How I Learned to Love My Child's ADHD

After years of wishing my son could just be "normal," it took a father-son camping trip to delight in his wonderful, inquisitive brain.

Chris and Drew Nelson ADDitude Magazine

Why was I obsessed with having a son like everyone else's?

Chris Nelson, father of Drew

My son came into the world without a sound. He seemed perfect from the start, with bright, curious eyes that scanned the room, absorbing every detail. My wife and I named him Drew - meaning "intelligent," according to our baby name book - because we sensed he was a smart one. As I held him for the first time, I felt lucky to be the father of this perfect little boy.

Years passed, and I watched with dismay as Drew changed from that perfect child in the delivery room into a boy with significant developmental delays.

He would hit his friends to let them know he was happy, no matter how many times we told him not to. When he entered school, we noticed that he was slower than his peers at understanding abstract ideas.

I vividly recall the evening my wife, Wendi, patiently explained the concept of death to Drew. When she finished, she asked if he had any questions. "Yes," he replied. "Did you ever die?"

Still, Wendi and I wouldn't admit to ourselves the severity of his delays until we finally heard a doctor say, "He's years behind where he should be." I went from wondering how I was going to pay for a Harvard education to watching Drew climb aboard the special-ed bus each morning. There was no denying that Drew was different from other kids, but I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could make him "normal."

At age six, Drew joined a T-ball league. But he seemed to spend most of his time picking dandelions in the outfield. He couldn't understand why his teammates were running all over the place to catch a ball when there were so many beautiful flowers to gather.

Drew moved on to soccer, but he proved less interested in chasing the ball than in playing with the drinking fountain at the edge of the field. In karate class, he spent most of his time putting the other kids in headlocks - something his instructor frowned upon. Nothing really engaged him except building Lego masterpieces.

At age seven, Drew was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). His odd behavior continued. Still, I was determined to find something he could do like any other little boy. So I signed him up for Boy Scouts, volunteering to be the troop leader.

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This article comes from the October/November 2005 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Diagnosing Children with ADHD, Learning Disabilities

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