We understand that getting to the bottom of what’s going on with our children can be nerve-wracking and stressful, especially when we suspect that our child has ADD or ADHD diagnosis. Some of the questions we hear most often from New Orleans parents are, “how do I know if my child has ADHD, and where can I get my child tested for ADHD in New Orleans?” This series is designed to demystify the diagnosis process, as well as provide New Orleans families with resources for getting your children evaluated. While these posts are very personal and real we are grateful to our partners at the Behavioral Health Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans for sponsoring this series.
Two Boys, One Household: The Unexpected ADHD Comparison
ADHD, an ever-increasing diagnosis in young kids, can rear its ugly head in many different shapes and sizes. As an educator, I’ve seen the very severe cases alongside mild ones. It’s a tricky condition that does not present itself the same in everyone, nor does it call for the same treatment for every kid. This was made abundantly clear when I had not one, but two sons diagnosed with ADHD within the same year. The routes we’ve taken thus far could not be more different as one case is very sensitive and perplexing while the other seems to be quite “textbook.” There is nothing alike about this disorder even when exhibited in siblings of the same household.
A Tale of Two ADHD Diagnoses: Seeing or Not Seeing the Signs
Child #1 (we’ll call him Rex) had a very animated and witty personality growing up. He was very bright and became an avid reader at a young age. Rex was a sponge for knowledge and in his early years of school was the type of student who never needed to study or prepare for assessments; he always performed well. He was smart, curious, a bit clumsy, but overall, a great student with a wild imagination. It wasn’t until the Spring of his 2nd grade year, when it seemed as though a switch was flipped, and something suddenly changed in Rex. Instead of bringing home As, he was bringing home Fs; he wanted to quit his extra-curricular activities; he was also more impulsive with his siblings at home. It went from black to white very suddenly, and we couldn’t figure out why until his teachers started reporting that he was losing focus and not reading directions on assignments. This information pointed us in a different direction we have never explored before as parents, testing for ADHD.
Child #2 (we’ll call him Camden) is quite the opposite of his older brother. Just 21 months younger, Camden was interested in all the things Rex was not: athletics. This child, since a very young age, could NOT sit still. Camden always had energy to exert and at the young age of two quickly became our “wild child”. Never staying seated at the dinner table, constantly running in the hallway, struggling severely with long car rides, always playing so hard at camp and still finding the energy to play some more once home, Camden was certainly a busy-body. We had concerns of potential ADHD signs in him long before his school years but knew he was too young to diagnose. During the Spring of Camden’s 2nd grade year, the red flags we saw in him early on gradually escalated to the point where he had racked up twelve detentions at school and a conduct grade of a D. We knew it was time to raise our concerns of what seemed like textbook ADHD now that he was of age.
A Tale of Two ADHD Diagnoses: The Diagnosis
Child #1 – After inquiring with Rex’s pediatrician about his recent behavior changes and the feedback from his teachers, the Dr recommended we bring him in one morning for a simple screen test for ADHD done in his office. After about 45 minutes of Rex “playing a game” on the computer with the nurse, the Dr. came in with results indicating severe ADHD symptoms, specifically inattentiveness. His Dr. showed me the computer results, and in the area of focus, it was off the charts. I was shocked. There was nothing in this child’s behavior growing up that pointed toward ADHD. This was clearly not a simple case. From there, the Dr. recommended we try a low dose of a prescription that would help him focus. He also indicated that we could experiment with different dosages/medications to see what works best for Rex should this first attempt not do the trick.
Child #2 – After receiving yet another phone call from Camden’s school about his concerning behavior, I finally had it. Even though I knew, both as an educator and now as a parent, what ADHD could look like, I never intended to go that route of medication for Camden because his grades were stellar, and his conduct wasn’t that of any threatening behavior. However, I could see what these detentions and constant consequences were doing to him mentally. Just as I did with his older brother, I set up an appointment with the pediatrician who also agreed to set him up on the computer just as we did with Rex. Turns out, his results were not as severe as Rex’s, but Camden did register on the grid for ADHD symptoms for hyperactivity and impulsivity – exactly what my husband and I had suspected over the last five years. We agreed to give medication a try.
A Tale of Two ADHD Diagnoses: The Treatment
Child #1 – It’s been a year and a half, and we’re still trying to figure out the best treatment for Rex. There is nothing straightforward about this diagnosis for him. In order for his school to offer resources or accommodations to help Rex focus, we needed an official psychological evaluation done. This took almost an entire school year to complete. Additionally, we have yet to find that perfect cocktail of medication for Rex. Some medications stripped him of his personality creating a zombie-like Rex, others lacked in aiding focus. It’s frustrating because while we work endlessly to find the perfect treatment for him, we have to watch the ADHD play a hindering role in his academic and social performances. It has taken an incredible amount of time and patience to go from one treatment plan to another – weeks of teacher feedback, Dr phone calls, pharmacy/medication inventory, counseling appts – and we’ve had to try several different treatments so far. As frustrating as it can be, I can’t even imagine how frustrating it is for Rex which is why we will continue to figure out the best treatment for him to feel “normal” and to build confidence – something this condition has robbed him of.
Child #2 – Just like we did with Rex, we tried the first prescription dosage with Camden very cautiously. Knowing what we did (or didn’t) with our oldest, we gave Camden the capsule and just stepped back with fingers in our ears and winced faces. We knew this could be a very rocky road ahead. However, after a couple of weeks on the first prescribed medication, not only did Camden continue to bring home good grades, but his conduct had done a complete 180! He went from earning weekly Ds and Fs to earning As and Bs. The only phone calls and emails we did receive were that of high praise of his newfound behavior. My husband and I could not believe that this process could be that smooth. I even made a point to visit him at school a few times to observe his behavior at recess myself. He was still the fun, competitive little athlete he’d always been as he ran around playing in an intense soccer game with friends. We were so fortunate and relieved to have figured out the best treatment plan for him and have a foundation we could use to move forward as he develops with this diagnosis.
It’s interesting that siblings can be raised by the same parents in the same household but have starkly different personalities. I guess the same can go for ADHD diagnoses. This disorder doesn’t perform like the common cold that can sweep through a house where everyone gets the same stuffy nose and sore throat indicators. No. What happened for one did not even come close to happening for the other. My pre-conceived notions about ADHD were busted. The warning signs are various and the management can be complicated. However, unlike my own childhood, the treatment options and the resources parents of ADHD children have access to today are far and wide. I have yet to hit a wall with Rex, and we still have plenty of options of care to pursue. We will continue to exhaust each and every option until both boys have an equal opportunity to learn and develop.
Do You Suspect Your Child Might Have ADHD?
Thankfully, there are many resources in New Orleans for evaluating (and treating) children for ADHD.
The NEW, 51-bed Behavioral Health Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans is the only psychiatric program in the Gulf Coast region exclusively dedicated to the mental healthcare needs of children and adolescents in crisis. Outpatient services are also provided to compliment inpatient care and include assessment and treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders such as Autism, ADHD, and mood disturbance. Our team of professionals provides evidence-based management for a range of challenges facing children, adolescents and their families. Our program focuses on teaching and empowering patients to develop healthy life skills to improve their current function and future quality of life.