My Son Is More than an ADHD Diagnosis

My ADHD child's behavior improved once I stopped holding my breath and seeing him as a 'diagnosis' rather than a little boy.

ADHD Family: Life Story, Part 2

We took Jake to a variety of professionals, who diagnosed him as having everything from a mood disorder to sensory issues. One suggested that my husband and I take a parenting course and establish firm rules. (Ha! You come over to my house and establish firm rules.) If the professionals couldn't agree, what was I to do? I didn't want to make him a guinea pig and throw medicine and discipline at him to see what worked. I wanted a diagnosis. A label. Something to explain what was going on. Something that would tell the world I wasn’t a bad mother.

Fear of the known

Finally, we found a doctor who was able to help us. He told us that Jake had "major" ADHD. I was relieved and sad at the same time. I sank into a deep depression. I would drive him to kindergarten, and then come home and spend the afternoon crying, mourning the loss of what I thought he was and what he could be.

Then I made a big mistake: I began to see Jake as a diagnosis rather than as a unique little boy with strengths and weaknesses. I became obsessive about finding out everything I could about ADHD. I lived and breathed the disorder. I attributed just about everything he did to his “issues.” I kept him on a tight leash. He wasn’t Jake anymore. He was “Jake with ADHD.”

Once my husband and I decided to put him on medication, our life quickly took a turn for the better. I still held my breath when we were in restaurants or with friends, but most of the time nothing happened. Slowly, he began to get positive feedback from his teachers and from other parents. One or two kids called for a play date.

But while others were seeing positive changes, I was still anxious all the time. In hindsight, I think I made the situation worse. I expected him to be bad, and he didn't disappoint me. Gradually, I started believing in him, and he started believing in himself — and his behavior improved. Weeks went by without incident. I no longer felt the need to write down all his transgressions.

And when I rediscovered the purple notebook the other day, I didn't open it. Instead, I tossed it into the recycling container and took that out to the curb. Now, when Jake goes on a play date or to a birthday party, I don't hold my breath, waiting for the tense phone call. When he is down the street playing, I am no longer one step behind him. His teachers tell me he is kind and helpful.

I wish I could say that life is perfect now, and that we never have problems. But I know that, even without ADHD, there are no fairy-tale endings. We still have tough times. But now I know that Jake is simply Jake. ADHD is a part of him, but not what defines him.

This article comes from the December 2006/January 2007 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Diagnosing Children with ADHD, ADHD Kids Making Friends

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