Is it ADHD or not?

Argh. Got an e-mail from the first-grader’s teacher asking to meet to talk about his focus in the classroom, or more to the point, his inability to focus in the classroom. I knew his transition from a Montessori setting in kindergarten, where they emphasize unstructured learning activities and taking their teaching cues from the child, to public school in first grade would probably be difficult but I didn’t realize it would be so hard as to make me question my fitness as a mother.

We had a rocky start to the school year; she immediately noticed he was having trouble keeping still during “rug time,” when the kids all sit in a circle on a rug and listen to her while she focuses on a particular lesson. He wouldn’t bother the other kids, but would be playing with his hands and making sounds as he acted out his own scenarios, oblivious to the teacher. Giving him a ball to squish so he could keep his hands busy but still focus during the lesson helped for a little bit, until he started playing with the ball.

She’s tried other methods, bless her heart, like keep him situated so he doesn’t get as distracted and has her full attention, but obviously, it hasn’t worked. We’re going to talk about a new “behavior plan” that she wants to try, and while I’m so grateful that he has a teacher who so clearly wants to help my son, I’m also feeling powerless and frustrated that what I’ve been trying at home hasn’t been working.

When the class problems first cropped up, I literally read every book on the sheves of our local library on ADHD, teaching boys, and behavioral strategies. I came across some really helpful books, but the majority were just primers on what ADHD is. After reading all I could, I came to the tentative conclusion that he probably wasn’t ADHD, but to address the impulse control issue anyway, I instituted a token reward system, tried to provide a balance of praise for the positive and consequences for the negative, reduced TV and videogame playing time, and instituted the dietary restrictions (no artificial flavors or colors, no high fructose corn syrup). Of course, since I thought he had been doing so well, I had been easing up on the last two but now it’s back to the strict regime.

So now the next step I’m taking is to medically determine as best as they can whether he truly is ADHD. His pediatrician gave me official forms for me and his teacher to fill out, then they’ll do the testing or interview. I don’t want him on medication (I’ll homeschool him myself rather than doing that), but I do want the medical and educational resources that come with an official classification. I was hoping I could take care of this myself but it looks like I’m going to need help, which is difficult for the inner and outer control freak in me to admit.

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