Friday, April 12, 2013

Nephi's Journey: Living with ADD

I want to start of by saying that a lot of thought, soul searching, and prayer was done before deciding to write this post.  The challenges that I have faced with myself, my Nephi and the rest of the family has been an enormous trial for us.  Most parents won't talk about their children's special's needs, and even more won't admit that they have them or need help.  Many feel shame that they could possibly produce something imperfect -- but what they fail to realize is that no matter the trials or challenges our little children have, most of them are only physical, their little spirits ARE perfect.  And as parents it is up to us to do what is best for them to improve their lives in anyway we can.  Most of the time, we have to swallow our pride to do it... and that can be a very hard thing to do.

I am writing this post in hope that it may help others struggling out there and have no one to turn to.  When I first started facing these challenges with my 5 year old, it was hard to find information that really helped me.  Anyway, I won't get ahead of myself.  This is our story...

Our journey begin about 8 years ago.  I was pregnant with Sam at the time and was attending a small, free child development class offered by someone in my ward at the time.  As a soon to be new parent I was thirsty for knowledge on how to be the best mom possible!  I was determined to have the most perfect children in the world! (Aren't we all).  When I think back to that younger self, I shake my head... honey, you have no idea the roller coaster ride you about to embark on!

As I sat in that class that day, I had no idea how much the things that woman taught would affect me in years to come and it wasn't in a good way.  She said, "No matter what people tell you, there is no such thing as ADD and ADHD.  It has never been scientifically proven, and it is just an excuse for doctors to make money on prescribing unnecessary drugs and also an excuse for bad parenting.  If your kid shows these symptoms..." and she listed off the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. "...then you need to look at yourself and what YOU are doing wrong.  It is unethical to medicate your child for behavioral issues."  This is an actual quote, by the way, I was taking notes.  This stuck with me.  Mainly, because my mother-in-law told me that all her boys had a mild version of ADD.  Now I was questioning her... This lady was a professional and she was telling me so called "facts" -- they must be true right?  And since new mom's seem to know everything anyway... I formed an opinion super fast about ADD and ADHD.

I carried those biases with me for over 7 years.  I secretly criticized my friends who were "claiming" their kids had it. (Mainly, hidden eye rolls) And constantly stroked my own ego about really knowing the truth, and now I knew what kind of parents they REALLY were.  Well, I am here to tell you, that Karma came around and bit me right in the patootee!

Sam was a very difficult toddler.  My long time readers know that we struggled a long time with Sam's speech and language impairment.  He was non-verbal until he was over 4 years old, and didn't potty train until he was 5.  Ben was gone for the hardest year in Sam's growth for the Army, and I dealt with it all alone.  The one person who kept me sane was my little Nephi:
He was the sweetest baby.  He liked to snuggle and give kisses (not something Sam would EVER do), and when I cried he was the first one to come in and give me loves.  He hardly ever cried, and was always so happy and never ran off or got into naughty things.  He was just a little angel... and God sent him to me to balance out the act I had going on with Sam at the time.

Nephi and I had so much fun when Sam went to school and we had time just the two of us.  It was awesome and I look back fondly of those days:

Then last summer, about 3 months before he started kindergarten he started to change.  I thought maybe it was issues with being the middle child, but we had had Jacob for over a year... so it was just weird to me that he was acting out at that time.  He got REALLY lazy.  So lazy, in fact, that he didn't want to play outside anymore, he just wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV or play video games.  He wouldn't play with his toys for very long, he couldn't seem to focus long enough. He slept A LOT.  And he couldn't be troubled to get up to use the bathroom.  That's right, at 5 years old he started messing his pants.  I was cleaning out 2 to 4 pairs of underwear a day.  For months we tried everything to get him to stop.  I even posted on this blog and Facebook and tried EVERY suggestion.  Nothing worked.  He didn't even care.  He would blame all his actions on other people.  Nothing was ever his fault.  I couldn't get him to get dressed in the morning or even eat his cereal without hovering over him.

Starting school was hard on him.  Things were required of him.  He acted out, he wouldn't stay on task.  And he blamed it all on his teachers.  I cried a lot.  I couldn't figure out what happened to my sweet little baby!  Where did he go?  Who is this grumpy boy?

I thought maybe he had hearing problems.

I took him to the doctor and he checked him and asked him a few questions then he turned to me.  "I think Nephi has ADD."

I was beyond offended!  How dare he question my parenting! (Remember I was still believing the crazy lady from the class all those years ago.)  This was back in October of last year, by the way.  He suggested I take a "Mental Health" packet and fill it out and have his teacher fill out part of it too.  I was all smiles and politeness, but inside I was yelling "screw you!"

