with a schedule-loving parent of a child with ADHD.
What started with a tense invitation ended with the ADHD child's parent taking her very upset child and leaving the party. The party thrower really wanted to know, was she the bad guy for refusing to force the entire party to adhere to a down-to-the-minute schedule that the other parent brought along?
Let's let her explain it:
"AITA for letting my son invite a friend to his birthday, even knowing the boy didn't go to parties?"
"My 10 (just turned 11) year old son has a friend who's left out of a lot of activities. Not for lack of invitations, his parents would just decline. I didn't know why until recently, figured it wasn't really my business."
"My son was having a sleepover and wanted to invite the kid. I figured no reason not to invite him, so even if he didn't go, he'd know he was welcome."
"My son was with him after school and asked if he wanted to come and he said definitely and he was free."
Ok, so far things sound great!
Her son invited a little boy to his birthday party, even though the little boy almost never goes. Kids inviting one another to birthday parties happens all the time.
Nothing to be upset about... right?
Apparently the other boy's mom felt differently:
"He told me his friend could make it so I emailed her and said the boys talked and sent the info about the sleepover. She responded and said she was really upset my son had approached her son about it instead of me writing to her before calling it to her son's attention."
"I apologized and said I understood if her son couldn't go. She said now that her son knew about it, she had no choice but to let him go or he'd be crushed, but I needed to help manage his condition. I figured that meant supervising his taking some medication or not letting things get too loud or whatever."
Welp, looks like we're starting out on the wrong foot. The other child's mother seemed to feel like boundaries were crossed because the two boys spoke directly about the party rather than just leave that to the parents.
That's okay—this can be redeemed.
Apologies were made and we're good to move forward.
"She said he was extremely routine oriented and needed routine to thrive and stay on course so I had to go by his routine, and that she noticed the invite said 3:00 but he couldn't start the sleepover until 5:30. I said that was fine (taking it to mean he wouldn't be over until 5:30.)"
"She drops him off and is irate to find we'd already started and everyone else was there. She told me she was upset I had already not adhered to the schedule and I explained the miscommunication. She said to avoid further miscommunications she'd brought his schedule along."
"It was very precise. 6:00-7:05, dinner time. 7:06-8:29, quiet indoor play. 8:30-8:44, brush teeth, etc. To her credit, she had written in suggestions of where the birthday activities could fit (e.g., she wrote "or present opening" next to quiet indoor play.)"
"I took one look at the list and explained the party wasn't really running on a set schedule, the boys were just hanging out."
The other boy's mom thought her child's schedule would be changing the time of the birthday boy's party? Birthday boy's mom thought that was just the time this particular child would show up.
As awkward as that exchange must have been, it was only about to get worse. Birthday boy's mom was shocked to find that the other child's mother had brought along a down-to-the-minute schedule that she expected the party to adhere to.
Mind you, if you've spent any time with ten or eleven year old boys, you know that sort of regimented schedule is nearly impossible when you've got them in a group. Birthday boy's mom was honest and explained that the schedule wasn't really likely to work in that scenario.
Most ten year old children at parties:
We get that "cats in a mosh pit" is probably exactly what the other child's mom is trying to avoid, so routine and schedules are probably quite helpful.
But down-to-the-minute? With no flexibility? Surely there has to be a compromise.
Let's keep reading.
"She became very flustered and said if that was the case her son would become overwhelmed and she'd have to take him home and he'd be devastated. I apologized but said I definitely couldn't guarantee adherence to this schedule so didn't want to assume responsibility for her son if it was of critical importance."
"Unsurprisingly, her son was very very sad to have to leave. I suggested to the mom that he join the boys in the yard where they were playing basketball, but she said it wasn't time for basketball right then."
"So he ended up leaving and I feel bad because he was so upset. I keep thinking back and wondering if I should've just not invited him and saved everyone all this trouble? She said he needed this schedule because he has ADHD." - dropclassic
OK, so that whole compromise thing really went down in flames, huh?
The other boy's mom was all-or-nothing about this extremely tight schedule. So much so that she wouldn't even allow her son to play basketball with the other children before she left with him.
That left birthday boy's mom with some serious questions. Was the schedule really that critical? If so, was she a jerk for even inviting the child in the first place? Upsetting him was obviously not her intent and how could she possibly have known anything about his schedule beforehand?
There were a few moments there where it seemed like the other boy's mom was trying to guilt birthday boy and birthday mom for her child's negative reactions. It was their fault her son would be devastated. If they would just abide by her schedule ... you get where we're going with this.
Did she mean it that way or was it just poorly worded, misunderstood, or possibly care-taker fatigue talking?
We don't really have any solid answers for you - and neither did the birthday boy's mother. Which is why he turned to the collective Reddit mind to ask - was she the a$hole?
Reddit, as expected, did not hold back.
"Don't overthink how the invites went out. This is how normal kids birthday parties are thrown."
