Sometimes there comes a point where we as parents have to decide that we’re willing to ask for help – for some insight into how to find balance and peace in the midst of life with a high-intensity child. Jerry and I began to reach that point this spring. We knew we were moving in the right direction with OT and a GI, but we felt like it was time to dive in and uncover as much as we could about Hudson’s brain.
After lots of research and many phone calls, we finally found a doctor who was willing to do a sensory evaluation for a Sensory Processing Disorder in addition to other developmental screenings. Armed with lots of paperwork and family history, we began to prepare for our appointment.
After several (looonnnggg) and thorough appointments, our doctor walked us through Hudson’s evaluation and told us that in addition to a Sensory Processing Disorder, Hudson demonstrates many signs of a rather intense form of ADHD. He began to suggest some treatment plans, and I immediately shut them down in my mind and told him that we were not at a point where we were willing to consider medication.
In our society, we flippantly throw around phrases like “it’s just my ADD,” “I must be ADD” or “I was so ADD when I did that.” We often have mental images of children with ADHD being loud and disruptive and always off task. Many people even believe a false paradigm that says that ADHD is an excuse for misbehavior and poor parenting. I believed what the doctor told us about Hudson’s diagnosis (the test results were overwhelmingly clear,) but our experience has been so much different from the stereotypes that I was afraid to claim it out loud.
You see, for us, ADHD manifests itself in a great deal of anxiety and stress. When something doesn’t go the way Hudson anticipates it or catches him off guard, it leads to complete emotional melt-down and paralysis. (As evidenced by the picture below, in which we had a total anxiety attack over a thunderstorm last night, even though he is normally not afraid of storms at all.) His frustration tolerance is extremely low, and the anxiety kicks in before he can rationally think to ask for help.
After we watched Hudson spin in circles in the doctor’s office for a few minutes, the doctor looked at me and said, “You have to understand: his brain is wound up just as tightly as his body is right now. All the time. And I imagine that’s pretty stressful to him…and I imagine it’s pretty stressful to you all, too.” In that moment I thought about the three anxiety attacks he had faced in the week prior to his appointment. I needed someone to help me understand that being overwhelmed inside (ADHD) and outside (SPD) was causing some serious stress for this sweet six-year-old kiddo and that we needed to get him some help, even if that took some non-traditional paths.
We’re learning to adjust to life in the intensity of the fast lane, and Hudson is learning to find some balance and rest. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes things that don’t seem like a big deal to many of us (and that even often aren’t a big deal to Hudson…) become giant hurdles. I held a shaking, sobbing, heaving child last night and tried to reassure him that there was no danger of a tornado, but he was convinced there was one and there was nothing we could do to change his mind.
Though we refuse to allow a series of acronyms to define his life, the very real challenges that accompany them are an important part of his story. They’re not flippant or light-hearted terms; they represent serious and significant challenges for our little man. Hudson is an incredibly bright, loving, charismatic child who will change the world for the better, but days can be hard for him (and sometimes for everyone in our house.) However, there are so many people in his corner helping him find peace and confidence, and every day he finds new ways to learn and move forward. The best is yet to come for Hudson, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.