Saturday, February 27, 2010


Raising A is an ongoing lesson in 20/20 hindsight. I know we can only make the best decision with the information we have at the time, but I'm human and a mom, so I beat myself up on a regular basis. Was changing schools two years ago the right thing to do? Would his current problems not be an issue if we hadn't? Did we screw up his potty training several years ago and that's why he has such bathroom challenges?

Does he really have ADHD? Did we just give him meds for three years, possibly slowing or stunting his growth, and it may not have been necessary?

That one is the question that haunts me. We pulled A from all ADHD meds right before Christmas for a variety of reasons, and after consultation with his doctor, decided to keep him off. His focus, while not perfect, wasn't that much different from any other third grade boy. We have moved him to a gluten-free/dairy-free diet, with minimal preservatives, insisted on several school accommodations, and have reduced his already small amount of screen time even further.

And we've seen results. We've seen a maturity start to bloom that we knew was there but was smothered by...something. It's that something that haunts me. Was it really ADHD? At least two doctors confirmed it was, teachers noticed differences when he was on meds vs. off...but really?

The confusion lies in how ADHD can mimic other diagnoses. In our house, the other diagnosis isn't really a diagnosis, but a kissing cousin of giftedness. Gifted kids tend to have certain intensities, also known as overexcitabilities. OEs come in five flavors: psychomotor (surplus of energy, impulsivity), sensual (enhanced sensory and aesthetic pleasure), intellectual (intensified activity of the mind), imaginational (free play of the imagination), and emotional (emotions are intensified). While most gifted kids present two or three of those OEs, A presents all five. (By the way, this is where my head explodes when people make comments such as, "What does she have to worry about? Her kid is gifted!" Yeah, it's a barrel of freaking laughs around here). So when you look at those five OEs, can you see how they might mimic ADHD? Especially to doctors who only know ADHD? Or to a mom who hasn't learned about OEs?

So I suspect that A may not actually have ADHD after all. I'm happy about that, but also taking myself out back and beating myself with pointy sticks, too. I know we made the best decision we could with the information we had at the time, but the fact that A was on meds for three years and is now one of the smallest kids in his class weighs heavily on me. We will continue with what we're doing now with diet and lifestyle changes (including adding gymnastics and returning to some of the activities we learned in OT), and revisit medications in the future if necessary. 

I just wish I had 20/20 foresight for a change.


Jen can be found writing at Laughing at Chaos when she's not beating herself up over her parenting.


  1. They say that ADHD is really hard to diagnose in children, especially because hyperactivity can "look like" so many things. Not that the label makes your life any harder or easier. You have your hands full!!

  2. I wish I had that 20/20 foresight too. It's so hard because there aren't any easy answers with kids like ours. But I'm confident that you did your best, and that is all any of us can do. Try not to beat yourself up.

  3. Thanks so much for your post. I am in the process of kicking myself regularly for not being able to help my son. His psychiatrist 'knows' he has ADHD but no drug helps at all. At 6 yrs old, how hard should life really be? You have given me another path to persue and I appreciate it. Thank you

  4. You totally did the best you could
    You know one line from "The lovely life' by Vicki Forman keeps coming back to me
    "Mothers believee that they can prevent anything bad from happening to their children .. if only they pay enough attention "
    This belief is of course wrong - we do the best we can

  5. Nancy: definitely check into OEs. They're odd, but they're not ADHD. Sometimes OT can help, too. I'd say that the non-ADHD things we've done (diet, lifestyle, ear filter for CAPD, vision therapy, OT, glasses) have done as much and possibly more than meds did.
    FLM: that quote sums it up nicely and is unfortunately true. IF I just did XYZ... Working on forgiving myself and moving on. Thanks.

  6. SoovereverythingMarch 3, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    Hi Jen -
    You know we are right there with you. I am waging the same war in my head. What to do? What to do? Is it OE or is it ADD? Does it even matter? He is struggling. My baby is having a hard time and I can't 'fix it'. I feel like the worst Mom, but I know I am doing my best and I know that you are too.
    We have good days and bad days. Not to the extremes that some are struggling, but sometimes that just complicates it all the more. When I discuss the possibility that we think he might have ADD, we get the oddest reactions....The "Are you freaking nuts?" looks and the "Oh he is gifted, give it a rest. What could you possibly have to worry about?". Which just makes me all the more uncertain about my parenting and choices. At the end of the day, all we can give our kids is our best. We have to be able to accept that. (We don't have to like it).
    Hang in there. Keep fighting for A. And know that you are not alone. This and other blogs are quickly becoming my support system. So thank you for writing. Thank you for your humor. Thank you for your compassion. Most of all - Thanks for sharing.

  7. Tricia, while I'm impressed that your daughter's file actually MENTIONED SPD (whereas we had to dig for that diagnosis), I am horrified that it was never mentioned to you. Occupational therapy and diet has done so much for A, and hopefully we'll continue to see improvement. As for the comments regarding your two kids...I have a friend (a real life one! not one who lives in my computer! LOL) who has a developmentally delayed son. And she knows some details of what goes on here, and she has made very similar comments. She has noted that while have a DD son is challenging as all get out, at least it's recognized that he needs accommodations and support and treatments. She realizes that it's much more difficult for me. It's good to hear this, coming from her, because I have those thoughts and feel terribly guilty when I do. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this; you have a rare voice in that you see both sides of the special needs label.
    Soovereverything, if it weren't for my tribe living in my computer, raising A would be a thousand times harder. Finding other families in similar situations has kept me sane. I just need to remember that I'm not alone when in the thick of it. Frankly, I need the spirits of all of you rallying around me in my time of need, a la Harry Potter. LOL!

  8. We have two gifted sons, and the more gifted one also has ADHD. Our son with ADHD, is on medication which is being monitored by a psychiatrist. The positive changes we have seen have been profound, and just to mention a few :
    ADHD in our son's case disabled his ability to produce work to show his knowledge and abilities, and this was most prevalent in writing. His handwriting was unreadable and last year he could barely write three sentences. This year, in fourth grade, he is one of the best writers in his class. The OT helped him with the skills, and the medication enabled him to do what she taught, which was not the case beforehand. She is also helping him with his typing. Apparently the medication is helping him to focus and organize his thoughts so that he can now write several pages, and the quality of his writing has seen a very significant improvement.
    ADHD is a neurological chemical disorder which the proper medication helps to stabilize, and in our son's case it was not an "I won't" as the teachers saw him, but rather an "I can't" which his medication helped to turn into now "I can" along with the appropriate skills support.