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“My Hyperinactive Boy and His Hidden ADHD”

Both of my boys have diagnosed ADHD. They also have distinctly different personalities, symptoms, and treatment plans.

My hyperinactive boy - calm African American child with inattentive ADHD relaxing on grass, hands behind head. newsletter

By the time our oldest son turned two, we knew Isaac was hyperactive. He demonstrated all the classic signs: high energy, inattention, and impulsivity. He was the kid running around parking lots pulling the door handles on all the cars. Our youngest son, Jayden, is nothing like this.

Jayden is (and always has been) one cool customer. When I tackle Isaac and tickle him, he screams and wiggles and kicks and fights back. Jayden just lies there giggling. He loves getting tickled. In fact, he loves physical interactions like wrestling, bear hugs, and tickling. He’s just not the excitable type.

Nothing fazes him, which makes him an ideal athlete. In football, soccer, and basketball, he’s fearless in the strictest definition of the word. He doesn’t overcome his fears; he literally has no fear. I’ve seen coaches lay into him at practices and games for not hustling or for missing a tackle. I’ve seen the same coaches bring other players to tears. Jayden just nods his helmet and responds calmly, “Yes, Sir.” In the car on the way home, I ask him if getting yelled at bothers him. He responds, “Who yelled at me?”

“Uh, your coach.”

“Oh.” He says. Then stares off into space.

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I wait a minute to see if he’s going to say anything more. But he doesn’t. He rarely does. So I continue, “Do you like football?”

He nods his head and says, “Sure.” Then a few silent moments pass before he asks if I’ll get him a milkshake.

I wonder sometimes if anything gets through to him. Does it bother him when teachers get on his case about his messy desk or his incomplete homework? Does it bother him when his mom or I get on his case for the infinity-th time about putting his plate in the dishwasher or his clothes in the hamper?

He’s never hyper, so it doesn’t seem like he has ADHD. But he’s always been inattentive. We gave up giving him complicated chores and chore lists a long time ago. He rarely finishes the first chore correctly, so we give very short instructions, and try to maintain our patience when he does a lousy job.

Once he started struggling in school, we saw more action was needed. When we visited with our oldest son’s neurologist, we told him, “He has obvious attention issues that are hindering his school performance, but he isn’t hyper, so doesn’t that mean he doesn’t have ADHD?”

“It’s all under the ADHD umbrella,” the doctor told us. “He may not be hyper, but I recommend we treat the other symptoms.”

I thought about the coaches laying into him and realized he wasn’t fazed because he wasn’t paying attention. He doesn’t register that his room or his desk at school are a mess, or that his teachers or mom and I get on his case. On the one hand, we just wish something would register with him. On the other hand, I envy the world he lives in. No worries. No stress. No long-term priorities. Except where and when his next milkshake is coming from.

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