Sunday, April 8, 2012

ADHD and other acronyms...

My son has ADHD. Or maybe High Functioning Autism. Or maybe he's just him.

This Easter has been challenging. His behaviour has been pushing me to my limits. So I thought it might do me some good to revisit something I wrote for another blog I tried to start but gave up on.

If you share your life with a child that has different needs, read on. You'll probably recognise yourself and I hope you can gain a bit of comfort from knowing you're not alone. Ever.

When The Child (TC) started school, he hadn't been exposed to a lot of kinder (pre-school) so we knew it would an interesting time. His experience in kinder was OK, although his carers had mentioned that he didn't seem to understand directions at all. He was already developing coping mechanisms, such as waiting to see what other kids did and copying them, rather than listening and following verbal instructions. Clever boy.

His confidence was terribly low, he hated even attempting new tasks and had regular meltdowns about them. He hated trying to learn his alphabet, or going anywhere near writing. I was concerned, but not worried.

So Prep year began. Along comes his first report.

TC is a quiet child in class.

I'm sorry, which child is this? Not mine? Did his report get mixed up with someone else's? He's many things but quiet isn't one of them. In fact, I'll be blogging very soon about just how much of an UN-QUIET CHILD he is.

We met his teacher and she mentioned concerns about his ability to take direction, to finish tasks, his confidence, his reading and writing, relating to other children, and so on. How interesting none of this ended up in ANY of his reports for the year. He was just "quiet in class".

Lesson No 1.1 - school reports are total bullshit. Don't believe anything they say.

Some internet research later and my partner (R) and I wondered whether TC had auditory processing issues. His behaviour fitted and he also fitted a probable clinical background for it - a child who had impaired hearing during language development (deafness due to glue ear). Off we went to a centre that assesses these things.

The assessment centre assessed him, did loads of tests on him, and generally enjoyed the $550 it cost us. When we met up for the feedback session, we got a bit of a shock.

Nope, no auditory processing issues. Perfecto in that department.

Oh, really?

Yes, but it looks like he has ADHD (Combined Type).

Oh, really? (Quiet weeping from me).

So here's a plan for how we'd like to treat him (feel free to mortgage your house again now to pay for it all).

Lesson No 1.2 - get a referral to a paediatrician before going to anyone else.

We were unimpressed by the response from the psychologist at the centre and even more unimpressed with the report. Unimpressed with a diagnosis given by someone who makes a shedload of money out of treating people with learning issues. Why had we not gone to a paediatrician first? Because we had no clue that was the process. I'm betting this isn't unusual. Off we went to the GP for a referral.

The paediatrician is an angel. She is totally wonderful. She confirmed the diagnosis.


ADHD with a few autism spectrum behaviours on the side. Could have been worse. Could have had comorbid conditions. Ewww. Comorbidity is a terrible term and always makes me think of death. Actually they're just co-existing conditions that relate to each other. In the case of ADHD, it might be Dyslexia, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD)... you're getting the acronym idea now, right?

TC has ADHD Combined Type - so that's Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity Disorder (both together). This means that, compared to other children his age, he cannot concentrate, cannot sit still, cannot take instruction, constantly interrupts, cannot control impulses, has uncontrollable rages , talks constantly, cannot stand loud noises, must touch everything around him, forgets and loses everything, has hyper-focused periods, and so on.

At least now we know why as parents, this job seems harder for us that for others. I keep remembering snippets that now make sense.

Wow, he's the Energizer Bunny, isn't he?!

TC was about two and a half. Yes, he IS the Energizer Bunny.

Gosh, he's quite full on, isn't he?!

Ha! Yes.

Here's one thing I've learned in the last year and a half. When people stop, stare and point at you while your child bashes the crap out of you at SeaWorld...

Lesson No 1.3 - you are neither a crap parent, nor alone.

So then came Grade 1. We were dreading a new year. TC kept telling us how much he hated school. I told him not to peak too soon and wait till he’s 13 or 14 to get his hate on.

