I’ve talked a lot about Reagan and her personality. How she’s quirky, funny, random, creative, laid-back, energetic, caring, imaginative, very smart, and very intuitive. Some other qualities Reagan has that I may not have talked about include her tendency to be like a “ping-pong-ball” all over the place, she talks non-stop, and her mind is always working even when her mouth is not. She talks herself to sleep, she has trouble following a simple to-do list to clean her room, she is disorganized, gets sidetracked, and she is forgetful. I am sure the reason I don’t talk about those things is because for most people they’re perceived as faults. To me, they are just part of who Reagan is, and I love her the way she is.
However, Reagan has started to notice that some of her quirks and habits are causing her problems. Getting sidetracked at home prevents her from finishing her chores, so she gets in trouble. Being unorganized at school causes her to often misplace or lose schoolwork. Reagan does a really good job of controlling herself at school, and she gets great grades. The downside of how well she controls herself at school is that she kind of loses it when she gets home – like a spring being released.
Over the past month or so, we have been taking some actions to try to get her some help. We (her dad, Scott; her teacher, Mrs. Rysdam; and me) each filled out a survey about her behaviors, and then the school psychologist reviewed and analyzed the results. From there, we took the results to a psychiatrist in Tri-Cities, and we received a diagnosis.
The diagnosis is pretty much what I expected, but I was really nervous about it. I’m also willing to bet that anyone who knows us and Reagan is probably not surprised by this diagnosis. I come from the generation that believed the stigma that ADHD is “bad”, and kids with ADHD are out of control and they end up being the black sheep of classrooms. That is definitely not the case with Reagan. She fits in very well and does not have any of the social issues associated with the stigma.
I also educated myself and did a lot of research about the disorder for two reasons – so I can understand it better and so I am better prepared to help her.
Another thing I did after I gained as much knowledge about ADHD as I could was to research ADHD Myths and their counter arguments. The following is pretty long and clinical, but I think it’s important to post it.
Myth #1: Only kids who are hyper have ADHD. Reagan is the Second Type
While hyperactivity is the most common symptom of ADHD, it is possible for a child to be suffering from the disorder without being hyperactive. ADHD actually has three subtypes:
- A predominantly inattentive subtype: Signs include becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds; failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes; rarely following instructions carefully and completely; losing or forgetting things like toys, pencils, books, and tools needed for a task.
- A predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype: Signs include feeling restless, fidgeting and squirming; running, climbing, leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected; blurting out answers before hearing the entire question; and having difficulty waiting in line or for a turn.
- A combined subtype, which is the most common of the three.
Children who fit into only the first subtype may be suffering from ADHD without showing signs of hyperactivity.
Myth #2: Children can outgrow ADHD.
If left untreated, ADHD continues into adulthood. However, by developing their strengths, structuring their environments, and using medication when needed, children with ADHD can grow up to be adults leading very productive lives. In some careers, having a high-energy behavior pattern can be an asset.
Myth #3: Children on ADHD medications are more likely to take drugs as teenagers.
While it’s true that people with ADHD are naturally impulsive and more likely to take risks, those patients taking stimulants for this disorder are actually at lower risk of using other drugs. Children and teenagers who have ADHD and also have coexisting conditions may be at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, regardless of the medication used.
Myth #4: Ritalin “cures” ADHD.
Ritalin, a psychostimulant medication, is one of the most common forms of treatment for ADHD. It’s been shown to help children focus and be less hyperactive. But in order to be most effective, it must be part of a larger treatment plan that may include academic help for the child and behavior-modification treatment.
Myth #5: Kids with ADHD are just poorly disciplined.
ADHD is a condition of the brain that makes it difficult for children to control their behavior. While researchers have been unable to find the exact cause of ADHD, they have discovered a distinct change in brain size and activity in children with ADHD. Because these children have difficulty controlling their behavior, they may be labeled “bad kids.” This is far from the truth.
Myth #6: Children on Ritalin will never grow to full size.
Ritalin may have an effect on some children’s growth. But recent studies have revealed that any effect on height is only temporary. Even children who are still taking the medicine throughout adolescence ultimately do achieve their normal height.
Myth #7: ADHD can be treated through herbs and vitamins.
You may have heard media reports or seen advertisements for “miracle cures” for ADHD. However, those methods have not been proven to work in scientific studies.
Myth #8: ADHD is a result of a child eating too much sugar.
Research doesn’t support the theory that sugar can cause ADHD. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that sugar intake can affect the size of parts of a child’s brain, as is seen in patients with ADHD.
Myth #9: ADHD isn’t associated with any other conditions.
The majority of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have at least one coexisting condition. The most common conditions are:
- Conduct disorder: Up to 35 percent of children with ADHD also have oppositional conduct disorder. Children with this condition tend to lose their temper easily and are defiant and hostile toward authority figures. Studies show that this type of coexisting condition is most common among children with the primarily hyperactive/impulsive and combination types of ADHD.
- Mood disorders: About 18 percent of children with ADHD also have mood disorders, more frequently among children with inattentive and combined types of ADHD. Children with mood disorders or depression often require a different type of medication than those normally used.
- Anxiety disorders: These affect about 25 percent of children with ADHD. Children with anxiety disorders have difficulty functioning because of extreme feelings of fear, worry, or panic, and may frequently suffer from a racing pulse, sweating, diarrhea, and nausea. Counseling and/or medication may be needed to treat these coexisting conditions.
- Learning disabilities: Learning disabilities make it difficult for a child to master specific skills, such as reading or math. ADHD is not a learning disability in itself, but it’s a common adjunct to learning disabilities. These two conditions together can make it very difficult for a child to do well in school.
Luckily, Reagan does not have any of the above coexisting conditions.
Myth #10: Kids with ADHD won’t amount to anything.
Many famous artists, scientists, and politicians had ADHD as children. Here’s a list of some well-known celebrities with ADHD:
- Ansel Adams
- Benjamin Franklin
- Robert Frost
- Zsa Zsa Gabor
- Bill Gates
- John F. Kennedy
- Abraham Lincoln
- Jack Nicholson
- Robin Williams
- Frank Lloyd Wright
Sources: American Medical Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; Kitty Petty ADD/LD Institute
I know I have a lot to learn about ADHD, and I will continue to learn and help Reagan. For now, I am just very happy she has relief and will feel better knowing why she does some of the things she does. The best part of her appointment today was that her doctor told her, “Your brain is normal and smart, it just has different wiring than other kids’ brains, so it works differently.” I love that she was emphasizing to Reagan that this did not diminish her as a person or student at all.
Reagan’s medication is quick acting, and is not long-lasting – meaning as soon as her body metabolizes it, it is gone from her system. She will take one before school for the school day, and one again – only if needed – when she gets home from school.