These were words of great relief for me, hearing them from the therapist (whose doctoral dissertation was on ADHD) who had just spent the better part of an hour talking to us about my older daughter’s lack of concentration and focus. I wrote about our experiences here, and about how I’ve been dealing with behavior strategies for the better part of ten years:
When we started high school last August, I looked at the daily lessons from Seton and didn’t see too much work for each day. I surmised that we might even be able to get done early with some subjects. We stumbled a bit, trying to find good study strategies that worked for her as a hands-on, kinetic learner, and eventually figured out a few tricks. But we never have been able to quite keep up with everything the way I thought we could.
I was really thrown for a loop here. I felt like I was hitting my head against the wall with her, like I had to drag her through every subject, no matter how easy it was supposed to be. Subjects that were “easy A” material still required me to be standing over her like a slave driver, constantly berating her to keep going. Focus! Pay attention! Why can’t you just do the test in a reasonable amount of time!!?? It was making us both miserable, and making me feel like I suddenly wasn’t able to teach my child any more. What was happening to me? Was I making a mistake in continuing to homeschool her? Could I even do it?
Talking to the doctor was a great relief, to be honest. As someone who is very hesitant to medicate my kids for anything minor, it was already a difficult decision to take this step. To be talking to someone who fully supported the decision Nathan and I made for our child – someone who, incidentally, had also seen his fair share of children who were wrongly medicated for simple antsiness – was just … well, relieving. I keep using that word, but it’s just what I felt.
My daughter talked about how she will decide to really focus this time, and start off well, and then get distracted by one little thing. The next thing she knows, 30 minutes have gone by and she didn’t know it. She confirmed that school is genuinely challenging for the first time in her life, and that the challenges make it harder to compensate the way she always has in the past. (It also made me feel good to hear the doctor say it was obvious that she’s a smart girl, sharp and intelligent, and that he understood my frustrations that everything school-related seemed harder than it ought to be right now.)
The doctor said that often, ADD and ADHD are caused by a lack of connection between two areas of the frontal lobe, which can sometimes be bridged by exciting stimuli, like, say, riding your bike down a large hill and having near-misses with various backyard structures, trees, and the garage. And that people with ADD can sometimes “hyper-focus” on a task they enjoy, like reading a book and falling so deep into it that your parents can’t extract you immediately. (I did say that it was possible that was genetic, since we’re all a bit like that with books.) What I found really fascinating was the idea that someone with ADD or ADHD could make a fantastic ER doctor because of this hyper-focusing tendency Short bursts of super-focus on an interesting task.
And then he said he’d be willing to write a referral for her to try out ADD medication without the full battery of tests (which was going to cost several hundred dollars and might not be reimbursed by my insurance later on).
Did I mention that he’s also Catholic, so that common world-view helped us click well? We discovered that when my phone, which was on silent, nevertheless rang out bell chimes for the Divine Mercy Hour.
So, with warnings in hand about possible side effects, information on ADD written by the doctor himself, and reassurances that there’s a chance the medication could make a difference, we left his office to head home. We’re waiting now to hear back from the family practitioner about whether or not she’s received the letter, and then we’ll see if this course of action works for her.
We’ll see how things go after this. I’m praying we’ve found something that can help us – and help her, most of all.
Note: I’ve asked my daughter to consider writing about this from her perspective, and asked her to read and approve what I’ve written. She will be contributing to this topic soon.