I Don’t Have ADH. . .

5 Dec

It’s not like we weren’t paying attention. In fact, with only one child, paying attention was never an issue for us as parents. He had our full attention and we thought everything he did was amazing and wonderful.

We were so in love with him, in fact, that we had a positive explanation for the range of his eccentric behaviors. Running full tilt into a wall for fun? He needs extra stimulation. Lying in the grass in left field, tossing his mitt in the air and catching it, while his teammates are attempting to win a game? Well, who wouldn’t be bored playing left field? Circling the little boy next to him then taking a bite out of his arm while the teacher reads a book on sharks? He has a vivid imagination.

It wasn’t until we adopted our daughter and were no longer focused solely on our son that it came to our attention that he had a problem with focus. And staying still. And keeping his hands off of things. And blurting out ridiculous statements.

What did we do about it? We tolerated it. We even encouraged some of it. Really, who wouldn’t be amused by a child who blurts out “Chicken!” at random moments throughout the day? While I knew that his tendency to hang on people (their bodies, not their words), was annoying, I figured he’d learn more from the annoyed taking a swat at him than from my constant nagging. Nope.

Then he went to middle school. And he started failing. And failing. And failing. We tried punishments. He continued failing. We tried inducements. He continued failing. We talked to his teachers. He continued failing. We tried a homework completion spreadsheet. He failed to complete it, even when he completed the homework.

He hated writing; he hated reading. His handwriting was so terrible that even if he had the right answer, if the teacher couldn’t read it, what was the point? We coaxed, we cajoled. We checked homework. We reminded. We crossed our fingers. We sacrificed goats. His grades didn’t improve.

Eventually, he was referred to an interventionist. At this point, I need to make sure you understand that he hated writing, couldn’t remember his assignments and, if he did his assignments, couldn’t remember to hand them in. We’ll ignore for a moment the fact that he was still blurting out things like “I like pie” and hanging on people.

RTI, response to intervention, is all the rage in schools these days, the goal being to intervene before the child fails. Obviously, we got to it a little late. Still, I was thrilled that our son would be getting help.

First recommendation from the interventionist was to have him practice writing to a prompt as soon as he came home from school. Second recommendation from the interventionist was to have him track everything he did every half hour from the time he came home until he went to bed.

There is no witty way to describe my reaction to these recommendations. I believe I said something to my husband like, “Are they freaking crazy?” Still, we tried the tracking thing. It worked if I followed him around and badgered him into filling in the little half-hour blocks. Most of them had notes like, “Argued with Mom.” This, I told myself, is insane. Actually, I probably used the past participle of an “F” word.

And my son continued to fail. Abandoning the little half-hour blocks and the afterschool writing torture, we sought the advice of other experts. Eventually, thousands of dollars and four professionals later, we had a diagnosis: ADHD.

Well, duh, you say.

Yeah, duh, I say. I spent a lot of time kicking myself for turning over every stone looking for solutions while ignoring the big one in the middle of the path. I’m still kicking myself but at least now I’m doing it while I’m learning everything I can about ADHD.

While it’s a relief to know what we’re up against, we’re up against a pretty formidable foe. Routines and habits are essential coping mechanisms. Tell that to a teen. I’m not even going near the nutrition suggestions yet. He needs all the calories he can get to counter the weight-loss that accompanies his medication routine. Down the road a little, we’ll have to worry about driving. He’s not pushing it and neither are we. Kids with ADHD get more tickets and have more accidents. They are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. We’ll cross those bridges when we get to them, but we’re looking ahead so we’ll be prepared.

In the meantime, I’ve learned that people can be pretty goofy about ADHD. Some people think it’s over-diagnosed. That may be the case, but after resisting the appellation for more than five years, I’m pretty sure we’re finally barking up the right tree. Other people make jokes about it, blaming their day-to-day forgetfulness and distractibility on the disorder.

ADHD jokes don’t really bother me all that much, but I wondered what my son felt about them. So I asked.

“I don’t care,” he said, then mentioned a friend who calls it “ADSO.”

“ADSO?” I asked.

