Monday, August 4, 2008

ADHD - Emmy's Story

My middle child, Emmy, has always been the kid in the family with the health issues. Monthly ear infections in her first 18 months - check, Tubes in ears x 2 - check, Adnoidectomy - check, Asthma - check, Eczema - check, Allergies - check, Yearly bouts of pneumonia - check, Speech issues - check, Encopresis - check. It's all minor things, but one kid having to deal with it all is a lot! You would never know this from Emmy...she's just a happy go-lucky kid. We started calling Emmy, "our little monkey" at around age 2...she had so much energy and did some really funny, crazy things.

We entered her into preschool and started getting reports back about her lack of attention, inability to sit still, fidgeting, not listening...mixed in with these reports were accolades that "Emmy is the sweetest kid", "She gives the best hugs"... The bad behavior was not a shocking revelation to us; we noticed it at home. Emmy would not listen when she was told to do something, her attention span was less than 2 minutes, etc. etc. etc. We were pretty proactive in asking the doctors/teachers questions about these issues. We were told time-and-time again that was normal behavior and a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD isn't made until the child is 6 or in first grade; this is the time where kids are expected to be able to focus, pay attention, and listen.

Emmy was in kindergarten this past year. We were very upfront with her teacher about our concerns; she concurred with what we had been advised so was too early...these kids are still developing. Believe me, I am not excited about my child having this diagnosis or want to give my child another daily medication, but I didn't want her to fall between the cracks either.

I received a request for a teacher/parent contest in March of this year. Her teacher was very upfront, Emmy was failing kindergarten. Let me just take a brief break and say, kindergarten isn't what it was when I was in kindergarten...we played all day, took naps, etc. Kindergartners in 2008 need to know how to write sentences, read, and do basic math skills or they do not go onto 1st grade. I was shocked/embarrassed/sad...Emmy didn't need this. She already had had some issues this year...She never went a full week being on "sunshine" (the best ranking on the behavior chart), she was sent to the Vice Principal's office the first month of school for impulsive behavior issues, she would come home each day and tell me how she had no friends and no one would play with her, her encopresis was in full swing (it still is) and she was having accidents at school. My poor little monkey!!!

So I asked the teacher what the next step would be...would she get testing by the school psychologist? I was informed the way our school system works is that the teacher forwards an evaluation request to the school psychologist, the school psychologist evaluates the case (after a 6 month waiting period), then if he/she feels it is warranted after reading the file he/she would consult with the teacher, aides, parents and if indicated, may run a few tests....WHAT?! My kid was failing now! She was being ostracized now! She needed evaluation now! I told the teacher that plan didn't sound like it would be the most proactive or effective for Emmy. I advised her I would go through my doctor and get the testing performed privately. She warned me that the out-of-pocket cost of this could be expensive, but she was supportive in any path we chose. Let me just take another brief pause to sing the praises of Emmy's teacher last year; Ms. C was so patient and supportive with Emmy - she recognized the difficulties that Emmy was having and made accomodations before being asked or instructed to. As soon as I told her our plan, she set up a conference with the school nurse, guidance counsellor, Emmy's speech teacher, her and myself. I told them what the plan was and they were also very supportive with our decision.

Next step was an appointment with our pediatrician. I had to wait 3 weeks to get in because an ADHD consult requires a different type of appointment and paperwork that needs to be completed by the school and the parents prior to the consultation. My pediatrician stated from all the data she had reviewed on Emmy, she could make the diagnosis right then and place her on medication. I expressed that I wanted to make absolutely sure this was the correct diagnosis. I scheduled an appointment for a sleep study (sleep deprived children can exhibit similar behaviors of children with ADHD) because Emmy had always had disrupted sleep due to her eczema bothering her a night. Her sleep study was completely normal. We went to a neuro-psychologist that used to be a part of our practice for an initial consult; two testing sessions were set up for Emmy. We were brought back for her feedback session and it was official, she has ADHD.

School had ended for the year (her awesome teacher contacted me on the day we received the diagnosis, she had been carrying around my number and had it on her calendar to contact me!) I've contacted the school guidance counsellor to report the findings and that there were accommodations that were recommended. She asked me to forward the report and we would set up a meeting between all the previous players and Emmy's new teacher at the beginning of next school year.

Now onto the treatment phase...we are currently on the books to see the pediatrician on 08/13. I'm not thrilled about my child going on medication for this...there are side effects involved. I asked the neuro-psychologist about naturopathic and/or homeopathic remedies for the diagnosis (which is weird coming from me...I run a clinical research department that tests new I'm not exactly anti-medication or anti-western medicine!). His response was that he had not seen these treatments work for ADHD in his experience and the science supports the medications (I know there are books and people out there that beg to differ...). The thing that stuck in my mind was his statement that I needed to get Emmy as normal appearing as possible because kids do not like all came crashing down at that point...Emmy not playing well with others, not being invited to many birthday parties, not being invited to any play dates...I'm telling you she is the SWEETEST, FUNNIEST kid, but I guess she's different enough that she's beginning to be ostracized already. I am continuing to look at other things we can implement to make things easy for her; we've been referred to another child psychologist for behavior modification therapy so that we can learn the most effective way to parent Emmy. I'm reading homeopathic supplements (thanks to my aunt) in hopes I stumble upon the magic mix. The one thing I get from most the naturopathic/homeopathic books is diet, diet, diet. Unfortunately, Emmy is the worst eater...literally, we had chicken, rice, corn and rolls tonight...Emmy ate the roll. She is my carb queen. So I don't think this is an option for her.

I thought I'd share my little monkey's story...the choices ahead are weighing heavy on my heart (why as mothers do we feel responsible for every health ailment?!) Any comments with personal experience are more than welcome...and just plan comment love is always appreciated!


