Not All Deficiencies: One Mom’s Reflections on ADHD
posted by: Mile High Mamas
For as long as I can remember, my son has spent his days in school chewing on his sleeves, eating paper, and fidgeting with anything else he can get his hands on. And when he wasn’t chewing on or fiddling with something, he is talking—commenting on whatever was going on, interrupting, yelling, or trying to be the center of attention.
When he was in the third grade, his talkativeness grew argumentative and disrespectful with teachers and caregivers, and the chewing/fidgeting behaviors that we thought he might outgrow were becoming disruptive to the class. I sensed that, in our case, there was something else going on.
We made a doctor’s appointment, sat on a waitlist for a while, and finally, a licensed psychologist determined that my son had ADHD. It was the inattentive kind, not the hyperactive kind, she said. The psychologist told me that it’s common that many kids with ADHD exhibit what we were seeing: “class clown syndrome.” She told me, “They use what they consider to be humor to deflect attention away from ‘getting in trouble’ and being embarrassed by that.” The constant chewing, she thought, was his attempt to regulate his own behavior.
According to her tests, my son was on the mild end of the spectrum, and for that reason, she did not recommend medication as a first course of action. She suggested a specific kind of Occupational Therapy, which could take up to six months to see results. We started therapy, but in the meantime, my son became keenly aware that some teachers and other adult caregivers didn’t like him so much. “They don’t respect me!” he told me one day through frustrated tears.
It seemed that many adults-in-charge assumed his behavior stemmed solely from disobedience. They couldn’t see his ADHD brain and how it was wired differently than non-ADHD brains, which made it physically more difficult to sit quietly. Never would these same adults expect a struggling reader to just catch up on their own without intervention, or a very sensitive child to stop crying on command. But when it came it ADHD, in my experience, empathy for it was in shorter supply.
Fast forward two years to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, and the boy that interrupts and talks too much was gold in 5th-grade literature discussions on Zoom. While some of the others—the better listeners in the class—mumbled and stared awkwardly at the screen, my son piped in loud and clear with constructive comments about the reading assignment, offered comic relief by sharing his pet tortoise, and enthusiastically produced teacher-required videos of himself.
Outside of school, too, the boy who is considered deficient in focus is more than proficient when it comes to communication. He asks personal questions that spark deeper conversations; we know what he is thinking and feeling pretty much all the time; he is quick to apologize; he makes friends easily; he excels in theater and improvisation.
And those ADHD behaviors that were causing problems? With OT and other natural methods, the boy has come a long way, and he has matured somewhat as he’s gotten older. His ADHD brain, though, means that he still conducts himself a little differently. And I hope he always will.
October is ADHD Awareness Month. Lydia Rueger is an Arvada mom of two, and author of the picture book, Victor and the Vroom, about a regular car with an extraordinary engine, based on her son’s ADHD diagnosis. Learn more at www.lydiarueger.com