In Part I of this article we looked at the need for parents, teachers and physicians to seriously consider our quick diagnosis of children who seem to have behavioral problems. While there are medical reasons that many suffer with ADHD there are also many who are labeled simply to justify wrong behavior or parenting that lacks true discipline and character training. My writing comes from much experience and from a desire to share what I have learned and am continuing to learn along the way.
To reference my experience I will share with you that I grew up before there was the label ADHD. I had a very difficult time personally focusing on reading material and could not understand why the struggle was so huge for me and others had no problem. It was also noticed that my personality was such that I flitted from one subject to another in conversation, chores, etc. Not being able to handle being cooped up inside a house all day I would trade chores with my older brothers so that I could work outside, even though their work was harder and took much longer to accomplish! Not until I married and had children did I even consider that I may have an attention deficit. During these same growing up years I had an older brother who was always getting into trouble. In school he was never still, in church he was constantly pinched because the pew would shake with his constant movements. He was always full of energy, ideas and noise! I realize today that had we had the terminology of today back then we would have both been labeled. (He, ADHD – myself probably just ADD)
When I married, you guessed it! I married a very ADHD gentleman! When we had children I had no idea that our chances of having very hyperactive, attention challenged children was huge. When our second son was only 2 months old I lost my precious husband in an automobile accident. He was killed while driving out of our driveway. Years of going over the incident and how it happened have led us to conclude that in one of his impulsive moments he decided to put the truck in 4-wheel drive and see what it would do. He lost his life in that impulsive moment when the truck flipped, throwing him out of the window and under the rolling truck. You can imagine all of the emotions that flooded through my life during this time period. While I was so angry that this energy and impulsiveness had cost my husband his life, I realized at the same time that it was a part of him that we all loved so well.
As our son began to grow and the hyperactivity was so obvious I found myself as a single parent facing daily struggles. This son at the age of 3, tied a rope around his neck and to a tree and jumped. (to see what would happen!) I happened to see this happening and reached him just in time to grab him so that the rope only left a burn on his neck. When he was 4 he jumped on a nail to see if it would go through his tennis shoe. This same child climbed on the roof of our home, jumping off to see if he could fly. These types of incidents would happen weekly, while the running in circles in the middle of the room until he passed out, the constant noise making and the incessant chatter were just a normal part of daily life. When my son was 4 and we were just beginning to get involved in a new church I experienced my first encounter with another parent concerning my son’s activity level. I had left my 2 boys sitting near the front of the church while I participated in the music program for the service. While standing on the platform singing a solo I looked down to see just the legs and feet of my son doing a dance over the pew. It was all I could do to finish my song and get to him as quickly as possible.
Most of the 700+ members of the congregation were very gracious about the incident. One lady however who happened to also be a school teacher approached me that evening. She had printed off pages and pages of information on ADHD for me to read. She then spent the next hour or so explaining to me why my child needed to be medicated and how he would never make it in the world without medication. The next several years were spent in consulting doctors, testing and evaluating what I thought would be the best route to take with my son. Today, my son is 20 years old, has never been on medication and though we were told during the first testings and evaluations that he would never be able to learn to read, he is now in college on academic scholarships.
Today, as the mother of 9, this one with severe ADHD and several others with all the qualifications to receive the label, I am burdened about the quick fix route that many take with medication and I am advocating a different approach. I took a chance with my son, going against much advice, but the risks of medications and the questions concerning his ability to function as an adult with ADHD led me to choose the path we chose. It was very important to me that when he reached adulthood he would have the personal discipline to control his impulses. (something that would have possibly saved my husband’s life.) In the coming articles on this subject I will share with you the details of our approach. Medication may be the only choice for some, and I am no medical doctor. Your choices may differ from mine, but please at least give it serious consideration.