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Getting to know Chris and her family



Chris A. Zeigler Dendy

During the past forty years, I have been an author and speaker, classroom teacher, school psychologist, mental health counselor, local and state level mental health administrator, lobbyist and executive director of a statewide mental health advocacy organization, and national mental health consultant on children's issues. Perhaps, more importantly, I am also the mother of two grown sons and a daughter with ADHD. As a result of our personal experiences, I was co-founder of Gwinnett CHADD served as their clinical advisor for seven years. I served on the National CHADD Board of Directors from 2000-2005, including terms as secretary and treasurer. I was also inducted into the CHADD Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to the field.

My first book, Teenagers with ADD and ADHD, 2nd ed., 2006 (TWA), has been extremely popular having sold over 100,000 copies. Subsequently a 350 page book packed with strategies for ensuring school success was released in 2000 as a companion guide to TWA. Teaching Teenagers with ADD, ADHD, and Executive Function Deficits (2011), now in it's second edition, deals exclusively with educational issues that challenge our children. Our book, A Bird's-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD, a survival guide written exclusively for teens, preteens, and young adults by other teenagers was released in October 2003 and a second edition in 2006. We have also produced three videos: the newest Real Life ADHD (DVD), and the older onesTeen to Teen: the ADD Experience (VHS), and Father to Father: the ADD Experience (VHS). In addition, I was the lead author for the "CHADD Educator's Manual on ADHD" and was one of the creators of "CHADD's Teacher to Teacher" training modules on ADHD. As a result of my work, I have had the opportunity to provide training both nationally and internationally. You may wish to check out my professional qualifications for more details.

My husband and I have three grown children and five grandchildren. All three of our children and four of our grandchildren have been diagnosed with either ADD or ADHD. In addition, our fathers, a sister and brother, and a few aunts and uncles also have attention deficits. Since attention deficits run in both our families, it has always been an accepted part of our lives. Fortunately, we were exposed from an early age to relatives with ADD or ADHD who were successful in their chosen careers. As a result, we have a more optimistic view than many people do of what it means to grow up with an attention deficit. Here is the latest picture of our family. (The following material was written nearly 10 years ago. Our two oldest grandchildren are in college and all five of them are doing well in school--thanks to appropriate medication and parents who are educated about ADHD

Let me introduce you to my family starting with my husband!

(Bob to friends at work and Tommy to everyone in our hometown.)

My husband and I were high school sweethearts who married some twenty years later. When our children were diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, we read everything we could get our hands on and sought out the best doctors in town to help our sons. Neither of us has an attention deficit, so initially, understanding the condition was especially difficult for us. We were both excellent students and in many ways, high achievers: he is a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and I earned my BS degree from UGA and Master's from FSU. In our video, Father to Father, my husband asks somewhat humorously, "Where did these children come from? They are not like us." One of the most painful lessons we had to learn the hard way is that we must love and accept our children just as they are!

My husband and I experienced so many painful lessons during our sons' teenage years; we want to help others avoid the same mistakes we made. This passion for sharing our experiences about living with ADD or ADHD is the primary reason for my books and videos plus our travel around the country and in Europe to speak about our family's struggles coping with ADD and ADHD!

Let me introduce you to our children!

Audrey, Jay and children, Nathan and Ashley

Unbelievably, Audrey was not diagnosed until a few years after her son Nathan was diagnosed. Like many females with ADHD, she worked extra hard to compensate for her ADHD. Although she graduated from college in four years, she was dissatisfied with her grades in school and always felt she should have done better. Even though she was very successful as a vice president of a bank in charge of several branch offices, she expended tremendous energy, compulsively making lists and working extra hard to stay on top of all important details. She still tends to be busy even as a stay-at-home mom. In addition she has taken on several important volunteer jobs in her community: PTA president and superintendent of her church's Sunday school program. Being involved in so many projects makes it hard to stay organized at home and deal with boring household tasks. Another challenging area is dealing with her son and his ADHD during heated situations. She takes Concerta to help her juggle all her responsibilities plus be patient and calm with her children. Now that her son and daughter are older she has thought about going back to school to become certified as a media specialist.

Steven, Sandra, and children, Hunter and Emily

Although both our grown sons, ages 29 & 34, have ADHD, they have handled its challenges quite admirably. As I am fond of saying in my presentations, our oldest son, Steven, is a college graduate, married, a wonderful husband and father, gainfully employed, and living on his own!! He thrives on his work as the general manager of a manufacturing plant. Over teh years, he has done an excellent job at work and been promoted regularly. Today Steven is active in his community, teaches a Sunday School Class and coaches little league teams, plus he helps with the children and loves to cook.

