My fourteen-year-old son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Our family has known this since he was four years old. From daycare through middle school I received an abundance of “naughty boy” notes from his teachers. Here are some examples:
Daycare “Incident Report”….
“We were doing a group activity; reading and acting out an action story. Instead of listening to directions and being involved in the activity, Jacob started throwing markers at those involved in it.”
“When we got to the petting zoo, Jacob did not want to wait until it was his turn to enter the gate. He pushed and shoved and got mad. We only had to wait less than a minute to enter.”
“He threw a sand toy at another child, hitting him in the ear. When I asked him to sit down, I showed him what he had done. He consistently threw rocks at me and the other child”.
I counted 34 “Good Grief” notes from his kindergarten teacher….
“Jacob continually demonstrates a great difficulty in following specific directions, requires frequent redirection, and disrupts class. Please discuss these problems with him.”
“Jacob had a hard day today. He was bouncing all over the room and not following directions.”
And this one was kind of funny….. “He told me that he would be better when he is six.”
His bus driver was constantly writing “Notice of Unsafe Behavior on School Bus” forms for Jacob:
“Jacob was out of control this afternoon. He would not stay seated, was on the floor, standing in the seat, and sitting on the back of the seat. He also touched my breast acting like he was going to hit me. This is the second time he has exhibited this behavior. The first time this happened I ignored it thinking it was an accident.”
The bus driver resorted to strapping him into his seat for his entire kindergarten year.
I counted 75 notes in all and those are just the ones I’ve kept. They can all be boiled down to:
Does not follow school rules
Does not follow simple direction
Bothers other students
Personal space issues
Out of Control
Will not stay seated
Will not wait his turn
Pushing & shoving
Each time I opened one of these notes, my heart sank from the disappointment, helplessness, and shame that I felt. I did not fault his teachers for giving the notes to me. In fact, I always asked them to keep me well informed. As Jacob got older, I found a few precious teachers and principals that partnered with me to help Jacob. They were our angels.
If my story sounds familiar to you, I urge you to get help for you and your child as soon as you suspect there is an issue. Here are the measures that we took that made the difference to us.
An ADHD assessment is not used to shame your child by putting an “ADHD” label on him. The results of an assessment will be there to guide you through the interventions you put in place in the upcoming years. The testing measures within the assessment will help you know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Your ADHD child will most likely be hyperactive with low impulse control and will have a short attention span. These are the defining traits of ADHD. But they are not the entire breadth of your child’s character. Psychological testing will measure many of the other things that make your child who he is. This information will allow you to pull him up by his strengths and give him the tools to tackle his deficits.
Let’s remember, we all have strengths and deficits, not just ADHD kids. For example, many of us, especially when we are children, have a degree of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder.) But for an ADHD child, a touch of OCD can turn into perseveration over small details of life that make daily coping difficult for all involved. In my son’s case, he had a tendency to repeatedly remind me of his choices. A promise to go to McDonalds after shopping would result in 10 reminders within the hour that he wants a hamburger, fries, and coke….and don’t forget! The solution for Jacob’s perseverance came from a therapist and it was so simple. I was told to give him a piece of paper to write it down for me so that I would not forget. Problem solved.
Or maybe your child is highly intelligent but has poor verbal skills. The results of an assessment will reveal this to your family and your child’s carers so that everyone can appreciate and build upon your child’s intelligence and focus their efforts on helping him express himself.
ADHD kids often have a deficit in small and/or large muscle motor skills. You may notice that your child’s handwriting is illegible or that your child is clumsier than most. Occupational therapists are there to work with your child’s large muscle development in order to improve strength and balance. They are also trained in small muscle development so that they help your child write more legibly. They also do so in a fun environment that will engage your child and you will find that they look forward to going.
