“Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes some combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school.”
“Stimulants are the most common treatment for ADHD in children and adolescents. They include methylphenidate – Ritalin or Metadate — or amphetamines, including Dexedrine and Adderal.”
When I was in elementary school, I was misdiagnosed twice with ADD and ADHD and declined twice to begin taking Ritalin to treat my symptoms. Once I began flooding myself with extra projects and extra credit work and once I started becoming heavily involved in the gifted program, my so-called symptoms vanished and my diagnosis went from ADD/ADHD to being nothing more than a child that was bored with her schoolwork and wanted a greater challenge.
On February 15th, my husband and I went to a parent/teacher/social worker conference to discuss our 6-year-old, Dominick. Prior to going, his teacher and I both filled out a questionnaire as part of the Connors test. Upon reviewing with the social worker, we were told what we already knew; Dominick is an incredibly smart but incredibly hyper and sensitive little boy. His hyperactivity is multiplied when in daycare and kindergarten, which put him in areas of concern on the Connors scale; at home he showed only slightly above normal. The social worker then pulled out a separate page with ADHD written across the top in giant letters.
Around the time Dominick was two, he went to be evaluated because some daycare worker without a degree decided he had ADHD. The psychologist who evaluated him reported that he was bright and perfectly normal. At three and a half, a new daycare worker (the Dragon Lady from the school we pulled him out of) decided he was learning disabled, so I called the First Steps program and was told that he didn’t qualify for evaluation as his “symptoms” weren’t those they see with the disabilities they deal with. As soon as the social worker pulled that ADHD paper out, my brain went into FIGHT-mode and I was ready to leap across the table. To my surprise, she informed us that while she isn’t qualified to make a diagnosis, any physician would look at the Connors test results and immediately conclude that Dominick does NOT have ADD or ADHD. He’s just a bright, excitable, sensitive little squirt.
The social worker told us a couple of stories about children who were initially thought to have ADHD but ended up having more serious issues; one had epilepsy and the other had pinworms. She didn’t believe that Dominick had any underlying health issues, simply that he’s excitable and presents a challenge to teachers who try to get him to sit still and use his quiet voice. It concerns me though that ADD and ADHD are the go-to diagnoses for children who act up, and too often the go-to solution is medication the child doesn’t truly need. Growing up, while I was insisting I didn’t need Ritalin, I was spending a great deal of time with Emily, a girl who desperately needed it. Seeing first-hand what ADHD looks like and what happens to a child who NEEDS Ritalin once it wears off allows me to be a better judge of whether or not ADHD has invaded my home or not. Had I listened to the first two people who insisted Dominick was affected and sought out a physician to “fix” him with medication, there’s no telling what damage could have been done or how his development would have been hindered.
Perhaps the reason so many people jump to ADD and ADHD is because it seems to be the easiest and quickest way to solve a behavioral problem with a child. Pop in some medicine, kid calms down, everyone is happy. Except for the child who doesn’t need to be on the medication to begin with. In my case, my ADHD-like behavior was caused by boredom; the teacher would go over and over a lesson that I had learned the very first time and I had little patience in hearing it repeated while my classmates asked silly questions. I suspect my son is the same way; he’s known his alphabet for ages now and has little interest in sitting around while his classmates catch up. Some children are just strong-willed and don’t want to stick to a lesson plan when they think they know a better way to get their work done. Some are having problems adjusting. Regardless, the answer should be researched fully prior to going to ADHD/ADD and popping meds.
There’s a big difference between being a protective parent and being in denial. I know my kid isn’t perfect, I expect him to screw up and hope it’s not as badly as I did, and I know that most of his teachers are looking out for his best interests. I also know enough to not accept that he has ADHD or ADD just because someone who works with children decides that is his problem. I’m hardly the ideal when it comes to being a mom, but I am going to give myself a pat on the back for not caving and accepting that my son had any sort of developmental disability or challenge just because a couple of people said so. Hopefully my husband and I can help him deal with his excitability so he can stay out of trouble in school and excel. I’m open to suggestions.