“The Day My Hyperactive Toddler Aced His ADHD Test”
“Kip grabbed two mugs, kicked the cupboard door shut with a bang, and turned without looking. He tripped on the edge of the mat and fell face first to the floor. One mug rolled across the floor and the other smashed into his chin and lip as he fell. Cal made a startled noise. I didn’t. This was a pretty normal morning for us.”
Soon after my toddler was diagnosed with ADHD (and with an extremely high score), we were told to expect a home visit from Cal, the child psychologist who would teach us behavior management strategies to use with Kip. Though my son’s diagnosis left us downcast, scared, and uncertain about the future, we at least had vital information. And knowing that a behavior management plan was in the works made me feel I was not navigating entirely in the dark.
In the weeks leading up to his first home visit, Cal asked us to keep a diary of Kips’ behaviors. But I couldn’t do it. I really tried, but it was impossible.
I tried to explain this to Cal, who listened sympathetically and patiently as I timidly handed him 25 pages of illegible scribble. He looked at my crumpled pages and asked if they were labeled for each day.
“That’s just one day,” I said, mildly. “Half a day, actually.”
Boundless Hyperactive Energy on Display
Finally, the day of the home visit came. I’d been mentally prepping myself all morning. This will be positive! Cal will offer a new perspective and wonderful strategies. We’d have a cup of tea; chat; Cal will interact with Kip and watch his behavior. He knows kids, right?
[Take This Self-Test: Symptoms of Hyperactive Impulsive ADHD in Children]
As Cal pulled into our driveway, Kip raced out the door toward his car before it had made a full stop. Cal greeted us with his easy smile, gently reminded Kip about the dangers of rushing towards a moving car, and asked me if we could sit, chat, and observe Kip.
“Great,” I said, going to check the kettle. I was feeling as enthusiastic as Kip appeared to be. Really good start, I thought optimistically.
But Kip, so excited to have a visitor to entertain, decided that he wanted to get the tea bags ready for us. So he shot toward the house, wrenched open the sliding door with a bang, vaulted a chair to get in first, and, in all his hurry, knocked the kitchen sugar bowl to the floor.
“Whoops, sorry,” he called over his shoulder.
He grabbed the jar of tea bags, pulled out two bags, and slammed the lid shut while I cleaned up the sugar on the floor. Without looking, he reached quickly behind himself to put the jar back in its usual place on the shelf. But he missed, and the jar fell, knocking down the salt, pepper, and other herb bottles.
[Read: Could My Toddler Really Have ADHD? How Can I Tell?]
“Whoops… sorry, Mum!”
Cal tried to speak. “Whoa! Slow down, mate!” No effect whatsoever.
While I picked up jars and bottles and made apologetic gestures to Cal, Kip was busy getting mugs for our tea. He was so ridiculously exuberant, and although he was always this ‘helpful’ and fast, he seemed to have completely lost his mind with Cal’s visit.
When Toddler Hyperactivity Intensifies
Kip grabbed two mugs, kicked the cupboard door shut with a bang, and turned without looking. He tripped on the edge of the mat and fell face first to the floor. One mug rolled across the floor and the other smashed into his chin and lip as he fell.
Cal made a startled noise. I didn’t. This was a pretty normal morning for us.
Blood dripped from Kip’s bottom lip, onto his shirt, and to the floor. But Kip simply leapt up, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and glanced at me. “Whoops,” he said.
I cleaned his lip, checked that his teeth were intact, rubbed arnica on his chin (for two seconds, because that’s all he stood still for), and went back to the kitchen to clean up the blood and pick up the mugs. All the while, I tried to smile and make small talk about the weather and traffic so Cal would feel comfortable.
Kip, who was talking nonstop from the moment Cal arrived, went straight back to the cupboard, determined to help set us up for tea. Along with his insane amounts of energy, Kip could focus on a task while constantly talking and changing subjects, from tea to dogs to the weather to cars and to games.
Before Kip could open the cupboard door again, I gave him an ice pack to hold to his lip, which was now black, blue, and swollen. Perhaps having only one hand free would slow him down. Good idea? Maybe. (These thoughts raced through my mind as I desperately attempted to keep conversation flowing in Cal’s direction.) Still, Kip grabbed two new mugs with his free hand and slammed them down on our table once more. He tossed a tea bag into each mug and madly heaped a large teaspoon of sugar into each (whether Cal took sugar seemed to be irrelevant) while spilling sugar all over the place.
Finally, the kettle whistled – and Kip instantly leapt toward to the stove.
This was what finally propelled Cal into action. He jumped forward ahead of Kip, reached for the kettle of boiling water, and said (much more loudly than he intended), “I’ve got it!” Crisis averted. We finally got the cups of tea poured.
I grabbed Kip mid-stride to hold him still for a second and sent him outside to run off a little bit of energy. Kip, legs already moving, happily yelled, “Okey-dokey, but Mum, I’ve got lots of energy today!”
Outside he sprinted, threw a ball to the dog, climbed over chairs, and swung around the bar of the rotary clothesline, all while saying things like, “Watch me! Did you see that?”; “There’s a crow!”; “It’s cloudy today!”; “How fast does Cal’s car go?!”
This gave me time to hand Cal his tea. (I hoped he liked sugar.) I took a deep breath as soon as we sat down, yet before we were able to take our first sip of tea, the back door flew open. Kip had returned, skidding to a halt right in front of us.
“Can Cal play with me now?” Kip asked.
Cal was beginning to get an inkling of our everyday life.
Lessons from Raising a Hyperactive, Neurodivergent Child
This was at the beginning of our journey, 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve learned the following lessons to manage daily life with a neurodivergent child:
- Keep a sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself.
- Remember: If it won’t matter in five years’ time, it doesn’t matter now.
- What other people think doesn’t matter; we’re not here to please them.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive and full of praise and understanding, not judgment.
- One awkward event doesn’t last that long.
- The relationship you have with your child lasts forever.
Signs of ADHD in Toddlers: Next Steps
- Read: Isn’t My Child Too Young to Be Diagnosed with ADHD?
- Read: “My Child Was Diagnosed at Age 3 — and Thank God She Was.”
- Read: Give Your Impulsive Child Forgiveness
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