The first inclination I had of my son having ADD was when he turned 4 and I was filling out the age-appropriate questionnaire from the pediatrician. One of the questions asked whether or not the child could follow three-step directions. My child definitely could not. He would start off with great intentions of pleasing his mama, only to be overwhelmed by all of the commands and forget what he was supposed to be doing. That same year, he entered preschool. He had a wonderful, nurturing teacher who had the patience of a saint. She noticed at school what we were seeing at home, and worked to help him focus on tasks. Like many 4-year-olds though, he was more interested in playing than following directions. Can you blame him?
This theme continued on. School year after school year. Teacher after teacher. I would always ask if they suspected something more was going on, but his behavior would always be excused with the fact that he was young and would rather be playing than sitting in a school setting.
Fast forward to his 9th birthday this year, when I took him for his well-child visit. I finally mentioned it to the pediatrician. I explained that while he was still having problems in school with being able to stay on-task and focused, he’d sit still for hours doing a craft or reading. To which the pediatrician replied, “Well, you can still have ADD and be able to focus on something you really want to do.”
I filed that little nugget in the back of my mind and as we began the new school year, I was keeping watch for any signs of my child struggling. Unfortunately, the signs came within the first weeks of school. Fourth grade is no joke, y’all. There are a lot of classroom expectations and the material is challenging. We had tantrums and tears over homework in the first week! My child was feeling so overwhelmed that he didn’t want to go to school. His ADD was preventing him from learning and feeling successful. At one point, he looked at me with his sad brown eyes and said, “Mommy, I’m not ready for fourth grade.” So, back to the pediatrician we went. It was at that visit where we received our diagnosis.
“This is classic ADD,” said the pediatrician, to my husband and I, as she was reviewing the paperwork we brought to the office visit. It is hard to describe how I felt when I heard those words. We had been struggling with behavior and had been trying all types of modification techniques for the past five years. Five years! I was at my wit’s end, exhausted and feeling like a failure of a parent. Hearing that diagnosis was affirming and saddening at the same time. Affirming, because deep down I knew. A mama always knows. Saddening, because I started to think of how much my child has struggled and will continue to struggle his whole life.
ADD will never go away.
It’s not a boo-boo that I can cure with a kiss and a band-aid. This is a neurological disorder that my child will have to learn to manage. If not managed, it can affect his grades, relationships, self-esteem and potential. His future hangs in the balance right now as we work hard to determine what the best course of action is. Looking forward, I am hopeful. There is and continues to be new information available on how to treat and better understand mental health issues. I know that I am not alone and neither is my child. If you see your child struggling with staying on-task and focused, like I did, there is no shame in seeking help. In fact, I would encourage you to talk to your pediatrician and tell them your concerns. Mental health is just as important as physical health.