We are about ¾ of the way through kindergarten. I would say it has not been quite what I expected, though, I am not sure what I expected, really.
More like what I had hoped was that my daughter would go in and adjust beautifully, excel in her work, and feel really good about how she was doing. On the plus side, she has made friends and she likes school and likes her teachers, but the rest of it has been tough. She’s very bright, so the question was why was she having such a hard time with her work, getting it done, grasping concepts she should be capable of grasping? Should I have kept her in pre-school for another year? Was I doing enough with her at home? In some cases, the way things were described were so different from the behavior I knew that it seemed like it was a different child.
In an attempt to get answers to some of the academic and behavioral challenges we were seeing, about two months ago we had her professionally assessed by an experienced child psychologist who came highly recommended. The results showed an intelligent and capable child with no self-esteem issues who had ADHD. Her type (there are 12 types I’ve learned) was more around hyperactivity, inattentiveness and inability to focus. It made it difficult for her to learn in large group settings and to complete assignments and switch gears. Essentially, the psychologist said she believed the trouble our daughter was having was because of how her brain worked, not a deficiency in capability.
Now, it’s one thing if you have a child who needs some tutoring, maybe more consistent and strict discipline, something external that you can control. But when you know the likely root cause of why your child has struggled for months is something hardwired in, something they’ve had since birth, something they got from their genetics, well, I can tell you, that is a helpless feeling, at least for me.
Initially, I was sad because I felt like somehow I had failed her, giving her this brain, even though I myself never had ADHD. It was hard to think that she would possibly need medication to function well in school or not feel “jumbled”. I felt angry because it seemed I had wasted months not realizing what to do fast enough and could this have made things better for her so much sooner. I was afraid that if we gave her medication it would change this spirited, independent girl that I love. This was all foreign territory for me and I needed to get this right for her.
We are setting up our consultation with her pediatrician as a next step to cover treatment options. I don’t think any parent who has been in this situation ever walks in saying “I really hope we need to medicate our kid and be done with it.” But should you also rule it out if it is the thing that will help them not feel like their brain is going 100 MPH and they can’t slow it down? What nobility is there in that? It’s all an individual choice and frankly, I won’t judge any parent for whatever decision they’ve made. That’s not to say there’s isn’t judgment in other places though.
For example, the psychologist, whose now adult child suffers from Tourette’s, depression, and ADHD, was inspired to pursue the area of ADHD to better help him. She’s done it for over two decades and thought she had seen everything until she went into a nicer quick service restaurant to get some lunch one day. She told me she ended up chatting with the manager who asked what she did. When she explained it, his response was “ADHD? Isn’t that just bad parenting?”.
There are plenty of opinions about the validity of the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses in children and adults. There are opinions about whether or not parents are too quick to medicate their kids. I don’t know the individual situations of each of these families, but what I hope is that like us, they are doing all their due diligence to make the best and most informed choice they can for someone they love more than anything. Our kids deserve nothing less.
I have no idea yet how this will work out. We haven’t even met with the doctor yet as this is all very recent. I, as a parent, am also trying to work through my own feelings about it so I can be supportive for my child. When our daughter went in for the assessment, we told her that the doctor was going to help her try to figure out why her brain wouldn’t stop. She understood that and wanted that too. However, we have not yet talked with her about the diagnosis. It’s not so much about keeping it from her as it is that I would want to talk to her about it when we can also talk about what we are going to do to fix it. Otherwise, it’s just an answer without a plan.
I, like any parent, just want my child to be happy, to feel good about themselves, and not be held back by something they can’t fully understand. As her parents, we are going to do all we can to address what’s going on and help her in the best way possible. It’s at least something I feel I can control in a situation where I otherwise feel there is so much I can’t.