I took his packet and trashed it on the way out.  There was no way I was going to ruin Nephi's life by medicating him.  NO WAY!

I might not be the best mom in the world, but I try really hard and do the best I can for my boys.  I made it with Sam, Nephi and I will get through this together too!

I started doing all this research about behavior and natural ways to help him.  We spent hundreds of dollars on vitamins, special drinks, drops, everything and anything that claimed to cure kids with ADD symptoms   We put him a special diet, no preservatives and no artificial coloring.  It helped, like hardly at all!  Nothing seemed to be working and his behavior at school was spiraling down too quickly for me to catch my breath! He even got kicked out of his dance class.  I was getting daily emails about his horrible behavior at school... and I can't blame the teachers because they REALLY tried to help him.  We did picture charts to help him stay on task, we let him sit on a yoga ball to do his homework.... I put a stretchy band around the bottom of his chair to help him keep on task... he also has a little stress ball to squeeze.  I am saying that nothing helped.  We tried the natural ways for 7 months with no progress. In fact, he was in such bad condition that he almost couldn't function without me standing right by him telling him what to do one step at a time.  Every day he would come home with low citizenship grades (they give them a rating every day at his school) and complaints about his actions.

One day I was pressuring him to do his homework.  He just sat there and stared at it for like an hour.  I was fed up and spoke harshly to him.  He started to cry.  My heart broke.  It was then he told me that he tried so hard to be a good boy but the squiggles in his brain made him so he couldn't think.  That his brain "remote controlled" him.  He was utterly devastated  and my pride finally shattered.  I realized that by not seeking real professional help I was actually RUINING his life... not saving it.  I called the doctor and he made up another packet for me.  I took half to the school and the rest home to fill it out.  I was floored by the questions it asked me about Nephi and could not believe how right on it was about his behavior.  I started to cry.  I felt so selfish.  I had been brainwashed, and doped, and persuaded by people who have never dealt with this themselves.  I had been focusing for so long on how it all affected me, and how hard it was for me, that not once did it cross my mind how it was affecting and hurting HIM.  I felt like the crappiest mom in the world!

I took the completed package in and they took one look at it and scheduled us to come in asap.  The day before spring break, his pediatrician gave him a mild prescription to try.  He told us that one time of taking it we would know for sure if Nephi had ADD.  We were to give it to him on a day he had no school first thing in the morning.  If he got super hyper, he didn't have it.  If he seemed pretty normal but focused then he did.  The doctor PROMISED me that it wouldn't affect his personality and turn him into a zombie like I heard.  He said that treatment was very advanced these days.  I was anxious for answers.  We went and got it filled and I waited another couple days for Friday (first day of his spring break) to try it out.

Friday morning I drug Nephi out of bed -- as usual.  And I gave him the medication with a silent prayer.  Then I helped Sam get ready for his half day of school.  We all got in the car and took Sam.  I was watching Nephi to see if anything happened.  So far he seemed pretty chilled out... but it had only been a few minutes. We dropped Sam off and came home.  I told Nephi that I was going to take a shower and then we were going to the store.  I asked him to just be good while I was in the shower.

When I came out, I was FLOORED with shock to discover that not only had Nephi gotten himself dressed, put his shoes on, but he was helping Jake get dressed!!  Holy cow!  I was fully expected to see him in his PJ's still camped out watching cartoons!!  I was so shocked I couldn't speak.

"You got dressed..." I said.
"Duh Mom, you said we were going to the store." He rolled his eyes and smiled at me.  And for the first time in a year I saw my little baby boy looking at me just like he used to.  I started to cry and hugged him.  He thought I was crazy.

And the miracles didn't stop there.  He behaved in the store.  We had meaningful conversations!!  He helped me with Jake and did some chores like vacuuming when we got home!  The next week of Nephi on the new medication was amazing!  He stopped messing his pants!  He was focused, and he was laughing and having fun again.  He was riding his bike and playing outside!

I was super anxious for him to go back to school to see how he did.  Monday came rolling around, and when I went to pick him up, his teachers were waiting for me.  They were in near tears!!  They told me how amazing he was!  They could not believe how focused and happy he was.  Nephi was beaming.  He was confident, he was standing tall, and he was so very happy.  For the first time since he started school, Nephi got and "O"utstanding citizenship.  AND got a hundred on his math test:

He told me the squiggles were gone.

I look back and I am ashamed of myself.  I really had to learn a very hard lesson in parenting.  Sometimes we think we are saving our children, only to be holding them back.  I was holding Nephi back.  There was this awesome little man in there that was having a hard time coming out because of ADD issues.  Now that he is "balanced" out, it's like that little boy I always knew was in there is here!  And he is loving life and himself, and everything is better!

