ADHD: One Mothers' Journey
What is ADHD? What are the symptoms to be aware of; and how can you differentiate these symptoms from normal child behavior? At what point should you have your child evaluated? If you your child is diagnosed with ADHD, are there alternative treatments to medications, and do they work?
These questions, and more, race through your mind when you suspect, or someone suggests that your child has ADHD. Here is my story.
The birth of my first child was the happiest moment of my life; the culmination of many years of hopes and dreams. As a new mother, you never really know what to expect, or what is "normal". Evan was a busy little boy; always on the move, touching and getting into everything. But, isn't that what children are supposed to do?
At Evan's 1 year check up, routine blood work showed that his lead levels were quite high at 18 mcg/dL, with the acceptable range being 0-4 mcg/dL. Construction had recently taken place besides Evan's grandparents house, which caused lead-containing dust to coat the porch, that was then tracked into the house on everyone's feet. Poor Evan had been crawling around on the floor and putting his hands in his mouth and ingesting the lead. I was devastated! With diet and vitamins we quickly got the amount of lead in his system to come down, but lead wasn't completely out of his system until his 2 year check up.
- Avoids or does not finish work
- Easily distracted/ loss of interest
- Loses things
- Poor attention to detail
- Does not listen/ often daydreams
- Loud/ talkative
- Often interrupts
- Does things at inappropriate times
When Evan was 3 years old, we placed him in part time pre-school for socialization. By the end of the school year, the teachers made it a point to mention how busy Evan was, that he had difficulty remaining on task, and had to be redirected often. They went as far to mention that I should consider having him evaluated for ADHD.
"ARE THEY SERIOUS!" was the only thought that crossed my mind. I had heard that teachers were pushing the ADHD diagnosis because medicated children made better students. Evan has a July birthday and is one of the younger children in his class, making the September cut off only by a month and a half. How on Earth can a 3 year old be diagnosed with ADHD. That immediately caused me to put my guard up. My maternal, protective instincts were in full gear!
As the years passed, I heard the same stories: "Evan is sweet, but a bit immature." "He is always daydreaming, forgetful and gets distracted easily." "Evan does not follow directions and is very unorganized." Yes, I did notice these same things at home as well, but believed that I could help him develop better skills and routines with a little persistence. I read everything I could about ADHD and tried any suggestion, not involving medications, possible. Some of the Non-Drug Alternatives that I tried included: rigid schedules, task charts and reward systems. I have even researched diet changes that could potentially decrease ADHD symptoms. Diets including high protein, more complex carbohydrates, less simple carbohydrates, and more Omega-3 fatty acids are supposed to be beneficial to children with ADHD. Honestly, nothing has seemed to help Evan's behavior. To my horror, I discovered research showing that there is a correlation between lead poisoning ADHD. It was obvious that my son required a bit more attention than other children his age, but he was bright and had terrific grades. I was resolved to deal with the challenges I faced with Evan as long as he continued to be successful.
Do you think ADHD is a real condition?
It wasn't until this year that Evan's inattention to small details began effecting his grades. Math had been Evan's favorite subject, but now he just does NOT get it. No matter how often we review and practice material, Evan skips the simplest steps. He is often more obsessed with seeing how small he can write his numbers, resulting in him misaligning math problems and getting wrong answers, than the actual math itself. When he is lost or board in class Evan sharpens pencils and plays with his pencil top erasers. You can always tell which desk is Evan's; it's the one surrounded by pencil shavings. I am always told that he isn't a bad student, he is the clown. Evan brings joy to those around him and makes everyone laugh... just not at the appropriate times.
This is what convinced me:Click thumbnail to view full-size
What has finally convinced me to have my child evaluated? Let me show you. I had just finished doing the dishes and went to check on my children. My daughter, as usual, was calmly playing with her dolls in her room. She has always been able to keep herself occupied with a single task for hours, if I let her. Next, I checked on my son while he was supposed to be doing his 20 minutes of reading for the night. During the short time I observed him, I witnessed Evan reading in 6 different positions. He could not sit still! For some reason, this is the exact moment when it finally began to sink in for me that Evan may need more help than I am able to provide. Also, Evan has recently begun to mention that he has been having trouble with children at school; and that they don't want to be friends with him. After discussing things with his teacher, it seems like Evan goofs around too much and some kids exclude him. Now Evan's behavior, which he has no control over, is beginning to effect his school work, and his social life...Time to get evaluated!
I have made an appointment with the pediatrician for next month and have no idea what to expect. Well actually I do. I expect Evan has ADHD and they will suggest medication. I have to admit that I am nervous and even a little disappointed. This is something I have been working so hard to try and overcome, but I feel defeated... like I have failed my son. I am sure everything will turn out just fine. I really do not want to go the medication route, but feel I may have no other choice at this time. Please feel free to share you personal experiences or suggest alternatives. Post links to articles that you have written or to resources that may be useful to parents working with a child with ADHD. I will be sure to write an update as things progress with Evan. Wish us luck.
The Turning Point
After my son's visit to the doctor, we still werent convinced that medication was needed. After all Evan was an outstanding "A" student. We worked together with behavior modification strategies and a more ridgid schedule, hoping that the structure would be of some help to him. We made it through grade school but Middle sxchool was The Game Changer.
In middle school the students changed classes every period and had lockers to go to between classes. Gym and the cafeteria were in a different building. Life for Evan was chaos. He couldn't tell up from down by the end of the day. He had no clue what assignments were due, when nor did he know where he had put the worksheets that were due. I watched my bright loving child go from an "A" student to a D student. Homework was consuming his life and he would be doing homework from the time he came home until bedtime. He was lost and overwhelmed. My heart hurt for him. I sat him down and told him that the time had come to try some medication for his ADHD. This broke my heart because he expressed fears that this must mean that something is wrong with him and that he is different. Holding back tears, I reassured him and let himi know that this is common. .That there was nothing wrong wih him and that we would work on this together and just see if something could help him get control of his life back again.
- Drugs Used to Treat ADHD
WebMD gives you information on the drugs available to treat ADHD.
Back to the Doctors We Go
The pediatrician gave us 4 pieces of paper. Two to be filled out by parents, and the other two to be filled out by teachers. Once completed, we returned to the Doctors office. Interestingly enough we discovered that Evan had ADD , not ADHD and that there different types of medications that we were recommended to try. There were stimulants and nonstimulants, long acting and short acting. My son really didnt want anyone at school to knos so he asked for a long acting medication that he could take in the morning before school and not have to go to the nurses office for another dose during school. So long acting it was. We tried Adderall first. Evan said that it helped him focus and concentrate the most, but at night when it wore off he was emotional and crying. Next we tried Concerta. Concerta completely took away Evan's personality. He was like a zombie walking around and he said it didnt help him focus at all. At this point we were a bit discouraged, but we knew that there were so many different treatment options and that we would just have to continue on with the journey until we found what worked. Luckily, Vyvanse has worked! Evan is his same goofy self and he is a bit more organised at school. Its not a miricle drug. I still have to remind him to turn in his work and stay on top of things, but things are much improved. Next year Evan goes to highschool... I'm nervous to see what that is going to look like...