Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where did I Go Wrong, and How do I Make it Right?

From day one of 3rd grade, H has been struggling. At first, and for good reasons, we attributed it to a really bad 2nd grade teacher/experience. Over time, though, it became clear that her struggle was more than a matter of her not having a solid foundation when she started the year. For example, her weakest subject was math in 1st and 2nd grades. We expected there would be problems with this again, and there were. Then, we started seeing her language arts skills drop, her grades in social science and spelling also went downhill. She has had occasional upswings, usually after we imposed a series of consequences at home. Her behavior was never an issue. Rather, when we conferenced with her teachers, they explained that the problem was with her inability to focus. Again, we thought this was something we could "motivate" her to improve by taking away privileges (t.v., movies, computer time, and most important - time with friends).

Things didn't change. Not only did they not change, last week witnessed an unparalleled downward spiral as she brought home a packet of failed worksheets and tests. Concerned, her teachers requested a conference (of course, I'd immediately had the same idea).

This morning, I met with her teachers and they recommended that I take H to see her pediatrician and have her undergo testing and evaluation for Attention Deficit Disorder. They described her as often looking like she was paying attention for about a minute, then drifting off with another thought that had just entered her head, only to return to the present moment as the teacher called on her for an answer. Of course, she'd find herself unable to answer and unable to move forward on her work because she'd missed critical instructions and information. They both believe that she's been doing her best to improve focus, but that this is something that's beyond her control. Between the two teachers, they have over 50 years of experience, so I trust that they know what they're talking about and can recognize the difference between a daydreamer and a child who's suffering from a neurological disorder.

She's not a hyperactive child. She's got energy, but she's never been one to bounce off the walls. But suddenly, as I listened to them describe my daughter's efforts to pay attention, her personality, history, and daily habits flashed in my mind's eye in a completely new way. I thought of all the times I'd had to ask her to do something 3 or 4 times, or remind her what task she was supposed to be working on. Just this morning, after I told her twice the three things she needed to do to finish getting ready - brush teeth, put on shoes, and put folders in her backpack - I found her in her bathroom singing into the mirror and picking at her teeth. She'd simply lost track of what she was supposed to be doing in there.

I'm still sort of reeling with questions, emotions, fears, and tons of guilt. I ask myself how I failed to see this. I kick myself for giving her consequences for something that she had no control over. I try to rehearse the talk I'll have to have with her before she sees the pediatrician tomorrow. I think of how to help her not be afraid or think there's something "wrong" with her. I imagine how hard this year has been for her, as she has tried her best yet continued to face my disappointment. I try to avoid using the internet for "information" on ADD and its treatment. I feel completely out of my league, with no plans or certainties for the how to go forward and make things better for my child.

I can't bring myself to actively seek out any information right now, other than what I'll receive from our doctor tomorrow (and the psychologist thereafter). So, I'm asking the few readers who visit to share positive stories, experience, and information about ADD, its treatment, and dealing with it as a family.


Lisa Dunick said...

This is such a moving post-- best wishes on figuring this all out.

mom said...

You know what - I would have the same reaction, on the other hand --maybe this is GOOD news, an explanation for her struggles that can be addressed. Don't kick yourself - my word - you're clearly a great parent, just go with the flow. Get information, ask good critical questions, and move foreward. Towanda!

M said...

My nephew has a mild form of ADD. My sister has fought against having him put on medication, and he has slowly outgrown a lot of the symptoms. I'd be happy to give you her email so you can chat, if you'd like. And I agree with mom--don't blame yourself. I don't think that will help at all. Just move forward and get the best help you can for H.

mgm said...

I agree with mom, too. It's hard to see these things, especially when you live with the child and can easily interpret these characteristics merely as part of her personality.

You love your daughters and now you can do something to help her improve her focus, if she is, indeed, ADD. Get the information. Find out how to help her and yourself. But don't spend time blaming yourself. You're just misplacing your energy. Good luck!