Understanding ADHD is Like Climbing Mountains
My husband and son make a short climb to Black Butte in central Oregon annually. They usually climb the little mountain easily – it’s just over 6,000 feet high – and the sky is clear for miles.
Not that long ago, however, they were in white-out conditions. They lost their way and had neither winter clothes nor water, so they had to turn back just before the summit. I had carefully packed an emergency backpack for them, but they had left it in the car. They came back home a little beaten up, pretty frozen and a little messed up. That day they learned their lesson: Always expect the unexpected. And this is how we generally used to go about raising our children, especially our son.
A spirited child – and happy rejection
As a toddler, our son was in constant motion and excitement. He kept spitting and writhing in discomfort. He slept briefly and had trouble breastfeeding. I remember thinking, “Wow, you weren’t kidding when you said babies were intense.”
He could walk even when he was 9 months old. I remember thinking this was an auspicious sign that he was going to get athletic, just like me. I also noticed that he was so much more spirited than other babies. They sat in the playgroups we went to like calm lumps of dough on their parents’ laps. He did not.
When I had my second child, a girl, I thought to myself, “Wait, is my girl calm or is my boy active?” Their energy levels were so different. I wondered if there was something wrong with one or the other.
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When my son was 3 years old, we had to lock up all the dining room chairs because he had stacked them, climbed over them, unlocked the many locks on the front door and fled to the great outdoors. “Gosh, toddlers definitely deserve the bad rap they get – what rapeseed callions!” I thought. On my shopping list I wrote: Baby locks for closets. Safety plugs for sockets.
The teacher said our boy was a handful. But friends and acquaintances said that boys are just like that. I have taught in schools myself and could imagine many calm male students. But what was the exception: the quiet or my decidedly restless child?
One pre-K parent was upset when my son intentionally stepped on their child’s fingers and made them cry during playtime. I made my child apologize, but I secretly thought the other child seemed unusually sensitive.
In kindergarten, the teacher said our boy was a busy little beaver who was always building with blocks and needed encouragement to play with others. I thought, “He’s a creative little genius, that’s why. And the other kids are probably boring. “
[ADHD in Toddlers: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment]
In the first grade, the teacher told us that our boy never followed instructions, behaved recklessly, and otherwise was far from what she expected to behave in class. What did we do? We got him out of this “rigid school”.
Climb the mountain
Although we were reluctant to raise these concerns with the pediatrician, he insisted it couldn’t be ADHD. He saw ADHD and it wasn’t, he said.
But around the age of 7 our son started saying things like, “I’m not a good listener. I study poorly. ”Our hearts fell at these comments. Something was wrong. We had seen and heard enough about behavior and had to reverse it.
We took him to a specialized clinic for testing and the results confirmed what was obviously obvious. He “passed” these screenings with flying colors and received his ADHD diagnosis.
[Take This: ADHD Symptom Test for Children]
I’ve seen a number of other families, both professionally and personally, whose path to educating people about ADHD has been full of detours, dead ends and road signs. Some of them have been told to follow the lead: “It’s not ADHD; it is a sensory integration disorder. Or food sensitivity. Or “maladaptive daydreaming”. Or bad upbringing.
While this might explain some of what was going on for her, ultimately all roads led to ADHD. And I think the years it took to get the diagnosis damaged the psyche of families and children alike. Without a proper diagnosis, one reaches for straws to make life easier and better for everyone involved.
I try not to proselytize about ADHD, but I definitely try to explain its symptoms if it comes up because I’ve found that people’s understanding is often incomplete. They mistakenly believe that any child who can play video games for hours could not possibly have ADHD. They think that if a child is intelligent, that ADHD has to disprove it. Or they believe that their girl doesn’t have ADHD because she doesn’t have blatant behavior problems.
Reaching the peak of ADHD
I am grateful that we got a fairly early and accurate diagnosis for our child. It revolved around his low self-esteem and helped him understand that he is not damaged; it is simply developmental neurologically unique. Of course, not everything is rosy. He is well aware of the challenges that come with ADHD. Even so, he has proudly worn his ADHD badge for many years. He believes it gives him superior curiosity, determination, productivity, and enthusiasm. He’s not wrong.
We are also proud to wear our “Parents of an ADHD Child” badge. We have come a long way. With astonishment and humor we look back at all the bush blows that we tackled through overgrown paths and all the times when we had to give up and turn around shortly before a summit. We are still in white-out conditions at times, but our card skills have improved over the years and we are not leaving our emergency supplies behind. We may be a little cold, scratchy, and splattered with mud, but we made it to the peak of understanding.
Understanding ADHD: The Next Steps
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