ADD Boys, Part 2
The stress at home was uncomfortable. Alan and I went to Susan Bogas, a family therapist. We learned that ADD can triangulate a marriage. The primary caregiver is inclined to trust and over-help the child, which further distances the other parent. Thanks to Susan’s awareness of ADD (in 1991 it wasn’t a household word!), Ted was diagnosed in eighth grade. While I was relieved, my husband and Ted thought it was baloney.
ALAN: It was difficult for me to accept the diagnosis. Katherine said, “Think about it as if he needed glasses. He’s not lazy — he just needs glasses.” After reading Driven to Distraction [by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey], I came to accept that his brain is wired differently.
KATHERINE: We started Ted on Ritalin, and his grades improved. We focused more on project management and schoolwork. But in tenth grade, Ted announced he wasn’t taking medication anymore. You can’t force a 16-year-old to do anything. He told us, “This is my business.”
In eleventh grade, he took medication only before finals and when he needed to write a paper. His grades were up and down and stayed that way through Dartmouth. He was like the classic absent-minded professor. It’s not funny when you’re living with it. At times it’s heartbreaking.
SUSAN: Ted had difficulty being motivated enough to follow his own schedule. He’d decide, in an instant, to go play golf or get food. He’d also get bogged down with details. I used rewards with him. He’d work for 90 minutes and then go get a drink. I had him choose a place to study that he would associate with getting work done.
KATHERINE: With James, we were better prepared, and his condition was more obvious. He was hyperactive from the time he was a toddler. He didn’t sleep through the night for two years. In nursery school, his impulsivity would cause him to get into fights, and he was a biter. Luckily, he had a wonderful second-grade teacher who enjoyed his uniqueness and realized he had to be in motion all the time. She accommodated him. Unlike Ted, James’s anger was hard to manage. If you gave him a time out, he’d trash the room.
SUSAN: In second grade, James was getting pretty good grades, but at home he was impossible. I helped Katherine learn to manage him. Her tendency is to negotiate, but she had to be a firm disciplinarian and give him airtight limits and positive rewards. Working as a team, she and Alan became highly structured parents.
KATHERINE: We started James on Ritalin in the second grade, so he could focus enough to do his homework. But he said it took away his “funny.” James has a wonderful sense of humor and adventure.
On the days he didn’t get his medication, the phone would ring by noon, and it would be his teacher or the principal saying that James was in trouble for something—again. Like Ted, James stopped taking medication in tenth grade. It affected his grades, but we made sure he had the tutors he needed.
JAMES: I was crazy and loud in elementary school. The medication would shut me up, but it made me feel blue. I didn’t want to take it any more—though I continued to take it during exams.
TIM: At first I didn’t buy that there was a reason James was forgetful and disorganized. When he was older, we started to have more in-depth conversations about it. I realized he was trying hard to do all these things. He hated when he forgot his lunch or when my parents had to drive stuff to school. He didn’t want to use his ADD as an excuse.
This article comes from the October/November issue of ADDitude.