The moment(s) I knew it was ADHD: A diagnosis story.
I have a bit of an unfair parenting advantage when it comes to parenting ADHD. As a former classroom teacher of many children with ADHD and now as a Board Certified Educational Therapist, I would consider myself an expert on the subject. So when my daughter started showing signs of ADHD, I felt like I had a lot of knowledge already on my side as to how to proceed.
What I didn’t know was what it would be like to parent a child with ADHD. And I’ll tell you, all the knowledge in the world did not lessen the pain of watching my child struggle to fit herself into spaces that did not accept her nor did it grant me the additional stamina and patience needed to parent such a child. Those have come from experience.
The first time I suspected ADHD, my daughter was 18 months old. Of course, she was way too young to diagnose, but it was the first time the thought entered my mind. I was sitting in the park with a group of moms and we all had our babies seated around a picnic blanket with cut fruit in the middle. There were seven adorable children with watermelon-smeared faces and the eighth child, my daughter, crawled straight into the container of watermelon and proceeded to eat her share there. Of course, it was adorable, but in my mind a thought had taken up residence. She might have ADHD.
Fast forward a few years and my fiesty little blondie was ready for preschool. We did our due diligence and I called upon my education background to make what I thought was the perfect choice for my child’s first foray into formal education. Wrong. It turned out this particular preschool wasn’t interested in working with a little girls who was never content to sit still and put pellets in a jar over and over. Six months in, and I found myself and my husband being told our three year old would need to leave the school or she would need a full time aide. We didn’t stay.
Sign continued to pop up as we made our way towards Kindergarten. We’d did a stint with occupational therapy, we tried sound therapy and we adjusted our parenting. And I found myself thinking more and more that all the antics we dealt with day after day might be ADHD.
It was the May before my children started Kindergarten in September that I called a meeting with school administration to alert them to what would be coming there way. And though I now refer to Kindergarten as the lost year of school, my daughter sees it differently. To her, Kindergarten was magical. Her teachers were prepared for her and they handled her beautifully. And she was NOT easy to handle. Home was a different story. We were struggling. We were doing everything we could to meet her needs, but all the modifications seemed to make only the smallest dent in her behavior.
The cold February night when I held her as she cried and then told me she didn’t think her life would be like this, that I decided it was time to seek an ADHD diagnosis or discover if something else was going on. I knew we were doing everything we could as parents and this was the next thing we needed to do.
Approximately one year after my first school meeting, I called another school meeting in which I requested that they start the diagnosis process with the school psychologist. And when we met one more time to learn what the school psychologist thought (likely ADHD), we also established a 504 plan for the upcoming year.
This is not a normal diagnosis story. And it’s completely unfair that every mom with a child like mine doesn’t have the information I did with which to set their children onto a positive schooling path.
Too often I hear parents tell me a story with similar parent-child interactions and frustrations but rather than a relatively smooth path into formal education, the typical story is weighed down with tales of difficult teachers and administrators, and lots of confusion and frustration. Parents learn about all sorts of things that might require interventions or additional support for their children, but the parenting handbooks fail on the ADHD front.
I want to change that.