Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ADHD is a Four Letter Word

I was a geek when I was in school. Dork, nerd, dweeb, goober, weirdo... whatever you want to call it, that was me. I'm sure this comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. I was the overachiever poster child and I actually wanted to be teacher's pet. I lived to please and worked very hard to do my homework correctly and get it in on time. Unless I was procrastinating, but that's another story.

You can imagine how popular I was.

So anyway, dorky overachieving is all that I know, and I guess I just assumed my kids would follow in my unfortunate footsteps. But you know what happens when you assume...

Which brings me to Kaitlyn. I'm having a hard time writing this, because in many ways she is the hardest working and most determined person I know. Unfortunately, that work ethic does not extend to school. When it comes to school, Kaitlyn is Ted. Of Bill and Ted. If you haven't seen that movie, I highly recommend it. It's hilarious.

To be fair, the challenges she has with school really aren't her fault. You see, she has this terrible, nasty, debilitating condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD for short. You may have heard of it, but don't worry if you haven't because it's pretty rare. Ha ha ha.

In my blissfully naive pre-children days, I was positive ADHD was a made-up disorder that encouraged lazy parents and teachers to give little Johnny Rocket a get-out-of-jail-free card. I treated people who believed in the disorder with disdain, basking in the knowledge that my children would be much better behaved than these monsters because I would have superior parenting skills. As long as you discipline your children with love, they will be the model of perfect behavior.

All I can say is that if this is your attitude, repent and do it NOW. It's too late for me, but please, for the love of Pete, save yourself. If you don't, you WILL be humbled.

ADHD is real. And it's horrible. In fact, I'm considering bringing charges of false advertising against the person who named the disorder because the term ADHD sounds much too innocuous for this dread disease. It would be more appropriately named Stare-off-into-oblivion-even-though-the-teacher-is-three-inches-from-your-face-Jump-up-and-down-on-your-chair-Slug-whoever-happens-to-be-walking-by-just-because-you-want-to-and-Never-once-voluntarily-bring-your-homework-home-from-school Disorder. Or for short, A Quick Way to Drive Your Parents to the Brink.

If school were Super Mario Galaxy 2, we would have no problem. But life is not a video game. Life requires sitting still, paying attention, listening carefully, waiting your turn, and actually doing what your parents and teachers tell you to do. Without these skills, or at least a smidgen of these skills, there is little chance a kid will be successful in school. Unfortunately, these are the exact things that are difficult for the poor kiddos who are affected by ADHD. It's not that Kaitlyn doesn't want to concentrate and sit still, it's that she can't. Plain and simple. And if you don't believe me, you only need to spend a few hours in the afternoon with her and I promise you'll become a believer. Let me know when you're ready and I can send her over with her list of spelling words.

When my daughter was diagnosed with 18 Q Deletion Syndrome, we were given a laundry list of issues we should be prepared to handle. Among them were hearing impairment (yup, she's got it), mental retardation (nope), delayed social skills (yup), learning disabilities (yup), little or no ability to communicate either through spoken language or sign language (nope), autism (jury is still out), inability to walk (nope), and a weaker than normal immune system so she will host every bug that comes within a 10 mile radius of her (double yup). These, along with many others, were the things we were prepared for. What we were NOT prepared for was ADHD.

As odd as this may sound, this is possibly her greatest challenge in life. No, really. I feel so bad for the little munchkin - she loves to learn and has an aptitude for reading and science, which is amazing and wonderful. But she just can't concentrate when the teacher is talking, and thus misses 90% of the classroom instruction. I don't have to tell you how detrimental that is to her, and how frustrating it is to her teachers.

We've tried just about everything. We went the "natural" route by treating her with supplements and the Elimination Diet (google it), we tried behavioral intervention with two different therapists, and finally we pulled out the big guns and tried prescription ADHD medications. By the time we got to that point we were desperate and would have chanted naked under the moonlight in old man Tucker's corn field if the doctors told us to. Fortunately, they didn't. Unfortunately, and to our great disappointment, the medications made the problem worse. If you read the 10 page booklet of instructions that comes with your prescription, you will find a list of very uncommon side effects. 'Very uncommon' means that typically less than .5% of people taking this medication will experience whatever the side effect is. One of these rare side effects, and this is true of all ADHD medications, is extreme agitation. And, you guessed it, we pulled the short straw. We tried several different classes of medication, and they all had the same effect. Which definitely wasn't good. The lowest point was when we went against our better judgment (I'm telling you, you shouldn't doubt mother's intuition) and increased her dose because her doctor promised that increasing it would decrease her agitation. Instead, our daughter experienced a screaming, raging tantrum that lasted nearly 24 hours. After several calls to her doctor and a trip to the ER, she finally calmed down and went to sleep. We threw the medication in the garbage (wrapped in a dirty diaper to ward off pilagers) and never looked back.

Unfortunately, this exhausted our options for treatment. We haven't been able to find anything that helps her focus, and because of that her school work, homework, and social skills continue to suffer. So for now, we do our best to be patient with her and help her work through this challenge while we wait for science to catch up and discover something new. And we wait. And wait. And wait.

Come to think of it, maybe that's how I'll make my millions - by curing ADHD.

Nah, sounds like too much work.

Did I mention that I was diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago? I told you, repent NOW. Karma will really bite you in the behind.


  1. I hear ya girl! Hunter is currently on the radar for ADHD OR possibly Bi-Polar..I think its more of the ADHD though. We have been lucky though it has only been up until now that it is starting to effect his school work. His is more when he gets home, forgets his homework, forgets to do it..forgets it needs to be done. Then that leads into raging tantrums that have him banging his head and trying to rip his hair out. Yeah fun times...LOL Love the blog btw!


  2. Thanks Brandie! Sorry about Hunter. That really stinks. K's doctor is wondering about bipolar too, but right now we're sticking with ADHD and possibly autism. We'll see what happens as she gets older. Sigh. :)

  3. Yeah H's dr wans to do a Neuro-Psy test but our insurance doesn't cover it...so that is out of the question for now..it costs around 2K out of pocket...YIKES! If we did it though it would give him a "for sure" dx. We had another run in this morning with H and his school work. Turns out he had a progress report that he had to turn in today (signed) and he got it on monday. Yeah he has a D in written language and a bunch of crap marked off like: Does not pay attention during instruction, has poor organizational skills, does not follow directions completely...ugh sucks! I agree...HUGE Sigh...

  4. I need to tell you about Executive Disfunction. It sounds made up, but K was just diagnosed with it and it sounds similar to H (although those are also symptoms of ADHD). Maybe I'll write a blog about it.

  5. Ohh yes please do tell! If you don't want to blog you can send me a message via Facebook :)

  6. we are in the ADHD boat too...I've changed his diet (more protein, fish oil...) therapy, and are now on the medication trail. My personal favorite is that the pharmacy treats you like a drug addict everytime you fill the meds because they are a "controlled substance" I almost want to say, "these aren't any good with my crystal meth recipe..I stick with sudafed" Fortunately, Evan is excelling in reading, but his writing, math and social skills are taking a beating. We'll see what the future holds...

  7. I feel your pain, Emily. It's been a long road and I fear the worst is yet to come. But we're figuring out how to make it work.

    And yes, the pharmacist's reaction to ADHD meds is awesome. My favorite response is, "You don't need to worry because I stopped selling these and have moved on to prostitution. It's much more profitable."