If it’s not one thing, it’s another – but what ARE the things?

When we first heard our son might have AD/HD, I was in denial for awhile.

Not because I didn’t think it was possible – we saw his impulsivity, his disorganization, his unwillingness to stick with boring tasks, and so on. We had learned AD/HD was more common in boys than girls, and was also more common in the adoption gene pool than in the population as a whole, and here we were with an adopted boy. Gee, ya think?

No, it was more like, I didn’t want this to be our reality.  So I thought, give him time, maybe it’s just immaturity.  And, in a deeper, darker place, I didn’t want to be the parent of a child who by his very nature would be pushing my buttons all day, every day, and who would be struggling in school. Bless the parents who welcome those challenges – I was not one of them.

And all the confusion and controversy out there about AD/HD didn’t help:

  • It’s just kids being kids!
  • It’s not a disorder, it’s their temperament.
  • It’s poor parenting (ya gotta love that one)
  • It’s something that resembles AD/HD, but it’s really sensory integration dysfunction, or caused by Red Dye #2, or ____________ (fill in the blank) – and here’s what you should do.
  • It is AD/HD, and you should do these things.
  • It is AD/HD, but don’t do THOSE things, do THIS instead.

No doubt each of these holds true for at least a few kids. None of them seemed totally true for ours.

We educated ourselves a bunch. Lots of books, workshops, discussions. But the traits our son exhibited weren’t a perfect match with AD/HD, or with being a “spirited” child, or with having sensory integration dysfunction. We never came across something where we said, “Yes! That’s it! That’s exactly what’s going on with Nathan!”

We took some steps anyway, finding out about classroom accommodations for AD/HD and for sensory integration dysfunction. At our first parent-teacher conference in sixth grade I timidly presented copies of some handouts to the  teacher, saying “Here are some suggestions that could make Nathan’s classroom experience better.”

And the teacher slid them right back to me across the desk and said, “I don’t do anything different for any of my students.”

Ouch! I sulked, I fumed, I waited – and you know what? That was Nathan’s best year in school ever. The teacher used GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) techniques, even though it wasn’t an official GATE classroom, and Nathan responded well to them. (Here’s a link for more info on GATE:  www.nagc.org.)

Anyway, it’s hard to know what the official diagnosis “should” be, and it’s hard to know what to do. And it can be hard to get other people on board when you think you know what should be done. If you feel confused, incompetent and/or frustrated, you’re not alone. (I read about a husband and wife who were both psychologists, and even they had a hard time figuring out what to do for their child! And it was pretty much their line of work!) Give yourself lots of points just for trying. And if your experience is like ours, going up one path on the cinder cone, even if it isn’t the perfect one for your child, often leads to a path (an expert or concept) that is a better match for your child.


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About janet565

I've lived in the Inland Empire of Southern California since 1982. My profession involves maps and geography. I hope you find the blog useful, and wish you well....

2 responses to “If it’s not one thing, it’s another – but what ARE the things?”

  1. Rosina says :

    I have also dealt with a complex situation with our daughter as she moved from her teen years to early adult. One issue that is not recognized, but that I think may be more common and problematic than people realize, is the person’s response to physical pain. My daughter was always very “brave” when she got hurt or had to get a shot, etc. She was a terrific soccer player because she never complained about the aches and pains, or about the physical contact during the games. But she also was impervious to pain that could be harmful. Now I am beginning to think that her physical pain is totally connected to her emotional pain. When she is happy and all is well emotionally, she feels little or no physical pain even when she should. When she is concerned or upset, or when physical pain becomes too much to bear, she is in agony. Advil, ibuprofen, even Vicoden do nothing. It’s hard to know if this is her situation because she is obviously very bad at accurately reporting her pain (that scale of 1 to 10 the doctors like to use).


    • janet565 says :

      Thanks for the comments! That’s so interesting about the connection between mood and pain with your daughter. Our experience with Nathan was different; his pain perception seemed to always be cranked up to “maximum,” regardless of his mood! At a playground, a fall or bump that would make most kids go “Ouch” made Nathan scream like a pack of jackals had just chewed off his leg. Maybe it’s all part of the “sensory integration dysfunction” package. Those kind of reactions probably didn’t help his social standing with his peers. In the last few years he seems more tolerant of pain than he was as a child. Has anyone else observed unusual pain perception in these kids?


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