I mentioned a while back that we were considering having Kaelyn tested for ADHD. We’ve played the “watch and wait” game for the past couple of years and stayed in close contact with her Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers. Both of them had the “Well, maybe, but she’s so bright and isn’t too much more active than any of the other kids…” kind of stance. Her Pre-K teacher told us that she wouldn’t be surprised if she eventually tested into Gifted. So we just kept our eyes open for signs that Kaelyn’s kapow was turning into KAPOW! If it came to be that it either impeded her own learning process or that of her classmates, we would go ahead and have her tested.
Then came this year. First grade. Age 7, as of last weekend.In her packet of work from her first week of school, there was an assignment with a scribbled note from her teacher (“commentary,” in teacher-talk). It went something like, “It took 30 minutes and a lot of redirection for her to complete this assignment. She was supposed to draw a map of our classroom. This is what she did.” What she drew was herself, standing under a rainbow (in a proper ROYGBIV spectrum), complete with grass, a shiny sun, fuzzy bunnies, and the Wicked Witch of the East squashed under a house.
Which, y’know–considering how their first Reading unit of the year is on The Wizard of Oz, I thought this was fairly freakin’ brilliant. However, that assignment wasn’t for Reading; it was for Social Studies.
When I asked Kaelyn why she didn’t follow the teacher’s directions, she said, “Because I already know how to draw maps. I draw maps of our house all the time, and I even draw a compass with the cardinal directions on it, and I know my bedroom is in the southeast corner of the house because it’s between the soggy and the eat. I even put ‘X marks the spot’ where I hid that thing I broke that time.”
With similar occurrences happening each week, our gut instinct finally yelled loudly enough for us to finally make a move on it. Frank and I had a consult with a highly-recommended child psychologist on Tuesday. We took with us the preliminary 100+ item behavioral survey that the office sent to us in advance. As Frank and I read down the list and checked the boxes, the pattern of marks in the ALWAYS column may well have been a shaken Magic 8 Ball. By the time we got to the end of the questionnaire, the triangle floated to the top and pretty much said HELL TO THE YES.
Let’s call Kaelyn’s doctor Dr. Kapow. He explained to us that though the initial survey was very telling, he doesn’t like to use just that to make a diagnosis. He explained that too often, doctors paint all children with ADHD with the same brush and are quick to pass over a prescription, and that though his ADHD alert flag was waving, it was in no way conclusive yet. He further explained that he likes to do in-depth analyses to pull apart the fibers of how kids’ minds work. In addition to testing for ADHD and other possible diagnoses, he planned to do a particular intelligence test to see how Kaelyn’s academic ability plays into her personality.
I love how he is taking her Giftedness into consideration. Yes, she did test into the Gifted program at the end of last school year. Here in our county, Gifted at the elementary school level involves just one full-day per week with the Gifted resource teacher. The other four days per week is spent in the regular classroom. Not oddly enough, Kaelyn’s Gifted teacher doesn’t notice the same ADHD tendencies that her regular classroom teacher does. I mean, really–the girl might already know how to draw maps, but she did not know these words until she got this vocabulary list in Gifted:
Contrary to popular belief, giftedness and ADHD often go hand-in-hand. Jordan is also in Gifted, but he’s the introverted, Valium salt lick type. Kaelyn, on the other hand, has always been a walking exclamation point. Dr. Kapow found it important to scratch beneath the surface of her abilities and take a closer look at the overlaps between the Gifted and ADHD characteristics.
I knew that he was the right doctor for us when he agreed wholeheartedly with our views about medication. We don’t want to medicate Kaelyn unless the data shows that it would be of advantage to her and that if it’s needed, medication is our secondary line of defense. Primary treatment should be counseling for all three of us to learn strategies to help her use ADHD to her advantage instead of to her detriment. He almost jumped out of his seat and high-fived us because our philosophy aligns so well with his.
I took her for the 1.5 hour battery of testing this morning, which she thought was a lot of fun because it was “…a bunch of computer games and drawing and stuff!”
Frank and I have two more behavioral instruments to complete, and we were also given two to give to her regular classroom teacher to complete. Once the assessments are returned to the office, they will schedule Frank and I to talk with Dr. Kapow about the results and next steps.
I debated for a while about whether or not I would share this openly and in as much depth on the blog. Kaelyn is the one with (probable) ADHD, after all, not me. It’s her business. I wondered if she would be embarrassed and wish to keep it a secret. Then I looked at it from a teacher’s perspective and considered what I’ve observed of the many ADHD students that I’ve taught over the years.
The parents’ attitude about ADHD makes all the difference in how their children feel about having it.
Kids whose parents speak about ADHD in low voices behind cupped hands seem to feel ashamed of it. Kids whose parents accept it as just another crystal in their unique snowflake’s shape are more confident and accepting of it.
Having ADHD (or whatever other alphabet soup her test results show) goes hand-in-hand with the richness of her brown skin, the smirk of her lips, the gap between her front teeth, the feline angle of her eyes, and the tickle in her giggle.
She’s my girl.