Jenny said...

It is hard being a mum, and having all this responsibility.
I am a school teacher, and have had some contact with children with ADHD. I know that medication makes a world of difference for these kids.
But you have to work out what is the best route for Emmy and your family.
Best wishes in the months ahead as you explore all the options.

JWilson said...

These are the times when being a parent sucks. It's not your fault at all and from the sounds of it you are handling it very well. I have a cousin who is ADHD and his mother baby'd him all through school and childhood so he tends to use his disease as an excuse for not doing things.

I hope everything works out for Emmy, she looks like a very sweet girl!

Jill said...

No words of wisdom - just tears while reading. I have a very "busy" child myself. My husband thinks she's ADHD - and I'm not ready to remotely think about going down that path.

Beautifully written post about Emmy. I wish you the best of luck with your appointments. I look forward to hearing all about it!

Rhea said...

I've seen a lot of kids on ADHD meds, and parents who don't want their kids on the meds...which I totally understand, being a parent myself. HOWEVER, the medication really makes a difference, and it's worth taking it. I've never heard of any problems of side effects, although I'm sure there must be, but to me, the effect of the medicine on her life would seem worth it, if it helps.

My mom had ADHD as a child and grew up in a time no one understood it...she was treated horribly at school for it. Made fun of by the TEACHER, etc. It's worth it to take the meds now.

It sounds like you're a loving, caring parent, and your daughter had a fabulous teacher this last year!

I have a son entering first grade, so he's the same age as your daughter. I hope this year goes much better for her. Good luck!
(and thanks for visiting my site!)

Kat said...

I am here with my comment love - and I am sure that there are lots of people out there that are dealing with similar issues. But, I will say, that it is AMAZING how much diet can affect behavior. We have friends that have discovered that their daughter is allergic to glutens - and most likely has celiac disease - oh, the changes in that child when she went gluten free are just amazing. From being an agressive, moody, out burst waiting to happen child, she is happy and just amazing.

Therese said...

Kelly-my heart goes out to you. I have worked with ADHD kids, but we also have a slew of family members with it as well. Medication can make a HUGE difference. Also, see if there are any therapists in the area who only work with ADHD. We have a wonderful one here that has done wonders. If you need anything else, including someone to talk to, let me know.

Lori said...

Bless your hearts, both of you. I have absolutely nothing constructive to offer, but hope that all goes well for your little monkey!

Jen said...

Sometimes that best way to deal with a problem is to get it out in the open and talk about it. I am no experience with ADAH but, as you know, I am a mom and I hate it when my kids are sick. Like you said, the mom guilt totally kicks in.
I hope that you get a good plan for you and your daughter and that this next school year brings new adventures, sitting still, concentration, friends, birthday party's and lot and lots of good time.

Jennifer said...

Poor Emmy--I'm so sorry she's had all those health problems. I don't have any experience w/ this--but I want to wish you lots of luck!!

Hippie Family... said...

OMG, I just wanna hug her!!!... What a sweet girl, do you have Parents as teachers in your community? is there anything they have suggested? we have them here and they are great, not sure if this is something they are used to but maybe it's worth a shot...
also, my niece had a hard time with knowing her address and phone number (required in Pre K) and so we had to make it into a song and ended up doing a jumping dance to it.. like hopscotch/jumprope.. maybe worth a shot for memory.. those tests are crazy too.. my neighbors daughter got so worked up she forgot what yellow was and it's her favorite color..

American in Norway said...

Wish I could give you both great big giant HUGS.... You are such a super mommy...& I know you both will find the best options for Emmy... Love you, Hang in there!

Candid Carrie said...

My twenty-six year old (birth son) is an adult living proof that you can be successful with ADD (no H), but as parents we had to guide him towards career choices that fit his life. Yes he dabbled in a few jobs that didn't work out because of his situation and it was hard no to say I Told You So.

My thirteen year old (adopted daughter) also has ADD, took several years to get that figured out. Entirely different situation with her. She came across as lazy and uninterested where he came across looking inattentive.

Two totally different kids, to totally different sets of baggage for adulthood and required two totally different parenting styles to help be ensure their success (or at least the best chance of it).

ADHD or ADD doesn't define you they are, but it does become a way of life.

Such as putting assignments into small tasks. When we would say wash up, brush your teeth, get your pajamas on and get ready for bed. They would pee and come back and not even recall anything else. So we gave small tasks that they could accomplish and then graduated to putting a post it on the mirror with their bedtime routine.

Ugh, this is a comment section not an e-mail to you. Sorry, you know where to find me if you need me. I've got over twenty years on this topic and I don't know where to stop

Missy said...

I have been out of pocket but just read your blog. I wanted to say that you, your family & precious Emmy would be in our prayers. I know everything will work out for all you.

Shannon said...

I don't have any experience with this, so its just plain comment love from me!

Sometimes it does feel better to get what's bothering you off your chest, huh? I do wish you luck in finding the right treatment for Emmy. She is an adorable little monkey :)

Angie's Spot said...

Oh my, what a story! I have no experience with this type of thing, but I'm sending all the well wishes and zen that I can possibly muster up. Emmy looks like a precious gem and I feel sure that this will all work out very soon. (((Hugs)))

Sara said...

Wow, she is adorable, it must be so heartbreaking for you to go through this with her! I will keep you in my thoughts and wish you all the best!

Andrea said...

I'm catching up after being away for two weeks and this post breaks my heart. I know how it feels when your sweet child doesn't have friends or playdates and you can't figure out why. My son has some similar issues (nothing at this point that really is showing adhd though). It must at least be good to find out what is causing the issues and to start getting treatment for them to help her. I wish you all the best in finding what's the best fit for Emily.