People often joke that they may have A.D.D., using it as an excuse of why they are forgetful. If they only knew what it was really like, they wouldn't think it was so funny. If there are any nay-sayers that want to claim there is no such disorder, that it's just children misbehaving, I'm here to tell you that it is REAL. Also, more research should be done to find out why it exists and to find a cure. There is no ribbon to wear, there are no big media events, and when Tom Cruise is your poster boy, ADD/ADHD gets forgotten about. By the way, if there was a ribbon, it should be a multi-colored pinwheel because that how an ADD/ADHD brain works. It's goes a millions miles an hour in a million different directions.
My oldest child has ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It is a disability. I think most people have no clue of what it is like. However, if you think you have a clue, multiply it by 10. I started to name famous people with ADHD but then it wouldn't help the point I'm trying to convey about how hard it makes life.
PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL
We first started seeing Noah's symptoms in preschool. ( Pre-warning-The following stories piss me off so far beyond belief that if I rattle off some rather choice words please give me) Noah's first year of pre-school was fine. He liked sitting on the teachers lap and getting the extra attention. We weren't concerned about that. The next year started off a freaking nightmare. "Noah's not doing what is suppose to be doing" "Noah doesn't stay on task" "Noah ... Noah ... Noah..." Then came, "Noah is biting the other kids." Now we had had issues with Noah biting is older cousins. It was his way of fighting back, but biting the other kids, I'm still not convinced. But what really brought us to the brink was that Noah was being sent to the principal office everyday. And when I say everyday I mean EVERYDAY. It became part of his routine. We finally sat down for a parent/teacher conference where it was more of "Noah does" when we ask his teacher and her aide what they were doing to help him and his behavior; we were told, and I quote verbatim, "We have 15 other kids in the class, we don't have time to give him any extra attention." Silence followed. As the conversation continued and we discussed with the principal ideas to help Noah, it became more apparent that his teacher (hereafter referred to as "that bitch" had no inclination to help and that Noah's daily trips to the purple chair shaped like a human hand, that sat in principal's office, would continue. We then requested that Noah be moved to another class. It took a few days but Noah was moved. His new teacher was hesitant but accepted the transfer. Who could blame her for being hesitant about receiving a child who won't do what he is told and bites other kids. Well from day 1 that clouds lifted and sun shined. Noah did not have any problems for the rest of the year. Hallelujah! Now I won't say that "that bitch" lied but a child's behavior just doesn't change instantly. And Noah's supposedly did? I will never buy it. It was during this time that I went to a seminar about ADHD. However, Noah really did not show all of the signs.
Two years later in first grade, little things started occurring. Noah would come home with his white polo shirt covered in food everyday. EVERYDAY. Another thing was that he was chewing is pencil until there was nothing left of them. Then came second grade. He wouldn't stay in his seat, he would walk around the room and he would sharpen his pencil 20 times a day. The biggest issue was that he wasn't getting things done in class. So we had him tested. Our doctor would not diagnose him without the school testing him first. And so began, the meds. More on those later.
Fast-forward four years. We had moved to Louisiana from Illinois. Noah began middle school. He had been placed in the advanced gifted program. Another freaking nightmare. He would come and do homework until 9pm. The poor kid had no life. Back to school we went for a conference with all of his teachers. Again, all but 1, claimed they didn't have time to help him and that this was middle school and kids needed to be more responsible. Blah blah blah. The conversation escalated and I thought Gretchen and the young English teacher were going to go at it right then and there. The fall out from the meeting was once again nothing was done to solve any of the issues. Two weeks later, I went to his school and pulled him out of the advanced gifted program. He was move to the gifted program. Problems solved. This year he is at another school and with two weeks in I can happily report no problems.
Two other problems that we have to deal with are problems at home and social problems. At home, we have to take extra time making sure that Noah does everything he has to. Brush his teeth, get dressed, find his shoes, eat, and take his pills. Those are just a few. If you tell him to do something like go get some socks. Two minutes later he will be playing with something and has totally forgotten about the socks. The extra attention takes time away from our other kids and I often feel bad for the other but for peace within the house, it has to be done. It doesn't matter how much you scream and yell, it won't cure the disorder. Believe me, I have done my share of screaming and yelling. Another thing you have to learn to deal with is the impulsive behavior. While most of us might think, I wonder what this does, or I wish I had that $100 bill, or I'd like to punch him in mouth, we don't act on it because our filter tell us not to. ADHD kids don't have that filter. They know right from wrong and do mostly right but there are times when you just want to pull your hair out and ask "WHY DID YOU DO THAT!?!"
All of these little quirks affect his social life. ADHD kids usually act more immature than other kids. Noah will argue about anything. If I say the sky is blue, he will argue that it is green or vice-versa. It doesn't matter what the topic is he WILL argue with you. Those two qualities make it hard to make and keep friends. This leads to hurt feelings and "everyone hates me." We are getting ready for the teen years and I fear this may get worse. I wonder sometimes if moving to Louisiana made things worse for him but with no jobs in Illinois we really didn't have a choice. We comfort him the best we can and pray that things will go his way someday.
There is no magic pill to make all of this go away. If you are new to ADD/ADHD you will find that it is all trial and error. What works great for one kid may be a nightmare for another. The following is a list that we have tried and what effects they had:
Concerta - Worked ok. Significant loss of appetite. Noah almost refused to eat.
Straterra - we don't remember
Adderall - A complete disaster. It caused Noah to be mean and hateful. He even threatened to stab a kid with a pencil. This one lasted only 2 weeks.
Focalin- this is what has worked best for us. Some loss of appetite. But he eats pretty well now.
Other side effects have been that he becomes extremely worried about the safety of his brother and sister, almost to point of being paranoid. "Coming down" off of his meds at night he can become extremely emotional and/or confrontational. Too much medication will "zone" him out.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
First of all, you need to know that none of your child's disorder is your fault. We all want to do what's best for our kids and placing them on medication is the last thing that we want to do. If you do decide to medicate, watch your child behavior closely. You will have to find a balance between good and bad side effects. You have to be ready to fight for your kid at school. Some schools/teachers are great and some are just terrible. Some schools do not like to give kids their meds. Often they will try to place the responsibility on the child to remember to come take their meds. That's ridiculous. Sometimes Noah can't remember what I told him do a minute ago, how's he going to remember to go take a pill in the middle of the day.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
I think some teachers get into teaching just for the power of telling kids what to do or they expect all kids to act like perfect little angels. Sorry to burst your bubble, but ADHD kids march to the beat of their own drum. I suggest you find ways to accept that and incorporate methods that benefit those kids. If a kid was in wheelchair you wouldn't punish them for not climbing the stairs, so why punish a kid who can't focus on the task at hand.
There are several websites out there on ADHD. I found this one today (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002518/) It seems pretty good.
Finally, to the parents of ADD/ADHD children: you are not alone. There are countless parents just like you in this world. If you need help, Gretchen and I are more than happy to talk about our experience or give you some advice. You can message us here or on Facebook anytime.
So the next time your at the store and your kid is out of control and people are staring at you like your the worst parent in the world, you can hold your head up high and know that you are some of the best parents in the world. And for those who stand there judging, you all can go to Hell.