This is the story of a kid I love, a kid who has ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The severe type, the type that you see and secretly wonder what his parents are doing to control him.
Thoughts zigzag through my mind when I tell myself I am going to finally write about this.
For parents who don’t have kids with ADHD…this is how I think about it.
It’s a million little deaths every day. Dying to self, dying to defensiveness or over-sensitivity. Knowing it’s not worth it to try to get the last word.
It’s remembering that you are not a terrible parent. In fact, your disciplinary techniques and parenting goals work quite well on your other kids.
It’s remembering how you used to judge parents for capitulating to medicating their children for these “new” behavioral issues that you don’t quite remember seeing as a kid.
It’s remembering how your kid’s preschool teacher worked so hard to find ways to reach your child. How you offered your flimsy advice, because truth be told, nothing was really working at home either.
It’s knowing and hating how distant you feel from your child; he somehow has a preternatural way of keeping you at arm’s length.
It’s feeling like the complete and absolute opposite of what your child needs and wants in a mom.
“How did you know it was ADHD?”
I get that question from time to time. For us, it was a two-year journey to the official diagnosis. It started with seeing our three-year-old not able to self regulate in a classroom designed to cater to his needs AND whims. He was rough and tumble, never outright mean, but unable to control his impulses. He didn’t stay with his work for very long.
The teachers begged for ideas on how to positively reinforce him, but we admitted that nothing really stuck at home: sticker charts, diet changes, one-on-one time, time outs, taking away rewards, positive reinforcement, spanking (yep, judge me), and on and on.
He didn’t have friends, as he was unable to make connections because he was so all over the place. No one hated him, but I definitely remember him not being invited to more than three birthday parties in the three years he attended that school.
Play therapy was recommended and we welcomed it with gusto. But nothing really seemed to progress. He would play; the therapist would take notes. They (we saw several) weren’t sure what was going on, and offered a few psychologists’ names for a formal evaluation.
After MUCH prayer and angst, he started Kindergarten at a local Classical Academy that was touted as a place that welcomed kids who didn’t fit the “norm.” It lasted a month. I won’t go into detail, but they were not prepared to deal with an atypical child. At the time, I was embarrassed that he was kicked out of a school, but good friends told me that what was embarrassing was that this school didn’t know how to deal with a five-year-old who exhibited signs of hyperactivity and whose parents were working to get a diagnosis.
We took a long weekend over Columbus Day, and then registered him with our local public school.
Tips on Approaching a Diagnosis for ADHD
- Negotiate rates with your providers. Most will be out of network and can get quite pricey.
- Play therapy is helpful but seek other opinions. Play therapy is great for certain issues, but if you aren’t seeing significant progress with your kiddo, it might be time to move on to a formal evaluation.
- Seek out a psychologist for a formal evaluation. Psychologists test for mood disorders in addition to learning disabilities. Schools typically test for learning disabilities only, and only at the age of five or older. Pediatricians (IN MY OPINION) are not as specifically skilled as clinical psychologists to test, evaluate and diagnose.
- Use a psychiatrist to prescribe medication. If medication is recommended, especially for younger kiddos, psychiatrists are the experts in finding the right class of medication.
ADHD Psychologist Evaluation & Psychiatrist Treatment
As mentioned above, I highly recommend going to a psychologist for a full diagnosis. Your school or your pediatrician won’t typically test for mood disorders, only learning issues, and often, mood disorders often play a role in behavioral issues. After spending quite a bit out of pocket (that we really couldn’t afford), we got our official diagnoses that included ADHD and several other issues.
When you hear the diagnoses, I’ll be honest, you’re relieved it’s not something more serious. But it tears your heart apart that your child, this baby you’ve lovingly raised, is struggling with such difficult, adult issues. Issues you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
But once there is a diagnosis, there is a plan. There are tasks to fulfill. There are plans set in place in a public school due to this diagnosis. There are teachers and staff who are trained to work with your child, and it’s against the law to give up. You can’t kick this child out of public school; you have to help them. And that was my greatest relief…my kid was given an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) that we discuss annually at his annual Admission, Review & Dismissal committee meeting (ARD).
The Bottom Line
To my child: The pride I have always felt for you. The fierce love and joy your dad and I feel; no one else can ever take your place in this life.
You matter. You were specifically designed to alter this life. You were created to be. Your existence is important, WAY beyond how it has affected me. The hope and excitement for who you are and how you will grow is a gift to me.
I was talking to a friend recently, and we agreed that we’d rather have “not easy” kids whom we can help, advocate for, guide…it’s got to be better that than having easy kids who face significant struggles as adults and are no longer under our care.
To other ADHD parents: Everything we are doing now, struggling through, is paving the way for a future, where as adults, they can thrive on their own. And that’s worth it to me as a mom.