And then we were blessed with the most awesome teacher in the world, who we’ll refer to as Saint Mary. Saint Mary turned him around completely WITHIN THREE WEEKS. Saint Mary somehow got TC into Reading Recovery.

Holy crap my child can read!

Lesson No 1.4 – communicate with your child’s teacher at every opportunity and give them a chance to do right by your child.

Saint Mary got him talking in front of the class so well that he’s now a star example of how to do it. It was about time we managed to find a way to use his constant talking for good rather than evil.

We received THAT call: “Your child has been touching other children inappropriately.” I panicked and had a “shit my child is a sex offender” ten seconds or so.

Then I realised I know my son – he would have thought touching up another kid was HILARIOUS. Like a bum or poo joke in 3D. Thankfully that hasn't happened again.

Thanks to the gropeage we were asked to take TC to a shrink. More money... and now this expert disagrees with our paediatrician, and has diagnosed him with High Functioning Autism with a side salad of ADHD.

One good thing the shrink visit did - we found out that his IQ is normal. TC’s been told he’s not allowed to call himself stupid anymore, the doctor said so. Ha!

Lesson No 1.5 – don’t assume your ADHD kid is dumb just because they can’t perform tasks the same way as other kids.

By some miracle (and the grace of Saint Mary) TC completed Grade 1 almost on par with his peers. Big frigging sigh of relief. He's in Grade 2 now and has another good teacher so far. Phew.
This is the short version of life with a child with ADHD. It's really just the start of the journey. I hope it gives some hope to other parents of kids with different needs. It never gets easy but it often gets better.

One last thought – Jamie Oliver, amazing chef and TV personality, was in special needs programs at school and has ADHD. Awesome, huh?!

Ask me about my Attention Deficit Disorder. Or pie or my cat or a dog. I have a bike. Do you like TV? I saw a rock. Hi.



  1. Write a book! Just put your blogs for a year or so together and get it published. It would be the sort of book that other parents will find healing - and funny - and healing because of the humour - and the grief - healing because of the honest grief....
    xxxx Jan

  2. Hang in there Michaela and R, you are in for the ride of your lives where rewards and achievement will be greater but so will the frustrations and disappointments. The key will always be to make a friend of his teacher so you are all working together and support each other bc it will often be hard going. Mwahs.

    1. That should be thanks Jan and Sue. No idea why I tried to talk to myself... Lol

  3. Thanks Jan and Michaela, you're both very kind! x

  4. Are you based in Qld?

    And how much help does the school supply?

    I ask because Qld Ed in their wisdom *cough* do not recognise ADHD as a condition, and thus do not support these kids.

    ASD is supported.

    I have a son on the spectrum, so everything you wrote resonated.

    If I can be of ANY help, please ask (you can message me on DP).

  5. Hi Madmother nice to see you here.

    I'm in Melbourne. Our school have been very helpful - there's no funding for him but when the aid comes in to help the funded kid/s, he gets included. They haven't really said that he needs help due to the ADHD - they just assist wherever his special needs are. For example, he needed help with reading - so he was put into the Reading Recovery program. He needs help with writing, so he was placed into the remedial writing assistance program. So they see his specific needs and respond where they can, but don't provide any support for the ADHD as such. He's been lucky, the school listens and has put him with some excellent teachers last year and this year.

    Thanks darling I'll definitely be in touch. Thanks for commenting!


  6. The sort of school we all dream about!

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if it was given that EVERY child (diagnosed, quirky, average, struggling, excelling...) were given that "what you need is what you get" attention.

    Seriously, tell them they are very impressive. And do not move! Ever!

  7. So pleasing to see a child doing well with ADHD. I wish I could find a Saint Mary for mine.

  8. Thanks. We know we're so lucky. And it's only a simple govt school. Very fortunate!

  9. I wrote the "Ask me about m ADD or pie or my cat..." quote. :)