In the second blog in our series, our Blog Editor shares with PLN what it is like to have your child diagnosed with the most prevalent childhood psychiatric disorder in Canada
I have worried about my second-born daughter from the moment she was able to assert herself. I have struggled with her behaviour, written about her and taken her from specialist to specialist. Despite all my best efforts as a parent, I managed to miss some major symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis. But it wasn’t my middle child who was diagnosed with ADHD.
It was her sister.
Abigail is a typical oldest child in many ways. She was an early talker, able to recite the ABCs and speak clearly before most of her peers. She was also a lazy baby, waiting almost a year to crawl and 17 months to walk.
When she started junior kindergarten at three her father and I assumed she would thrive in an academic environment the same way we had as children. Instead, we found average reports and an unusual problem-Abbey had a hard time getting in and out of her outdoor clothes. She was almost always the last child out of the cubby area.
As Abbey grew so did her struggles.
Calling her transition into first grade in a French immersion program a challenge would be putting it mildly.
She seemed to need a lot of extra help and homework was a nightmare. I would spend night after night working with her for an hour or more. Despite our best efforts, her grades were still well below average. The next year we tried switching Abbey back into an English school to see if an easier curriculum would make any difference. Instead, her struggles became even more pronounced.
I can recall clearly one afternoon during homework time where I found my four-year-old able to finish a simple assignment independently, but my oldest was bouncing off the walls and unable to get down to work.
That day sprang into motion a roller coaster ride that I am still reeling from. I approached her teacher who shared my concerns. We both filled out assessments, got referred to a specialist and then the words came.
“Your daughter has ADHD.”
Abbey’s ADHD went unnoticed because it didn’t present itself the typical way. Abbey isn’t full of energy and constantly bouncing off the walls. In fact, she can be quite lazy and happy to play for hours with her dolls or her sisters. While she won’t often interrupt and is able to sit still, she struggles to stay on task, work independently, and is often ‘in dreamland’ or ‘her own little world’.
Sadly, I am not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control, girls are often not diagnosed because their ADHD symptoms present differently from the ‘typical’ male symptoms. Girls may be more likely to present as polite daydreaming underachievers, rather than bouncing off the walls.
The moment I received the diagnosis, I was then presented with my options for treatment. Medication has been offered and refused. We are moving forward with counselling and an IEP (Independent Education Plan) to help move forward.
Of course, with every decision comes guilt as a parent. Is the decision not to medicate her one that will impact her future? After all, according to the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada, failure to diagnose ADHD can lead to anxiety and depression and girls with ADHD can struggle to fit in and have friends.
An uncertain future
The future for my oldest daughter still remains uncertain. While she has been diagnosed at a young age, it remains unknown what impact her treatment will have on her academic performance or how her ADHD will impact her in the future. For now, all I can do is trust my instincts, listen to my doctor and love my daughter.
For more information on ADHD you can check out the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.