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When you think your child has ADD, where do you start?

Posted June 9

Jessica McCabe, who runs a Facebook site called How to ADHD, shared a Mother’s Day post thanking her mother for helping her. (Deseret Photo)

People toss around the terms ADD and ADHD so casually these days that they’ve almost become less of a medical diagnosis for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and more of a throw-away word to describe any kid who can’t focus or has endless energy.

But for parents who deal with the actual diagnosis and the therapy appointments and medicines that go with it, these disorders are so much more than the flippant terms bandied about by parents who have never had to face ADD or ADHD head on.

As of yet, I am one of these parents. I have not had a child diagnosed, although I have had my concerns about whether we might have a child who could benefit from visiting a counselor about distraction, forgetfulness and disorganization.

And for all my pro-medicine stance on things like depression and anxiety, I find myself nervous to walk down a path that may lead to an “official diagnosis” or a prescription. I hate to admit it, but I’m hiding my head in the sand hoping the problem will resolve. Hoping that some organization skills, checklists and a day planner may nip this thing in the bud.

Maybe it will.

But maybe it won’t. And if that’s the case, I’m honestly scared of what comes next.

I’ve watched friends struggle with children with ADHD. They’ve dealt with medicines that made their children severely depressed and even suicidal. They’ve dealt with teachers who think the disorder is a sham, and other teachers who blame every single misbehavior on “the diagnosis.”

I worry about medicine changing my daughter or curtailing her creativity. I worry she’ll think there is something wrong with her. I worry she’ll use her diagnosis as a crutch or an excuse, and others will use it as a label.

Clearly, I worry a lot. Now you see the genius of my whole head-in-sand thing.

But a Mother’s Day post by Jessica McCabe, who runs a Facebook site called How to ADHD, made me think that maybe it’s time to face the facts. At the least, maybe it’s time to try to understand if my child’s brain works a little differently — and even more important, maybe it’s time she understands it herself.

McCabe writes: “What I want to say to my mom, who 'drugged' me":

"Thank you. Thank you for listening when I told you I was struggling. Thank you for standing up for me when my dad tried to dismiss what I was dealing with as 'normal.' …

"Thank you for taking me to get a proper evaluation so I understand my brain's differences and don't feel like it's just all my fault. Thank you for taking me to a psychiatrist, month after month, to get a new prescription. …

"Thank you for ignoring the people who judged you. I know there were many.

"Thank you for understanding that there was a difference between my sister occasionally forgetting her homework and me losing or forgetting something almost every day. Thank you for understanding that while all children can be fidgety or impulsive or get distracted, I struggled way more than the other kids my age. …

"Because of you, I got the treatment I needed, I did better in school, I felt more confident and able to reach my potential. Because of you, I never had to self medicate like so many ADHDers I know. I never sank into depression. I never gave up on myself. I never felt misunderstood. You understood. You believed me. And when you did, when you took me to a doctor who could explain to me what was happening in my brain, you took away so much shame.”

Her words rang true to me. I’ve watched extended family members with ADD who say understanding their unique brain made them feel so much more at peace with themselves. Their diagnosis made them less critical of themselves, and medicine made them not have to work twice as hard as everyone else and still come up short.

The last thing I want is to ignore something because I want it to go away. My head in the sand saves no one but me, while my daughter silently suffers because I’m not brave enough to speak up for her. I see the signs. I feel that blasted mother’s intuition knocking on my door.

It’s probably time to open it up and see what’s on the other side.

Have your dealt with ADD/ADHD in your family? How did you know when and where to start?

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her and her newborn son wins hearts with his dimples.

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