A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

ADHD Part I - Special Series: Is it REALLY ADHD?

Today we are blessed to hear from UFA's Christine Anderson.
She has written a series of articles about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Whether we are caring for children we gave birth to, adopted or children we are fostering we may run into challenges from time to time. 
I hope you find this information valuable and helpful!
Brenda Horrocks UFA Co-Chair
Christine with her family.
I am a PhD candidate for Rehabilitation Counseling (Disability Counseling), a disability and adoption advocate, a Mamma, and .....

I have had this post and this series swirling around in my head for a few months.  I have gone through the ethical decision making process weighing my professional status with the competing concept of an ethical principle "to do no harm" and Beneficience "to benefit to do good"
I have decided that the princle benefiscience has won this ethical conundrum.  I believe it is important to diseminate information, to help others with my unique perspective as a counselor and a mother.  Thus, this series on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

  • In this series I will discuss more about ADHD facts and how it impacts our life including the impact on our open adoption with our children.
  • I will discuss STIGMA and determining if pursuing a diagnosis and help for ADHD is appropriate for your child and your family.
  • I will discuss treatment and how treatment is related to our family.
  • I will discuss services and accommodations.
  • I will discuss transition and adulthood.
I have had many conversations with others about ADHD both in my profession counseling students with disabilities, my university community, preschool teachers, parents at the playground, and anyone who wants to talk.  It is generally the same course of conversation...."Doesn't everyone at one point have ADHD" "Boys will be boys!!"  True...boys are busy active, have lots of energy, and according to research boys have a different learning style than our current educational system.  However the key difference in "boys will be boys" and ADHD is that the distraction, high energy, can't sit still, jumping around, talking loudly, and disrupting group activities is that these impairments are PERVASIVE. This behavior occurs often in every setting.

It has been regarded that ADHD in children cannot be diagnosed in children younger than age 6 and 7 years old.  The idea is that it is developmentally appropriate for a preschool child to move around, not be able to sit still or listen to a long story.  Also other factors like speech and hearing, separation anxiety, increasing developmentally changes can affect a child's attention and behavior.  When a child reaches school age more demands are required.  Previously children could play with toys, sensory activities, circle time, etc.  At first and second grade children are required to write paragraphs, stories, more intricate math concepts, and remain in their seat.  The demands of time management, organization, and starting and stopping projects become very overwhelming. These increased demands start the behavioral issues in the classroom. So what was once deemed as developmentally appropriate is now manifesting as a problem.....or is it?

Recently (2011) the American Academy of Pediatrics released new diagnosis and management guidelines for ADHD in children as young as age 4.  Yes as young as age 4.

There is controversy that we overdiagnose, are quick to judge and children are being diagnosed with ADHD when the issues are really related to behavioral problems.  I agree but a child with ADHD has problems that are PERVASIVE.  The problems experienced show up often, last longer, and are more intense than what other children experience.

So...here begins my ethical dilemma....I am not only a disability advocate and professional I now have the unique perspective of being a Mom of children with disabilities.  My oldest BAJA has ADHD and what complicates his diagnosis he has SEVERE anxiety.  I believe in being open I believe in being honest and I believe in talking it brings awareness and perhaps may help others. We LOVE and adore BAJA.  He is the light that pieced the darkness of infertility. Nothing will change the love I have for him and his birthfamily.

Parents magazine published an article May 2012. I was THRILLED to see this article because it's what's been swirling in my head.  Here is a checklist they published which I believe is right on for helping determine whether or not it's REALLY ADHD.
Every child displays the following behaviors some of the time but with ADHD the extent of these behaviors makes it difficult to function. Ask yourself:
  • Does your child have trouble listening when you ask him/her to do something?
  • Is he/she more easily excitable or fidgety than other kids?
  • Is your home life filled with conflicts over mealtime, bedtime, and brushing teeth?
  • Has your child's teacher raised concerns about his behavior?
  • Is he/she easily distracted? Particularly forgetful?
  • Does he/she blame others for his shortcomings?
  • Does he/she have trouble getting along with friends?
Oh MY I CAN ANSWER YES to EVERY question!!!
In this series I will go into more detail about the impact on our family life.

ADHD can cause the ability to hyperfocus.  Sustain or obsess attention on an activity.  BAJA  hyperfocused on books and music.  AMAZING!

Here are some more facts about ADHD.
  • The brain looks different in people with ADHD.  The part of the brain that helps control behavior, maintain focus is smaller in people with ADHD.  A chemical is missing as well.
  • There is a genetic link for ADHD.  Also environmental conditions (prenatal drug exposure, smoking, and environmental toxins can contribute to neurological defects ADHD.  Prenatal smoking increases likelihood of ADHD by 20%)
  • ADHD makes learning difficult.  A child who has trouble staying focused can't obtain information. new ways of learning information need to be used.  Also working memory is often affected.  Working memory is the ability to hold information use it to solve a problem and then demonstrate.  For instance the game concentration is difficult for BAJA too many cards to turn over he can't remember where the match is.  2+2=4 is easy to solve but 3+2=5 is difficult there are more manipulatives involved.  If he repeats and repeats information it makes it to his long term memory. But asking him to repeat something you just said...yeah not so easy.
  • There's no cure but there are treatments.  Behavior therapy, parenting skills, and Medication. I believe in a comprehensive approach. PILLS aren't SKILLS. But medication is needed but not the sole component.
  • Teaching specific skills.  It takes kids with ADHD longer but there is HOPE that eventually they will get it.  Yes let me repeat it takes LONGER but there is HOPE.
  • Parents need to be trained too.  I have BAJA look at my eyes before I tell him anything. Sometimes I have to lightly tap him or hold his hand. We do our best to reinforce positive behavior verbally, with incentive charts, and short term rewards. 
  • ADHD doesn't go away it continues into adulthood
Even though ADHD has presented challenges for my children and our family life....at the end of the day...I love my children. It is exhausting challenging and SO REWARDING to be with my children. I LOVE their unique gifts and appreciate their challenges.

Part II of this series will continue next week.

You can visit Christine's Blog here.

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