I am sure if you have been a reader here, you know how fiercely I guard the privacy of my children. Over the years I have struggled a lot as a mom and one of my biggest struggles was my son’s diagnosis with ADD. Through his diagnosis and treatment, we have had the opportunity to help so many parents locally who have been going through the same difficulties and point them to doctors and resources that have helped improve their lives.
It is with his blessing and permission that I share our story today, in hopes we can help someone else going through the same struggles.
I am so proud of our boy for sharing his story to help other families! I hope you will leave him a little note to tell him that!
When Your Kid Doesn’t Fit in the Box
Ethan was the kind of kid that never fit into the box and this is just one of many reasons why I love him. From his shocking entry into the world (early and complete with a placental abruption that could have killed us both), I should have known he was going to challenge everything I thought about parenting. Ethan hit most milestones normally with the exception of one… speech. He was a silent baby and did not make any noises at all. He rarely made eye contact with us and never turned to us when we said his name. Since he was my first baby, I had no expectations of what he should be doing, but others in our family and our pediatrician were concerned about his lack of speech. At ten months he qualified for early intervention speech therapy in Massachusetts. When my husband lost his job, we relocated around that time to Indiana, and I decided to hold off on the speech therapy and see if Ethan might blossom in his new location.
At eighteen months, he still made hardly any audible sounds and still would not turn to me when I called his name. We were placed into the First Steps program where he benefited from an incredible therapist who helped us both with Ethan’s speech delay and sensory issues. I remember thinking how ridiculous this all seemed as she played with playdough and blew bubbles with him on my kitchen floor. Clearly I knew nothing because not only did he start speaking, we couldn’t get this kid to shut up! The ability to speak helped curb some of his frustrated outbursts and baby signing helped us until he could communicate fully.
Instead of speaking like a baby though, he went full-out sentences and would fixate on one particular thing and talk about it nonstop. It began with trains and then later it was dinosaurs. This child who could not even say mom now said Ankylosaurus and had memorized an entire dinosaur dictionary. It was so wild to me!
Everything is Fine Until You Have to Go to School
Since Ethan was an only child, our therapist thought he might benefit from being around other kids his age more, so we looked into a school program for him when he turned two. He loved school so much and I loved seeing his vocabulary growing. I remember that he was so busy and I couldn’t believe all this big energy that could be in such a little body! Socially, we were struggling. Ethan would only do things he wanted to do, preferring to not interact with other kids at all unless they played his games. He never listened to anyone else- and only talked excessively about what he was into. In circle times, he did not sit like he was supposed to, preferring to get up and do laps instead of sitting.
To help improve our circle time at school, I took him to storytime at the library. As the kids sat in their mama’s laps and sang songs and listened to the librarian, my son refused to sit with me and spent the entire time lapping the room, ripping open the cabinets behind the librarian, and screaming if I tried to hold him in my lap. I sobbed in the parking lot and vowed I would NEVER do that to myself again.
We held Ethan back a year to see if he might benefit from an extra year of preschool before we put him in elementary school, thinking he had some social issues to work through. That year of Pre-K was one of the worst years of my parenting life. Ethan was bored in school and every morning to take him there was a battle and not the kind of battles I had ever seen any of my friends deal with. He kicked and screamed. He hit me. He would stretch his arms and legs as wide as they would go and refuse to get in the car. Many days, I took this five year-old kid and left him outside of his classroom, kicking and screaming. I would walk away and be glad I didn’t have to deal with him for a few hours.
It wasn’t my proudest moment as a mom.
I screamed at him.
I was embarrassed by his outbursts.
These moments of frustration were peppered throughout the years until he turned nine. He would have toddler-like tantrums about doing homework.
One night he barricaded his door with all of his belongings just to keep us out of his room.
He was always disorganized.
He would not bring home papers for me to sign, he would do work at school and just fizzle out at the end of worksheets for no reason, and he was always angry and frustrated with us.
Harder than that though, were the apologies after the outbursts and the crocodile tears down his face as he told us he was sorry and didn’t know why he was doing this.
I became a broken nagging record every single day, begging him to just, FOR THE LOVE, do your homework and bring your stuff home. HOW HARD IS IT? IT’S SO SIMPLE.
In fourth grade (for lack of better words), the shit hit the fan. As his teacher was preparing him for middle school, our frustrations got bigger and the homework got longer and the outbursts were out of control. He was so mean and so angry.
I was so mean and so angry.
As I shared my frustrations with a family member, she said, “That reminds me of so-and-so in our family.”
That so-and-so in our family had ADD.
ADD- Is that Even a Real Thing?
I didn’t think ADD was a real thing, but was an excuse for disorganization and lack of discipline. Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes at me! I tend to believe that good exercise, a healthy diet, and vitamins are the cure for anything that ails you. The idea that my son had something that might require a doctor’s care and treatment baffled me.
I also felt ashamed that it made me feel relieved too to know there was something wrong and I wasn’t just a terrible mom.
If there is something wrong and we can figure it out, I can help us all.
As I clicked through website after website, these things that I thought were problems that only Ethan had, were actually characteristics of someone who had ADD.
- Constantly fidgets and squirms
- Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
- Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
- Talks excessively
- Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
- Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
- May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”
- Doesn’t pay attention to details
- Makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
- Appears not to listen when spoken to
- Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
- Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
- Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
- Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
It was as though someone knew our family personally and the struggles we were experiencing. Not only that, but when I flipped through his report cards, the teachers had even said some of these same exact phrases on his report card. Were they trying to clue me in?
Now that I thought I might know what the issue was, I was more determined than ever to get a proper diagnosis and not a quickie questionnaire in the doctor’s office. I wanted a true capture of what we were dealing with and how we could help our child.
We reached out to a psychologist in town for an evaluation and waited an excruciating two weeks until he could come in for testing.
That test changed our lives and our interactions with our child forever!
Come back next Tuesday for the continuation of our story!