My first issues with ADHD began in pre-school. Basically, I had a problem paying attention. At least a problem paying attention to one thing at a time. If I was playing with blocks and listening to the teacher I was fine. But when I was made to only listen to the teacher I had trouble. If we were having circle time I had a tendency to spontaneously get up and do something else. I just found myself being easily distracted. In my mind I was not misbehaving or being disrespectful. I would often get and pick up toys that had been left out to be helpful. Looking back I guess I was a little low on focus and high on activity. At this point my problem was mainly attributed to my being a little younger than everyone else by a few months. It was felt that I was simply immature and not quite ready to enter a school environment. A lot of parents would have held me back but I am glad my parents did not. My problem, as I would later find out, was not that I was too young to start school. I have a separate article that I wrote about why my parents did not hold me back and also my opinion on the subject.
FIRST SYMPTOMS – Easily Distracted. Can’t stay on task. Spontaneous Behavior. (misdiagnosed as a lack or readiness) Difficulty staying still.
NOTE – A persons ability to stay focused and successfully complete a task is called “readiness”.
When I was in kindergarten I had the same issues that I had in pre-school. I did well in areas that did not require a lot of focus but not so well in other areas. I started to fall behind and was made fun of by the other kids because of my difficulties. My teacher, Ms. Prochaska, was great and recognized that although I was very capable and plenty smart, there was something getting in the way. She observed me and noticed that if I was doing something with my hands I was actually able to focus better during reading time. Almost like I needed to be doing two things at a time. She worked with me in kindergarten but told my parents that this issue was going to create more difficulty in first grade because I would be expected to stay at a desk and would not have the flexibility that I had been given in kindergarten. This turned out to be true.
First grade was more difficult for the exact reasons that my kindergarten teacher had pointed out. My parents worked with me and I was able to keep my grades up but it was becoming increasingly difficult. I did not know why I was having so much difficulty. It was in first grade that my problem began to show up in my grades. In pre-school and kindergarten we received a satisfactory or unsatisfactory but in first grade we started getting scores and the class became more structured which was not good for me. At the end of the year my parents had a conference and was told I was being placed in IEP which stands for Individualized Education Program. This really just meant that there may be a problem and they were going to be monitoring my progress.
SECOND SYMPTOM – Poor or declining grades and Difficulty finishing schoolwork.
Being in second grade was even harder than first grade. My second grade teacher, Ms. Grainger, had a son who had ADHD and recognized some of the symptoms in me. This was really the first time that this was mentioned. I was able to work hard and keep my grades up but because of my grades I was left on the IEP program. There was never any discussion about holding me back. I think that if I had given up and not tried there would have been. I did feel like no matter how hard I tried I just could not stay focused. I kept a notebook and was supposed to write down all my assignments but would forget. I meant well but would get distracted and then something would happen or the bell would ring and I would forget about writing down the assignments. Also, as school became more demanding I began to forget more things. Once, I forgot to wear my shoes to school on FCAT day. It did not very much to distract me. Also, I found that I became angry very easily. I guess the stress of things always had me on edge.
THIRD SYMPTOM – Forgetting things. Frustration. Easily angered.
Third grade was the grade when things become bad enough for me to be tested. It was strange because my sister as being tested for the gifted program while I was being tested for a learning problem. Since this article is on the symptoms I am going to cover being tested for ADHD in my next article.
After I was officially diagnosed with ADHD I immediately enrolled in Taekwondo. We had heard that it was a good sport to help focus. Any sport that helps to enhance focus is good treatment for ADHD or ADD, however, Taekwondo is especially good for this purpose because of it’s attention to discipline, focus and physical activity. Since the main purpose of Taekwondo is self defense it is a good sport for anyone regardless of whether they have ADHD issues.
In order to learn all the different forms for each belt I had to pay close attention to the instructor. Each form also involved quite a bit of physical activity and eventually quite a bit of sparring. Since my sister was in the class with me I was very motivated not to fall behind. I quickly moved from white belt to yellow belt to green belt and so on. With each belt my focus improved as did my self esteem. It gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. My parents encouraged and believed in me which really helped me to keep going. At the age of 11 I became a black belt and I am currently a 3rd degree black belt.
I have to say that Taekwondo really did help me. Not to the point where I would not need some medication but I believe it played a big part in why I am off all ADHD medication today. The discipline and skills that you learn in Martial Arts stay with you for the rest of your life.
