From the time Kennith was two, I suspected he had ADHD. When he would have his meltdowns, they were pretty serious. He would fall on the ground (whether in a parking lot or in the bakery of the grocery store) and bang his head into the floor. I remember when he was three, so vividly- we were at the local grocery store and I had to get some bratwurst buns for a BBQ we were going to that night. Walking into the store, my son wanted to go look at the cakes (he has ALWAYS LOVED the pretty cakes in Hy-Vee, our local grocery store). When I said no, he ran to the bakery, I tried to grab him and he started banging his head into the floor. People gathered around and I dropped the brat buns and took him into the women's bathroom. In that women's bathroom I crawled on the floor with him, held him tight so he couldn't hurt himself and I just cried. Then? What is a girl going to do? I called my mother. Her suggestion? By any means, drag him out of the store, and go home. Do not buy your buns for the BBQ, do not recognize his behavior and just get him home. I couldn't believe what she was suggesting, I needed those darn buns. So, I had to DRAG my child out of the store. DRAG him, literally. I am 5'4' and I am dragging this solid three year old out because he would throw his body so hard against my arms, I almost dropped him. When I got home, we talked about why we left, and he looked up at me with his baby blue eyes and said, "Sorries mama." I had to forgive him, he is my baby and my world. Next thing I knew, there was a knock at my door. My mother... with the buns.
I started notice that Kennith had a bit more aggressive behavior than his peers. At one time, he bit a child so hard in daycare he broke the child's skin. In addition, I noticed that Kennith would get frustrated a lot and get upset, to the point where he would rage. We spent many days doing time ins. (me holding him and telling him it would be ok). Kennith also would say negative things about himself that I would NEVER say, thinks like, "I am so stupid." This was a huge concern for me. I always want my kids to feel like they are valued, supported, and loved beyond measure. After doing research, I found out that an accurate diagnosis for ADHD isn't made until children are around age 7. So, I would keep track of his behavior so I had documentation for a doctor in the future.
So, I was on a mission. I tried not to get frustrated with him. Any attention is attention and kids will seek it. I focused on telling him good things every day about himself. AND I ONLY rewarded good behavior. So, instead of losing my cool (as I had been) I researched. I am a researcher by trade, so I researched everything first. My mother in law found a great book, "The Strong Willed Child" by James Dobson. It had some great tools in there for little kids like Kennith. I started working on a plan right away!
At this time, Kennith was almost three and a half and not potty trained. He would get so upset over the whole process, I just gave up. I kept thinking that he will train when he feels like it. One of the things I did, is I really tried to focus on what motivated him. He LOVED (and still does) match box cars. They were $1(ish) at the store. So, we gave him a dollar for every time he went potty and talked about how $1 equals one match box car… it worked! So, then I went to the school supply store and bought a big calendar. I divided each day into three categories and had STICKERS and a sharpie!! (my kids love sticker.) The three sections represented were: potty on the potty, pick up toys, and NO temper tantrums. We had a code to the chart – one star sticker = 10 cents, one bear sticker = 25 cents and one smiley face sticker was worth 50 cents. If he got THREE stickers in one category and had NO tantrums, he got a big smiley face. The first few days it SUCKED. Royally. He was so naughty, I cried every night. BUT, my mom said… YOU have to keep winning. Melissa…stick to it. So I did. Within two weeks, he was fully potty trained (he had about 50 match box cars, but he was potty trained) and within two months he stopped having temper tantrums.
As he got older, I noticed his development with certain things was off from other kids. Kennith couldn’t tie his shoes. He couldn’t tie them until this summer, the summer before second grade. He would get so frustrated and shut down. What did it take? He is a visual kid. So, we found a YouTube video online – Sesame Street. Singing and tying a shoe… he had it down in two days! Other developmental signs I noticed, he didn’t like to color. He would write his letters and numbers backwards and ALWAYS had a hard time holding a pencil. He couldn’t read for comprehension. And he could not pay attention. I often found myself repeating the SAME thing more than three times to him IN A ROW! I was one frustrated mommy! I tried behavior modification with him, and changed his food intake (little sugar, NO caffeine EVER). It still wasn’t enough…
So, Phillip and I talked about it last winter (2011). I said I would take him to the doctor. Kennith’s behavior got worse. He was having a hard time in school. Every day a new kid was mean to him, he was sad, and he had no friends. He started talking back to me and throwing fits. He was now SEVEN for cry eye. I procrastinated. I didn’t want him to be put on medication that would make him a drone. I didn’t want my son to change. I kept procrastinating… Then it was May. He was getting into so much trouble I wanted to cry… I was in denial. I was in denial that my son needed help.
It was then that my husband sat down with me and we talked about it. Phillip is an educator of young minds and talked to me about if from an education standpoint, and I got it. Then I felt SO bad for not getting him help sooner. I felt GUILTY (no, Melissa… you? Get outta here.) BUT, I got him help. I have to remember that. I ended up taking him to our doctor and she said that he should be evaluated. Anyone who thinks their child may have ADD or ADHD, don’t just settle for a doctor prescribing medication. Make sure your child goes to a child psychologist who specializes in ADHD, they will do proper testing. In August of 2011, we finally met with the psychologist, and she did an evaluation on Kennith. She then called Phillip and I back and I got the news. My every mom-gut inclination… Kennith had severe ADHD. I found that it was causing him to be behind in reading, writing, and cognitive skills. His doctor sees him every month to make sure the medication is working. Kennith went through several medications before we found the perfect medication for him. One medication made him drone like, another one made him ANGRY. The key to finding the perfect ADHD medication is the one that doesn’t change your child, but helps them focus. We found that after five months trying medicines. Every child is different.
Kennith is a well rounded child. We manage and help him manage his ADHD by behavior modification, activities (like TaeKwanDo helps with his level of focus), food, and medication. Medicine doesn’t fix ADHD, it helps the child stay focused and blur out all the extra “noise”. It is Kennith’s job (and ours) to manage his behavior and guide him to make the right choices and be rewarded. He makes choices, he has consequences, just like everyone else. He doesn’t get to blame his bad choices on his ADHD, he has to work through them.
I look at Kennith today and I know we did the right thing for him. I can see it in his smile… feel it when he hugs me, and see it when he really pays attention to what I say (I don’t have to CONSTANTLY REPEAT myself anymore). He has ADHD. He is happy. He is doing well in school. He is focused. He is a silly boy. He knows how important and smart he is. Most importantly, Kennith is himself.