Friday, April 17, 2015

Girls and ADHD (a personal experience)

Statistics will say that more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD.  It is true.  Boys are more often diagnosed than girls, but I am not completely convinced this is a male dominant "disorder".  I prefer the term "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Difference" since these kids are so gifted in so many ways and don't seem to fall under the "disorder" umbrella. (Thank you to my friend Colette for the inspiring term).  Boys are much more obvious in this difference than girls.  Girls, however, more girls than you think, fit the bill.

ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is often characterized by those children who clearly have trouble focusing, have a high amount of energy, and probably exhibit impulsive behavior.  INATTENTIVE ADD is simply characterized by a lack of focus.  While ADHD fits the very definition of typical boy behavior, it does not fit most girls.  Consequently, the boys who stand out most that have a short attention span can be suggested as ADHD early on.  Their behavior waves the giant red flag. The problem is not lack of focus.  The problem is that the typical child with ADHD focuses on everything and cannot tune anything out. Those with Inattentive ADD, however, do not stand out.  They bother no one...except themselves.  This is my experience:

For my daughter, shyness was a big issue.  I am a teacher at her school.  She spoke to NO ONE.  Colleagues would come to me and celebrate one word from her.  I would walk away thinking that it would be another week, month , or year before she would utter another word to them.  She was shy to the point that I felt she was being rude.  I punished her, lectured her, educated her on proper social interaction, and on and on.  She still stood frozen, nostrils flared, head down, at the thought of having to speak.  I later learned that this type of shyness is common in the ADD population.  (The terms ADHD and ADD will be used interchangeably here since the medical community lumps it all under the ADHD umbrella.  They are quite different however.)

My daughter is very intelligent.  She had no troubles in school...until 3rd grade.  This is the age where they are expected to be more independent, get their work done as assigned,!  Well, we did.  We studied.  I knew we had to study more than I ever had to with my son who is only a year older in school.  My first red flag was when we started getting back her reading comprehension "cold reads".  These are passages that the child reads for the first time, no teacher intervention, answers questions, and is graded on spot.  EVERY ONE OF THEM WERE FAILING GRADES. F. F. F. I had never seen an F in anything we could study together.  We could not study for these.  Fortunately, I am a reading teacher, so I knew exactly what to do!  I reviewed and reviewed.  We practiced and practiced.  I just knew it would get better because I know how to help kids who struggle with reading. :)



Midyear, I decided to share with my husband that I thought she may have ADD.  It runs in my family and his, so all the puzzle pieces were coming together.  Because I am an educator, I was aware of the signs.  He thought I was crazy.  "Abby does NOT have ADHD.  She is as sharp as a tack!" And she is, SO bright.  But intellect and ADD are not related.  At all.  Children with ADD and ADHD could be the smartest people you'd ever meet. They just think differently.  They also have to be taught differently.

Besides the afore mentioned, there have been a few things I noticed as a mom educated in this field and aware of special needs.  Abby NEVER watched a movie all the way through.  She still does not unless we are taking a trip and she is seatbelted to the seat. 

She reads like a champ with all of the inflection she could possibly muster.  Her words sound like a story being told to you. In her early grades, this fluency and inflection fooled her teachers (and her mother) into thinking she comprehended what she was reading.  She was raised by a reading teacher, after all.  She comprehended very little, however. Who knew? 

Finally, at home, this is a child who never completed a chore.  I could never ask her to complete more than one task at a time, no matter how simple.  If I said, "Pick up your socks, shoes, and backpack and put it in your room,", she would run to her room, eventually return, and say, "Wait, what did you want me to do in my room?" I had to break down each task into one-step instructions.  One day, when she was 8,  I asked her to get a ponytail holder, a bobby pin, and the detangling spray. She returned with all three.  The second she came into the living room with all THREE items, she said, "I got all three things! Look!  They're all here!" My son looked on in amazement.  It was such an accomplishment to her!

I realized that day that it was no act.  This was real life.  I started the evaluation paperwork the next day.  She was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Vyvanse at the lowest dose.  Her difference is mild.  I could deal with her differences at home, but her grades were starting to drop.

She takes Vyvanse now, and in 6th grade, she even notices the difference the medicine makes.  When she asks to take a break from it, I let her.  However, her grades drop and she eventually tells me she needs her medicine. I want this to be her journey and her understanding of her needs.  We speak openly about the fact that she has ADD (along with other loved members of the family including her dad) and the fact that she needs her medicine to focus.  I don't treat it as a difference.  Rather, we see the medicine as something that she needs to be able to learn and focus.  My oldest son needs glasses.  He needs them to learn.  I'm not going to deny him glasses, obviously, so why should I deny her the medicine to focus.  He has a difference in his eyes.  She has a difference in her brain.  Same difference.

My daughter has been the shy kid.  She is intelligent.  She reads like a champ, but she comprehends half of it.  She is very moody at home.  She picks fights with siblings most days.  She talks back to me.  She screams.  She yells. She is stubborn. Her room is a mess. She never completes the chore list without making her own list.  She is complex.  I love her.  I love her carefree nature.  I love her humor.  I love her athleticism. I love how well she follows others' directions.  I love how coachable she is.  I love her...AND....I love her ADD.  it is a part of her, but it is NOT WHO she is!  She is a beautiful child.

if you are concerned about your daughter, contact me.  Comment below.  I may be able to help!

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