When our son was born we thought he might get ADHD. It runs rampant in my husbands family. It turns out he did, but it was not as easy to identify as we thought. What we found out is that ADHD is very hard to diagnose in the early stages of childhood. Many of the characteristics our son displayed could have been considered normal behavior. It wasn’t until he started third grade that we could really tell the difference. His teacher also made a difference. One that he had was very helpful, the other was not. This would also come into play later in his schooling.
We finally decided to have our son tested by his pediatrician for ADHD. He met the criteria for it. I also found that my husband and I had very different ideas about what was wrong with our son. For instance, I would say he following directions was terrible, my husband would say it was okay. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are trying to diagnose ADHD it makes a huge difference. Since my husband’s family has ADHD so strong it is their normal. For me, who has never been around it before, I can spot it a mile off.
To give you an idea of what ADHD is here is the best definition I could find. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a chronic condition based in genetics that effects parts of the brain that regulate executive functioning skills. The condition includes attention difficulty, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Executive functioning skills include: attention, concentration, memory, motivation, effort, learning from mistakes, impulsive, hyperactivity, organization and social skills.
We noticed my son had difficulty following multi-step directions. Say you asked him to (1) Get out his notebook and pencil (2) get paper from the bin (3) Open your notebook and copy the questions from the board. He may get the notebook and pen, and copy a question, but not all of them. He would need to be routinely reminded to focus on work. His attention wandered constantly. Think of the talking dog in the Disney film “UP” when it says “squirrel.” He could not finish work on time, would lose papers, was socially shy, and couldn’t follow along.
Those with ADHD have differences with activity levels and the way certain areas are structured. ADHD can run in families. Today, it is estimated that of the adults who have ADHD, 40-60% of their children will also have ADHD. ADHD has several types or subcategories. There is ADHD-Hyperactive, ADHD-Combined, and ADHD-Inattentive. ADHD-Hyperactive is characterized by being overactive, interrupting conversations, a quick temper, having a difficulty connecting with others, and learning issues. ADHD-Inattentive is hallmarked by disorganized and careless mistakes, difficulty with transitioning, problems staying on time, difficulty expressing feelings, anxiety, no motivation, process information slowly, depression, cannot pay attention, cannot follow directions, shy and easily distracted. Of course, ADHD-Combined is both. You may have heard the term ADD (attention deficit disorder) before. As more and more is learned about brain related disorders and illnesses, the definitions and names of the disorders/disease will change. ADD is now called ADHD-Inattentive.
We decided early on to have our son on medication. We knew that if he could keep on task without medicine he would have. So we started to try a few. His first medicine didn’t work very well. He was still having difficulty paying attention. We would often get emails from his teacher asking if we remembered his medication today. We then put him on a new one. It worked wonders. It did have side effects though. He had great difficulty sleeping and had no appetite. The lack to sleep was treated with a nighttime medication. We had to take medication breaks on the weekend to make sure he ate.
In addition, we instituted several other common pieces of advice for those suffering from ADHD. We instituted routines and schedules. We also tried organizing things in bins, giving clear and concise directions, and being careful not to overload him. Somethings worked better than others. What we found was as he got older certain behaviors fell by the wayside, others stopped and a few evolved.
In all, my son has finally learned to manage (for the most part) his ADHD. It was a rough road. We still have to stay on top of him to make sure he doesn’t forget things and meets deadlines. It’s not as bad as it used to be. We still have some struggles, but compared to a few years ago, it is so much better. So keep the faith with your child. It will take awhile to learn to adjust, but once you find your child’s niche it will get much easier.
What has been your experiences with ADHD?