Driven to distraction: motherhood and ADHD

On average, there are 1 to 3 children who have ADHD in every classroom of 30 students. Approximately 6.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD.

One of those kids is my son Joshua.

Joshua is an energetic 10-year-old. He likes to play sports, especially soccer, video games, and loves to play chess. He is trying to learn how to play the viola, but he would rather play the drums, He can easily make friends, Nathan, his best friend says “Joshua you’re so full of energy like Iron man!”

But he’s also emotionally over-reactive and defiant. Joshua has always been more impulsive than other kids. You could say he’s ADHD poster kid: emotional turmoil, fidgeting, lack of focus, careless mistakes, difficulty following directions and remembering things. He manifested those symptoms at a very early age, birthday parties, play dates were a nightmare. babysitters couldn’t handle him.

I remember the first day of School. We were both so excited! Joshua go and have lots of fun and learn as much as you can! enjoy your new adventure! how wrong I was. Within weeks I start receiving emails, notes from his teacher detailing his behavior in the classroom is something going on at home? well, yes, at that time I was going through a very emotional divorce, so it was understanding that Joshua was internalizing all the stress and the fact he was not going to be with his father anymore. He suffered so much that year. We moved in with my mother, and she showered him and my other son Lucio, with love, lots of fun, and pancakes!

But Joshua was missing his father. A divorce is one of toughest changes a person can through life. It was failure written all over it, a union has broken, and when kids are middle it makes everything much harder. Joshua couldn’t wait for the weekends because he knew his father would come to pick him up. It wasn’t like that at all; he spent many afternoons seating in the balcony waiting, and longing for someone who never came to see him. Unfortunately his father couldn’t be a stable figure for the boys, so he decided to leave the country without saying good-bye.

With everything going on at home, it was normal for my son to show signs of distress at school. Still, Joshua was not able to grasp all the information it was given to him during teaching time. He was becoming more irritable and withdrawn due to this fact, we have tried everything; a reward system, behavioral plans, stickers, change on his diet, etc…would I allow the School to evaluate Josh for IEP  (Individualized Education Program) services? of course! I took Josh once a week to therapy, his psychologist observed him a couple of times at school, and after two months of intensive evaluation Joshua was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD.

I have my answers, what’s next? I was referred to a child psychiatrist to explore alternatives regarding medication. This is the hardest part of the entire process; to put your little one on medication. I cried so much, and I still do. There is so much stigma around this fact, and I completely understand parents who won’t medicate their children, it’s always a tough decision both ways. But I am Josh’s most loyal and strongest advocate, my decision to put him on Concerta was not easy but after further consultation with his doctors, and Special education teacher, I knew this could work.

It was an intensive battle at home. I come from a very conservative and religious Spanish background where mental illness is more of a demonic possession than a chemical imbalance in the brain, plus the financial burden; I didn’t have any insurance at that time; therapy, and medicine was pay out-of-pocket.. My mother and I had epic shouting matches about it, but she has in her own way become more open about this since my own diagnosis and consequent hospitalization.

Being a parent to an ADHD child is not easy. Being a parent with Bipolar Disorder,  PTSD, and  a Panic Disorder is challenging. We have to follow a strict schedule to maintain a sense of structure at home. We ALL have to learn coping mechanism to calm down, We also have wraparound services for both of my boys (Lucio himself is showing mild signs of ADD) twice a week we have two therapist coming to our place to work with the children. There are a lot of tears, fights, frustration, stigma, lots of “oh wow you can’t control your own kids?! look.

This is why I strongly encourage for other ADHD parents to do: look and research for support, take care of yourself first because ADHD is draining, don’t wait for the school to give you all the answers. If you believe your child presents the symptoms of ADHD, seek a doctor who can help, you can also request an evaluation from the school to find out if your child is eligible for Special education services. An IEP/504 plan are the most powerful tools a parent can have because you are involved along with the teachers establishing goals within your child’s reach, creating extra support in the present level of educational performance. Teachers won’t like you (they never like me) but pressure shouldn’t be added on the parent only. Communication and team work is a must and necessary.

I have learned so much from Josh. He never makes a fuss when taking his medicine like I do. Mom, if I don’t take my medicine, my brain is going to be like a car race remember? the one you told me about! and medicine has proven to be quite effective, he’s a science star at school! he battles with self-esteem, at some point he talked about suicide, and worries so much for me. I don’t want that for him, he doesn’t need to feel responsible for my well-being, that’s why I keep fighting, for him, for Lucio, for myself. The 3 of us deserve it. Joshua has a great support system through intensive therapy and family as well. We are a peculiar family but you know what? I wouldn’t change it for anything in this world.

“All for one and one for all.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers

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