Awesomeness Does Happen Attribute: My Kid (Probably) Has ADHD

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:

She’ll be smarter than I am by the time she’s in third grade.

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.


38 thoughts on “Awesomeness Does Happen Attribute: My Kid (Probably) Has ADHD”

  1. You are so RIGHT! There is nothing wrong with being ADHD, welcome (possibly) to a group of amazing people who think differently and make life interesting for the not so lucky people who have to go through a pretty mundane life IMO.

    KAPOW from
    Heather, Becca, Kyle, & Seth
    All ADD or ADHD and rockin’ life

  2. I’ve been debating having my son tested for a few years now. He is also in the gifted program but struggles with disorganization and needing to be redirected. It is really impacting his grades (he is in 3rd now). I am so torn. Not sure if he is just bored, just being a boy or suffering with ADHD.

    1. I understand your indecision, because it’s taken us this long to make a decision of our own. It was my teacher brain that made the decision to test her more than it was the mommy brain. She was earning C’s when I know that she can do some of that work with her eyes closed. Academics are important to us, and when she was not operating to the best of her abilities and we knew that to some extent, she just couldn’t help it, that’s when we made the decision to move forward.

      Look at it this way – what would testing hurt? It’ll either come back with “he’s just gifted, and this is part of the gifted bag,” or it will come back with “yeah, he’s gifted, but he’s ADHD, too.” It can’t hurt to know one way or the other!

  3. That whole “I already know how to draw maps” business just screams GIFTED CHILD! I’m glad you see that being ADHD can actually work to her advantage. For the most part, I think of it as more of a description than a diagnosis. It doesn’t have to be treated like a “condition.” It’s just who she is. We all have personal characteristics we have to tone down or overcome and others that we need to work at bringing to the fore. She sounds awesome to me!

  4. KAPOW!!

    I love you guys. I love this post.

    I personally still haven’t even gone through the battery of testing, but am 99.9% sure I am ADD (and am on meds for it, because ha ha ha money and time for therapy what), and skated through school managing to hide it because I was in the gifted program, and was able to basically pull just enough crap together to have so-so grades and get the “she has such potential!” comments from all my teachers. It all fell apart in college, and I can’t help but wonder what could have been, if only somebody had noticed and I’d been able to get support earlier.

    Er, moral of the story: you guys ROCK. And so does she!

    1. I got many of the same “She has such potential,” speeches, too. Although for me, middle and high school is what was broken and college is where I hit my stride. I’ve often wondered (and still do) if I don’t have a touch of ADD.

  5. LOVE THIS! Kids with ADHD who learn to manage it are the multi-tasking wunderkinds of the future. Karlyn’s going to be the one who kicks ass and rules the world!

  6. Love your original and inspiring take on Kaelyn’s diagnosis. You are a wonderful mother. My brother has made ADHD his secret weapon: he’s configured it to help him multi-task all his many commitments in grad school and he now gets more done in a day than I do in a week. It took him a while, but in college, he really kicked into higher gear.

  7. Well played, Mama Kym, well played.

    Some recent research shows that some of the genes that are associated with ADD/ADHD are more common in people whose ancestors colonized new land masses, suggesting that ADHD does indeed help people to rock the house under the right set of circumstances.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this… I’m beginning to suspect that my daughter is somewhere on the ASD spectrum and I feel like it’s changing the way I see her, the way I experience who she is, and that scares me. So, different issues for sure, but I’m taking to heart what you’re saying about kids taking their cues from parents’ attitudes about stuff because that’s for sure true for us too, I see it again and again.

  9. I am glad you shared this, because we are going through similar things with the boy. He is in pre-K, and he is just not listening very well, and starting to get into trouble. The teacher is wonderful, and feels that he could test as gifted (The Mister and I both did, but I was the kind that quietly did my work in 3 nanoseconds, then read my novel under my desk, while The Mister always got in trouble.) We are doing the typical developmental testing this week, then will meet with the teacher. The teacher says she is trying to find ways to challenge him more, as he is the only kid in his class that writes his own name, reads some, and whatnot. Any suggestions for challenging a pre-k kid more in school?

    1. Keep me posted on how your son’s testing goes. As off as it sounds, I’m sure you understand what I mean when I say that it’s good to know that we’re not the only set of parents that I know going through this adjustment.

      The testing will definitely go a long way to giving your son’s teachers some ideas for how she can modify/enrich the work to meet his level. In the meantime, maybe you can make a few file folder games for him to take to school. Does he seem to be getting into trouble because he zips through his work and then gets off-task while the other kids are finishing up? File folder games can help keep him occupied and on-task during those “down” times. If you make up a few ahead of time and his teacher is agreeable to it, she can pass him one of the games while the other kids are finishing up their work.

      File folder games are really easy to make. There are lots of links out there for free templates. Here’s a good link that breaks them down by grade level and subject: Get him in on the process! he can help choose which games he’d like to do, color and cut the pieces, and glue them to the folders. It’s best to laminate the pieces and the folders, then put the game pieces into a heavy-duty plastic sandwich baggie and tape it to the back of the folder.

      Tell me if you try them out. 🙂

  10. It sounds like you have a very good doctor. Now you just have to get the county on the program of providing challenges for Kaelyn daily instead of weekly. Then she can get to college by age 12, get a job by 16, and make enough money for you and Frank to retire by the time she’s 20.

    I know there will be some challenges ahead, but I hope the teachers will be happy to work with you instead of trying to make her a problem.

