4 ‘Mushy’ Indicators and Traits
It’s one thing to have a general understanding of ADHD, but it’s quite another to witness the unique and peculiar way your child’s symptoms manifest themselves. When I think back on what it was like to raise my son, who is now a teenager, these experiences stand out as the “soft signs” of ADHD.
Does my child have ADHD? The 4 “soft signs”
1. You are using an infant leash
If you see a child on a leash, please do not assume that the parents are terribly controlling or negligent. Assume the child is wildly impulsive and hyperactive – just like mine. He ran out into the street to collect shiny pebbles or ran two blocks to the playground while his sleep-drunk mother carried his newborn sibling in a baby Bjorn.
I had three different lines for my active toddler. On my first desperate foray into the leash industry, I bought what looked like a regular dog leash or surfboard strap. It didn’t work out too well because my son wrapped himself around trees and opened the Velcro. I call the next line the people-pleaser model. It was a harness disguised as a teddy bear backpack. I used it when I wanted to hide the fact that I had such an uncontrollable son that he needed a leash.
The final leash, the bungee jumper model, was a sturdy standard harness with multiple straps around the torso. I used this when I didn’t care about other people’s opinions and needed something fail-safe to survive the carnival or zoo.
2. The pediatrician is on speed dial
My son was full at nine months. It was always covered with bruises and bruises, and it was clear that we would make very good use of our health insurance benefits. My son broke, sprained, or injured too many parts of his body for me to remember: elbows, wrists, ankles, collarbones, and more.
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I remember thinking about taking him to the hospital when he was about 2 years old, just days after being there with another injury. On that occasion he had crashed headfirst into a wooden chair and had a small but deep wound under his eye that was bleeding profusely. I decided not to take him to the doctor, but I probably should have. It wasn’t a huge injury compared to his others, but every time I see the scar – which has expanded and grown over time – I remind myself, “If in doubt, check him out.”
3. Conversations with your child’s school are… interesting
During the parents’ evenings, words like “amazing”, “sensitive”, “extraordinary” and “talented” never came into our ears. Instead, the teachers described the behavioral plan he had for doing things like swinging sticks during recess and accidentally beating children. (“I pretended I was a helicopter.”)
My son was also not learning to read and write at an acceptable pace. I worked at his school when he was in first grade, and once I walked past his classroom I saw him scribbling as the teacher said, “… and after all, this is the letter Z. Zee says zzzzz.” Obviously had he missed the entire alphabet and many phonics lessons, and it would be my job to teach him at home.
His seating arrangement was always a hot topic of discussion. Should he be right in front of the teacher and risk distracting other kids? Or should he be in the back row where he might turn off? How about the back corner? So the assistant can pat him on the shoulder and get him out of his daydreams. It turned out he rarely sat in his seat so it was a moot point.
[Read: 10 Ways to Raise a Confident, Happy Child]
4. Your child can entertain themselves – for hours
At home, my son took on complicated and stimulating projects for fun. He made gadgets out of recycled cardboard, PVC pipes, and all the aluminum foil and tape he could find. (As an aside, once convinced that he had fixed a broken toilet in the backyard trash heap of his grandparents’ house, he relieved himself in it – and I mean the worst relief – and was shocked when it didn’t flush.)
As he got older, he worked tirelessly on detailed construction drawings such as inventions of solar energy and new submarine models. Relatives knew to bring us broken equipment and devices to dissect. Our house was like a small equipment graveyard. It wasn’t long before we realized we had to move him to an alternative educational institution so he could have time to dream and build and move his body.
He was so focused on his projects and experiments that other activities faded. We’d managed to get him a coveted spot on a sports camp once, and he was the epitome of Charlie Brown. During baseball week he picked flowers and hunted butterflies. He was fast and athletic in football, but since he never paid any attention to the game schedule, he ran around confused during games, never scored, and soon lost interest.
Although he started playing the drums for a while, he complained about not having enough free time and dropped that too. Basically, my son didn’t want to spend time outside of the house when he could work on his gigantic LEGO creation or put the finishing touches on his Rube Goldberg monstrosity that is conquering the living room. When we came to this realization, we saved a fortune by eliminating extracurricular classes and clubs. We used our savings to buy things that our family really needed: aluminum foil, tape, plasters, gauze, alphabet books, plumbers, and linen.
Raising a Child With ADHD: The Next Steps
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