From the time we picked Devin up at the foster family’s home, it was pretty obvious that he had an endless power supply! So I was not surprised when we received a definite diagnosis for ADHD (Attention-Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder).
No matter what time we put Devin to bed at night, he was always awake between 6 and 6:30 am. And no matter how busy he had been, he rarely took a nap! If he did nap, it was because someone had either guided him back into his bedroom at least 10 times or because he had cried himself to sleep!
Our very own Energizer Bunny
I was 40 years old and was in good health when Devin came to live with us. I think that was one of the items in our favor as we were reviewed for him being placed in our home. And I had taken the week following him being placed in our home to help him adjust and get settled. By the time that week was over with, I was more than happy to return to work!
We many times compared Devin to the Energizer Bunny because he kept going and going and going! And he did not like to stop for anything. Being in constant motion, you would think he would be hungry when mealtimes rolled around, but it was hard to get him to even sit down and eat.
Slides and Flying
We would take him to a park to play — it did not matter if it was 100 degrees outside, he ran and ran and ran! And don’t let anyone tell him that it was time to go home — he would run away from you and scream as loud as he could! I remember one day at the park, and he climbed up the ladder of the tallest slide there as I watched anxiously, afraid he would miss one of the steps and come tumbling down backwards! I breathed a sigh of relief when he reached the top, only to hear him shout, “Mom, I going to fly down to the ground!” There he stood, actually poised to jump off the side of the slide as I frantically tried to convince him not to do it!
The ADHD Diagnosis
When we received his ADHD diagnosis, we were sitting in a psychologist’s office and the psychologist’s words to me were “I have never seen anyone rate this high on the ADHD scale!” Devin was in the 99th percentile for his age group — which meant that if you put him in a room of 100 children his age with ADHD, he would display more ADHD tendencies than 98 of them! Yes, we definitely had a whirlwind on our hands!
Then the psychologist broke the news — he could not prescribe medication and because of Devin’s past, he wanted to refer us to a pediatric neurologist to ensure there was nothing from past physical abuse causing these behaviors.
Long road to getting medications
After undergoing a series of tests, we were further dismayed to find the pediatric neurologist hesitant to put him on any medications because of his age — he was just 4 years old! She wanted to consult with a former colleague of hers before taking this step because she had never placed a child younger than 7 on ADHD medications.
We also had to rule out mental health conditions due to Devin’s biological family history of bipolar disorder. At the time and for a child his age, the only way to tell if it was ADHD or bipolar disorder was to start him on the medication — if it was ADHD the medication would calm him down and if it was bipolar disorder, it would make him more hyperactive! You can imagine the feelings going through me as we drove home from that appointment! More hyperactive? I could not even begin to imagine what that could be like!
Some respite — finally!
Finally we got a phone call saying that there was a prescription waiting for us at the doctor’s office. On top of my concerns about putting Devin on these medications at such a young age, the medication was only available in capsule form so we had to teach Devin how to swallow a pill!
By the third day on the medication, it was very obvious that we were dealing with ADHD. We had a calmer little boy (well, until the medication wore off) and could even get him to sit at the table long enough to eat some food for most meals. I could get him to sit still and let me read books to him. Bedtime was still a struggle, and he still woke up very early in the morning but the days were more bearable!
To provide an outlet for some of his energy, we decided to sign him up for youth soccer when he was 5. Devin had displayed some definite athletic talent, and he was excited. He spent hours in the backyard kicking his soccer ball before the soccer season started! Once the season started, it became apparent that despite the athletic talent Devin was not ready for soccer — anytime that anyone would kick the ball away from him, he would get upset and either run off the field or plop down right where he was. He could not understand why the other children were taking the ball away from him!
Dealing with ADHD at preschool
The staff at preschool definitely had their trials with Devin. Before he started his medication for ADHD, they were trying out weighted blankets and lap pads to help keep him still so he could focus on lessons. I remember at a conference one day his teacher (who had been teaching special education preschool for years) told me that they were using blankets that weighed more than he did in order to keep him still!
Devin’s ADHD now as a teenager
Devin’s ADHD is still a struggle now that he is a teenager (almost an adult). Instead of a weighted blanket at school, he now has a weighted vest that he reaches for when needed. And the school staff has built extra breaks into his schedule, to allow him time to get up and move around. But in the home setting he is constantly wanting to be outside and if he cannot go outside he paces and talks to himself about why he cannot go outside! He also likes to “tinker” — take various things apart or try to make them better or just create things! His creativity is amazing when he is working on something that is his idea — but it is really hard to channel it to something if he is not completely convinced that it is what he wants to do! The photo that appears in this section is one of his pieces of artwork!
If you have a comment, suggestion or question, please leave it below! I would love to hear about your experiences with ADHD and how you have dealt with it!