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Living With An ADHD Child:How do you know, Diagnosis, Opposition,Medication, Getting help.
HER SELF PORTRAIT
The Difference Between Her And My Other Children
From the day she was born my second child was very different from my first child. My first child (a girl) was typically calm and quiet and only hyper at appropriate times like parties or play times. She was very smart and obedient. I never had to worry about her behavior at school. Her teachers had nothing but praise for her. My third child(a boy) has also been calmer, more obedient and seemingly more remorseful. On the other hand my second child(a girl) was exactly the opposite personality-wise from the day she was born. She has ALWAYS been amazingly bright even more so then her sister. She had reached all the normal milestones at the right times: crawling, walking etc. She was completely potty-trained before three years old, and was speaking very well by the age of three. She was sneaking out of her crib at the age of 2 and 1/2 years old. One day she appeared in my room after being put to bed in the crib with the rail up--she scared me half-to-death. The mattress was as low as it would go and the rail as high as it would get. I was confused and wondered if maybe I had left the rail down, but was pretty sure I had not. I put her back in the crib, left the door open a crack and peaked at her. She systematically threw her pillows , then the sheets, then stuffed animals to the floor next to the crib. She then went to the corner of the crib, stuck her feet beetween the rail bars meeting at the corners, climbed far enough to swing her legs over the rail and dropped herself onto the pillow/sheet pile on the floor. From that moment I knew she was a little different then my other one. At about the age of four she started to get more hyper, very social, very outspoken and defiant, and having more frequent tantrums. By hyper I mean like a motor constantly running. Literally she's always bouncing-off the walls, jumping on the couch, never stops talking etc. Dinner became harder as it was mostly spent trying to get her to stay in her chair. She has always sat half on the chair and half hanging-off the chair, sometimes standing on the chair, swinging her legs, fidgetting, wiggling, whyning etc. It was impossible to have a quiet, peaceful meal with her...EVER. Meltdowns, tantrums for any and every little reason became a daily and expected ocurrence.
She would get fixated on things: little things like the color of her shirt wasn't right or the brett in her hair wasn't in the perfect or exact spot she wanted it to be lead to major melt downs. By melt downs I mean screaming, crying, throwing things, throwing herself on the floor, kicking the floor, kicking doors and walls etc. The tantrums escalate meaning they start out with whyning: the more you try to help the more frustrated she becomes, and the crazier and louder the tantrums get until she has exhausts herself (and you), and stops an hour or two later. Trying to talk to her only makes her angrier, escalating the tanrum more and directing the anger toward you resulting in her hitting, scratching, spitting at you, calling you stupid, hates you, etc. I was hoping that it was just a stage and she would get better as she got a little older. My Other daughter had some pretty severe tantrums when she was younger too. I assummed it could be normal behavior for her age and many kids have tantrums, right?. I was hoping a little switch would flip-over inside her as she turned five and she would mellow-out. That's when my other daughter had stopped tantruming and became a very nice little human being. My Son who is three flips-out. He tantrums and whynes, but the tantrum is short-lived and usually ends with fixing what's frustrating him. The level of tantramming and the reasons for it are hugely different from my ADHD daughter's. She has an October birthday so she was supposed to start kindergarden a little later then her friends, but she was struggling through headstart at the age of five, saying it was boring and she wasn't learning anything, it was for babies, and she didn't want to go, etc. She only went half-the-year. Since it was hard to keep her out of trouble at home unless she stayed busy, I bought her preschool books at walmart and she had almost finished them so she knew alot of the kindergarden stuff. We did some reading at bedtime, ABCs and counting at bath time, and the clock in the living room etc. One day I noticed she was starting to read when I would spell things to my husband and she would figure out the word. With this in mind I mentioned my concern to her teacher that she would be bored in kindergarden, and that I believed she was ready for first grade. There was opposition. Teachers and principals DO NOT like to go outside the boundaries and place kids where they believe they shouldn't be. Usually saying they don't think they have the emotional maturity and so they are not ready. And many kids may not be, but I trully believed mine was different and I insisted on the special testing. Even having her tested at two different schools. One refused to place her and the other one hesitantly did. So she is now a first grader. She has done very well academically which I expected, but for the first two months of school she did HORRIBLY-BAD behaviorally, which I expected as well. There was not one day when she didn't get in trouble.
TEACHER BEHAVIOR REPORT-BAD DAY
What do I mean when I say weird behavior. I mean behavior that is impulsive and often doesn't make much sense. The best way to explain it is by giving some examples of things she has done.
One day we were at home. We had recently gotten a kitten. It was about three months old. She was playing with it saying things like "nice kitty nice kitty" then suddenly wack!! she smacked it upside the head. I was standing there in shock. The cat had done nothing to her and she was seemingly happily playing with it. No anger, no reason at all for her sudden behavior. After a minute of silence standing there unbelieving, not knowing what to say. I finally said what in the world are you doing? Why did you do that? She simply answered, almost laughing... I don't know.
