“Can you calm down and stop moving for just a few minutes?”
That is a constant question in our house directed towards our eldest son. You see, our son was diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was in the third grade and requires medication to help him get through his days. It also helps us get through our days with him. Without his medication, my son resembles Daffy Duck going crazy. He bounces around all over the place and can’t seem to focus on anything.
My son is eleven years old and an extremely intelligent, funny, creative, athletic, caring, sweet boy who just happens to have to live with ADHD. For a while, I didn’t want to think that my son had ADHD. I even said to the doctor who was evaluating him, “I know he doesn’t have that. He can focus when he wants to.” We were having him evaluated, not because he was having difficulties in school, but because he just couldn’t seem to control his impulses and his body.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines ADHD as “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” They go on to stress that the inattention is not due to defiance or a lack of comprehension and that hyperactivity is when a person seems to move about constantly.
The doctor evaluating him described it this way:
ADHD has nothing to do with focusing when you want to, it’s not being able to focus when you need to. Let’s say there are 100 people in a lecture hall, listening to a lecture and taking notes, and someone walks into the room late. All 100 people will look up and notice the person walking in late. They will probably wonder why the person is late but then they will quickly redirect their focus back to the lecturer and begin taking notes again without too much content being lost. The person in the room with ADHD will look up, wonder why the person was late, try to refocus, look down at their notes, fidget in their seats, begin thinking about the new person’s shoes, wonder what they are going to eat for lunch, think that they need to buy some new pencils when they go to the store, and then try to refocus again. Once they manage to refocus and take notes, much more time will have past and they will have lost much more of the content of the lecture than their counterparts.
He evaluated our son by giving him a worksheet to complete and putting him in a room with things designed to draw his focus, in this case, it was toys on a shelf. He counted the number of times our son’s focus was drawn away from the worksheet and he had to redirect himself back to the sheet. By the end of the allotted time, not only had our son’s focus been drawn away many more times than a “normal” kid his age, he was literally climbing the shelves to reach a toy.
My sister, who is a former middle school teacher and current Physician’s Assistant, explained that our son was so intelligent that the ADHD wasn’t affecting his grades or schoolwork yet because he was able to fill in the blanks of what he couldn’t focus on without too much strain. She also explained that this wouldn’t always be the case. There would be a day where he would hit a wall and his pure intelligence would not be enough to fill in the gaps of what he was missing every day because he couldn’t focus on his schoolwork.
Of course, I wasn’t happy when we initially received the diagnosis of ADHD.
No one wants their child to have to struggle with anything that makes it harder for them. But, knowing is so much better than not knowing. It made it easier to focus on a solution and treatment. I would encourage any parent who thinks their child might have ADHD to talk to their physician about their concerns. They can answer any questions you may have and even refer you to someone who can conduct an evaluation. In the long run, it was one of the best things we did for our son.