Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An un-diagnostic diagnosis

So after I last posted about kiddo maybe/possibly/who knows? having ADHD, I heard from my cousin down South (who very nicely gave the OK on being mentioned here). Her son, a little older than my son, does have ADHD and has been in occupational therapy for a few years now. And some of the things she described seeing sounded extremely familiar.

And then we had our first "parent-teacher conference" at the new school. And they -- nicely, supportively -- said kiddo was behind where he should be, especially with fine motor skills and with listening/paying attention. I asked about ADHD, figuring they wouldn't bring it up unless I did first. Turns out the director's son has ADHD. "A lot of the things my son did," she said, "I see in your son."

She suggested avoiding red dye and severely limiting soda. Which raised two questions: Were we even giving him any red dye-ish foods now? And who the hell gives a 4-year-old kid soda? We don't even give him that much juice -- he uses a water bottle at school. Thankfully kiddo's teacher noted that he seems to eat a lot of healthy foods as it is. Which he does -- lots of fruit, whole wheat everything, cheese sticks, sunflower seed butter, carrots and hummus.

Conversations like this are what make me think all other parents are raising their kids on Dr. Pepper and Pop-Tarts.

Anyway they said they'd work with an OT if we needed one to come to the school for sessions. And they said whatever disciplinary method we use at home, they'd use as well for consistency. So that was nice. Certainly more than the other school offered. Of course, the other school also didn't bother to flag us about his handwriting, possibly because everyone was quitting for better jobs at that point.

We took him to the pediatrician to get a referral for evaluation. And she agreed, after watching him for a few minutes, that he was definitely showing signs of hyperactivity. Mostly because he was bouncing off the walls of the examining room like he was the ball in a pinball game. She said ADHD frequently shows up along with something else, like autism, but she didn't see any sign of that, since he was peppering her with a million questions about the decorations on the walls and came over twice to give her a hug. She also said most 4-year-olds wouldn't think to ask so many questions about something, and that he's a pretty smart kid.

I actually think that's the frustrating thing: That he can be so fantastic and so completely exasperating at the same time, literally at the same second. That he really likes to go, say, food shopping with me, but while food shopping, will demand to hold the bananas -- wait, just one banana -- no, two bananas -- no, not those two bananas -- no, wait, the cranberries -- no, the mini bagels -- no, the bananas! And then will pretend the banana is a phone and walk down the aisle chatting into it. (OK, I admit this was pretty funny. People were walking by us and giggling.)

Per UMDNJ and a bunch of other places, here are the symptoms of ADHD:

  • Get distracted easily and forget things often
  • Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
  • Have trouble with directions
  • Daydream too much
  • Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
  • Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
  • Fidget and squirm a lot
  • Talk nonstop and interrupt people
  • Run around a lot
  • Touch and play with everything they see
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions
The red flag is if you see at least six of these. I count between seven and eight, depending on the day.

So we have a call out to the child development center at the hospital, but of course not expecting to hear back until after Thanksgiving. My therapist says some of the tests they would use, he just isn't old enough for. So we could go through all this and still not get a clear diagnosis until after he's 5. I'm thinking the best course of action is to proceed as though he does have it, and keep things very structured for him, and see what we can do about the handwriting. At least until we hear something different.

Last year it was his eyes -- literally, the surgery was a year ago -- this year, it's his mental development. Can't wait to see what I need to freak out about next year.


  1. Red dye is in a lot of stuff. You will be surprised. On the plus side of ADD and ADHD children with learning disabilities are usually smarter than the average child. I learned from being a nanny that the best thing is to break every process down to it's most simplified steps. For example, ( kiddo is not that bad but the boy I nannied for had it very bad) we stopped eating cereal in the morning and switched to cereal bars because it was easier to get him to eat that. You will be an awesome advocate if he does end up getting diagnosed with it.

  2. Best of luck navigating this, and call me if you want. We're around all weekend.

    Am I really considered to be from down South now? Yikes. I will always be a Jersey Girl at heart.

  3. Thanks, C. Although I have no idea how to weed out this red dye thing. The school director said it's in apples -- for real?

    And thank you, Holly, I shall. Um, South-ish? South of Jersey? But yes, once a Jersey Girl, always a Jersey Girl.

  4. Red dye is in a lot of things. I think even in canned vanilla frosting. It will be labeled on the package. But really you just have to read the back of the packaging. But read everything, till you get used to what you have to look for.