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
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