Sunday, March 10, 2019

ADHD (Sub-title: Parenting is Hard, Y'all)

The funny thing about being the mom of an only child is that for every new challenge that comes along, I'm technically still a first-time mom - even though my child is a teenager. While my daughter does have biological half-siblings (through her birthmom), she is my only child. I can't compare her behavior/illnesses/whatever to my other children, because they do not exist. This sometimes leaves me wondering if I'm making the right call when decisions must be made (and my husband, as you might guess, is not a decision maker).

If you had asked me a decade ago, I might have been one of those people who said, "Geez, kids are over-medicated. Just let them be kids." Now I've been forced to re-think my uninformed stance. My child has been diagnosed with ADHD - Inattentive Type.

Since my daughter started school back in 2009, I've made jokes about how she talks too much. I've heard words like chatty, distracted, talkative, etc. from teachers at every parent-teacher conference I've ever attended. I think it was her second grade teacher who said, "She can't walk across the room without stopping to entertain every table."

I love the fact that my daughter is friendly and extroverted. People tend to like her and to enjoy being with her. My dad once said, "She makes me feel like I'm special." I think that's her superpower - making everyone around her feel special in some way. I wouldn't want her to be any other way.

The other side of the coin, alas, is that she struggles to focus and is profoundly disorganized. It was a problem in elementary school (unfinished assignments, lost assignments, etc.) but her grades were always fine. At times I wondered if she was getting by on pure cuteness (I mean, I am biased but she is pretty cute). However, I'm sure her teachers could see that she understood the material and may have let some of the homework slide. I've been hearing about her intelligence all along, too - even if she doesn't turn in the homework, she is 100% capable of understanding the content. She tends to do pretty well on tests.

Middle school has been a challenge, and that's an understatement. Cuteness gets her nowhere and teachers care a lot more about missing assignments. Sometimes, she has done the assignment but it's crumpled at the bottom of her backpack. She is constantly behind. She has had an F in some of her core classes at various times this year. Her dad and I feel like we have no choice but to harangue her about her homework every night. We resort to taking away her phone, iPad, etc. Tears are shed. We started to wonder . . . were we fussing at her for something she truly couldn't help? Then we started thinking about high school. She'll be a freshman in September. Her GPA will start to matter a lot more. Our daughter plans to study music in college. We've told her over and over again that even if she studies music, she'll still have to take the core classes like math and science.

If I'm being honest, I actually think homework is a bit of  a crock. (Apologies to my teacher friends!) I understand that it's meant to enforce lessons learned during class but I feel like it's just a time-suck with no real payoff. Nonetheless, I tell my daughter that she has to play the game and Get. It. Done. We do our best to help her. We remind her constantly. We don't make her do chores or anything that would interfere with homework time. We buy her the tools she needs (a new desk, post-it notes, etc.) But still, she has struggled. She truly cannot focus on this stuff.

I called her neurologist's office to see if any of the symptoms are related to her epilepsy (and meds for that condition). They told me that the symptoms I described are not really on the list of side effects. Plus, I can testify to the fact that the focus issue was present before the epilepsy meds came into play.

Next, I called her pediatrician's office. I had started to think, "Maybe life doesn't have to be THIS hard?" It's not like we enjoy riding our daughter about her homework day after day. They sent us a packet of forms. It's called the Vanderbilt Assessment, which provides a scoring system to determine if a child is exhibiting ADHD symptoms. Her dad and I filled out the form (separately) and the rest went to A's teachers. Her pediatrician compiled the responses and called us in for a meeting. Yes, it's clear that she has it. I should also add that I spoke to A's birthmom and two of her sons have ADHD and are on meds for it. The third son tested borderline and is not on meds (as far as I know). So, with the family history, it's not too much of a surprise. I should add that she doesn't really have the H (hyperactivity) but I guess the same acronym is used regardless. She has the "Inattentive" type. Here's an example: a few weeks ago she brushed her teeth and then went to bed with the water still running. Not trickling, mind you - full-on running. She can remember the lyrics to a thousand songs but not to turn the water off after brushing her teeth. I think one reason we waited so long to look into it is that her dad and I don't really know what's normal teenage-girl-who-thinks-about-boys-a-lot stuff and what constitutes an actual problem. Once it became clear that her future may well be affected by her inability to focus, we started to see it differently.

Dr. T gave us a list of medications that can be used to treat ADHD. We're checking with our insurance to see how much each one will cost so that we can decide which one to try. From there, we just see how it goes. At this point, I'm feeling like . . . if there is a tool that can help my child, I owe it to her to look into it, at least.

Last weekend, A competed at the district-level Solo & Ensemble Festival. She performed in a solo (Class A), a duet (Class A), and a madrigal. She is moving on to state for the solo and duet! (the madrigal was a less complex Class B song that was therefore ineligible for state - however, the judge said it was the best thing she'd heard all morning). I am so proud of my girl. She is so talented, if I do say so myself.  I firmly believe that she will go far in life. She may just need someone to pay her water bill while she does so.