The earliest signs of my son’s illness showed up when he was around seven years old. He skipped homework, failed to follow simple instructions and got caught up in all kinds of mischief. We started receiving notes from his teachers about the naughtiness and indiscipline.
The teachers called home, perhaps assuming the notes never reached us, and soon we were having regular meetings at the school. All this while we thought that our son, Satnam, was simply going through a phase. Boys will always be boys, that sort of thing.
All interventions to help him get his act together were futile, but even then, we didn’t suspect there was more to this behaviour than met the eye. When Satnam joined fourth grade, he got a new class teacher. She was quite experienced with handling children and it didn’t take long for her to notice that something was not right with our son.
Instead of receiving warning notes and phone calls from her, we got a suggestion that changed our lives for the better.
“I have studied my son’s behaviour and I suspect he is suffering from ADHD. He also seems to be having some vision problems.”
My first thought was, what in the world is ADHD? I googled the abbreviation and found out it referred to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As I read more about it, the pieces of my son’s puzzling behaviour began to fall into place. This amazing teacher offered resources which I absorbed with great enthusiasm. I wanted to learn as much as I could about this illness which was first diagnosed in the early 1900s.
Allow me to share, in a nutshell, some of the life-changing facts I learnt about my son’s illness. Firstly, the disease is not curable, however, it can be managed with medication, behavioural therapy and lots of love and support.
Secondly, this condition was bound to affect my son’s ability to interact socially. He would always be different from his peers. I learnt that a child with ADHD is often restless and full of energy, seemingly not wanting to sit down not even for a minute. Usually, they do not like sleeping even when tired and can suffer from sleep deprivation.
Thirdly, my son was likely to have challenges with learning as the disease makes one unable to focus on a subject for very long, particularly if it bores them. They can’t keep quiet for long and have a challenge with turn taking during conversations or discussions. If a lecture takes too long, they lose focus and start day dreaming.
Lastly, I learnt that this condition gave my son very little control over his emotions, tone or rage. He wasn’t going to be able to regulate his temper and was likely to get into quarrels and fights. Information is power, and I can attest to this because after my research I felt empowered to start helping my son live a healthy, happy life.
Strong support system
I have a stubborn streak when it comes to taking western medicine, therefore, I opted for homeopathy treatment which worked wonders. In addition, when he joined fifth grade, I decided to be more involved in his school work by making sure he turned in all his school assignments. Until this point, my son had been scoring Cs and Ds.
With my small nudges here and there, he started getting As and Bs. I am very proud of him. He is now in 11th grade, an intelligent young man who at 16, has two years of summer job experience as an internet music radio host. He also makes friends. Although we are now in a good place, it has not always been that way. My son’s ADHD symptoms made him a target for bullies. Often, I learnt of incidents way after they had already happened. I was unable to protect him from the ignorant actions of people who didn’t understand the effects of Satnam’s condition. As a parent, this made me sad because we all want to shield our children from harm.
Since I couldn’t be with him all the time, especially at school, he became vulnerable to bullying and this countered some of the progress we were making with managing the ADHD. For instance, he developed low self-esteem but we are helping him gain confidence as he grows older.
Just to clarify, this journey has not been a one-man show. As a family, we keep learning as much as we can about ADHD to provide support not only to Satnam but also to each other.
Illness in the family takes a toll on all members, I will not pretend that it has been easy one bit. We have a strong network of people who are familiar with this condition, from family members, friends to teachers and healthcare providers.
We also link up with other parents who have children suffering from ADHD. This is important because my son still has symptoms of ADHD. Remember we said that the disease never actually disappears. Convincing him to limit screen time is still a tall order as he cannot grasp delayed gratification.
Still, I am convinced he will graduate from high school with a decent education, an excellent professional job, and a happy life. My advice to parents sailing in this ADHD boat, try to get an early diagnosis. Does your child seem to have difficulties responding to social signs? Do they seem restless and fail to respond to punishment? That could be your cue to see a psychiatrist.
According to research conducted by numerous specialists, the prevalence of ADHD has grown from 18 percent to 45 percent. The research entailed administering several exams, including the Vanderbilt Assessment Scale, to children brought to the hospital by their parents. Once the diagnosis has been made, be deliberate about helping your child live a healthy life.
It will take a lot of work, patience and resilience but if you think about it, isn’t that what parenting is really all about? Love your child unconditionally, help them make sense of their surrounding despite the health challenges. Learn to enjoy every moment of the day, be curious to learn more and help that child explore the world around them.
I can assure you — drawing from my experience — with your assistance that child will conquer the ADHD symptoms and blossom.
****Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer based in Brampton, Canada.