I remember sitting in the bathroom with Alex one day, trying to potty-train him. He was just babbling away and not paying attention to anything very long. I don’t know what it was that made me think it, but I said “Something is different with you.” Mother’s intuition I guess. He was about 2 ½ at this point.
At a little over 2 ½ years old, his doctor agreed that his speech was further behind than it should have been. We got him into speech therapy to try to help him catch up. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.
After his third birthday, we started the process of getting him enrolled in preschool. Because of his speech issue, they needed to evaluate him to see if it was severe enough to qualify for free enrollment. During the evaluation, they determined that he had some developmental delays on top of the speech delay. With these issues, he qualified for free enrollment into preschool and an IEP (Individual Education Plan). I felt guilty when we got that diagnosis. Was there something I should have been doing that I didn’t do? Will he be able to catch up? How is this going to affect him going forward?
After a few months, we discontinued the speech therapy. With school and then speech therapy, it was too much. After 15 minutes of speech therapy, he was off topic and it would take 20-30 minutes just to try to get him back on task. By then, the session was over. His dad and I discussed it and decided that since he was getting weekly speech sessions in school that we should stop the weekly sessions after school. He was not getting anything out of these sessions anymore, so why waste the time and money?
During one of those days that we were waiting for the speech therapy session to start, Alex was acting especially hyperactive. He was running around and hiding under chairs, not listening to us at all. He was acting as if he was incapable of staying still. This was not a new thing, practically normal for him. We were watching him bounce about the room and his dad and I started talking about the possibility of him having ADHD. Alex’s dad has ADHD so we were both familiar with the symptoms of it and both felt that there was a very real chance he had it as well. We decided to go ahead and have him tested for it through the Children’s Hospital Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology.
We had a surprising mix of reactions when people found out that we were getting Alex tested for ADHD at not-yet 4. “He’s too young to be tested properly.” “He’s just being a kid.” “All they will want to do is medicate him.” And the reactions went on. I was shocked by how many people we had against our decision! We did have some supporters, such as his teacher. While she could not outright tell us that she agreed with our choice, her lack of surprise when we mentioned to her said a lot. Even with several against us, we continued forward with the testing.
We started the process early because we knew it would not happen quickly. By the time we got to the point where he was tested, he was already 4. The process itself was pretty simple. His teacher, dad, and I were required to fill out a Vanderbilt Assessment. This is a tool used by healthcare professionals to help diagnose ADHD in children. This is typically used for children ages 6-12, but they do use it for younger children. The scores needed to qualify as ADHD are quite a bit higher. After they had reviewed the assessments, they interviewed his dad and me without Alex there to get an idea of his home life and anything of importance leading up to that moment. They also took note of our health issues (my Bipolar and his ADHD). Then, on another day, they interviewed Alex without us in the room. I have no idea what happened during it, but the person did comment on his speech issues and was glad that it was already being addressed with an IEP and in-school speech therapy.
About 2 weeks later, we returned and were told that he tested high on the scale and met all of the criteria for ADHD-Combined Type. Luckily, that was all he tested high on. All other possibilities (autism, defiance disorder, bipolar, etc) were normal. We were given his paperwork and recommendations on what should be added to his IEP based on these results. And we did include these recommendations a few months later when we renewed his IEP, as did his teacher. They did say they do not medicate children as young as he was unless it was an extreme situation. We agreed as we did not want him medicated either. We just wanted the paperwork so we could get him the help he would need. First, we wanted to work on skills with him and then, if needed as he got older, we would look into medication to help him.
It has now been 2 years since we got the diagnosis. And seeing the strides he has made in these years has made me feel confident in our decision to get him diagnosed as early as we did. He still has his struggles, but we work on them day by day. I’m glad I didn’t listen to those who were against us getting him assessed so early. I’m glad I followed my mother’s instinct and got him the diagnosis and subsequent help he needed to thrive as well as he has.