How My Gifted Child Was Misdiagnosed with ADHD
By Amanda Lane
Who knew having a “GIFTED” child could be so challenging?
I knew my daughter had a gift…I mean she was really reading chapter books to me on her 4th birthday! And that is just one of the things my husband and I noticed. Her preschool teacher didn’t seem to notice her gift, but of course she noticed her immaturity and her outbursts. It seems people enjoy finding the negative… but that’s a whole other story! Thankfully, her kindergarten teacher was definitely more in tune with her and she got through just fine. She kept my daughter participating with the class, but then during reading time she would allow her to read more challenging books. It worked.
Then came first grade. This teacher was ADHD herself and had evidently decided she had the authority to diagnose kids in her class each year. So as the year progressed and I volunteered as the “good mom,” this teacher would fill my head with stories of my daughter. She would say that she wasn’t focusing, she would have outbursts, and she didn’t work well with others. The teacher would tell me that she would try to get her attention to move on to the next activity and she would be “hyper-focused” into a book. My daughter regularly got into trouble and sent out into the hallway. At the time I didn’t know this, but my daughter told me later that she memorized the fire escape plan that was posted on the wall because she was sent out there so frequently. She was also sent to the office to sit in the “thinking chair.” My daughter recalls one specific time that she was sent to “the chair.” The administrative assistant asked my daughter if she wanted to go back to class, and she responded, “No, I’m still thinking.” Little did I know what the real problem was at this point.
Now looking back, I think , “What is wrong with being hyper-focused?” I only dream of having the ability to hyper-focus on anything. In this day and age of computers, cell phones, and multi-tasking, being able to focus at all is a treasure!
Anyway, this first grade teacher had me convinced that my daughter needed help. And what parent doesn’t want to HELP their child? I had been dealing with her outbursts and excessive energy at home so I was unfortunately easily convinced. My husband and I took her to our pediatrician who with just this teacher’s recommendation put her on the ADHD medicine, Adderall. He convinced us that children like our daughter would end up being drug addicts if we didn’t medicate! Looking back it seems completely ludicrous that he could say that to us without a proper diagnosis.
Well, after a few weeks of the dreadful medication, my daughter seemed worse. She was having more outbursts at home and she lost two pounds. So we took her back to the pediatrician and he switched us to a different medication. The teacher said she notice improvement in my daughter’s behavior at school. I continued to see more outbursts and crying at home. My daughter didn’t want to take the medicine anymore. I bought a book that I highly recommend, called “Ritalin Is Not The Answer: A Drug-Free, Practical Program for Children Diagnosed with ADD or ADHD” by David Stein. At this point, I guess I still thought she had ADHD. So I made an appointment to see a psychologist who tested her on and off of the medicine. According to the results, there was not that significant of a difference between the results. That was enough for me. We took her off the medicine. I really hated medicating my daughter for no reason and I felt so guilty. My daughter and I talked about it openly and we flushed it down the toilet. She hated the medicine and said it made her cry. She wasn’t the only one who shed a lot of tears.
I still felt I needed to know what was “wrong” with my daughter. After getting recommendations from other parents, I took my daughter to a “Behavioral Pediatrician.” He did a thorough investigation of our daughter. We had all of her teachers fill out forms…he checked her reflexes… he interviewed my husband and I… and he interviewed my daughter. Then he gave her an IQ test…she REALLY enjoyed the challenge of the test! She scored 144….and we found out what was “wrong” with her. She is “gifted.” I don’t really think that term really describes her the best, but that seems to be her category. So looking back, I think of all of the complaints from that first grade teacher were due to boredom. Kids act out when they are bored! But, honestly having a gifted child has a whole slew of challenges. This doctor said that my daughter would always be one step ahead of me. Every week we are working on something else. With a “gifted child” comes things that make parenting a daily challenge. I try hard to keep us all learning and staying positive. I know my daughter is going to do great things, and it is my job to love her, nurture her talents, and help her manage the idiosyncrasies.