Monday, September 15, 2008

Willy Nilly ADHD "Diagnosis"

Thinking about my son doing so well in kindergarten got me all excited again thinking about his first preschool experience. Let me start by explaining Henry a little. He is not like any child I've ever met before. He's never met a stranger, and can talk to ANYone. He has the most amazing ideas and usually thinks he is right, no matter who he is talking to. This morning on the way in to school he was arguing with me about the spelling of a word. The kid can't READ. He is incredibly stubborn, and usually thinks he knows how to run whatEVER show is happening around him better than whoever is in charge. Does this make him an easy student to have in school? Absolutely not. Does that make him have ADHD?? NO.

Here's what happened. My son started preschool at 3 years old - turned 4 the next month - and was an excited, rambunctious little boy who couldn't WAIT to meet all these great new friends and learn great new things. Everything started off great, until I started getting held after for "discussions" about him. He wasn't interested in the art area. He only wanted to play in the area with the blocks, but he wanted to build his "contraptions" (which he first called "confections" - loved that) with a little bit of everything from all of the different areas in the school. Henry usually has a little posse of kids around him, so when he would build a contraption, everyone would start to get in on it, and soon it was out of control and too big to handle. Was a teacher there BEFORE it got too big? A parent helper? No, of course not. No one would pay any attention to these kids until the tower toppled over, or another little person would try to take away some of the pieces of it crying "you can't have ALL the (fill in the blank)!!!" Then Henry would get in "trouble" - alone of course - because if you take down the leader, you crush the whole army.
The teacher was worried that he had ADHD because she had just taken a seminar and Henry showed MANY of the signs of the disorder. Here are the typical signs of ADHD:

  • Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  • Often has trouble organizing activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • Is often easily distracted.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Now let's remember that we are talking about a barely 4 year old little boy here. Does spending 1/2 hour building the perfect tower sound like someone who has trouble organizing or focusing?? Was he focusing on what the teacher wanted him to focus on? NO. I went sobbing to his pediatrician, and she said "every child his age would test positive for ADHD! He does. not. have. it." The other "symptom" that is very common with this disorder is aggression, or inability to control one's emotions. This is absolutely out of Henry's scope. he's never hit in anger ONCE. Not one time in almost 6 years. Even when his little sister is driving him crazy, he has never hit her.

We didn't finish out the year at this school, needless to say, nor did I get Henry in counseling or, God forbid on medication, for his "disorder". There were a few larger incidents that happened that helped us make our decision that he would be better off at home than with this sort of labeling on him every day. We didn't want him to associate school with getting in trouble all the time. When I was explaining this to his teacher over the phone, she said, "Marne, what is he going to do when he is in kindergarten, and has to sit at his desk with 35 other kids and listen to his teacher all day??!" Very upset by now, I just answered, "well I hope he isn't IN that situation!"

I knew so little at the time. Henry was my first child; my first experience with any kind of school that I wasn't enrolled in. I had trouble telling the teacher what was best for my child because I felt like she was the expert, not me. Boy was I WRONG. We are our kids best and only advocates!

It just makes me laugh now when I listen to Henry's kindergarten teacher talk about their curriculum. They don't do anything focused for more than EIGHT MINUTES. Because kindergartners can't focus longer than that. There are not 35 kids sitting in desks facing the front from 8:30 to 3:00 every day. All of those years of worrying were just a waste of time! Does Henry still talk out in class because he is so excited? Probably. Does he want to run the class? Probably. Is he learning how to read? YES! Does he adore his teacher and tell us everything she has said all day? YES!! Is she in complete control of her classroom? YES.

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