The ADHD Diagnosis: Now What?
13 days before our son’s 4th birthday, I sat in a meeting with a behavioral therapist who confirmed what my husband and I had suspected for weeks: he has ADHD. It was nice to know that we were right, but at what cost? Things at home were deteriorating and I was struggling to make it through the day with being in the last trimester of my 3rd pregnancy, taking care of Mason and his 16 month old brother when Tommy was working or at drill, and trying to handle Mason’s behavior as best I could. It was NOT an ideal situation. I was told that we were doing everything right and with that sentence came the overwhelming feeling of helplessness. If we were doing everything right and it still wasn’t working, what do we do now?
What Does ADHD Look Like For Us?
ADHD looks different for each person. For us, ADHD is constant singing, talking, and humming. Mason physically CANNOT stop talking or singing. He does it while he’s playing, in the car, while he’s using the potty, at the dinner table, and in bed. Mason also cannot maintain eye contact for more than a few seconds. At first, we thought he was distracted by the t.v. Once we took that out of the equation, we saw that that wasn’t it at all. Whenever we ask him to look at us and focus, he tries, but his eyes immediately drift to the side and he begins to scan the room. Nap time is a struggle every single day. At first, Mason refusing to nap or even stay in his bed, looked like defiance. He would lie in bed and stare off into space, talk to himself, or flail his arms and legs. He would stay in his room for HOURS and wouldn’t fall sleep. We eventually realized that what we were perceiving as defiance was actually him not being able to turn his brain off. He physically could not calm his mind and body down enough to fall asleep during the day. Mason also cannot focus on a routine task. Even something as simple as a bathroom or bedtime routine, he cannot remember or focus on completing all the steps, despite it being a routine that we have done each day (several times a day) for months and months.
What We’ve Done So Far
Before we knew what we were facing, we tried a multitude of solutions to curb Mason’s behavior. You may want to try some of them and see what works and what doesn’t work.
- We renamed Nap Time and started calling it “Quiet Time”. We knew Mason probably wasn’t going to actually sleep, but his body still needed rest. Now the rule is that he must stay in his bed and be quiet, even if he doesn’t sleep.
- We move him when his has a meltdown. You can’t reason with someone who isn’t calm and that goes for adults, too. When Mason is having a complete meltdown, we remove him from the situation and give him a chance to calm down. We walk him to his room upstairs and we wait until he is finished screaming and crying, and can talk and listen. Sometimes this takes awhile and that’s fine.
- We made a Behavior Chart. We use a clothespin with his name on it and move it up or down depending on what he has done or not done. He has a chance to move up 4 spaces on the positive side or down 5 on the consequence side. The 1st two “consequences” are really warnings, but after that, he will end up with either a time-out, losing t.v./tablet time, or to go to bed early. We started off rewarding him at the end of the week. This is too long for him, though so now we do it once a day.
- We cut back on technology. Mason has a lot going on and doesn’t need the extra distraction. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get to enjoy the occasional Paw Patrol or Mickey Mouse episode. It just means he doesn’t get to binge watch shows.
What We’re Working On
No parent wants to have to put their kid on medication. Are we totally opposed to it? Absolutely not. Are we going to try and find ways to postpone having to do it? YES! Mason hasn’t even started Pre-K yet and we want to see how he does in school before making that decision. We are changing his (and everyone else’s) diet to see if that will help. That means cutting out all the processed foods, dyes, sugar, and changing the carbs. We are actually following the Trim Healthy Mama plan (if you haven’t read the book, you can check it out here and get the cookbook here) and so far, it’s been pretty well received by the whole family. We haven’t been 100% on plan, but we do try our best. The biggest thing is making sure that carbs are accompanied by a protein source. That blunts the sugar from the carbs so the blood sugar level doesn’t spike too high. I’ve traded our normal after-dinner desserts for recipes from the books and so far, no one’s complained!
Exercise is a big deal for any body, but for an ADHD pre-schooler, it’s a HUGE deal. We’ve been working on getting out more and really wearing Mason out. Sometimes that means I have to meet up with family that can help me with chasing the boys around (I can waddle at best right now at 32 weeks pregnant). It’s exhausting for me, but it really does make a world of difference for him. He has to have that physical outlet. Sometimes, even the exercise isn’t enough, but it’s important that he gets it nonetheless.
Right now, we’re in a sort of limbo. We’ll see the pediatrician in the next few weeks and see whatour options are and if there’s anything we could be doing and aren’t. We know that it’ll take about 4-6 weeks after changing his diet for us to see any sort of a difference. So now, we’re just waiting. There’s no one size fits all with this and we know that. What works for some families or kids may not work for us or for Mason. Mason has been through so much already in his short life with conquering his Childhood Apraxia of Speech diagnosis. All we can do right now, is to remain positive and keep moving forward together. We haven’t discussed Mason’s diagnosis with him. First of all, he’s too young to understand any of this. Secondly, we don’t want him to think there’s anything wrong with him. Because there’s not. He’s the same sweet, loving, imaginative boy he’s always been. He might have to work harder in life than others, but our boy is strong and determined. I have nothing but faith in him and know that he will never let this define who he is. And he will conquer the world.