Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Does my child have ADHD?

This question is one that haunts many parents. Especially new parents. I remember the first time I asked myself this very question. My son was in kindergarten, his teacher had contacted me about having him tested for gifted. I was delighted, my son was brilliant (doesn't every parent think so) "of course," I said. Shortly after her request, she approached me about the possibilities of him having ADHD. My first response was "how can he have ADHD and also be gifted?" I was surprised to learn that many gifted children also have ADHD.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of focus, many gifted children with ADHD are unable to focus well enough during their testing, and end up failing the tests. This is exactly the case with my son. I refused to take him to a psychologist, certain that no matter what the results were, nothing would change. The rest of his kindergarten year went by, him excelling in every aspect of the grade and passing with flying colors. The following year, I was approached again, by his first grade teacher. "Have you ever considered testing Seth for gifted?" I laughed and explained that we had gone through this the previous year. Again, he was tested and again, he failed.

Then something changed. I was called into a teacher conference where I was given a bag filled with half eaten pencils. They had literally been chewed to the brim and only the metal and eraser were left. There was also the issue of over stimulation. Seth would hide under tables when the atmosphere became too chaotic. I became concerned, as any parent would, and made my first doctors appointment to address the issues.

They tested him for iron deficiencies (and many others) and suggested that an alternative chewing option be given to him during school hours. They believed he was experiencing anxiety during certain times of school. Now, I must say, his first grade teacher was an angel. To this date, she is the best teacher we've ever had and she holds a very special place in my heart. She was more than willing to help and allowed me to send in gum for him to chew when he was feeling anxious. She also gave him a seat next to her desk, to this date, it is his favorite place to be in a classroom. First grade came and went with no other complications or issues.

The year after that went on much the same way. He was again tested for gifted in second grade, again failed, and again he passed with no real problems. His grades were great and I saw no reason to change anything we were doing. Third grade came along and much was the same. The only difference was that this time, instead of simply testing him for gifted, his teacher, the school staff, and myself decided it was best to do a full evaluation. It was during this evaluation that the real signs of ADHD became apparent.

The school psychologist performed a series of observations, these consisted of in classroom and one on one based observations. The end result was that Seth did in fact have ADHD. His inability to focus in class and during tasks was obvious and as a group we agreed, for the time being, the best course of action was to place him on a 504 plan. This plan allowed the teacher to give him extra time during tests and school assignments.

It was during his fourth grade year that things really changed. Some of his grades had started to diminish and by this point he had lost all interest in reading. You have to understand that my son entered kindergarten able to read chapter books. This was the first sign that things were getting worse. Not only did his grades start suffering but he simply didn't seem to care anymore whether or not he did well in school. When asked, he would say it was just getting to be too difficult. I made my first appointment with a child psychologist and after an in-depth evaluation, he was officially diagnosed with having ADHD.

So for the parents asking themselves the question of whether or not their child has ADHD. My suggestion is, do not waste time, take him or her to a child psychologist that can perform all the necessary tests to conclude whether or not your child does in deed have ADHD. You will save yourself, time and heartache, plus decide on a course of action, early enough in your child's education.

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