"He seems to drift out of focus," one teacher said.
"He's very disorganized," added another.
"He doesn't follow directions," complained a third.
"He has ADD," concluded the psychologist.
Certainly Andrew has yet to reach his academic potential. As an open-minded and loving parent, my primary concern was never academic, but rather that Andrew didn't fit in with the other children.
This began way before the ADD diagnosis. Phone calls from the principal started in kindergarten, and we did the best we could. I thought we had "graduated" from psychologists, psychiatrists and therapies when Andrew was 10, but a couple of years later, a doctor concluded that Andrew suffers from clinical depression. "I could have told you that," muttered Andrew.
How long did he suffer needlessly? I'll never know. At least the medication helped, and our lives began anew. Months later, since Andrew's teachers continued to complain, we agreed to consider the ADD diagnosis again. Perhaps a "little something to help him concentrate" might be useful.
I will not share with you the painful disaster of the first medication; truthfully, I would not wish such suffering on anyone. The second medication seemed to help for a while, but then Andrew stopped taking it. We did not push him to continue.
By ninth grade, we were at our wits' end with school. Andrew was not failing, but he kept falling behind. "I had a term paper due?" "The teacher says I haven't handed in 10 math assignments." "I'm just bored; there is no Honours class for that."
I am now going to reveal the miracle cure.
This cure turned my spacey, disorganized, mess of a student into a motivated, dedicated scholar who at least hands in his homework and who even *gasp* studies without being asked. Are you ready? Here it is: we moved.
That's right! No new medication, no tutoring, no therapy, no yelling or strict new regimens. We moved to a place where he fits in, we let him choose the school he attends, and now he has a reason to pay attention, study, and do well: he enjoys life.
Andrew may always be on medication for depression, but righting a chemical imbalance does not make life fun: it makes life bearable. Therapy helps you understand yourself and others, but it does not find you friends to whom you can relate, if you are not meeting any like-minded people. Moving turned out to be the life-altering, miracle cure.
Please do not misunderstand me; I'm not telling people to pack up and move, and then their problems will go away. I'm just saying, it seems to be working for us.
It works because while depression was the underlying problem, it was not the only problem. It works because even though all of the teachers, psychoeducational evaluators, and psychiatrists told us that ADD was preventing him from success in school, they just may have been wrong.
An educator recently recommended a book called "The Dyslexic Advantage." As it happens, Andrew is dyslexic. (He compensated so early, none of his teachers or testers ever caught on, but we always knew.) The book points out that dyslexics often suffer from attention challenges that mimic the symptoms of Inattentive ADHD. It makes me wonder, how many dyslexic children receive the wrong diagnosis and treatment recommendations?
The more I read, the more I came to believe that Andrew's struggles with school had nothing to do with ADD at all, but rather a combination of dyslexia and plain, old-fashioned inertia. Certainly, he has learning differences. Regardless, who performs their best when they are truly unhappy?
I remain forever grateful to all of the professionals who worked with my son; we never could have gotten so far without them. Nevertheless, the fine-tuning had to be done ourselves, because we know our son better than any professional ever could.
My recommendation to parents everywhere is to educate themselves. By all means, consult professionals, but remember that you are the expert when it comes to your child. If a diagnosis or treatment doesn't feel right to you, explore options! Read books and articles, talk to people, find support groups, and seek out second opinions. It takes a village to care for a child, but you must be the mayor of that village.
No one ever said that being a parent is easy; it certainly has not been easy for me. Still, I stand firm on my position that it is the best, most fulfilling and rewarding job on the planet. My qualifications? Love, dedication, patience, research, and maybe even a little luck. I wish all of these things for you.