Hi, my name is Jan. I started this website back in 1997, as that is when husband and I took our then 5-year old son to a new pediatrician. After a whopping five minutes of contact with him, she recommended that we have him evaluated as ADHD (Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder). She was 99 percent sure that he needed Ritalin or some other psychotropic drug. We left with lots of literature and a feeling that she was not doing justice to our son.
If the diagnosis had been available in the 1960s, both my husband and I probably would have also been diagnosed this way. We instead learned to cope successfully. I have a Ph.D. in sociology and my husband was a mechanical engineer until he became a stay-at-home Dad when “D” was born.
We are not at all surprised to have a highly active and intelligent child. In fact, we are both very tolerant of his high energy level and were fascinated by the many neat things that he did. On the other hand, we had difficulty dealing with the somewhat bizarre things that he also did.
In my on-line explorations regarding ADD, I have been fortunate to stumble across others who similarly see the good as well as the bad in ADD and who also were frustrated by the traditional medical response to ADD. This web page provides links to other positive-oriented sites as well as provides some tips (primarily based on my family's experiences) on how to live positively with kids who definitely have their own way of thinking and interacting with the world. At this time, the Born-to-Explore site is the best source of links to positive-oriented ADD sites. The Explorer Webstar: The Other Side of ADD contains links to web sites that maintain an upbeat perspective with regards to ADD.
D is now 18 years old, and we still have not had him evaluated for ADD. He was at least 10 before he had any idea of what ADD was. We had our initial doubts about the ADD diagnosis, and over the years, our skepticism has grown. As he has gotten older, for example, he is no longer hyperactive and some of his behaviors have more in common with autism, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome, than ADD. Interestingly, behavioral management and social skills training, rather than meds, are typically the recommended approaches used in dealing with autism. We still think that the part of our son that causes problems is still a relatively minor (only about 10-20%) part of him. Thus, we chose to not define him by only his weaknesses. We instead focused on building his strengths while developing his coping skills for avoiding getting into situations in which his weaknesses predominate.
We did extensive work with D, mainly teaching him how to act in public and how to control his impulses. He has made numerous improvements over the years. Unfortunately, new issues emerged, almost on an ongoing basis. Thus, he would mature in one area while constantly facing new difficulties. Although we continue to be unconvinced that medications will “fix” him, we also admit that he will likely continue to struggle to some degree with social interactions. On the bright side, beginning in his teens, he began to establish a few good friendships. Ironically, his “closest” friends are online with two guys who share his love of early animation and music.
We made the decision to homeschool when he was 5. Thus, he has never been in a public or private school. He basically taught himself how to read at age 6. He enjoys reading, playing computer games, and designing computer animations Dandu Studios. We have been impressed with his academic progress, especially his newly emerging abilities in writing. At 18, he is doing well in online college classes (AP English, Interactive Media, and history), while finishing his senior year in two remaining subjects (math and French) as a homeschooler. Due to his tendency to get easily distracted, one sign of his growing maturity is that he agreed to wait until age 18 before pursuing a driver’s license.
We think we have made the right choice for our family. We recognize that D is unique, and we have been fortunate enough to have the resources to provide him with a very nurturing and supportive environment. We are optimistic that the long-term outcome will be positive. Nonetheless, we admit that this is not a realistic option for most families. It has been a tough, labor-intensive process, but one that has taught him self control (most of the time). It has not been easy, but we think the long-term result will be worth it. We hope our experiences will provide encouragement to other parents of highly intelligent, active children who are at risk of being labeled ADD or otherwise put into a category that they may or may not fit. Always keep in mind:
These are OUR children, and WE DO have CHOICES!