Story number two: her teacher sent me a note saying she got in trouble for making noises. I talked to her and informed her that I thought she had ADD / ADHD or something and would be getting her help. I informed her that at home she always makes little sounds, hums, etc all the time. Her teacher said no these weren't little sounds, they were loud abnoxious sounds and she wouldn't stop even when she was asked to do so several times. "BAAAH BAAAH" sounds loudly like a goat and disrupting the whole class. I gasped, what in the world? I thought. Has my girl gone crazy?
I asked my daughter what happenned. She said she was angry because some kids were being loud and they wouldn't stop, and her teacher didn't stop them so she decided to get back at them. It made sense in her head and she was well-aware that her behavior was disruptive and she did it with that purpose. She didn't care if it bothered her teacher. She did not have respect for authority.
Third story: she was sent to detention for climbing the bathroom stalls with her cute little high hill shoes. According to the teacher they had been told the rules and she deliverately broke them. I asked my daughter why in the world she was climbing the stalls and she responded something like "I felt like it, cause I wanted to."
I could go on-and- on with stories but I will leave it at just one morre. The other component to her behavior was THE LYING which according to her psychiatrist is pretty normal for kids her age, and I believe small lies may be, but my girl would come up with whole plots and stories of things that were so totally not true, often times with the intent of getting someone in trouble.
One time I stopped to pick up my son at the babysitter, left her in the van while I brought him out to put him in the van. I left my phone in the car. It rang while I grabbed my boy. She answered and told my husband she was at a target store locked up alone in the van with her brother while I was grocery shopping. I came back to put my son in his car seat and she gave me the phone. I said hello and got a screaming husband asking me why I had left the kids locked int he van at target. he was so upset he was getting ready to drive there and find them. I was confussed for a minute then said, "what are you talking about? at which point he told me the story. I was angry, I yelled her name and asked her why?The answer usually was I don't know or I just felt like it. I had a talk with her about lying and how it could have led to him getting hurt by driving too fast to try to find them and getting in an accident or a ticket. The lying got a little better but it didn't completely dissappear. It wasn't the first time she had done it and it wasn't the last either.
DESPERATE AND FRUSTRATED
Diagnosing A Child With ADHD And Opposition
Being a hygienist I review a patients medical history so I get to see a few patients who have ADD(Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD(Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Autism and many other behavioral issues. Their behavior, from the very minute they enter the dental room and sit in the chair, is vividly different from patients who have not marked these conditions on their history, and so I had an inkling of what could be affecting my daughter's behavior. I also have a great resource of knowledge in my patients whom are counselors, therapists, parents, even grown-ups with these kinds of issues, etc. I would ask the parent's of the children with these conditions questions like how did you know it was ADHD? How did you find out? Who did you take them to to get help etc. I found that many of the children exhibit similar behaviors and personality traits. I would share stories of my own child's behavior which on many occassions has been outright weird and hard to understand. One patient told me she had been called the "black sheep" in her family all her life and that she still stuggles with the condition as an adult. I found understanding and support in these people where I did not have that in my own husband, brothers, sisters, mom, dad, her biological-dad, friends etc.
To say ADD or ADHD was like saying the PLAGUE.
"No you shouldn't say that, it's not true, don't label her, stigmatize her etc.!"
My husband would say "there's nothing wrong with her, she's just being BAD." Many kids with ADD or ADHD or other issues get labeled like that. Like my patient said, they may be called "the black sheep," brats, bad, the class clown. I was blamed for her behavior too. I was told the problem wasn't her, it was me. I was a "bad" mom. I wasn't strick enough, tough enough, I let her get away with things. Some said I yelled at her, wasn't loving enough, spanked her too much. Others said I didn't punish her enough, spank enough, was too loving or lenient etc. etc. etc.
Some would say "let me take her, I will get her in shape. I can get her to behave." I would say no you can't, but they would incist. On one occassion my sister took her for one day. In that one day my daughter sprayed lysol in her Son's eyes(same age) after being told not to. She kicked him in the face giving him a bloody nose and then denying it to her aunt-- who had seen it happen. She gave me my daughter back, a little more reluctant to accuse, but still thinking that with more time maybe she could still do better than me. Everybody wanted to do this: my mom, her bio-dad, etc. but the problem persisted even with them. Out of all of them, in the end, it was me who knew how to best handle her in her daily melt downs and downright crazy behavior.
When I told people that I had decided to take her to a psychiatrist to see a bout a medical diagnosis and possibly medication, everybody went up-in-arms.
"No, don't do it, she will be labeled all her life, and stay away from medication!" was the warning.
The behavior was getting worse :at home, church, school, playing with other kids. She was having a hard time everywhere, with everyone and everything. At school her principal accused me of lying to her, by having told her I thought she was ready for first grade. She thought she wasn't mature enough. It was a maturity problem. I told her "no", that she was going to misbehave and have the same issues wether she was in kindergarden, first grade, second or third. I told her that I believed she had a problem and would be getting her help. I told her I thought it was that "maturity" issue too that's why I had waited so long to get her HELP. I became DESPERATE. I didn't know what to do with her anymore. I had tried all the conventional parenting things I knew and later found-out are not that effective in parenting this child. I had tried rewards, spanking, taking away priviledges, time-outs etc. Nothing worked consistently. The key is consistently--sometimes they would work, sometimes a little, most of the time NOT AT ALL.
