Last month I ran a guest post, One Man’s Rugged Reality of ADD, by Dylan Rosen. As the outpouring of supportive comments demonstrates, this first-person account of late-diagnosis ADD touched many minds and hearts among ADHD Roller Coaster blog readers. The ensuing comments are all well worth reading, but the one from “Brandy” stood out for me in particular, because this late-diagnosis adult and mother faced some hard realities that many might prefer to avoid.
I often hear from parents in distress and even angry about the school pointing out the red flags of ADHD in their child. They never saw the signs, these parents say; how dare the school suggest such a thing! Of course it’s true that schools or teachers sometimes overstep their bounds and/or mis-perceive behavior as ADHD-related. In my experience as a longtime advocate, however, I more typically hear stories of schools denying the reality of ADHD. The first question I ask of the parents who write to me with such concerns: “Is it possible that you or your co-parent have ADHD, too? And maybe that’s why you didn’t realize that ADHD might be an issue for your child at school?” This question sometimes comes as a shock, and isn’t always well-received. That’s why I so admired the compassionately courageous path of inquiry followed by Brandy, below, as explained in her comment on Dylan’s story:
Hello Dylan. Many of the aspects of your story really hit home for me. I saw more of myself in your parents than I am comfortable with.
I took my son to a psychiatrist to be tested for ADHD/ADD about a month ago. He has just turned thirteen. I’ve known that he has a tough time following multi-step instructions and has struggled with inattention since he was small.
I didn’t suspect he had ADHD/ADD at first because the only kids I knew that had it were like those little spring-loaded pop-up toys. They were always jumping up and down, unable to sit still. My son is very well behaved and not overly hyper. He does fidget but he is able to sit still in school, church, etc. Besides, even if there was something wrong I was afraid medication would change his personality. I like how my son is funny and witty and a bit of a smartas*. He is extremely chatty but even though that annoys me at times I can’t really complain since he most definitely gets that from me.
He has chores every day that should take him 10 to 20 minutes to complete. At one point I broke his chores down into a very detailed list in an attempt to help him to remember to do everything. (Our dog really likes it when he is given food on a daily basis.) The only way I can be sure that his chores get done is if I take his list and call out each step to him one at a time. I firmly believe he means to do his chores he just gets easily distracted. Of course he still gets griped at about his chores because most days I forget to go over the list with him.
“Now I know that all of those times
we thought he was just being lazy
he really was trying his best
and all we did was remind him constantly that
it was never good enough.”
Homework is another issue I try to be very diligent about. He will do it on his own if its Science, History, or practicing a song on his snare drum for Band. (If he remembers he has an assignment.) If he has homework in Math or English he will do anything to get out of doing it. Of course if I go to his school’s website I can see his homework list. If I ask him to bring it to me so I can check over it once he is done then it gets done. So, naturally he gets griped at for not turning in homework at school because I usually forget to check the website and it doesn’t get done.
When he was in the second grade his teacher told me that he had the highest grade average in the entire second grade class. His IQ was tested and let’s just say his score was impressive. He was entered into the gifted program and he loved that class. (they meet a few times a week)
By third grade his grades started slipping. I started getting calls from teachers.
By fourth grade he hated going to school. He started off the school year trying to be the class clown. His teacher decided day one that he was going to be a problem and no matter how hard he tried after that she never changed her opinion of him. Her treatment of him was so bad that at the end of the year the fourth grade class had a concert. Every student had a small solo through out the program. Every student besides my son and two others. This was a huge blow to his self esteem.
His grades in Math and English have gotten progressively worse. When he brought home his last progress report , his grades ranged from high nineties in three classes and a D in math and an F in English. There was a notation from the teacher saying he had scored an 8 on an English exam. (An 8?!?! How is that possible? You can score an 8 for remembering to write your name down.)
That 8 was the turning point for me as his parent. I realized I needed to find help for him…for us. I took him to the psychiatrist. After having us take the quiz and talking to the two of us for an hour, the Dr. said that my son had ADHD Combined Type. (And then the kicker.) He said he was pretty much positive he inherited it from his mother.
Now all I can think about are all of those long conversation my husband and I had with my son telling him that he was capable of much more than he was doing. I’ve told him countless times that he has great potential and if he didn’t start getting it together he was going to waste this opportunity to build the academic foundation on which his future dreams could be built on. (I know this from experience. I was on the deans list my one and only year of college. Now I’m a bank teller. I lack follow through.) I’m so scared that I have damaged his self esteem. Because now I know that all of those times we thought he was just being lazy he really was trying his best and all we did was remind him constantly that it was never good enough.
We are both starting medication. Strattera is what we are trying first for him. (So far, no real improvement) Adderall for me. My main goal is to work with our Dr to find the best help for both of us. That way I will better equipped to be the kind of mother my son needs me to be. Plus, now I know to take action immediately if I see any of the same symptoms start to emerge in my now 1 year old daughter. Maybe the things my son and I have always struggled with can be easier for her because of the lessons we are learning now.
Thank you, Dylan for sharing your story. And thank you for allowing me to have the opportunity to share with strangers things I have been ashamed to say out loud. It was very therapeutic.
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