I lived with ADD all my life without knowing about my diagnosis until I reached adulthood. I always felt different, and it didn’t seem like other children struggled the way I did. When I asked my mom why she never told me I was diagnosed (she found out when I was 3), her response was that she didn’t want me to use ADD as a crutch or an excuse. I explained to her that my life would have been easier if I’d had supports in place: medication, organizational strategies and school interventions. But she insisted I was successful despite the fact that I didn’t have these things, and she was right!
Although I had ADD, I didn’t finally understand the impact of it until my son, Jared, was a toddler. He was an incredible ball of energy from the moment his small feet hit the floor in the morning to the instant he laid his beautiful head down at night. It was exhausting. Intuitively, I knew he had ADHD. I watched him run circles around the couch several times a day, and once, when he was 5, he climbed to the top of the 40 foot tree in our yard!
When Jared entered the school system, I asked his teachers each year if they thought he exhibited ADHD symptoms, but they always said no. It wasn’t until Jared was 7 that my suspicions were confirmed. As soon as Jared was on ADHD medication, his impulsivity and risk taking behaviors subsided. He even told me after a few months that his medicine made him “a good boy.” It broke my heart. I didn’t want my child to feel he wasn’t loved or “good” unless he took medicine, so we decided to stop the medication and monitor his behavior, instead.
Jared’s teacher and I worked on a behavior plan to help him make positive choices, but reports from teachers revealed that Jared didn’t complete his homework, rushed through tests without checking his work and was disruptive in class. When he was in seventh grade I started receiving weekly calls from the assistant principal regarding Jared’s behavior. His grades were slipping and he was hanging around with troublemakers. At one meeting, my son’s teacher explained to Jared that he would come to a fork in the road where he would need to make some decisions. She impressed upon him to choose wisely as he could go down the right road or the wrong one. His choices would impact his relationships with his teachers and his good or bad reputation would follow him throughout his school career.
Alarms were now blaring loudly. I was not going to give up on Jared. I knew I needed to take action immediately, which meant returning to medication and working on intervention strategies.
I’d run track in school, and it turned out Jared found sports a great way to channel all of his energy, too. He started playing soccer, football and baseball. It helped him build confidence and self esteem. We used checklists to help keep Jared focused, and always reinforced appropriate behavior with lots of praise and attention. Instead of focusing on the negative labels associated with ADHD, Jared and I have embraced the positive traits: he is energetic, creative, resilient and tenacious. We navigate his condition (and mine!) daily and together we’re learning to live rich, productive lives.