A little over a year ago, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. The diagnosis took a year, several visits to the pediatrician, a few parent/teacher conferences, and about as much patience as Mother Theresa had in her entire life.
According to this survey done by the CDC, approximately 8.5% of children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD. Of those children diagnosed, approximately 4.8% are female.
My daughter’s difficult behavior started when she was about three years old. My husband and I, being first time parents, attributed it to her age. She would grow out of it eventually. When our son was born, her behavior changed only in that things got worse. We thought she wanted more attention since her baby brother needed so much of it. We gave it to her, hoping things would calm down. They didn’t.
She started preschool when she was four years old. It was a kindergarten preparation class and we thought once she was in school with other kids she would have an outlet for her endless amount of energy. But the teacher had difficulties with her too. This woman has the patience of a saint. She is amazing with kids and loves teaching. She can draw kids out of shyness to get them to participate, but she couldn’t get my daughter to sit still long enough to do her coloring and crafts.
Again, my husband and I thought it was her age and that she would grow out of it. I started describing her as willful. I thought, it’s good she has a mind of her own. She’ll question things and want to learn more, and that part is true. But her behavior wasn’t willfulness.
It was when she moved on to kindergarten that things became all too clear. Her work in school would remain incomplete because she was too busy bouncing her pencil or her leg and looking around the classroom She would get up and run around the room when it was quiet time. She would disrupt the other students while working on projects. Things at home weren’t any easier. Her homework packets – sent home on Monday nights to be returned Friday morning – became a struggle to get done. I would sit at the table with her every night for hours just trying to get her to do one page. Her teacher asked me if she’d ever been to the doctor for ADHD testing.
At first, we resisted. We took her to her normal doctor appointments and mentioned the trouble she was having in school, but didn’t ask for her to be tested. Then the principal got involved. There was talk of keeping my daughter in kindergarten another year, even though there was no academic reason for it. My daughter is smart. When she does her work, she does an amazing job, but getting her to do the work was a task.
My husband and I discussed our options. We could home school her, but with so few other children in our kids’ lives, we couldn’t provide the social aspect of learning that a school does, even getting her involved in extracurricular activities. We could see no benefit in holding our daughter back a year. She would get bored with the material and act up a lot more. So, we did the last thing we could do. We had her tested.
The doctor sent home two questionnaires. One for me, since I stayed at home with her and my son, and one for her teacher. We each filled them out, the teacher sealing hers in an envelope which I was sorely tempted to open and read. I didn’t. I took them both back to the doctor along with my daughter a month later. That day, she was diagnosed with ADHD.
I remember conflicting feelings when the doctor came in and said the answers to my questionnaire were mostly identical to the answers the teacher gave and both indicated ADHD. There was finally a reason my daughter didn’t listen when we told her to do something. There was a reason my daughter would do things she knew she shouldn’t. There was a reason she couldn’t sit still and was easily distracted. I was elated to know all the blame my husband and I placed on ourselves was needless. We thought we were doing something wrong. No matter what we did, nothing worked, and the guilt that we couldn’t do right by our daughter tore at us. Now, we could erase that guilt and start fresh.
But I also couldn’t believe it. How many times had I seen people on Facebook discount anything ADHD? Hundreds? How many times had I agreed that it must be “soft parenting” and not some health issue? Yet here was my daughter diagnosed with this mythical medical condition. We weren’t afraid to tell her no. We knew the fits and temper tantrums would come, but we knew it was a part of growing up. We could never be lumped in with “soft parents.” We knew when to say yes, and when to say no, and we never got carried away, even on her worst days.
My husband and I discussed the pros and cons of putting our daughter on medication. In the end, we decided it was necessary. We knew, from personal experience, that no amount of one-on-one time with a tutor or in the special education classes would help. Not alone. So, my daughter’s pediatrician, my daughter, and I began a journey of discovery.
We tried different medications at different dosages until we found one that worked. The difference is amazing. My daughter has no trouble finishing her work when she’s on her medicine. She moved on to first grade and there has been little trouble all year except when she had a growth spurt and we had to adjust her dosage. We keep an eye on her eating and her sleep. Two of the major side effects of her medication are loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. She has no trouble with either, luckily.
The decisions we made were done with the entire family in mind. My son looks up to my daughter so much that his behavior when she was home from school reflected hers. I have no doubt that my son does not have ADHD. When my daughter is at school, he is as easygoing as any kid I’ve ever met. She is calmer, listens more, and doesn’t get as distracted when she’s on her medicine, so my son is calmer, listens more, and doesn’t get as distracted when she’s home.
The medication makes it easier for me to communicate with my daughter. She can sit down and focus on the things she needs to focus on long enough for her to finish her homework. It’s easy for others to notice the difference when she’s missed a dose. There were a few days this past school year when the teacher called me to ask if she’d had her medicine. I admit, there were harried mornings when I would forget, and I’m sure there will be more. I make a point to tell her teachers to call me and ask if she’s acting up.
As a stay at home mom, my job is to take care of her and her brother. I face the coming summer with some trepidation because of her behavior, but I also look forward to it. It’s a learning experience for the entire family, a chance to sit back and love each other for all of us, not just the nice parts. My patience will be challenged, but I accept this challenge with open arms and smile on my face.
I love my daughter very much, and no matter what people believe about ADHD being a myth or just bad parenting, I know the truth. Maybe it isn’t as prolific as some people say. Then again, maybe it is. All I know is that my daughter has it, and no amount of shaming by the part of society that doesn’t believe in it is going to change that fact.
(Source: Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2011 – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics)
More about ADHD:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – National Institute of Mental Health
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children – The Mayo Clinic
- Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Centers for Disease Control