    1. So far, we’re very happy with her 1st grade teacher. I think the only person who can make Kaelyn a problem is Kaelyn. If, by some chance, she eventually lands on a teacher who doesn’t work with her, then I’M going to be the one who is a problem for the teacher, not Kaelyn. 😉

      I do like your idea of a retirement plan. I’m actually pushing all of the kids to be mega-millionaires so that we can retire in style.

  11. Thank you for posting this. It is important for parents of children with ADHD to know that there is nothing “wrong” with their children. And, as you said, the way parents handle this is very important. As the mom of three adult daughters with ADHD ( and also my husband and I ) I have experienced ADHD from all different points of view. In our home having ADHD was no big deal – it was just something that we dealt with. Some of us are on medicine, some are not. We all have our own strategies that work for us and all of us managed to get through school despite some obstacles along the way. All three of my daughters are teachers and because of their experiences they are able to deal with all of the children in their classrooms with caring and dignity. Keep up the great work you are doing to help parents understand crazy, wild, wonderful world of ADHD.

  12. Kaelyn is incredibly lucky to have you. I was once in her shoes, and my teachers and parents took the exact opposite approach. My ADD–which, in hindsight, was glaringly obvious–went undiagnosed until adulthood; instead, I was treated with impatience and frustration because I didn’t fit “normal” expectations for behavior and learning. I was called lazy, disruptive, bad, wild; I was compared to my siblings and peers. These adults meant well–they saw me as a gifted child who was squandering her potential, and thought tough love was what I needed. But, of course, their actions only worsened my “bad” behavior (not to mention my self-esteem). I’ve always imagined the perfect ADD parent exactly how you describe yourself: compassionate, proud, and willing to help in whatever way will be best for your daughter–as opposed to the way YOU think is best.

    Kudos and good luck!

    1. Gigi, thank you for sharing your thoughts, too. I’m sorry that though they were well-meaning, the adults in your childhood took the wrong approaches in helping you deal with your attention deficit. Thank you for helping confirm that we’re on the right track with our Kaelyn!

  13. Hi there,

    I’m an adult with ADHD and wasn’t diagnosed until I was well into my 30s. All of my childhood I was told I was smart, but not living up to my potential. Fortunately I had an accepting, loving mother who was proud of her kooky, disorganzed daughter and she worked very hard to help me figure out how to work around my wonky brain (without the benefit of a diagnosis, or professional guidance, peer support, or medication). My academic road was sort of rocky through high school, but eventually I ended up earning a doctorate in field I am passoinate about and I love what I do. In spite of my ever-supportive and positive mother I did feel quite badly about my inability to be organized or to reliably pay attention in class. And even in college when I was finally getting good grades and clearly headed in a good direction I didn’t understand why I was always the one pulling all-nighters and doing everything in a CRAZED last minute rush–I also felt badly about this. And then once out of college, as a professional who was being addressed as “doctor” I was still pulling all-nighters and doing things in a wierd last minute rush, and no one was ever surprised when I accidentally missed a meeting or was late to something. It was clear to me that I was smart, but very disorganized, and operated very differently than my colleagues–I also felt badly about this. Anyway, finally I began to suspect I had ADHD, was tested, diagnosed, and began taking meds and organizing my life in an ADHD friendly way (all of which has been very helpful). I can’t begin to tell you the relief I felt that there was an explanation for why I operated so differently than others. It wasn’t a character flaw–I wasn’t intrinsicly “bad”–it was that I was wired differently than others. The main point I’m getting to here is that I think (if handled properly) the diagnosis could have actually helped me feel better about myself from a young age. Even with a supportive and accepting mother, I still got the message (from others) that I just needed to straighten up and fly right. It would have been helpful to confidently know that I didn’t need to just “straighten up”, but that I was wired in a wonky way–and that wiring required that I find work-arounds that other people didn’t need. As an adult with the diagnosis, I’m far more accepting of myself than at any other point in my life before the diagnosis. I’m now happy to accept that I have different wiring than most, and am eager to find ways to work around it. Hmm, so that’s my too-long tale to explain why I think it can be helpful for a kiddo (if handleld properly–without secrecy or shame) to know that he/she has ADHD.

    1. spaceranger, thank you so, SO much for sharing in such detail your experiences as someone who wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until much later. This hits home for me in so many different ways. One thing you’ve done is help affirm that we are taking the right approach and attitude with Kaelyn about it. It doesn’t make her less than; it makes her greater than. I never want her to see it as a disadvantage or something that makes her so different that she doesn’t feel like she fits in, and I want to be sure she is able to do that for herself when she’s inevitably faced with people who just don’t know or understand.

      I really, REALLY appreciate you for sharing your experiences!

  14. KAPOW, indeed! First, she has to get her awesome from somewhere (that’s you and hubby!), and second, I love her. Man, our children are so unique, you know, each and every one of them, and it is such a blessing that you are taking the time to learn more about what makes her special, and how you can support her growth.

  15. I commend you on sharing; perhaps if parents are going through a similar situation with their child, they’ll pause first before thinking a prescription is the answer 🙂 Great Post!


  16. You and Frank are do a stellar job. The world needs people like Kaelyn – her brain is built for better thinking. I can’t wait to see what she does!

    And btw HOLY CRAP great to finally meet you.

  17. Awesomely written! My 14 year was diagnosed ADHD when he was in 1st grade. It’s definently not an easy life…but, he’s probably the smartest person in our whole house 😉

  18. Walking exclamation point is a perfect description. I have one of those and it is equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. Good luck!

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