“Yeah. Attention Deficit. . .Shiny Object!” he said. “But mostly I tell my own jokes.”

“Really?” I asked. “What are some of your ADHD jokes?”

“You think I remember?” he said.

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15 Responses to “I Don’t Have ADH. . .”

  1. philosophermouseofthehedge December 5, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Calm. It wil be all right. The diagnosis is an explanation, not an excuse. It’s important to remember that – especially your son. Lots of adults do just fine and are very successful with ADHD (many undiagnosed or medicated, but finally recognize it). Some careers work just fine with that type of brain (parents: start exploring interests and thinking about jobs’ daily activities – outdoor sales is one possibility – but some also have extreme focus in an area of interest like engineering ). Yes RTI is all the rage. Just be careful that adults don’t “assist” so much the kid can’t deal without them around – never self regulates. Have seen some do quite well and complete college and go on – some go into that tail spin and never leave the nest mainly because of too much hovering. Fears can become self fulfilling prophecies. Suggest martial arts like Kuk sool wan which include meditation, breathing control and concentration as well as a lot of large muscle activity. Talk to instructor so they know what you are looking for. Also as far as sitting to do school work, might try a wheeled chair at a desk. (If it works, get the school to use them also – that does not have to be a problem unless the teacher is not on board) Some kids need to move to concentrate. It sounds odd, but often works. Walking up and down a hallway and reading a book/studying notes for test out loud may also work. Sounds like there’s a good sense of humor there – which is absolutely necessary. Relax. It will be fine. Trust. (and just remember, teenagers are difficult under the best conditions). You all are going to do great.

    • jmlindy422 December 5, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      Thanks! Our son has found what we think is a great career for him: music, likely production. He gets A+ in his music classes; he even does the homework! We have him in a routine for homework that seams to be working. He also has an IEP. Unfortunately, because he is pretty intelligent and doesn’t have profound LDs, his resource teachers have a hard time finding time for him. It’s a struggle because he’s getting As, so the Fs get evened out. They think a C average is fine as that’s what most of their other students are striving for. It’s not what he’s capable of though. Do you have a kid with ADHD? I would love to connect with other parents going through this struggle?

      • jmlindy422 December 5, 2011 at 10:21 am #

        Oh, forgot to mention that his Chinese teacher actually let him dance at the back of the class during some presentations that were accompanied by music. I thought that was amazing.

      • philosophermouseofthehedge December 5, 2011 at 10:53 am #

        My husband has it – no doubt – ADHD Daddy. And some nephews, now grown and happily employed/ sucessful. And friends’ kids – ditto. As a teacher, they gave me the “tough” cases when I taught before I went into research. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Some teachers do have an instinct of what kids need. Just stay calm and pick your battles. Laughter is important – along with sunshine and exercise ( treadmill good for all, Santa)

  2. sukanya December 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    at least now you know what it is! love the previous readers comment. i have heard of the ‘chair with wheels’ recommendation before. in fact i think it was on 60 minutes once when they showed a segment on how a teacher in some US school refuses to let her kids sit. they do everything standing up. apparently the mobility, that they dont feel tied down to their chair helps improve concentration.
    good luck and this post of yours established the power of humor. stay strong.

    • jmlindy422 December 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      I have taught kids with ADHD and the rolling chair worked well with some of them. So does a squeeze ball. I had one who couldn’t walk down the hall, so I had him trace his finger along the wall. Kept him from running ahead of the class and being disruptive. My own son, a drummer, taps a rhythm on his leg, which is much less disruptive than tapping on his desk, or tapping his toes.

  3. the waiting December 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    I was finally diagnosed with ADD when I was 16. Even though it fleshed itself out differently in me than it did in your son, it’s still kind of a weird thing to finally realize about yourself when you’re in those years. I think the thing that my parents and psychologist drove home the most to me was that there was nothing “wrong” with me; the meds and the new habits I needed to adopt were just going to help me cope with the world in a more productive way. I am glad they were so supportive. In a way, too, I’m also really glad the timing played out the way it did; there’s something to say for “resisting the appellation” for awhile.

