Sophie Annalee came into my life on May 10. She is the fourth of four with three older brothers. From the beginning, Sophie was different. When she became mobile, nothing could stop her. I put up child gates and she climbed over them.
When Sophie was around 18-months-old, I was folding clothes in the basement at a table facing the wall. Sophie was behind a curtain looking at the snow outside the sliding glass door. When I finished folding the clothes, I pulled the curtain back to surprise her. I was the one surprised when I discovered that she had opened the door without me knowing and I saw her little footprints in the snow. Luckily, I found her in the front of our house…hiking through the snow…in her diaper.
I knew Sophie had ADHD. The summer before her kindergarten year, we scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist. After a few visits, she told us that Sophie did have ADHD, combined type.
We did not put Sophie on medication during her kindergarten year. She had an incredible teacher who built a strong relationship with Soph and allowed her numerous accommodations. Sophie became friends with the focus facilitator, who helps students work through difficult situations. For Soph, there were many.
Home became more difficult. Sophie couldn’t rationalize and refused to listen. She stayed up into the middle of the night and our mornings were a disaster. She fought me at every point – she wanted to wear different shoes, she refused to brush her teeth. Most mornings I had to carry her, screaming, to the car. It was miserable.
Sophie began taking medication in the first grade. School became easier, but our home life remained abhorrent. If we did not come straight home after school, Sophie became unhinged. I tried to prepare her every day if our schedule would be different. One night, I forgot. We were driving to the high school for one of Sophie’s brothers games. She was kicking and throwing shoes. I had to move her brother to the front of the car so she didn’t hurt him. Once we were at the school, I stood in the doorway watching the car. About 30 minutes later, she came inside. I tried a multitude of interventions at home – I was a behavior specialist for goodness sake. I should know what to do with my own child. I tried multiple visuals, checklists, social stories, and reinforcement systems. Nothing worked!
The combination of medications Sophie takes now make the symptoms of ADHD more manageable. Without medication, Sophie’s ADHD does not only make her full of energy, it also increases her anxiety, inhibits her ability to self-regulate, enhances some of her sensory input and affects many of her executive functioning skills.
On the flip side, Sophie’s mind and personality are vibrant and exuberant. She is incredibly smart and can look at situations outside of the box – adding so much to any discussion. Sophie is strong and incredibly loyal. Most of her best friends are boys because she prefers “not to deal with the drama of girls.” She loves soccer, crafting, reading, sharks, her animals and her family. She is going to be in an incredible adult.
When I was teaching, I thought my kids with ADHD struggled to sit still and had a hard time with focus. There is so much more to ADHD. In my future blogs, I will talk about anxiety, self-regulation, sensory issues and executive functioning.