By: Crissie Miller Kirby
Those letters loomed large in front of me. I’d heard them and had even casually commented in passing that I wondered if my children (two boys, two and half years apart) suffered from it. However, like many, I never actually believed that either of my sons suffered from it, always chalking their behavior up to the just being “boys.”
Well, that was, until last week.
My “fears” were realized. I use the term “fears” loosely. True fear was last fall when I spent five days waiting for test results from a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node on my oldest son; I truly felt a weight lift from my shoulders when the nurse said his cancer panel was negative.
However, we all have hopes and dreams for our children and when we realize that there is going to be a stumbling block placed in front of them, we fear that unknown- that uncertainty.
After many months of counseling with a child therapist, during which she had given me the Vanderbilt testing forms, we reviewed the results together after both my son’s teacher and I had completed them. They weren’t very favorable. However, we chose not to address the test results with the pediatrician just yet. Instead, we chose to continue counseling through the summer. I was fearful of taking a lassaiz faire approach and just “sticking” him on medication.
Two weeks into first grade, my opinion began to shift.
“He is not focusing on his work. Could you please speak with him?” said the note from the teacher. This was on the second day of class. “I am having trouble getting Pierce to focus on his work again today,” said the email less than a week later.
“He’s crying every time we try to talk to him or work on his homework with him,” said the phone call later that same afternoon from our church after school program.
Something had to be done. If it was not ADD/ADHD, then my son was definitely experiencing some anxiety issues that I was ill prepared to handle in a six-year-old. Having long suffered from anxiety issues myself, I benefit greatly from daily medication and counseling. A visit to the pediatrician was definitely in line.
My pediatrician reviewed the Vanderbilt forms. She reviewed some of Pierce’s schoolwork. She listened as I described his behaviors. She observed him in the office, where he was not being “bad” or truly “mischievous,” but was constantly on the move.
He was positively ADHD. She had no doubts; even telling me, that if she had any doubts she would recommend counseling and would not prescribe medication, and that if it were her own son, she would try medication.
So we left the office with a prescription for Focalin, which we started the very next morning.
“I have seen a change already! He has kept up with all the work so far today!!!” said the email from his teacher after I notified her of what had occurred the afternoon before.
“He finished all of his homework in about half the time and even had time to do a few extra sheets. Now he’s playing,” were the words said to me when I picked my boys up from the after school program.
I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical that the medication could work that quickly. However, Pierce’s counselor assured me that it could, and most likely had, worked that quickly.
Now comes what I deem the hardest part: learning to live with the ADHD diagnosis. No, it is not life threatening, and for that, I am grateful. However, it is a stumbling block- one I really never considered. Just as a child who is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes (although that can be life threatening and much more severe than ADHD), it is a diagnosis with which we must learn to function.
Like so many other issues and events, the actual “patient” is not the only one affected by the diagnosis; for us to overcome it as a family, it will require changes by everyone. My son’s counselor has suggested changes to our morning and evening routines to create clear structure and boundaries. She has said that better organization in our home will also help him focus better and prevent him from being overwhelmed with too many choices. We have also already added additional help with his reading to hopefully help him catch up and help boost his confidence level.
I am comforted both by my decision-making process and the timing of that decision, knowing that we had already taken steps to help him out, non-medically, through counseling. We had tried another approach and it did not solve the dilemma. At the end of the day, while I struggled with the ADHD diagnosis and the decision to medicate my son, I think it was the right decision.