Saturday, April 5, 2014
Face to Face with ADHD
Photo Credit: Marg : CC
Are you running from an ADHD diagnosis for your child?
I was too.
Avery was a toddler when I began to notice differences between her and other children the same age. She was curious, she was energetic, and it took every bit of moxie I had to keep her safe.
It was difficult for me to understand why my child couldn’t stay in one place like all the other children around us. What toddler wouldn’t be drawn in by the colorful playground equipment? Avery would see something far away in the distance and off she would go like a wildcat pursuing a tasty gazelle.
I have extremely vivid memories of running after her as an expectant mother, trying to keep her from reaching the busy street beyond. I would rationalize, “This is just what children are like. I need to be tougher, smarter and stay one step ahead of her.”
ADHD is a common condition affecting children and adolescents and, for some people, it extends into adulthood. I am going to use the acronym ADHD in this article to encompass both ADD - attention deficit without the hyperactivity - and ADHD. It is characterized by three main symptoms; inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A child may have one or all of these, and they need not all occur for a diagnosis to be necessary. But all children exhibit these behaviors ... so what makes it ADHD?
ADHD is when inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity intrude on the child’s ability to function normally at home or at school.
It became increasingly clear to me, especially as her younger brother began to grow older, that the differences between my two children were significant. The biggest difference was that her brother didn’t seem to take a vacation to the furthest recesses of his mind when receiving direction or focusing on things that might prove difficult to him.
In preschool, a particularly astute teacher of Avery’s identified a deficit in fine motor skills. In kindergarten, her teacher conveyed that she would refuse to do certain tasks. Through the years leading up to second grade, there was a general awareness that she was falling increasingly behind despite the effort we both put in with her homework. Most often these homework sessions would take way too long and lead to tears for both of us. I could scarcely think about anything else. I would lay awake at night.
Though I wasn’t ready to make any life-changing proclamations, what I was doing, however, was compiling evidence, storing it away for the day that I might say, “I’m ready to take the next step.” ADHD was so controversial - it still is. I was afraid of being wrong, of harming my child by giving her a label.
In second grade, our situation was particularly bad; she began crying before school and refusing to go in. She would cling to me, and we would both cry. It was a terrible kind of torture, to leave your second grader at school in emotional turmoil.
Something amazing happened soon after, though, she was accepted into a new school for third grade. At first, she responded well to the extremely positive environment that I believe is the hallmark of our school, but then it was clear that she was achieving at a lower level than what she was capable. Her test results were so varied. Sometimes she was present, and sometimes her brain was taking a little vacation. Her teacher described that faraway look that Avery would wear and all the evidence came together like pieces of a convoluted puzzle.
In the end, it took eight years, a change in schools, and watching and working with my child to keep her from getting too far behind to finally feel comfortable exploring the possibility of a diagnostic determination. An evaluation might lead to medication - and I wasn’t fond of medication.
Today, Avery is improving day by day. After she was evaluated, our doctor put her on a very low dose of medication and the change in her was dramatic. It was noted by everyone involved in her life. We are happy with how Avery is doing, and we believe that we have made the right choice for her. She still has her bubbly personality, she is not depressed, she eats as much as she did before. My husband and I believe that after all the watching, after all the waiting, it was the right decision for us to make.
What to look for if you suspect ADD/ADHD in your child:
ADDitude magazine’s checklist of symptoms for ADD/ADHD