Raising kids can be such a time of trial and error but throw one into the mix with ADD and it can be quite baffling. My first two kids were both girls that seemed to have a natural tendency toward being high achievers in school. I thought that, as parents, we must be doing something right. Both daughters stressed at getting a B in a class with no pressure from us.
When my son came along, I was totally expecting that same kind of behavior. Boy was I thrown for a loop! Before school age, he was actually even easier than our two daughters. He was the sweetest and most compassionate little boy. The struggles began when he started school.
Signs Of ADD
I started my son in preschool at age four. This was the first time I had a teacher tell me that one of my children wasn’t paying attention. She thought maybe he wasn’t hearing well. He did have quite a few ear infections with built up fluid so we then had him scheduled to get tubes in his hears. I do think his hearing improved but I was still getting the same reports of inattentiveness at school. Since this was my first experience with a boy in school, I thought that maybe it was a boy thing. My husband hadn’t cared for school too much after all. I wasn’t too worried.
When he was in second grade, his teacher informed me that he may have a problem with attention and that I should keep track of this as he went through school. I remember thinking, “okay I’m sure his attention will get better as he gets older” and was not too worried. He was still performing at an average level in school. At the time, I had never heard of A.D.D. and now looking back I think that was what the teacher was referring too. I used to babysit a boy with A.D.H.D and his main characteristic was hyperactivity. My son was not hyperactive. In fact, all of his elementary teachers commented on how sweet, well behaved and quiet he was in class.
forgetfulness and disorganization
Fast forward to middle school. With multiple class changes throughout the day, came the need for more organization. Things began to get much worse very quickly. I was now getting reports that my son was not turning in homework. Even if he did complete the homework, I watched him do it, he would either forget to turn it in or lose it. As a parent, this was extremely frustrating especially with not knowing what was causing this behavior. He also started lying and coming up with excuses for missed homework.
In seventh grade, he made the boys basketball team and now enjoyed going to school a little more. However, in order to play basketball he had to be getting a C or better in all of his classes. It seemed that he was able to handle about three of six classes pretty well. Math and English were his stronger classes because they had more structure. He had a much worse time with Social Studies or History. I was also helping to keep him organizing by keeping a notebook of his due class assignments and checking them off as he finished them. This didn’t help as much as I hoped because he was still losing or forgetting the assignments sometime after putting them in his folder at home and getting to class to turn in.
He managed to be able to play quite a few basketball games but by eighth grade he wasn’t able to play on the basketball team anymore. This only compounded the problem with going to school. He suddenly was calling home sick at least once a week. I knew he wasn’t sick and asked the school secretary to just send him back to class. This, I’m sure made the secretary think I was an awful parent especially when my son looked so sincere. He would say he had a migraine which was hard to confirm and was something I’m sure he thought of because I had suffered from migraines so long.
To try and help him with his learning, my husband and I enrolled him in Sylvan Learning Center classes during the summer before high school. All that happened was it cost us a lot of money and his Sylvan teachers thought he just wasn’t interested and not trying.
Because his teachers were so sure he just didn’t want to do the work, we would discipline him by withholding time with friends or from video games. This would only cause anger and tension among us.
Although I would never consider my son hyperactive, he has very restless legs and likes to be moving. He did very well in sports which I attribute to his need for movement. A time that he wasn’t restless at all, however, was when he was playing video games. He had an extreme focus to his game and could tune everything else out. Apparently, this is another symptom of ADD and ADHD. As a parent, I found this very confusing. How could he focus so well on his video game and not on is school work? Hyper focus on things that interest a person with ADD/ADHD is very common.
Things continued to progress to worse with the start of high school. Many of his teachers began to say that he was lazy or just didn’t care. I felt like he had to care but I was so frustrated to not know what was causing his behavior.
We decided then to have him see a psychologist. After many questions and tests, the psychologist diagnosed him with ADD. This was the first time I had ever heard of the term. Even though I had heard of ADHD, I thought it was synonymous with hyperactivity. I never considered what the initials stood for.
It was recommended that he go on medication to help with focus. We ended up trying several different medicines to treat him. My son hated the side affects of every one of them. He lost weight and became very skinny. Adderall seemed to be helping the most but made him sweat profusely, which was embarrassing to him. After a short while, he would pretend to take the medicine and then throw it away. I would find it wrapped in a napkin in the trash. Yes I was suspicious!
