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 far...it 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 medications...so 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 different...it 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 books...giving 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!