Steven has always been great repairing anything mechanical. He knows cars and boats inside out. If anything is wrong with your car, Steven can tell you what it is plus, often can fix it for you. Steven and his Dad enjoy fishing and playing golf together. After turbulent teenage years, it thrills me to hear my husband describe Steven as "his best friend".

Alex

Alex, our youngest graduated from college with a major in criminal justice and a minor in computers. While he was in school, he worked part-time doing computer consulting and graphic design plus private investigation. Alex's computer skills are exceptional and I rely on him to bail me out of any computer problems I have. Our family has benefited greatly from Alex's knowledge of electronics: he can fix anything. Recently, he installed a surround sound stereo system in our family room. He consults on all my ADHD projects, took the photos for the cover of one of my book and videos, plus designed and built this wonderful Website.

In fact, his first job out of school was as coauthor and graphic designer for our new book, A Bird's-Eye View. He did an incredible job of designing the cover and doing all the layout design utilizing InDesign software. (He was also the coproducer videographer for our new DVD, Real Life ADHD!.)Now that job is finished he is looking for full-time work somewhere else and understandably, for someone other than his parents. He has a wide range or skills and interests so narrowing down the field to select just one job is tough.

Our children have found active careers that take advantage of their personal strengths!

Let me introduce you to our wonderful grandsons, Nathan and Hunter:

We were lucky that both Nathan's and Hunter's attention deficits were diagnosed early-by first or second grade. Now that their ADD and ADHD have been diagnosed and treated, they both are doing well in school. Medication (Adderall Vyvance, or Strattera) has made a tremendous difference in both their lives. They can pay attention in class and finish their work. Nathan and Hunter are lucky because both their parents understand attention deficit disorder, work closely with the school and a counselor, and provide a patient, loving, structured environment for them.

Nathan

Nathan is our energetic twelve year old grandson who was diagnosed with ADHD! He has many interests including several sports and playing with his Game Boy Advance. For the last few years one of his favorite interests has been playing on a street hockey team. He also enjoys baseball, basketball, and skateboarding. In addition, he loves to read, collect stamps, and play the drums in his middle school band. Medication really helps Nathan comply with class rules and behave well in class.

Hunter

Hunter is eight years old and in the third grade. He was diagnosed with ADD inattentive when he was in the first grade. Thanks to Adderall XR he is doing very well at school. Unlike many children with ADHD, he has a great memory and is good in math. Of course, sometimes he daydreams and may talk a lot. Hunter is really good at sports, he plays baseball and soccer. Plus he loves to fish with his dad. He is a wonderfully thoughtful boy who is concerned about helping others.

Let me introduce you to my father and sister who also have ADHD!

Although my father, Judge Abney (the lawyer), did not do well in school because of his undiagnosed ADHD, he was a very productive and a highly respected community leader. After serving as the county probate judge for thirty-five years, he finally retired at the age of 75. Obviously, his hyperactivity and high energy served him quite well in his later years. Community respect for him was reflected at his retirement ceremony and later his death at 80 with front-page headlines in our local newspaper. His aggressive and creative political campaigns won him a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives when he was 28. The Atlanta Journal ran an article chronicling his campaign adventures in 1947. He was the first person in Georgia to ever campaign by airplane. Dad was very out-going, loved talking, and never met a stranger, so serving in public office was a natural choice for him. When my parents married, my grandfather sadly shook his head saying, "I hope you can settle him down". And settle down, he did. Had he lived, my grandfather would have been very proud of my dad's accomplishments.

My sister, Billie, (the doctor), did not do well in school either. However, she blossomed academically when she entered college. She has always had a wonderful zest for living and a great sense of humor. In college, her strong athletic skills and competitive high energy helped her win the national tennis doubles championship for small colleges. In her late twenties she returned to graduate school and is now the only one of us three daughters with a doctorate degree. With her outgoing gregarious personality, her career choice as a chiropractor was a natural. She has a wonderful "take charge attitude" and displays an extraordinary calm level-headedness during a crisis. Her patients love her sense of humor and competent personalized care.

I've always been a little envious of her. As an adult, she always seems to have more energy and fun in life than I do! Sometimes we forget that characteristics of ADHD that are challenging during school years are often valued in adulthood!