And for the attention deficit, an occupational therapist has many tricks up their sleeve that will help your child narrow their attention when it is needed. Here is a website that explains this better: https://www.theottoolbox.com/attention/
Child & Family Therapy
Let’s look at what a therapist can do to help with the hallmark symptoms of ADHD. Your child is most likely running around like a perpetual motor and can’t sit still. He won’t sit down and join the group and he can’t listen to instruction and rules. In elementary school, when my son showed these behaviors, the punishment was to sit on the sidelines during physical education. Your therapist will know that this is terribly counterproductive! These children need an outlet for their energy. You and your child’s therapist will help them find that outlet.
Therapy will also help teach your child the difficult concept of self-control. My son said, “I will be good when I’m six”. He wanted so badly to be good, but he found it impossible. Your family therapist will give your whole tribe the tips and tricks to help him plug into his ability to monitor his actions. They will also help him understand that even when he fails, he is still respected and loved. And for a child constantly in trouble, this is the most important thing.
And finally, you as the parent of an ADHD child need help for your exhausted and fragile nerves. I didn’t get that kind of help as I should have. I let my needs go for the sake of the needs of my child. The entire family suffers the consequences of this. Look after yourself, mom and dad. Get help from a child & family therapist that specializes in the issues you and your family are facing so that you all can reach your maximum potential and avoid complete burn-out.
Programs in your child’s school
In our state we have a school program called ARD. It stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal. It’s a type of special education but it is not just for academic help. This wonderful group of people can help your child with behavioral issues that make school difficult for him.
They will put forth a plan consisting of specific behaviors that your child will work on to improve over the school year. They will have an advocate for your child that visits his classroom throughout the day to check in on how he’s doing. The classroom teacher can call his advocate at any time if a problem occurs in class. My son had a fantastic advocate that he came to trust and genuinely like. His advocate would have talks with him to help him understand the consequences of his bad behavior and what he could have done differently to avoid it.
The ARD group members are also experts on classroom modifications that your child will benefit from. For example, taking tests in smaller groups and a special study hour in their curriculum. I strongly recommend getting this kind of help from your child’s school. The ADHD Assessment that you have already done will be the tool that will make this available to you.
Giving ADHD medication to your child is a touchy topic for many. I respect everyone’s choice in this decision because they know their child best and they are the most equipped to make decisions on their behalf. If you are considering ADHD meds, go to the person most qualified to help, a child psychiatrist.
My son saw an amazing child psychiatrist. We had to go through a few different medications to find out what was right for him. He also helped us both understand ADHD traits and why they are important in a society. Historically, the “tribe” could be facing starvation in a terrible winter, and it was the “ADHD” member of the tribe that would leave the cave and travel miles to hunt for food rather than lay down and accept his fate. He emphasized that we must not try to eradicate these traits, but manage them for his benefit.
My decision to use medication for Jacob was not so that I could get some relief from him, as many of the anti-drug faction believe. I opted for the medicine so that my son would not have to spend his entire childhood and school career being told he was a “naughty boy.” I wanted him to get good feedback from his teachers and friends rather than constant criticism. And most of all, I wanted him to learn something in school. That is what ADHD meds did for him. Maturity did a great deal for my son. He no longer takes any medication, and he’s doing great.
The positive side of ADHD
Educate yourself on the positive traits of ADHD. As a child, these traits may seem like a detriment. With maturity, the deficits become attributes. Here’s a small list:
Inability to focus turns into creativity and flexibility
Hyperactive turns into high energy
Hypersensitivity turns into sensitivity to others and attention to detail
Impulsivity becomes fearlessness and ingenuity
There are several great websites to help you appreciate the bright side of ADHD. Here are just a few:
The outcome for Jacob has been fantastic. He is 22 now and is managing his own life as an adult with no further interventions needed. I wish you the best of luck on your adventure with your ADHD child! And please call us if we can help with therapy for your family and child.
Owner of Three Oaks Counseling & Psychiatry Group
West Lake Hills, Georgetown, Dripping Springs, Texas
Telehealth services throughout Texas