I had heard of so many kids having success with medicine and was extremely frustrated and also a little hesitant with what the medicines were doing to him. We were going to have treat him with counseling and I was continuing to help him with management and organization.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
I was used to getting calls from school about absences but when I got a different type of call I was devastated. It turns out that my son was being suspended for smoking marijuana. How could that be? I never thought this would be an issue with one of my kids. I frankly was very scared that I was losing my son to his ADD and the path he was taking.
Once again, we had him back to yet another psychologist. This psychologist told us that marijuana abuse was very common in his ADD patients, including his adult patients. It was a way of self medicating for focus. This was not acceptable to me. Medicine was also stressed as important to treat ADD. However, I couldn’t hardly force the medicine down his throat. He had to want to be treated.
michigan youth challenge academy
I felt that the public school system wasn’t doing him any favors. Even though our school system was highly rated, they seemed to cater to the kids who already did well. I had met with the school principle several times looking for help. The only thing he could think of further to do was to move my son to the local alternative high school. This was not acceptable to me. There were too many kids with behavior problems there. It just scared me more to have my son in that environment.
After searching for alternatives, I found a military boarding school for kids at risk of failing. The Michigan Youth Challenge Acadmey dealt with ADD/ADHD and had great results. My son could earn his GED in six months. He was currently at the beginning of his Junior year which meant he would be done with school quicker.
Success Finally With ADHD Teaching Strategies
When I found the military school, it sounded like a good solution. There was just one problem, the school wouldn’t take any kids who didn’t want to be there! This could be a problem. I prayed that my son would come to the conclusion that he should go there. Although it was appealing that the program only lasted six months, it was going to be hard. The kids had to share a barracks with many other kids and would have no privacy. They would have to get up early for physical training and have a long day of structured learning. It was military!
We had to go to a meeting beforehand which explained every detail of the program. Nothing was sugar coated. After the meeting, the kids had to agree to sign up because they wanted to. We were doomed!
However, an answer to prayer came when my son told me that he really wanted to change and go there.
It was a hard six months but he made it through and graduated! The severity of what he went through still helps him today.
Adult ADD: Another Bump In The Road
When my son first got through the school, he started working full time at the local car wash where he had worked since he was fifteen. The job didn’t require a lot of organization even when he was promoted to assistant manager and he did very well.
There came a point where he wanted more for his life and applied for another job. He was hired and began working a production line. This was not his cup of tea. He also became sick with several colds and had to miss work. Now is when the mismanagement issue again reared its ugly head. He ended up needing surgery to remove adenoids. But, somehow he forgot to let his manager know when he would be able to come back to work. They had sent him letters to his home and emails asking for updates and warning that his job would not be held if they didn’t hear from him.
When I found out, I was sick to my stomach with that familiar dread. What were going to do? I prayed again…….or still…… I figured the answer for him was going to be medication but he had to want that.
God was working on him still. I heard the words that I so wanted to hear from him on a morning that I picked him up for breakfast. He said “mom I really need to get on ADD medicine and I’m going to make an appointment”. I was ecstatic and hopeful that it would actually work for him.
A Good Future With ADHD Medication
After starting the medicine, he began to feel like he had more focus. It still made him sweat but he said he could deal with that now. It didn’t take long and he was hired for a new job. A windows and siding company wanted to hire him as a manager. He asked if he could start out on the canvasing crew first to better understand the job before taking on management. I thought that was a very responsible request.
The medicine is still working great for him and he has become very successful in his management role. He seems to be a natural leader and has even come up with some new ideas for his boss. Now the symptoms of ADD are actually working for him. Because he naturally has so many thoughts running through his head, he thinks outside the box for problem solving. His ability to hyper focus on certain job issues is a definite asset. A Sales and Management job is also a good fit with traveling to different places every day. This helps with restlessness.
Can’t Think About The What Ifs
It was a long hard road for my son to finally be able to make the most of his ADD. Now, with medicine, he has become so successful. I often wonder, if we had known what the issue was when he was young, would we have been able to alleviate some of the struggle? Getting on the medicine at an early age may have been a benefit. Also, finding a learning environment that would employ ADHD teaching strategies would have been very helpful. Hopefully, my experience will help someone else finding themselves on this same road. Early detection can only be a benefit.
To see more of my reflections on parenting, visit my Empty Nest page.