Friday, April 23, 2010

Raising an ADD child

I used to think that children who are diagnosed with ADHD don't really have anything wrong with them. They're just active kids who may have a hard time sitting still at a desk, but surely sedating them with medication can't be the answer. They're children, after all, and shouldn't people just let them be kids?

That was before my son was diagnosed with ADD.

Ultimately, he needed to be diagnosed and treated medically because he was falling drastically behind in school, at the start of first grade. I didn't have the ability to homeschool him and didn't think that was the best choice for him socially, so that left me struggling to find a way to help him succeed in school in spite of the fact that he could barely write his name. For him, Ritalin turned out to be the right solution, and though I struggled deeply with the decision to medicate him, I am so happy I decided to try it. The medication helps him to concentrate and get his work done in ways that he was not capable of without it.

Still, there is no magic pill for ADD. It's a disorder that you have to approach from all angles, teaching your child lessons every day that will help them to manage their impulsiveness, stay focused, and be considerate of others, whether they are medicated or not. That's the best chance the child will have at being a successful adult who can enjoy productive relationships at home, at work, and in society. For my son, his multi-layered treatment right now includes a private counselor, a school counselor, a very involved teacher, an Individualized Education Plan provided by his school, regular weekly Cub Scout meetings, and, of course, me.

Even though I had always suspected that my son might not be quite like the other kids in his preschool and kindergarten classes, his diagnosis was still difficult for me to accept. But accept it I did, because you can't help your child if you won't admit that they need your help. I work hard to teach my son how he needs to behave, at home and in public, whether he is on his meds or not. I feel like a broken record so much of the time, telling him he has to stay calm or quiet down. This week, in particular, was a struggle. There were a few times when I had to help him control his anger. One time, I sent him to stand in front of some shrubbery at the edge of the parking lot and instructed him to yell, loudly. "I'M ANGRY!" He felt better after that. But I couldn't use that technique at his Cub Scouts meeting, when he got angry at me for taking him home early after he had misbehaved for most of the meeting. He'd been speaking out of turn and being disruptive. When I told him we had to leave early, he threw himself on the floor in a raging tantrum, screaming and kicking and refusing to go with me. I had to have another adult help me to carry him to the car while he was hitting me in the face and screaming at me.

We talked later that night about what his consequences should be for that outburst. I was shaken and upset, but I also had the comfort of knowing that I was doing the right thing for him, whether he liked it or not. But you know what? The next morning, he came to me with a soft look on his face and said, very sincerely, "Mom, I'm sorry about last night." I melted.

That's the thing. I have to work harder at being a mom because of the issues that my son has, but when things go right and he's behaving well, it's the sweetest thing on earth. It makes all the hard work worth every minute.

And guess what? He will be celebrating his seventh birthday next week. That means I still have many years of hard work and plenty of rewards ahead of me.


used2chaos said...

This made me weepy, in a good way. You are such a great mom! Samuel is a lucky boy. :)