This post has been a long time coming. I hear from so many moms of children and teens with ADHD, and the complaints are all the same: It is so difficult to raise a child with ADHD and no one really understands! Well, I understand. When our oldest was in 2nd grade, he was diagnosed with ADHD. Since Kinder, I had been getting notes from his teachers saying he “needs reminders to stay in his seat” and “has trouble staying on task.” When his 2nd grade teacher suggested we have him tested for ADHD, it was no surprise. When the doctor handed me a checklist of signs and symptoms of ADHD and asked me to check off all the ones that pertained to my child… I checked them all…it was as if the checklist had been written specifically for my child!
Once my son began taking his meds, the change was immediate. He was able to sit still in class and complete his work. His teacher was amazed at the rapid improvement. But once his body got used to the medication, it would cease to work. We changed his meds several times though out elementary and middle school. We did not give him the meds on weekends, I wanted his body to have a chance to rest from the meds, I really hated that he had to take them at all. As our son grew, I would often have people ask me if he was still on meds, and why was he still on them. These people were friends and family members. “I don’t think he needs to be on that stuff, ” they would say. “There’s nothing wrong with him, he just needs to learn to behave.” Yeah, I heard that one a lot! And every time I heard it, I would cringe. ADHD is not something you can just “get over.” It’s a REAL diagnosis, just like diabetes or asthma. Would you tell someone with diabetes to stop taking their meds? Or that there is nothing wrong with them? I don’t think so, yet people think nothing of telling me that there is nothing wrong with my son and that ADHD is just “an excuse.” ADHD is not an Excuse for his behavior, it is the Reason for his behavior!!
Then there are the parents whose children were diagnosed with ADHD and now one year later their child is off the meds and doing fine in school. First, I am very happy for those parents, and their children. I am happy they are no longer exhibiting the signs and symptoms of ADHD- I am happy that they no longer have to take medication for it. But at the same time, it makes me wonder if the initial diagnosis of ADHD they received was accurate in the first place. Please do not compare my child to yours. My child struggles with ADHD on a daily basis. He detests taking his meds and I often find his pills in the trash after he leaves for school in the morning. He doesn’t talk about it much, but I know he hates that he has it, and the stigma attached to it.
My child is not “misbehaving” because he hasn’t been taught any better. He’s not a “bad kid,” in fact, it’s quite the opposite. He is a very polite young man when out in public, his teachers say that he is extremely polite and sweet, endearing even. He is impulsive and often does things without thinking. Many kids, especially teens, are impulsive, but usually not on a daily basis! We constantly have to remind him to think about what he is doing. Simple chores like emptying the dishwasher can take him 30-45 minutes to complete because he is easily distracted and will start doing something else.
Schoolwork, let’s not even go there, ok?! If it is a subject he does not care for- his attention span is zilch. Getting him to do his homework has been a BATTLE for over a decade now. We literally have to stay on him to finish, heck, to even bring a book home! Don’t get me wrong, he is very intelligent- that makes it all the more frustrating. We know he is capable of doing the work- but his ADHD makes it extremely difficult for him to remain on task. He was blessed with wonderful teachers this year, teachers that truly cared about him and worked with him to get his assignments turned in. His English teacher told me, “He’s smart, he knows the work, every time I call on him; he always has the right answers.”
ADHD has robbed my son of friends, he has very few. I have seen him interact with other kids… or should I say, try to. His behavior is very different from theirs. They are able to sit down and just chill, while he is always jumping around and being “hyper.” I’ve heard the other kids tell him to “calm down,” not knowing he really isn’t able to. He does not go out with other kids his age, he stays home with us. He has no social life, other than when he goes to his Fire Explorer meetings and events. He is very interested in Fire Explorers and we are encouraging him to remain active in the group. Perhaps a career in Fire Fighting is in his future!
Did you know the brain of children with ADHD is different from children without it? Well, it is! “Using new imaging techniques, researchers found that children with the hyperactive form of ADHD had 2 1/2 times more of a brain chemical known as glutamate, which acts like a stimulant in the brain. In addition, the brains of children with this subtype of ADHD also had lower than normal levels of GABA, a chemical that has inhibitory properties in the brain. Both of these chemicals are neurotransmitters that carry signals to and from nerve cells in the brain. Researchers say these differences may explain the behavior of children with poor impulse control.”Glutamate is an excitatory amino acid that leads to easier stimulation and excited neuronal pathways,” says researcher Helen Courvoisie, MD, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. “GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and inhibits those pathways in the brain.”In addition to revealing differences in brain chemistry, the study also showed that these gaps correlated to the children’s scores on tests of language, memory, sensory, and learning skills.”
There it is, in black & white, PROOF that ADHD is real, and not just some excuse for a child’s “bad” behavior! ADHD is considered a mental disorder, did you know that?! I am not a bad parent, YOU are not a bad parent. I know what my son is capable of- I know that his ADHD diagnosis is real and valid. He may have to deal with ADHD and it’s effects for the rest of his life. My son is not his diagnosis. He is intelligent, polite, a quick learner, a hard worker, caring, funny and eager to try new things. I will continue to speak out for my son. Being the parent of a child with ADHD is often frustrating, unless you have a child with ADHD, it can be difficult to relate. ADHD sucks-but it does not affect how much I love my child. I would do anything for him, he is my pride and joy! And a couple of weeks ago, I got to experience something that once seemed so very far away: his high school graduation!
Take that, ADHD!!!