**Long, rambling unfunny post alert**

Sometimes, you just don’t know what to do. You’ve tried everything, taken all the advice, read the books, and still the monster exists. Every 5 steps of progress is met with an 8-step hit that sends you back to Square Negative 3, and you start the process of clawing your way out again, hoping that this time is the last time. And it so very rarely is. The monster persists.

Having a child with ADHD is a lot like owning a pit bull. You know that he’s very intelligent, very sweet, very loving, very kind-hearted and tender, but to the world, he’s dangerous and misunderstood. Kids with ADHD act very much like that bratty, annoying, and sometimes violent kid that you see in the store and say “Man, if that was MY kid, I’d beat his ass/put him in timeout/ call CPS (Child Protective Services)/ send him to an orphanage.” You say that, seeing the mother, defeated and weary, as she tries and fails to get through to Junior that he can’t play in the coin fountain because it’s not allowed, and it’s not HER rule, it’s the mall’s rule. You say that, nod your head curtly, and go on to Bed Bath and Beyond, not knowing that she’s already tried all those things and more, and nothing seems to work consistently. It’s a rough existence, and worst of all, the kid can’t help it. 8YO has no friends, no one close. Kids don’t want to play with the kid who occasionally hits them and has violent fits of rage right in the middle of class. His best friend is his little brother, who thankfully does not have ADHD, and who by and large isn’t affected by 8YO’s outbursts. Some background:

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Hyperkinetic Disorder as officially known in the UK (though ADHD is more commonly used), is generally considered to be a developmental disorder, largely neurological in nature, affecting about 5% of the world’s population. The disorder typically presents itself during childhood, and is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity, as well as forgetfulness, poor impulse control or impulsivity, and distractibility.

Let’s talk about each symptom individually, because then you can get a real picture of what an ADHD child is like to deal with.

  • Inattention: When I call 8YO’s name, he doesn’t hear me. More to the point, his brain is so engaged with whatever else he’s doing that it won’t let him hear me. He has a very hard time in school, and doing homework at home.
  • Hyperactivity: He goes non-stop when he’s on a task. He bounces. He talks incessantly. He asks a million questions. Every other sentence is “Watch me!” He dabbles in shit he’s not even supposed to touch. “How did triple A batteries get into the ice cream, 8YO?” “I don’t know.”
  • Forgetfulness: A simple command, such as “go get in the shower”, is immediately forgotten and replaced with “sit down and watch Naruto”. He doesn’t remember where his shoes are. He doesn’t know where his backpack is. He can’t find the pair of pants I JUST gave him. And it’s not fake.
  • Poor impulse control/Impulsivity: Ah, this is the money maker right here. ADHD kids just do things, as they occur to them, without running the idea through a filtering process to determine if it’s a smart move or not. Can’t wait your turn, or butt into a conversation? Rock on. Put bubblegum on the dog? Go for it. Push a kid down on the playground? Sure, why not? Get mad because someone yelled at you to stop flicking the lights off and on, call her a stupid idiot, hit her, hit her sister who came to her defense, bolt out of the front door of daycare, and then kick a hole in the drywall when you’re finally caught? Great idea. No impulse is ignored by ADHD kids.
  • Distractibility: This is really a minor issue, compared to others. No task is completed without something (anything, everything) causing an utter break in concentration and focus.

Any one of these issues is enough to cause some trouble in certain situations, but when they’re all present as they are in 8YO, it makes a potent cocktail of trouble, disciplinary problems, and lack of friendships. These kids also tend to me emotionally immature, further reducing their ability to make same-age friends. In fact. 8YO gets along great with kids 5YO’s age, but not so much with other 8 year olds. Another aspect of ADHD is violence. Kids, particularly boys, have a hard time controlling their emotions when they have ADHD, particularly negative ones. Any perceived slight, any plan that goes awry, anything can set off a chain reaction that is incredibly difficult to stop or divert. Before 8YO was medicated, literally anything could set him off, even something as innocent as “We’re going to leave in 10 minutes instead of 5.” And once the fuse was lit, the subsequent explosion was tremendous. I once got a phone call from his daycare, telling me to come immediately. I was already on my way there, and when I arrived, I found him in the director’s office with two grown women laying on him to hold him down. Ordinarily this would be justification for a parent to whip a teacher’s ass, but he was in a full-blown rage fit, and couldn’t even be talked to. He was screaming and thrashing and making nonsense statements…it was scary. I got down in the floor, said his name a few times, and got no response. After failing to get him to even realize I was there, I finally picked him up by his ankles and held him upside-down until he finally realized what was going on. He shook his head like a dog does, looked at me through the fog, said “Daddy?” and started crying. What do you do when shit like that happens? It’s no joke when it’s that bad. The monster is real.

8YO is medicated. We weren’t that particular subset of parents who don’t believe in medicating their kids, or don’t think the meds work. They DO work, but they’re not miracle drugs, and you have to stay on top of them. In the 4 years he’s been medicated, he’s been on 4 different ADHD medications, and 2 other supplemental drugs that help with the side effects of the other meds (such as sleeplessness or, ironically enough, rage). He’s been on four because we constantly monitor his reaction to them, how well they’re working, when they wear off, and when he should either have his dosage changed, or when he needs another option altogether. In addition, we’ve changed his diet, instituted a fairly stable daily routine, and we talk with him all the time about making good choices. It’s an ongoing, ever-evolving process that has shown us some positive results. What we cannot stand, though, is when other people — particularly people who have no experience dealing with this type of thing every single day — try to tell us (a) what we should do, and/or (b) what we’re doing wrong. It’s frustrating when people who see him maybe 10 total days out of the year and who have zero time logged with a child with this disability tell us “Well, you need to do (insane advice) more, and maybe not (random suggestion) as much. And stop (unsupported claim) him like that!” Even medical professionals struggle with a once and for all solution, because there isn’t one. Something that works on Monday might not work on Thursday, and that thing that didn’t work in November might suddenly be the magic key in March. Stop giving us advice. We appreciate it, but it weighs as much as unsolicited advice from the guy who make change at the toll booth on the President George Bush Turnpike.

Many kids eventually grow out of ADHD, and go on to live normal, productive lives without any lingering affects. That is our sincere hope, but these statistics show the negative possibilities of having this condition.

During the elementary years an ADHD student will have more difficulties with work completion, productivity, planning, remembering things needed for school, and meeting deadlines. Oppositional and socially aggressive behavior is seen in 40-70 percent of children at this age. Even ADHD kids with average to above average intelligence show “chronic and severe under achievement”. Fully 46% of those with ADHD have been suspended and 11% expelled. Thirty seven percent of those with ADHD do not get a high school diploma even though many of them will receive special education services. The combined outcomes of the expulsion and dropout rates indicate that almost half of all ADHD students never finish high school. Only five percent of those with ADHD will get a college degree compared to twenty seven percent of the general population. (US Census, 2003)

It’s an uphill battle. After his latest incident at daycare (the hole-in-drywall episode I mentioned earlier), we’re taking him to see a child behavioral therapist this month (in addition to his psychiatrist), who hopefully will help him develop skills he needs to avoid reacting to his unpredictable emotional swings, and maybe foster some friendships. Hopefully she will succeed where we have failed. I didn’t really have a point to this post…I just wanted to talk it out. Thanks for listening.


Reality edit: About 15 minutes after I posted this, DWW got a phone call from the principal at 8YO’s school. He had an episode, and will spend the rest of the day today in the front office. He called the music teacher a stupid idiot after she took away his recorder when he wouldn’t stop playing around with it. Then he bolted from the class. And so it goes.