Once upon a time, in the days of parachute pants, big hair and jelly bracelets, there was a little girl. She was a smart little girl but she had her issues. She had a lot of trouble doing schoolwork, she hardly ever finished what she started and she forgot a lot of things: mittens, hats, jackets, books, underwear. She didn’t mean to forget or to not get her work done, it was just that her head was always somewhere else and no matter how much she tried to think about what was right in front of her, her brain only wanted to see everything around the edges.
After awhile, people started to notice that things weren’t happening the way they should. There were rewards offered, punishments threatened, privileges withheld, but none of that seemed to make a difference. They began to use a different set of words when talking about the little girl; scatterbrained, underachiever, manipulative, lazy.
The girl kept trying – for awhile at least. She wanted to do good. She wanted to be good. After a while though, she had to admit, she just wasn’t.
Fast forward 30 years. The girl is all grown up. She’s had a bumpy ride but she’s come a long way. She’s married, has a house, two cars and even a wonderful child of her own. Everyone tells her he’s amazing and she wholeheartedly agrees. Sure, he’s in his own world sometimes. He struggles with transitions. He’s a bit disorganized and has trouble remembering things but man, this kid lights up a room when he walks in!
He’s about the age that she was when she figured out that she was “not good” and he’s recently started going to public school after a few years of Montessori education. He’s gone from an environment where everything was tactile and fluid and he could learn at his own pace to a world where everything is regimented and all of the work has to happen in his head. He’s struggling mightily and people have started to talk differently about this little boy. They’re using words like “behavior problems”, “learned helplessness”, “oppositional” and in the midst of this, he is starting to think that he is not good. And that grown up little girl’s heart is breaking as she watches her patterns repeat through her son.
Of course, the little girl is me and this is the situation I have recently found myself in. But I know my child and I know he is a good, smart, valuable and worthy person and I will not let anyone make my child think that he is not. But it is clear that his new environment is bringing to light problems that had been hiding in the shadows. Problems we, in retrospect, knew about all along but that had been mitigated by the individual attention and learning style previously afforded to him but no longer a possibility. Now, he is suffering. That is why I chose to take him to be evaluated by a child psychologist. After a few meetings and lots of talking and testing, we were given a diagnosis of ADHD, inattentive sub-type.
I knew a little about ADHD, I mean, who doesn’t? I had heard that it is over-diagnosed. I had heard that it was due to poor parenting. I had heard that it was not even real. I’d heard that it could be improved through behavior modification, spanking, avoiding certain food dyes, reducing caffeine, increasing caffeine, eliminating caffeine. But this was my kid we were talking about and I wanted to make sure that what I was doing was the best possible thing; the most likely to help him. I didn’t want to waste time on myths and misinformation. When I dug in and really tried to find solid, evidence-based information, the conclusion I found repeatedly was that medication is, by far, the most efficacious intervention.
I talked with my son and he was eager to try it to see if it would help. We went to the pediatrician and we were given a prescription. We are one week in and have seen some small but positive changes. He is able to follow directions more easily. Sometimes, he knows where he’s going and what he needs to do. I am hoping with all my heart that we’re on the right track, that this is what will stop my child from feeling that he is less than, lazy, not good. And with each day, we look to tomorrow and we wait and we watch and we hope…