When my middle son was in kindergarten I suspected something was up. He had such a hard time trying to focus on his homework. Part of me attributed this to the fact that he was young for his grade and therefore was just a little immature……. The other part suspected something more.
He managed to make it through kindergarten but each year the struggle to complete his homework became more pronounced and his teachers all made the same comment.
“Mrs. Gallagher, C is having some difficulties. He daydreams quite a bit and he spends most of his recess finishing the work the students do in class.”
By the time he was in 3rd grade I knew in my heart that my son had Attention Deficit Disorder.
C wasn’t necessarily hyper, he was more classically inattentive. He could quietly slide under a desk during class with out the teacher even noticing. He wasn’t disruptive he simply couldn’t pay attention.
While doing his homework after school, I would have him sit at the table in the kitchen so I could prompt him to stay focused.
I wish I’d known to let him take a break and run around instead of making him start on his work immediately after school. Hindsight tells me he needed to get his wiggles out, but I was too over-focused on getting him to obey me and complete his work.
I didn’t understand what he really needed.
I was concentrating too hard on what I thought was necessary. I felt C needed to get his homework done in a timely manner and I was determined to make that happen.
After 3 plus hours of homework both of us were usually reduced to tears. Every night. This was the routine for us. I knew children inherently want to please their parents and figures of authority, and he wasn’t getting a thing out of not completing his work at home. I wasn’t positively reinforcing his bad behavior. There was no reward in carrying on for 3 hours. It just didn’t add up.
He got plenty of attention otherwise so this wasn’t an attempt at one on one time with me. He was exhausted and I knew it
Thank goodness, C’s 3rd grade teacher was very in tune to what was going on with him. I hadn’t had any teacher even mention ADHD let alone admit he may have a problem. Each teacher prior to that point had all thought he was young and immature.
I’d read enough on the subject and I was pretty sure of what was going on in my little boy’s head. I just needed to get someone to listen to me. I wanted him tested at school but that’s no small feat to accomplish. It takes the right teacher to convince the school district to allow an assessment to take place.
Praise God, C had that teacher.
Test itself is actually a survey that my husband, C’s teacher, and I had to fill out. It asks questions about the student and the one completing the survey has to rate the behavior………..frequently, sometimes, and seldom.
During the process there were two meetings with the principal, his teacher, the learning specialist and the district psychologist. The initial meeting was to pinpoint the problem with my son and get some idea of what was suspected to be the cause of his struggles. Each of the professionals in that room were very supportive and truly listened to me; all except one.
The school district psychologist asked me about my older son, who happened to be a very good student and then insinuated that I was seeking help because my #2 son wasn’t a carbon copy. He implied that I was annoyed he required more time from me.
I’m positive he could feel my contempt for him from across the room. I was infuriated, but I knew that there was indeed something wrong with C and the test would show it. The truth would make itself known; I just had to be patient.
And, lo and behold, once the questionnaire was evaluated the diagnosis was a plain as day. At the next meeting the idiot school psychologist had to eat his words. Right in front of me. Victory.
I tried limiting his sugar intake. No caffeine. We watched out for foods that had red dye in them. I tried supplements. For him, nothing worked.
The course we chose to take is not always a popular one.
My husband wasn’t super excited about treating C with medication, but he allowed me to look into it. He himself has the disorder as well as my brother and my sister. I watched first hand as my brother struggled throughout school because they didn’t recognize his learning disability. I didn’t want that to happen to my son.
I wanted him to feel successful and capable. He was so smart but when you can’t get things onto paper you give up trying. I worried his self esteem would suffer greatly due to his inability to do well in school……….. And, once he got to that point, I was concerned he wouldn’t continue to try…….that he’d simply give up.
I couldn’t let that happen.
I made an appointment to see the pediatrician for the next step in treatment. As advised by the doctor, we went with a low dosage of a medication to start C out on to see what worked best.
What happened after that was a miracle to me.
The first morning C took his medication I was really nervous. I kept picturing my little boy in spontaneous combustion. I had him eat his breakfast first and then he took the tablet.
He must have felt my anxiety because he was anxious as well. I told him everything would be okay and we walked to school. He mentioned that his stomach felt funny but from the things he said, I knew it didn’t hurt so I continued to encourage him as we walked to school.
I heard nothing all day and at dismissal I went to pick up the boys from school.
Once at home he told me what his morning was like.
“Mommy in class I was very quiet and my friend Austin asked me if I was okay. I told him I was but that my stomach felt funny. He asked me if I wanted to tell the teacher and I said, no. Then he asked if I wanted to call my mom but I told him, No, because she won’t do anything.”
“Mommy,” he said looking at me with his crystal blue eyes, “I wanted to say to him, I just need a friend.”
That he could put that into words was amazing to me. My eight year old little boy. I’d never heard him talk that way before; about feelings. He’d never been able to express himself that completely.
I turned to him and stood him on our kitchen chair so that he could be eye to eye with me. Tears were streaming down my face. In his short little life we’d had plenty of run ins. From the time he was born it seemed he’d always hung on to me with one hand and pushed me away with the other. His inability to focus caused his anxiety to go through the roof. His brain was always running on on super-speed. I’ve had to be the target in order for him to decompress.
For him to be able to really talk to me was the best gift ever.
“Sweetheart,’ I said, “I promise you from this day forward your life is going to change.”
“Mommy, my life already changed when you told my teacher there was something wrong.”
Fast forward. C is now 17. School has still been bit of a struggle, but with help of a variation of an IEP and medication he has managed to reach his senior year of high school. Medication for him hasn’t been a cure-all and there were many years as a young boy that behavior modification came into play. We have done the best we could with the information we were given. Not everyone would agree with how we chose to handle his disorder, but for us, this has been the best way.