I Didn’t Believe My Own Son Had ADHD

Prior to having any knowledge of ADHD, I didn’t believe it existed.

I know, nominate me for Mom of the Year.  I had no idea what it was and the domino effect ADHD can have on a family.

One thing I promise in sharing with you is total honesty.  And the truth is, I thought it was some made-up diagnosis.  That was pretty much the extent of what I knew about the disorder prior to discovering words like dopamine and impulsivity.

All of that changed when my son was in 1st grade, and I went to have lunch with him at his school.

While eating, he blurted out something like ‘Hey, Mom, when do I get to move my desk back with my friends?’ 

Me:  What do you mean?

Him:  My teacher moved it to the chalkboard last week, so now I sit by myself. 

Not easy words for a Mom to hear.  I excused myself and stopped by my son’s classroom to see for myself, and there sat his desk, pushed against the chalkboard and away from his peers.  When I asked Mrs. Not-My-Favorite-Teacher about the move, she explained that my son struggled to stay focused. That he was often distracted when someone walked through the hall or when he looked out the window. That isolating him was for his own good.

I wasn’t happy.  So, I calmly asked when she planned to move his desk back with the rest of the class and received this response:

‘When he can behave.’

This was the start of my many realizations that my role as a mother is to advocate for my child.  No one else can at that age, and certainly no one can do it as well.

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I informed his teacher that he needs to be moved back by the end of the day, because isolating a child when he himself isn’t sure why he does what he does certainly won’t help his confidence and only labels him as the bad kid in the room.

I also was honest with myself and thought about my son’s early years.  I began to replay many situations involving my son in my mind, and there were signs.

He had more energy than 8 people.

He struggled to wind down at bedtime.  Night terrors or 3 am wake-ups were common.

He became emotional with no notice if routine changed; couldn’t roll with the punches.

He was rigid when other kids broke the rules or deviated from how games should be played.

He didn’t follow through on simple tasks, such as being asked to get an item from upstairs.

He repeated phrases over and over and if told not to touch something, he did anyway.

He also had what my husband and I called nervous habits, or ‘little quirks.’  He would touch his glasses, then tap his throat.  He would blink a lot.  Or hum. Sometimes he would shrug his shoulders.

So, we visited his pediatrician.  We filled out a checklist that showed some red flags.

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And eventually she referred us to a neurologist.  Not sure why, but I still remember that doctor’s office.  It had outdated wallpaper, and a very sterile waiting room.  They called my name, and I grabbed my son’s hand while carrying his chubby-faced toddler brother and followed a nurse down the hall.

We went over my son’s history, which I had written down in chronological order for the doc to see, and discussed the school situation and my worries that I was missing the big picture of what we were dealing with. That maybe it was more than just a rigid, high-energy kid who can’t sleep at night, can’t focus, and has nervous habits.

20 minutes later, the doctor rattled off some information that I wasn’t sure I would remember later when I called my husband.  I was hopeful the appointment would be nothing.  More of a routine meeting, ruling out anything serious, nothing to it.

Denial at its finest.

Dr. Outdated-Wallpaper eventually wrote a prescription for Ritalin and explained that my son has ADHD and likely needed a stimulant.  Then he handed me a book and said as though he was asking his son to take out the trash…

‘Your son has something called Tourette Syndrome.  Read this book and go live your life. Any questions?’

HUH?  That’s it?  That’s the best you have to offer?  Yes, I had questions.  A million!  But, in that office I couldn’t come up with ONE.

I walked out, buckled up the kids in the car and called my husband to try to translate my confusion. Then, I called my sisters.  They had never heard of it.  ‘Tourette what?’ they asked.

I wasn’t convinced.  Surely, the doctor was wrong.  After all, his wallpaper was from 20 years ago.  A good doctor would have replaced it by 2001, a sure sign that he couldn’t be qualified to diagnose my son.  (Rational thought, right?) Yet, over the next several days I poured myself in to the book he handed me and found it uncomfortably familiar.

Later, I tucked the prescription behind the sun visor in my car and decided not to fill it.  Because an unfilled scrip for ADHD meant my son didn’t need it.  And he didn’t need it, because he didn’t have it.

End of story, or so I thought.

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