Many months ago, I bought Nephi a remote control helicopter and told myself I would keep it hidden until he could get his act together and earn a week of "O"utstandings at school.  I thought that I would most likely be keeping it until his birthday or Christmas because that would probably never happen.

I am proud to announce that today that day came today!

There aren't a lot of parents that will openly talk about medicating their kids in fear of the popular criticisms.  I couldn't find ANYTHING when I Googled about it.  Just people against it.  I think I found one anonymous testimony about putting her daughter on meds and the commenters just ripped her apart. It was at that point I thought I would never tell anyone... no way.  Even my mom advised me to stay quiet.  But at the same time, I thought there may be someone out there dealing with this too and they NEED to read my story!  I was torn.  So after much thought and prayer, I decided to take that step and talk about it on here.  Chances are people will criticize me -- oh, well.  But many will not.  And it's for those that I write this.  People need to know, that ADD happens, it's real, and it is okay.  I had to learn to do what was best for my child instead of what was best for ME, even though I thought I WAS doing what was best for him...

Now that Nephi knows what he can be, there is no going back.  I am looking forward to his amazing future! Because now, there is nothing stopping him!


PS His dance class gave him another chance.  I think he did just fine :)


The Boutqiue Alley said...

good for you!!! Raising kids is hard and there are so many opinions out there, that it makes it so hard to figure out what is best for you and your circumstances.

Amy said...

Puts tears in my eyes seeing him holding that helicopter :) Yay!!!! Such a neat little guy :D

Samantha said...

Aw! Yay for Nephi! I'm glad he's doing so much better. :)

Anonymous said...

Nephi is so lucky to have such a supportive mama. I'm glad you wrote this post. There are so many people speaking out against medicating, but it's good to hear the success stories.

Anonymous said...

Im glad you found the answer! Having children with problems is awful!

Ames said...

Nephi was telling me about his helicopter today in primary. I am amazed at your story. I admire you and your strength. You and your family are doing and I'm sure will continue to do amazing things. Thanks for having the heart to talk about this so openly.
p.s. I love your clear-down-to-earth writing style, it makes it so nice to read!

Terra said...

Thx for sharing this Cat!!! I always believe that as moms, we are each other's best resource and I appreciate your honesty. So happy for you and your whole family to be able to move forward.

Cammy said...

My son has ADHD. He has not been "officially" diagnosed with it mostly because the doctor didn't want to put a label on him at such a young age, but it is something I have always been suspicious of. Starting him in Preschool didn't help calm that suspicion. I would drop him off and walk back to the car in tears worried about how the day would go and what the teacher was going to tell me happened when I came to pick him up. There were soo many days I felt like a horrible parent wondering what was I doing wrong? I just wanted him to be successful and happy in school.

Finally the teacher suggested I take him to see a doctor. We met with a doctor, did the paper work and decided to try some of the medications. We tried a couple different ones over time. Some medicine seemed to make him go zombie on me, with others he had a really hard time when the medicine started wearing off in the evenings and I noticed he would get really aggressive as they built up in his system over time. I remember walking out of a grocery store in complete tears as my 5 year old thrashed,screamed, bit etc. Not a temper tantrum but a fit of rage. It was not like him to act like this and it scared me to death.

I cried and cried, and prayed and prayed and decided for the time being to take him off the medicine.
I am not saying this is the right course for everyone. I am all for doing whatever you feel is best for your child and was really hopeful for the medication. (I may revisit it again someday.)

Even being off the medicine I must say he made a lot of progress during his year of preschool. At his final program he was able to stand still with his classmates and sing for the entire program. His teacher even commented to me on the progress he had made.

Even with all this, I was still very nervous to send him to Kindergarten. It was one thing to be able to hold still while drawing pictures and playing with playdough, but Kindergarten was a whole different ball game in my eyes. After the first two weeks I was shocked his teacher hadn't contacted me with concerns so I went to her to find out how things were going. I was so relieved when she said he was doing great. She did mention he had a short attention span and when I have been in the class to observe him I have noticed he stand at his seat more often than he sits but so far he is doing well.

I don't have all the answers, I don't know what tomorrow will bring, I don't know if and when he will need medicine, but I do know this is a process, I do know every child is different and circumstances change. That is okay as long as I am trying to do what is best for my little guy to help him be happy and successful in life.

You are doing great Cat! Keep doing what you feel is best and follow that mother's intuition. Nephi is very lucky to have you for a Mom.

P.S. sorry for the novel length comment!