ADD, too?

by MildlyManicMom on May 30, 2011

Why can’t one diagnosis fill my quota?

If you know me or follow the blog you know my 14 year old son was diagnosed with High ADD
Functioning Autism/ Aspergers when he was 4 years old.  I spent long nights researching and reading and trying to put my finger on this whole autism thing.  It’s a squirmy definition, especially for me – the quantitative math teacher.  Once I realized there were things I could do and people who could support me, I felt a little better.  But by first grade the teachers gently tried to tell me there might be more to worry about.

As a teacher, I have had lots of experience with ADD.  When I taught in Gainesville, GA I had a wonderful young man in class who tried to describe his feelings toward his medication.  He didn’t really want to take it but he did want to do well in school.  He was amazed at how much easier it was for him to concentrate at school while taking the medication.  Kind of like when you first get glasses and you realize that everyone else has had such an easier time seeing the world.  He finally felt that his goal to go to college and be successful was within his reach.

When I taught at Hilton Head Preparatory  School, I had a student with the most sever ADD I have ever seen.  I gave him his  tests after school; he talked his way through the problems while wandering about my room.  When I wanted to see work,  he would write for me on the white board.  A fairly unconventional way to assess but it worked for both of us.

So the grand plan for my life decided I needed a little closer look at this ADD thing.  My son’s first grade teacher asked if I had considered ADD; she was seeing lots of symptoms. ” No, no, he’s got autism, that’s what you are seeing.”  That would be just too much for me right now.  That teacher just doesn’t understand.

The lead doctor at TEACCH here in Asheville who had diagnosed my son for Autism came to observe him during class to help me with this.  Oh, they were all so gentle and kind but I could not listen.  It took over a year for me to be able to handle the idea of medication for his little body and yet another diagnosis.

An ADD diagnosis comes from a collaborative effort.  You need a doctor involved and you need feedback from lots of people involved with the child.  There are questionnaires and rubrics to fill out that the doctor will use to help with diagnosis.  I can only speak for my doctor – they are not handing out this diagnosis very easily around here!  Then comes the mix and match search for the correct medication.  We tried my son on Ritalin but it made him quite zombie like – throw that one out.  We went to Adderal and tried a couple different doses before there was one that worked.

When I look back, I really don’t know why I resisted so much.   My son only takes his medicine on school days or days like yesterday when he has to do all his social studies make-up work!  We also realized it helped when he was at his gymnastics competition – took a couple years for us to figure that one out.  He is pro-active now about making sure he takes it before school as he knows how hard school is without it.  I wish I could just tell him to man-up and focus but I feel it would be like telling someone who needs glasses to just look harder.

So I view all of this as making me a stronger parent and a better teacher.  Good luck out there – as I have said before this parenting thing is not for the faint of heart!

~ The Mildly Manic Mom

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica Ridgeway May 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

Love the post!! Love the comment about wanting to say “man-up”…you don’t know how many times I wanted to say that to Ron about his depression/OCD/Bipolar…Glad I’m not the only one who has had the thought!


nancy nix May 30, 2011 at 9:28 am

Wow, Cindy. Thanks for sharing this. What a good mom! The tricky thing is that many of these learning differences really go hand-in-hand. Does one cause the other? For instance, would his ADD not be a problem if the Asperger’s were not in the equation? We don’t really know. We just know that instead of working with one challenge, we are often dealing with multiple challenges.
We also know is that medication, while it doesn’t work for all children, really can make a positive difference in others. So glad you were able to find the right one for him. Helping him find his voice to advocate for himself is so empowering. Good for you!
Kudos for your ability to think outside the box on behalf of your students.
What I really wish many teachers could see is that for all of the struggles of these students, there are so many gifts and abilities that too often go unnoticed. Keep fighting the good fight.


Conor McClure July 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I’ve always had trouble forming a complete opinion on ADD and the like. My mom herself works with special needs kids at young ages, and even she admits that such disorders are often misdiagnosed, over diagnosed, and that the diagnosis itself is hardly very concrete itself – there is no standard scientific evidence to ‘prove’ the existence of ADD, only defined behavioral patterns that could easily be attributed to diet, social or family status, life problems, or simple psychological disposition. I met a few ‘people with ADD’ at college; two of them made me believe it, while most of the others seemed very much normal with the occasional trouble keeping the flow of conversation – you know, like a lot of us do sometimes! It’s so complicated!


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