It came as no surprise to me or Londo when we got the diagnosis that the Pumpkin has ADHD. There have been YEARS of high activity, constant motion and fidgeting, impulsiveness, inability to focus, inability to organize, forgetfulness of tasks and trouble keeping her attention on tasks. I had suspected it for a long, long time. I'm not saying all fidgety babies will have ADHD, but my daughter was fidgety and had other signs and does indeed have ADHD.
Not only at home have we seen these issues, but also in daycare and every year of school. In the daycares, the teachers would pulling me aside many times saying how the Pumpkin wouldn't sit down and participate in circle time. I remember thinking that not all kids can sit that long. But then I'd stay and observe, and she'd be the only one not sitting, moving around, finding other things to get into to the entire time the other kids sat in circle time. And then there were her issues with nap time. Nap time? What is that? Oh that time period when my daughter has to stay put for over an hour in a darkened room with nothing to do? Yeah, that generally did not go well.
In kindergarten at the Montessori school, I had to go in to meet with the teacher and the director to discuss the Pumpkin's behavior issues. She is spirited, I'd think, and high energy! Aren't there a lot of kids like this? Well, just like the fidgeting as a baby, some kids are just more high energy than others. And the Pumpkin is a lot more. The Pumpkin needed some special treatment (now I've learned the official word is "accommodations") to get her through the day. The teacher explained she did some research on the internet and found some things she was going to try. Ways to keep her on task, a place for her to take a break and calm down, things like that. She mentioned that she found these ideas on a site about kids with ADHD, but she was careful to add that she wasn't saying the Pumpkin had ADHD and that she wasn't suggesting a diagnosis. Just that they had some good ideas for the Pumpkin.
At the time, I was scared of those four letters. When I was growing up, those letters were just starting to be used, and they meant something was wrong with that kid! I didn't understand what it really meant, and I was scared that my child had something wrong and would be labeled.
We got through kindergarten, and the teacher was great working with the Pumpkin. But now I was also starting to research tips for dealing with high-energy kids, which led me to websites about ADHD. I started reading and learning about it. My eyes were opening, and I was starting to understand what ADHD really means and how my daughter had all the symptoms. Londo still wasn't ready to label her with anything, and I agreed. But boy, those sites helped me understand that she wasn't trying to be difficult or make things harder than they needed to be--her brain works differently from mine and others. For many things, she needs help and guidance, not parents getting mad and yelling.
A few weeks into 1st grade, I got an email from the Pumpkin's teacher asking me to come in and talk about some issues she was having. When I sat down with the 1st grade teacher, she explained to me that the Pumpkin was having issues sitting for long periods, focusing on her work, being easily distracted. As every teacher (or even every adult!) who has had the Pumpkin would say, she is very smart! But... she sure did have a lot of energy! And she wasn't finishing her work. She was distracting other kids. Etc., etc., etc. I explained that I was pretty sure she had ADHD, but that we were not ready to get it diagnosed. The teacher was understanding, and we discussed things she could do in the classroom to help the Pumpkin stay focused and get her work done. She was a fabulous teacher, and we worked with her throughout the year to make sure the Pumpkin had a good year.
And 2nd grade, pretty much repeat the paragraph above... email a few weeks in... meeting with teacher... not ready for a diagnosis... I let the 2nd grade teacher know what seemed to work and not work or stopped working for the Pumpkin in 1st grade. At the parent-teacher conference in November, the report was overall good, but she was still having some problems with focusing and finishing her work. Londo and I talked with the teacher about whether or not these issues were interfering with her learning. She said not at that time. But as the year progressed, the Pumpkin was finishing less and less work in class. She would bring it home, and we'd make her finish the school work with her homework. It was excruciating!
In late spring of her 2nd grade year, the teacher emailed again, saying that the issues were now interfering with her learning. The teacher and we parents tried different incentives, but it was still a struggle for her. Londo and I final agreed that it was time to get her diagnosed.
I remember the day I had my eureka moment about myself, when I realized I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. My entire life felt like it made sense. Just having a name for what had been going on for YEARS made me feel better. I was able to look it up and find ways to deal with it.
I wanted that for the Pumpkin.
I met with our pediatrician, basically saying "You know how we have all suspected she has ADHD? We'd like it official now." The pediatrician, who has been the Pumpkin's pediatrician literally since birth, nodded knowingly and gave me names of people who do evaluations.
That spring into summer, we set up all the appointments for the in-depth evaluations. Her 2nd grade teacher, Londo and I filled in numerous questionnaires about the Pumpkin. She went into the appointments and was tested for ADHD, learning disabilities, IQ, and some other things.
Near the end of the summer, Londo and I met with the woman who conducted the evaluations. She reviewed the final report with us. There was nothing surprising in it to Londo and myself. The Pumpkin is extremely smart, very creative and interesting, and great at verbally communicating. There was no doubt at all that she has ADHD. She did not have any learning disabilities. And she also has a diagnosis for general anxiety. Yes, yes, yes and yes. Londo and I just nodded and looked at each other knowingly.
It helped to have the official diagnosis going into 3rd grade. Our school is really fantastic about how they handle different types of kids and all of their needs. We put in place a 504 plan, which documents the accommodations the Pumpkin needs in order to function in class at the same level as her peers. Having the diagnosis and the 504 plan in place means that what she needs is recorded in official documents so that every year each new teacher will know what she needs. The email from a new teacher a few weeks into a school year won't be needed, because we already have information on record and I will reach out to the teachers ahead of time letting know the teachers know about the diagnosis, that she has the 504 plan and that we will support anything the teacher needs.
Now, a year after starting her evaluation, Londo and I are both very knowledgeable about ADHD. Her brain works differently than (most of) her classmates, and that's okay. As we've talked about with her, there are lots of amazing people in the world who have ADHD (her favorite example I gave was Iron Man, because come on! Tony Stark definitely has ADHD!). Having the letters makes no difference in who she is as a person nor her behavior. She is going to be herself, and we love her for it.
This kid has amazing energy and is interesting and is fun and funny and has so many wonderful qualities. She is still very fidgety, but that is just part of the awesome package that is my vivacious, interesting and awesome daughter. This child is going places in life, and we'll help support her getting there.