Is it ADHD?
Suspecting your child may have ADD/ADHD is scary. Having someone else tell you they suspect it can be horrifying. If you don't have personal experience with it or experience as a parent, the first time will probably bring lots of tears and frustrations. And questions, lots and lots of questions! In light of recent events on Facebook, I'd like to be clear about one thing…I KNOW ADD/ADHD is real. If you do not think it exists because someone you know was thought to have it and treatment didn't work then the situation you are thinking about was probably a misdiagnosis. Just because one person is misdiagnosed that does not mean that it does not exist. It is also not a one size fits all treatment. Just like not all 10-year-olds wear a size 7 shoe, not all people with ADD/ADHD respond the same to the same treatment. Please be kind to others and remember that you do not have to have to same experience or agree on everything to treat others with respect!
Honestly, there are other things that could look like ADD/ADHD that aren't. I don't think anyone should just assume that it the reason behind the behaviors you are seeing without a thorough evaluation. This is not always easy to get and can often take months of being on a waiting list for an appointment to see a qualified professional. There are some important things to rule out as well. Here are some of the things we went through to rule out possible other causes and treatments we tried (or are still using) before we got a diagnosis for my son. Some things might not work the first time around and you may need to revisit things like counseling or medication as your child grows and matures.
Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder. Personally, I do not like the “disorder” part of that, because I think we all have sensory “quirks”, it's just that for some of us there are more triggers or they are more extreme and stand in the way of our daily life. I knew my son had some sensory concerns from day 3. How?, you ask…He ROLLED OVER several times the day we brought him home from the hospital. I have it on video because I knew people would think I was hallucinating from lack of sleep or something. Instead of being amazed I was very concerned! I knew that this was not normal! I had my pediatrician check his range of motion and muscle tension at our next visit. He assured me he was fine. He could also stand that day, he was “so strong” that he could stand up and keep his head in line with his body, all we had to do was hold his hands for balance. Again, I knew that this was not a “Wow! My baby is amazing!” moment. I realized that he liked that tight muscle tension. He also did not like to curl up like most infants, he wanted his legs straight! He slept like a “T” for the longest time. We worked on keeping him flexible and I moved him around in typical physical therapy type positions all the time to be sure he did not get too tight. I was so worried about torticollis and flat head syndrome I probably drove my pediatrician a bit crazy with my questions and request for checks and head measurements! Luckily my son developed his gross motor skills on a typical schedule. I did not push sitting up or walking early. We did lots of tummy time and I wanted him to crawl as long as possible! (In another post we will go over the benefits of crawling!) As he got older we noticed other sensory concerns. He struggled to tolerate messy hands, blue jeans or people touching him. We worked on a lot of this for a few years on our own,(I'm an early intervention specialist and was able to consult with Occupational Therapist). We got to the point that he no longer really wanted to work with me on some things so we had an evaluation and started OT. (I plan to have a future post about SPD, but for now, you can read this book to help you understand more about it.)
Allergies/Breathing Problems/Sleep Issues
Allergies. Allergies can cause difficult behavior and meltdown. Please look into allergies as a possible cause of the difficulties your child faces. We did the first round of allergy testing. It was very traumatic for my son, but nothing showed up. Several years later we went to a holistic practitioner that uses NAET (Click here for more info). We are still in the midst of treatment so I cannot judge exactly how much this is affecting his behavior as he reacts to so many food and environmental triggers.
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids. We did not have this issue but I have seen it as a cause for so many kids to have challenging behavior and even developmental delays. Does your child snore? Is he/she a “mouth-breather”? Do they experience sleep apnea? If ANY of these are true for your child, please, consult an ENT and request a sleep study. A child that is not breathing well at night is not sleeping well. A chronically sleep deprived child will have difficult behavior.
PANS/PANDAS This is lesser known and you may have a hard time finding a doctor to test or treat for it. It is a condition triggered by strep. If you child has had a strep infection and suddenly seems different look into this. I have a friend with more than 1 child being treated for this and it comes up often on parenting pages on Facebook.
Learning disabilities/vision concerns. I put those together because often vision issues can be confused with learning disabilities. If your child is school-aged they can do screenings or testing for various concerns. Put your request in writing and educate yourself about your rights. Go to this site for more information about laws that apply. Sometimes vision concerns can look like ADD/ADHD. Not every optometrist can always detect all vision issues, but to find one near you Click Here.
Getting an accurate diagnosis
After looking into all of these issues we sought out a Pediatric Neuropsychologist for a full evaluation to determine if we were dealing with ADHD. We continue to seek out therapists and counselors when. necessary. I have become well versed in how to parent a child with ADHD. There were, and still are, many times we have to go back to the drawing board to tweak our plan, but the best place we have found for support and information has been this site http://www.livesinthebalance.org There is a wealth of FREE information on this site and information on how to continue to receive support.
We continue to learn more about ADD/ADHD, SPD, and Anxiety and how it affects my son and how we can help him learn how to use his gifts to reach his full potential. ADD/ADHD does not have to be a negative thing. It just means you have to take a different path. It can feel lonely and you will be judged by others. You will learn and then you might regret choices you made in the past. Please remember that we all do the best we can with what we know. You cannot go back with your current knowledge and change things, but it's never too late to make the future better.