He's all boy. He's full of energy. He's so curious.
I had heard all of these phrases before; I had even said most of them myself. I knew what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder looked like, I'd seen it up close and in my own family. But I still didn't recognize it when it was in my own child. I didn't recognize it until I was sitting in a parent-teacher conference at school and the teacher casually mentioned that my son seemed to have an attention deficit issue. Just that casually she dropped the words onto the table like a mantle for me to pick up and run with. I remember the conversation with the type of crystal clear recollection that is reserved for life-changing moments.
The second she said the words I felt the monumental puzzle pieces of life falling into perfect place. Suddenly, all of the things my son had struggled with made sense. All of the things I had felt frustrated about but chalked up to a stage, or just being a boy, or not wanting to do something—like homework, or chores, or get ready for school in the morning—made sense. He wasn't doing it on purpose, he wasn't actually trying to drive his father and me crazy. In that moment I flashed back to how many times I had told him to focus. It probably felt like I was asking him to hand me the moon every time I did. How had I not seen it? How had a stranger seen it before me?
I thought that was a magical moment, the moment when we figured out why our son was struggling, and all we had to do now was get him the help that he needed.
I was more than a little naive.
The truth is, that was just the beginning of a very long journey that has felt a lot more like a battle than a pleasure trip. There were forms to be filled out by parents, by teachers, by school administrators, and by pediatricians. There were meetings with schools and with doctors. There were conversations with our son, with each other, with doctors, and with pharmacists.
Since my son doesn't display the classic hyperactivity symptoms most people associate with the disorder, our quest to get him help was met with resistance from some friends and family. We heard things like "He doesn't seem like he has ADHD," which really meant he wasn't hyperactive. There were comments about were we sure we wanted to label him, were we sure we wanted to just drug him and not try to work on the problem?
This journey to getting help is not a journey for the faint-hearted, it is, however, a journey for a mom with the fierce heart of a lion who will not rest until she knows her child has what he needs.
I needed that fierce attitude a lot over the next few weeks, months, and even years as we encountered everything from shockingly overpriced medicines to side effects that were intolerable, to our regular pediatrician leaving the practice after diagnosing our son and writing the first prescription. That proved to be one of the most difficult challenges when we were left to deal with a new doctor who didn't know us or our child who wanted to continue to increase the dose of medications that were causing unmanageable side effects. I became suspicious of why she would insist on keeping our son on a medication that was causing him to transform from a funny, easy-going, laid back kid into one who was angry all the time and prone to bursts of violent temper tantrums.
I would need my fierce determination again just to be able to change doctors. Battles with insurance companies and the office manager at the old doctor's office were what filled my days over the next few weeks but it was worth it in the end when we found an amazing pediatrician who suggested we mark the first medication as one he did not tolerate and move in the opposite direction.
I learned from there that treating my son's disorder is about choosing our battles and finding a happy medium. There's no such thing as a perfect solution. There is, however, something called balance.
Three years into our journey we've worked out a fairly good balance with medication and other things that help our son find success in school. We've learned that having a good system in place to help him stay organized during his school day is a huge key to success. Mostly we've learned that loving a child with an attention deficit disorder brings some challenges—but a lot of really amazing things, too.
It's all part of that balance.
Angela Keck is the author behind WriterMom's Blog and has been published on numerous parenting communities. She loves writing about anything that moves her or makes her smile!