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.