Thursday, March 13, 2014

It’s not “just” ADHD


When I started this blog it was a place for me to share what’s going on in our lives. Fun family activities, changes we are making to personalize our home, etc. As of late, I have been pretty quiet. For several reasons, really. Partially because our lives have been pretty busy, despite our attempts to simplify. We really haven’t been working on home improvement projects, or taking off on lots of family adventures. We have mostly just been spending as much quiet time at home as a family as we can and focusing on Anthony.

I have been debating whether or not to write about this for a long time, since I really don’t feel like it’s totally my story to tell. However, after what we have learned this past year, I decided I should definitely use my blog as a platform to share with, and educate, our family and friends.

Around this time last year, Anthony was diagnosed with ADHD. Now, if I’m totally honest, I really didn’t see it coming. Which I have to admit is pretty embarrassing, considering I have worked in the field of special education for 12+ years, and have had a variety of experiences working with children with ADHD.

Pre-diagnosis, Anthony had been demonstrating some pretty challenging behaviors, and with my experience in special education, we were able to try lots of different strategies to support his behavior at home. For the most part, the attempts were unsuccessful. School was experiencing challenges too, but had not suggested the idea of ADHD to us. We began working regularly with a Child Psychologist and one day she said, “Have you thought about attention?” and my immediate response was no, definitely no concerns about attention. He can focus on all kinds of things - Like reading! The boy can read like no other. Then a few weeks later, when meeting with another specialist, she said, “What about attention?” Again, my thought was no, absolutely not. It couldn’t be, right?

Well, immediately after that appointment, I took Anthony to a nearby pizza place for lunch. We sat near the window and during that meal, something just clicked. I realized that Anthony couldn’t sit in his chair to eat his pizza. He was on his knees, half laying on the table, climbing in the window sill, standing on the floor, etc. He was all over the place! This particular pizza place also has a few TV’s up in the corners near the ceiling, and when Anthony pointed at a big picture hanging on the wall, in the middle of all of the activity of falling off his chair, and asked, “What’s wrong with that TV?”, I just knew. It was attention. Once it clicked, I could see it in every single routine at home. Getting ready to go somewhere, mealtimes, getting ready for bed, etc. It was so incredibly obvious - I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed it before.

My initial response to the diagnosis was “Whew!” at least we know what’s going on so now we know what to do. Unfortunately, it really hasn’t been quite that simple. We have experienced lots of highs and lows over the last year, but I'll save all that for another day.

As an educator, I (unfortunately) had the perspective of “It’s just ADHD”. I knew what ADHD looked like in a classroom. I knew that with appropriate accommodations and support, children with ADHD can be extremely successful in school. I have worked with many students with significant inattention, or hyperactivity, and sometimes both. What I didn’t understand, was really how ADHD could impact a child (and family!) at home. It’s truly life altering. I really didn't understand how the behavior component was so intertwined.

As an educator, I also knew that strategies found to be effective for behavior are often short-lived. What works beautifully today, may not work tomorrow. You always have to be a step ahead of the game. This has definitely been true for Anthony. He has been keeping the school staff and us at home on our toes.

I found this graphic a few months ago, and while it doesn’t perfectly describe Anthony, it does give a pretty easy to read snapshot of what ADHD looks like. You’ll notice the graphic suggests 2 types of ADHD, however there is a 3rd type – combined inattention and hyperactivity which is a blend of both sides of the graphic. Anthony has been diagnosed with ADHD - combined type. Anyone who knows him, could look down and pick out character traits from both sides of this graphic that apply perfectly to him. I especially love the strengths!

An Inside Look At ADHD Infographic
If I have learned anything in the last year, it’s definitely that ADHD is not “just” ADHD. It is so much more.

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