I called a family couselor I would visit once in a while and asked him who I should take her to: therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I told him I needed to know if she needed medications and did not have the time or patience or money to go to one place just to be referred elsewhere. He suggested a children's psychiatrist. A therapist can help teach you to modify behavior, a psycologist can try to figure out the why, but a psychiatrist can preescribe meds and try to figure out the why, and how to change it. It was hard to find a children's psychiatrist, but luckily there was one that had newly moved into a nearby behavioral medicine clinic. I took her in as soon as possible. I was lucky to find someone who was willing to listen and was on the same page as myself about medication and therapy. This is important and for once someone understood me as well. I told him about the maturity issue and he said I was right she would bethis way all her life. It's a genetic thing and a personality thing, but if indeed it was ADHD medication is definitely proven to help.
MEDICATION IS PROVEN TO HELP
The Medication Issue
The medication issue: Although I am a believer in medication I wanted to start with the most minimal dose possible.
The psychiatrist was of the same idea. I believe most Doctors are and It is important that the parents and DR. agree on this. So many people are opposed to medication in fear of the possible side effects. Having briefly studied biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry and other medical subjects I know that the body functions on a perfectly balanced system of chemicals, and if any of them are out of balance for whatever reason, then the body will not function the way that it should--be it physically, mentally, or emotionally and it all affects behavior. To me, medication is simply a way to try to bring things into balance, but like most medications yes there are possible side effects and they may vary depending on the medication. In my daughter's case she was diagnosed with moderate ADHD and possibly anxiety. The medication offered was guanfacine only 20 mg. tabs but she only takes half a tablet twice a day. Believe it or not it is a blood pressure medication which has shown to be effective with ADHD. For this reason she gets to see the psychiatrist about every three months and gets her blood pressure measured. So far the only effect I've seen is that she does need a nap after school, but she does get up at 6:50 am everyday. However before the medication she wouldn't nap. She stopped napping around three years old.
The weird behavior stopped. She still has a melt down about twice a day, but this is good compared to all day long. They have also become alot shorter: 10 minutes compared to two hours. She is doing great in school from the very first day she took it. Even when the Dr. said it would take about three weeks for it to build up and take effect. One day we forgot her medication and her teacher was surprised at her misbehavior without knowing she forgot her medication. I informed her we had forgotten to give it to her and suddenly the lack of self control made sense. Medications HAVE BEEN scientifically shown to work. Luckily this one worked for my daughter, but if it hadn't I would have been willing to try something else.
Humans are all different and so what medication may work for one, may not work for another. At the beginning it may be a little trial and error. My phylosophy is that like all things in our body that fall out-of-balance causing craziness or physical sickness like hormonal changes sometimes do in women. Our minds run by neurochemicals and if one or two of them are out of balance they can cause behavior changes, so like the muscles needing more or less calcium or other substances so does the brain. There are medications proven to work and so they should be used accordingly. This medication has had a great effect on my daughter's behavior making life happier for all of us around her and making her school experience a much better one.
A BETTER DAY-A HAPPIER LIFE
In Summary-Don't Just Live with It. Live it Better
If you have a child who acts overwhelmingly different then the rest and is hard to control, understand, and emotionally tires you to the point where you think you will snap. Get them help, get you help. You DO NOT WANT TO END-UP ABUSING THE CHILD. Believe me when a child is hitting you, calling you stupid, telling you they hate you, spitting at you etc. and it happens several times daily--abuse is a possibility. I snapped many times yelling, spanking etc. and cried many times--that's when I knew my efforts weren't enough and that I needed help. Most children with behavioral issues who are not diagnosed and helped as children grow up to be grown-ups with issues. Grown-ups who often times have a hard time getting jobs, keeping jobs, having relationships etc. The sad thing is that being diagnosed with a behavioral issue is seen as a negative thing and most grown-ups will not recognize nor seek help and so they end-up living hard, and often-times, sad lonely lives. If you are a grown up and think you have a behavioral issue you should get help. You can have a more meaningful and positive life experience.
The money problem: Unfortunately psychiatric help can be expensive, but seek out help from church organizations and or government funded clinics and get yourself or your child help. Sometimes state human services can help. Getting help means a happier and positive life experience for all involved. Help may also involve other things like behavioral therapy and a little reading on parenting etc. Two recomendations given to me are Magic 1-2-3 and Dr. Kazdin's Method For Disciplining The Difficult Child.
After 2-3 years of trying and hoping things would change on their own but they didn't I was willing to do anything including (reading, i'm not a reader).
Don't be affraid to take the time to research, find a good psychiatrist and do the work. I did and it has made a big difference. Don't let the opposition stop you. Find a support group. One such group on line is Called CHADD http://www.chadd.org/ . There are othe sites like it that will help you not feel so alone in living with such a child or grown-up. Google ADHD or other behaviors and you will find inspiration, advice and support.
Don't just live with it. Live with it better.