When I was in third grade my teacher was concerned about my progress and recommended that I be tested for ADHD. I go to public school so there was a psychologist / counselor on staff that was able to do the screening for ADHD. The test was basically a series of problems that I had to solve and questions I had to answer that measured my ability to focus and concentrate. He was very knowledgeable and seemed to really care about my situation. The good news was that I was found to be above average in intelligence. The bad news was that I did in fact have ADHD at least according to the test. My main problem was concentration and focus. I was hyperactive but not to an extreme. I was able to manage the hyperactivity but nothing I did on my own could help me focus better.
At this point my parents were called in for a conference and we were referred to a local pediatrician who specializes in treating ADHD.
There are some “Online Tests” that you can take to determine whether a child has an attention deficit disorder. Some are free and some of the more comprehensive ones charge a fee. Being tested is the first step towards finding a solution to your attention problem. It gives you a good idea of the severity of the issue and what level of treatment needs to be implemented.
After my testing and diagnosis I was referred to a pediatrician who specialized in medication and treatment for ADHD symptoms. Dr. Reece examined me and looked at the report from the testing and agreed with the diagnosis. He put me at ease and explained to me and my parents how the different medications worked. We agreed that it would be best to begin with a smaller dosage of medication and increase it if necessary.
I started out taking Ritalin that had to be swallowed. This was a problem for me in third grade and I simply could not do it. Swallow pills that is. The more I tried the harder it became. So we immediately switched to another medications.
Metadate is similar to Ritalin but in a time released form. It also can be opened up and sprinkled on apple sauce. This worked better for me. The medication immediately helped me to focus and concentrate and after just a week or so my grades improved dramatically. In fact, it was shortly after that I was actually tested for the gifted program. I missed it by a couple of points but was very close and very encouraged. The problem I had with Metadate was that it wore off too quickly and by the afternoon was not effective anymore.
The doctor then prescribed Daytrana. This is a fairly expensive drug and is really just Methylphenidate which is the same drug that is in Ritalin or Metadate. The difference is the delivery system. This is what made it wonderful. Daytrana or the patch is time released and gives a steady supply of Methylphenidate throughout the day. I believe it is called transdermal. Like I said before, it was the same basic drug as before but with a much better way of getting it into your system. I was on Daytrana from 3rd grade until the end of 8th grade and can’t say enough good things about it. It is what rescued me from the effects of ADHD.
Another nice feature of the Daytrana patch is that you can cut in in half or in thirds. That way as you grow you can increase the size or if you feel you do not need as much you can decrease it. You would want to consult your doctor about this but this is what I did. It is harder to do this will pills.
In closing I will say that Daytrana was not without side effects. It made me feel sort of dark and not myself. I was off it in the afternoon, weekends and summers so it was not too bad. I did, however, want to be off of it and in my first week of high school I was able to do this.
I am now 14 years old and making all A’s and B’s in school. I have my own graphics business and am saving for college. I build websites (normally two at the same time – Ha Ha) and I love tennis.
When I entered 9th grade I was still on the Daytrana patch. I felt like it helped me academically but sort of held me back socially. I wanted to feel myself and was willing to work hard and stay disciplined so that I could do well in school with no medication. My parents agreed to try and we came up with a step by step plan that has worked well so far.
Step One – My grades had to be good. I needed to prove that while on the patch I could maintain A’s and B’s. I was already doing this so it was no problem. If you are making mostly C’s that you should probably stop here.
Step Two – We established a study plan that would help me keep up with my school work and would provide some type of accountability for me. This was basically me making notes in a journal.
Step Three – I had to improve my diet and cut out junk food and sugar. I increased my protein intake and maintain a 2 to 1 protein to carbohydrate balance. In the mornings I drink a smoothie with protein powder, fruit and yogurt. I also will drink some coffee in the morning or some Mountain Dew during the day. The doctor said it will help and it seems to.
Step Four – I got a backup tutor. I meet with an older high school student once a week and go over my classes. She has had the classes and is able to help me keep up. She also makes straight A’s. Tip – get a smart tutor.
Step Five – We check my grades daily on the computer. Our school has up to the minute updates so if I have a poor grade I know about it and can make plans to fix it.
Step Six – We went to the doctor that prescribed the Daytrana for a consulation. We thought he may be against getting off the medication but he was all for it. He said that from 30% to 50% of kids grow out of ADHD as they approach adulthood. He also said that when I get into college I may want to get a refill of Daytrana and use it when necessary.
My day to day routine involves going to school, monitoring my grades, meeting with my tutor once a week and studying. My parents help me whenever a grade gets low. I also lose privileges when any class drops below a B. So far I have always been able to pull my grades back up within a week or so.