    You’re going to do a great job. 🙂

  4. Deb Beaupre December 5, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    I am a parent of a kid with later diagnosed ADHD and I started my blog to write about the shit that goes down even if you are a parent in the know. How you kick yourself for being so slow to catch on, how you realize that school is really never for boys, its for perfectly perfect silent girls….I am happy to connect about the whole deal. I too, spent many dollars, saw many pros and the kid is only a freshman. I have to blog about it but I havent been abole to write anything that doesnt involve swears as nouns, verbs, adjectives, article…

    • jmlindy422 December 6, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      Deb, I will definitely check out your blog. I really do feel behind in helping my son deal with this stuff. I do think that there are advantages to his age (he’s 16). He can be more cooperative because he’s more able to be reasoned with. At 8, he probably would have rebelled a LOT!

  5. scribblechic December 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    From your first lines I felt a connection to your experience. My son was my daily companion for four years before his sister joined our adventure. As first time parents, without another child to contrast his early development our “normal” was never questioned. In First Grade our son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and ADHD. We are still finding our way, but his diagnoses have gifted us a unique opportunity to know him more completely and to help him navigate his world. Still, when I look at his big brown eyes or listen to him unravel a new scientific theory, I see only a little boy I would not change.

    Your telling is filled with both kindness and humor, your son is very lucky to have you.

  6. Rita Russell December 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 9 – she’s now 16. We did the full route – extra help, tutors, Orton Gillingham, various medications (tried at least 5 different in different strengths and combinations), lots of specialists…I know lots of people think ADHD is over diagnosed, but believe me, when it fits, it fits. As a parent it’s really scary – you want your kid to be perfect and have a perfect life. The good news is that you now have a label.There are lots of resources out there (books and websites). And kids do learn how to manage their symptoms and life goes on. By the way, the research that I did suggested that it’s often inherited – I’m convinced that my husband has/had it, and he’s a successful lawyer. Have your read “The Edison Gene” by Thom Hartman? It not, check it out

    • jmlindy422 December 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      The inheritance thing is an interesting piece. I am bipolar and was at my biannual check up with my psychiatrist. We got to talking about my son and my shrink said, “Well, your husband probably has ADHD.” I knew there was a genetic component, but figured it came from my side of the family. Shrink said, “Nope, it’s the dads that do it!” Letting myself off the hook sure feels good! I will check out “The Edison Gene.” Thanks for dropping by!

  7. seabeegirl December 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    There are so many resources out there to help bring out the best in people with ADD and ADHD. Just doing searches online and browsing that section in a bookstore will be tremendously helpful. Helping him develop a routine in the mornings and evenings will help him not forget to do certain things and be more productive. I have ADD without the hyperactivity. I got it from my father and wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult. I got very good grades in school because the one thing I can hyper-focus on is reading. I also remember what I read, but seldom what I hear. Somebody can ask me to do something and I’ve forgotten it five minutes later. When having conversations, especially in a group, I often am a bit slow in following what others are saying because I’m usually only half listening while daydreaming about something else. Music was also something I enjoyed, so I had fun in the band. Maybe your son will, too. I have problems with starting lots of different things, but not finishing any of them. Starting Adderall has helped me tremendously with this. I am now starting to do some free-lance writing, which seems to suit my personality and abilities much better than my current, more traditional job. Not quitting the day job, though, until I’m making enough money on the writing. 🙂 Good luck with your son, Enjoy him and his sweetness and impulsiveness. ADD kids can often teach you to live more in the moment and enjoy what’s going on NOW.

    • jmlindy422 December 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

      Thanks! We do enjoy him. He’s got some routines that really help, like his homework routine and the getting to school routine. He stopped taking his meds ’cause they were killing his appetite and he loses weight FAST! (Sigh.) He is tremendously sweet and definitely a Zen master. Interesting that you can hyper focus on reading. My son hates it; his strength is math. He scored very high in math on his practice ACT tests, so that’s a relief. He does love making music, but isn’t really interested in band or orchestra ’cause he would “have to practice too much.” Of course, I think that’s the point!

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