- Mental Health
How to Cope with A.D.H.D (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
We have all heard about the topic A.D.H.D (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), but how many of us have lived with it? I have, and want to share some insight with you, and hopefully help you to cope if you are in a similar situation.
When my son Craig was born 22 years ago he was a live wire to say the least. He was born at 8.35pm and taken away to the ward nursery to allow me as a new mum to rest. Oh dear me that didn't last long, at 1am the nurse brought him back, screaming his head off, lungs in fine order, because he had the entire nursery awake. I was the most un-popular mum on the ward for the following five days. Whilst other babies where sleeping, Craig was awake, usually in good nature but occasionally in fine form exercising the lungs again. He was very active, wriggling around his cot, every small sound stimulated him, and I remember the ward sister telling me I was going to have much fun as he grew up.
Life was never dull, Craig was walking at eleven months old, toilet trained at fourteen months old and dry through the night at sixteen months old. He was very quick to learn. Like all mum's I would read endless stories to him at bed time, and he showed at an early age, an almost perfect photographic memory. His favourite book was Tootles the Taxi, a book of poetic phrase with a different poem for each method of transport, Bertie the bus, Suzy the scooter etc. I could open the book at any page and show Craig the photo for him to say aloud the poem that was written underneath.
I was so thrilled thinking I had given birth to a real smart child. Craig was extremely hard work, never sat still, could never be settled to do anything for example drawing or watching the television. Instead he was always outside playing with something. At five years old he totally took apart his bicycle, nuts, bolts and cables lying in a heap in the garden. 'Don't worry mummy, he said when I screeched at him with such alarm, 'It will go back together again'. And so it did, he sat with his dad that evening and put it all back together. Wow. This child was going to be another Einstein.
I was so happy to see Craig go to school, I was convinced that he would be so bright and studying would be no problem for him. Imagine my surprise when his form teacher contacted me a couple of weeks after the start of term to ask for an appointment. I went along not knowing what to expect, but was sure it was all going to be good.
'Craig is a problem, very distracting to the other children and I have to make him sit next to my desk to encourage him to do any work at all' she said. I remember going into great deal about how clever Craig was. How he was very bright and maybe she wasn't stimulating him enough. That was the beginning of all the heartbreak and problems at school.
We went through all the arguments at school. I felt very let down by the school system, why was my little Einstein not progressing well? Fortunately, when Craig was at the age of seven, I was approached by an older school teacher who asked would I consider taking Craig for an assessment at the local clinic. I agreed and an appointment was made. Craig underwent many challenges during his assessment. He had to count, write, draw, stand on one foot, kick a ball and so many others I could write a book about. Eventually I was asked back to the clinic for the results. Our paediatrician was Canadian, he had written a book on A.D.H.D and could see that Craig was probably suffering from the disorder. He firstly suggested a trial on the drug ritalin. This drug acted on the impulses in the brain, the chemical in-balances to slow Craig down in order to help him learn. I remember being terrified at the thought of such a young child being on a very severe drug. It was explained to me that I had two choices for Craig. Let him grow up with many problems, having a miserable childhood or give him a chance by taking the drug of leading a normal lifestyle. Put like that I really only had one choice, so Craig started on a small dosage of ritalin.
During the following two weeks it was as if someone had turned a light on. Craig settled down in class and soon caught up with the other children. Health wise he lost his appetite and was very pale. He couldn't sleep at night, so the doctor suggested putting a pale blue bulb in his bedside lamp instead of the normal clear bulb. That helped a little, but normally Craig would still be awake in the early hours of the morning playing with his toys. I was also taught a different way of handling situations that arose, by talking quietly, slowly to Craig. If I shouted he would cover his ears and stamp his feet in terror. Any loud noise would disturb him unless it was a mechanical sound such as a tractor.I learnt that A.D.H.D was most likely to occur in families, and on investigating our families found that to be true. Several of Craigs dad's relatives showed the same symptoms. I was also told that the disorder affected more boys than girls and usually those with blond hair and blue eyes.
Craig's problems at school didn't stop entirely, he was held back a year at senior school were the teachers didn't know how to cope with him at all. I must have been called in for "chats" at least twice a week and even found myself going home in tears. I was head girl at my school and felt as if all my nightmares had come home to rest. Was I a bad mum, was Craig just a naughty boy? I faced all those questions. People staring at me when we were out in the town because Craig would do stupid things and draw attention to us both. The arguments with neighbours because they had seen Craig bullying their child. Or damaging someones property. I felt totally alone, helpless and didn't know which way to turn. My dream Einstein had turned into the devil's child.
I went along to parent/teachers meetings to hear all the same things year in and year out. At one such meeting I let rip, no holds barred. The unfortunate teacher was Craigs form master, Mr Boston. As I approached Mr Boston he pushed a small bundle of yellow notes to the front of his desk. I sat down and without any of the usual pleasantries Mr Boston said "these are all referrals from other teachers about Craigs behaviour". He went on to tell me of the discipline he had had to show Craig. For example making him do his work in the broom closet through his lunch break. Leaving Craig no time to eat his lunch. Or making an example of him in front of the entire school at assembly. I was gutted. The one referral Mr Boston kept pushing in front of me was from Craig's HE teacher "he farted in class" Mr Boston blurted to me. I don't know how I kept my face straight. With all my courage I too sat up in my chair, puffed out my chest and said "Thank you Mr Boston for telling me all the bad points about my son, now please tell me just three good points my son has". Mr Boston looked very uncomfortable and shifted about in his chair. After a lot of whoing and areing, Mr Boston sat in silence. I had got into my stride now and went ahead asking Mr Boston, who also gave Craig his lunchtime tablet just what he understood about A.D.H.D I also asked him if he had any training to make him aware of alternative teaching practices designed to make his life easier. I finished the meeting with "I suggest you make yourself acquainted with A.D.H.D as I firmly believe that the teachers in this school are responsible for Craig's behaviour, and don't you ever stop Craig taking his lunch or stand him in front of the assembly again. I walked away head held high feeling very proud of myself.
Several weeks later Craig told me Mr Boston was away on a course and he had a temporary form teacher who he was getting along with. Imagine my delight when Mr Boston returned to the school some weeks later, to tell me he had been to take part in a course on A.D.H.D From that day forward Mr Boston became Craig's greatest confidant. He fought his corner at every referral and pushed Craig on to take, and pass all his exams. What joy it was for me to sit and watch Craig receive all his exam certificates in front of the school.
Craig left school and trained to be a tree surgeon, he passed all his exams with flying colours to make him the youngest qualified tree surgeon in Northern Ireland. He no longer takes ritalin, he knows how to cope with his A.D.H.D and is now a very well balanced young man, happy with his life and expecting his first baby in December.
I learnt that children with A.D.H.D are not so different. They thrive on attention and good criticism. They like to be the centre of attention but in a controlled way they can be an inspiration to others. I never shout at my son but ask him 'did you have to do that, when you can tell me your thoughts we will discuss why I am angry with you'. This always works and Craig realises what the implications of his actions are.
I love my son unconditionally, and he loves me. Life has been a challenge but we got through with help and a lot of reading. As I look forward to the birth of my grandchild I look forward to teaching my daughter in law how to cope if my grandchild grows up with A.D.H.D, and I thank God every day for the beautiful and happy times I spend with my son.