ADHD is a neuropsychological disorder that affects apx. 5% of the world’s children. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain that effects my child.
I first learned about ADHD at 12 years old when my younger brother was diagnosed, he was 5 years old. Fast forward about 10 years and I’m raising a child with ADHD. It has been a struggle, but has gotten easier with education about this condition.
Let’s start by explaining what ADHD is and then I will tell my story. ADHD is categorized as a disorder that has 3 types. 1. Hyperactive 2. Inattentive 3.Combined. #3 is the most common and also the type that my son displays. It is a mix of Hyperactive (self-explanatory) and inattentive (also self-explanatory). Which means the child is hyper AND cant concentrate.
ADHD is caused by a brain that does not have enough dopamine (specific neurotransmitter for the reward, motor and attention pathways). These pathways (known as neurocircuits) connect to many parts of the brain. The parts of the brain that are connected by the circuits are effected. This results in hyperactivity, no/low concentration, lower social skills, emotional outbursts as well as trouble with healthy emotions. Each child/person can display a different manifestation of the disorder, which means everyone is different.
Anyways, I knew my first son had ADHD long before he was diagnosed. Around 3/4 years old, I could tell because he NEVER stopped going. He was the type that NEVER took a nap, and I mean NEVER. I didn’t see this as irregular until I had another child. (who is now 8 and still takes naps). At that time though I only knew about the outward symptoms, because I watched my brother and My son was definitely hyper like his uncle.
In preschool Tayvien got in lots of trouble, I was always in the “principals” office and he even go suspended from PRESCHOOL. That was a hard time in my life, as I had separated from their father and was doing it alone, but I figured it was hard for him too so ADHD never came up while I was in the “principals” office. I’m thankful for the women in that office because they let me cry to them and gave my son extra support.
Kindergarten, is when he was officially diagnosed with ADHD and I learned tips to give future teachers to help him succeed in the classroom. By this time I has also started college as a psychology major and started to study ADHD. I decided NO MEDICATION. I was going to do it without medication. This was implanted in my mind because I watched my brother look like a zombie everyday of his life from 5-18 years old and I told myself that WOULD NOT BE MY SON. Kindergarten was a good year thanks to 2 exceptional teachers, who understood my decision and would let him have breaks, when he needed to move, or forgive him for his emotional outburst and not publicly punish him instead choosing to talk to him to calm him down.
1st grade was rough. He switched schools because we moved during the summer, and he had no friends. Making friends and getting along with people is Tayvien’s hardest part of ADHD. He can be loud and bossy but love people so much. It is really sad to see your kid want to have/be friends but can’t. It’s heart breaking. I had his doctor (which is amazing) send a referral to a mental health service so I could get him a counselor to help with peer and emotional skills. The place was TERRIBLE, they demanded that he be put on medication and made me feel guilty for not wanting that for MY son. We never went back. His 1st grade teacher was awful too, (I’m sure she’s a great teacher, but should definitely be teaching an older grade – in my opinion of course- and yes I know teachers aren’t perfect- I have teacher friends) Every SINGLE day he was sent home on RED and every SINGLE DAY there was a note in his planner. Tayvien couldn’t be still today. Tayvien couldn’t be quiet today. Both the boys went to after school care also, where Tay also got in trouble everyday.I was so TIRED! I was driving myself crazy and I felt like all I did was discipline him. I was so glad when school let out for that summer.
2nd grade started decent. In college I started to study ADHD HEAVILY, it was used for any project I could use it for. I’ve wrote probably 7 papers on it in my college career. I started to put the pieces together of what exactly was going on inside his brain because I wanted to understand what made Tay, Tay. By the end of 2nd grade he had been suspended 2x for fighting and screaming. At this point I was stronger and smarter as a parent and a person. I went to the school and had many talks with the principal, counselor and teacher. I had never treated his ADHD as a handicap and it was NEVER a negative thing. AND I used classical and operant conditioning techniques like I has learned about in class BUT.. it was still impacting his school experience.
That’s when one day it just hit me. His brain does NOT make enough dopamine, if I give him a low dose maybe it will help to balance it out.
There are two types of medication given to ADHD suffers, stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvance, ect) and non stimulants (Intun-iv, clonidine ect). Stimulants make the brain produce MORE dopamine, but it is very important to find an individual balance because you don’t want too much or too little. Non-stimulants are usually used WITH a stimulant to help with other issues such as insomnia and anxiety.
Two weeks before 3rd grade started I cried to his pediatrician (I told you he is great) and told him that I was conflicted because I always said I would never put him on medication but after educating myself on this disorder thought It would be beneficial to him. The doctor listed and then told me that I made the appointment for a reason and I knew what the right answer was in my heart. We discussed medications and he knew I wanted a very low dose, so he gave me the lowest possible mg he could in a stimulant. We started the medication but it had some side effects, mood swings and increased insomnia. 3rd grade is when the schools (here in NC) start grade testing, on his first benchmark he only answered 3 questions. ONLY 3 QUESTIONS! Then came more suspensions. This medication isn’t what I thought it would be, it’s supposed to be helping not making things worse.
I start with more research, this time in a neuropsychology class where we study nueropharmacology(brain drugs) in depth. Of course I research ADHD drugs and the impact on the brain and body. I learned that the medicine Tay was taking was not extended release so once it wore off in 3 hours his dopamine levels would Fall again. Making his symptoms worse because the body was trying make up for the drop in dopamine but simply could NOT produce it. So his brain has been working overtime, and that caused the mood swings (which were the worst).
I went back to the pediatrician and told him what I learned and what was going on at school and at home (he was averaging MAYBE 4 hours of sleep per night). That day we got 2 new prescriptions, that I requested. Another stimulant that is extended release so that his levels will stay balance and an anxiety medication to take at night to help with sleep and emotions. WE HAVE BEEN ON THESE MEDICATION EVER SINCE.
My last semester in undergrad I did another project on ADHD and did a voice over power point and Tayvien helped me. He knows the anatomy of his brain and he knows what scientifically causes his symptoms. He also knows the medication helps him, he tells me that he likes to be able to read now (which is one of his fave things to do now that he can concentrate). He likes being in control of himself and being able to ignore things that are going on around him. But please know ADHD is not a disability, it is in fact one of his super powers and I have NEVER made him feel inferior or bad because of something that he can’t control.
ADHD has positive attributes like problem solving, creativity, imagination, compassion, very good memory, resilience, and helpfulness. I always remember to praise him when needed and I have found that he responds better to praise than punishment. It has been a long road to get where we are, but he made a 4 (scale of 1-5, 5 is highest) on his EOG! That is super big news considering he only answered 3 questions in the beginning of the year. We has also implemented a 504 plan for testing this is year at school, so that he can take a small break during the test and write in the test book.
This year we also had a wonderful teacher, who was just as much involved as me. This teacher also has a daughter with ADHD and understood what we both were going through and her understanding made ALL the difference for my son and I both. So thank you Tay’s 3rd grade teacher.
This is super long, and I’m sorry but I know others feel the same was I used to about using medication. As I became more educated on ADHD I realized that doing nothing was just doing nothing. My son is thriving on medication and is the best version of himself and he is happy. This is just our story but if you have any questions or just want to vent about ADHD. I’m here, leave a comment or send me an email. It’s hard being a mom, you never know what you’re going to face.