"I was thinking maybe the kid had a condition with OCD or was maybe autistic. But when I saw the edit and the mom told you he had ADHD, it makes me think the mom has an issue with OCD or she has one major control problem, which is very concerning as well."
"Also, she is putting a lot of blame on you and trying to guilt you with how badly her son feels by being told he can't go to the party. She's not taking any responsibility or helping her kid see why he may struggle participating in those types of activities and it may be better if he doesn't attend (if he really does have a problem like you described.)"
"If that kid doesn't have issues now, they will as an adult." - madbeckster
"I actually get the other mom. My step-son has ADHD and thrives on schedules, but for special times we just have to bite the bullet and realize he's gonna suck for a couple of days until we can get him back on his inner schedule."
"By 'schedule' I mean nothing as strict as what the Mom put down lol. Just more order to the day if anything" - 76KHww
"Wtf? I would bet 10x my yearly salary that if that kid stayed at that party and did not adhere to this foolish schedule that he would have been perfectly fine. His mother's neuroses are preventing her child from having a normal life."- 1028
"My kid also has ASD/ADHD, and she has had to adapt to uncertainty BECAUSE LIFE IS UNCERTAIN. How are these kids ever going to survive if they're never challenged?"
"How will they manage when things go sideways and mom isn't there to be their coping skills? What if mom got sick?"
"No one else is likely going to follow through, and she's just guaranteed that her kid will have no experience in managing discomfort."
"Life is hard. Kids need to get used to that." - epi_introvert
"As some one who has been diagnosed with severe ADHD and two other disabilities, this is key. My parents raised me to never be the victim of my disabilities—that means I gotta role with the punches."
"There will come a point where your schedule will change suddenly and you have to adapt, especially once your parental support system isn't as there/is less than what it was.
"And also it gives us the taste of what 'normal' life is like without all our disabilities. If I were to strictly adhere to a schedule I would no doubt feel even more different from my peers." - LolzDogs
"I've had ADHD my whole life and my case is fairly severe. A fairly strict routine can be helpful for us, but holy Jesus, not anywhere near that strict!"
"When people say routines help for people with ADHD, they mean with regular daily tasks, like doing chores at the same time every day to help us remember to do them. Sometimes having unscheduled events/time can be stressful and overwhelming for me in the sense that if I wake up and I have X amount of things to do today, getting those things done can be really hard without a set plan because I might lose track of time, get distracted, etc."
"Sometimes unexpected events get me flustered and overwhelmed, like a last minute appointment out of the blue. A birthday party doesn't meet any of that criteria; in fact, it's scheduled recreation time so it should be 100% fine in that regard!"
"Regimenting the activities during the party has no benefit because the kid has no reason to worry about forgetting anything or losing track of time. It sounds like the mom has misinterpreted advice from a doctor, and has gotten really, really neurotic with it."
"Knowing how issues run in families I wouldn't be surprised if she had some form of OCD/anxiety or autism." - pahobee
"Even with ADHD or autism the mother didn't handle it right. Expectations needed to be clearer upfront of needs are this specific."
"She can't get upset at the boy being invited getting his hopes up when she literally takes him to the party only to take him back away. That's very disruptive and probably more problematic than letting him go to the party, or just saying no in the first place."
"Routines are definitely helpful, but even just knowing the plan can help mitigate some of the struggle. Asking for a schedule/order of events and reviewing it with the son rather than demanding a routine down to the minute would have been a more reasonable accommodation that may have been enough."
"And if that wasn't enough it was on them to ask ahead of time or choose not to participate." - qqweertyy
"I mean, I don't know what health conditions this child is living with, why it takes him 14 minutes to brush his teeth, or what the one and only correct time for casually shooting hoops with friends is. I am also mystified as to how any group of ten year-olds engages in "quiet indoor play" - last time I had more than one ten year-old at my house, I had to make and enforce brand new rules about not having conversations by yelling at each other through open windows, and then about not painting light bulbs."
"This woman is going to have a tougher and tougher time maintaining this level of control as her son gets older, and kids more and more take their social lives into their own hands. I hope that she and her son can find a way to meet his needs." - eaca02124
"I've had ADHD since I was diagnosed at 3. I'm in my 30s now."
"I'll be blunt. Kid would've been fine if mom was not a control freak that tried to force the world to adhere to what she wants."
"What kinda psycho shows up at a birthday party with her kid and is like 'All of you aren't adhering to my son's schedule, how dare you!' That is some next level entitled bull."
"That's like your kid having diabetes and forcing all the kids at the party to eat like a diabetic. Insanity."
"Oh and the cherry on top is psycho woman puts all the blame on you and the other kids at the end, as she makes her kid get in the car. Just wow." - thesneakness
Many of the people who chimed in have experience with ADHD. They felt the other mom's schedule and entitlement to it were overkill—and possibly indicative of something deeper going on.