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.
Overcoming All The Obstacles: Our Path to An ADD Diagnosis
I never anticipated, when I became a parent, that school would become one of my biggest challenges. It is something that always came relatively easy to me as a person, I never struggled and still love to learn. Grades were always very important in my household growing up, anything below a B was not accepted. My husband was raised the same way. The idea of us having a child with a learning disorder just literally never crossed my mind.
When my daughter was born, I was always blown away at how smart she was. She started talking very young, hit every milestone ahead of time, and was potty trained before most of her peers. She attended the same daycare from infancy to Pre-K4 and then went on to our local public school for Kindergarten and 1st. She is funny, bright, creative, friendly, and outgoing. Looking back now, school wasn’t necessarily easy for her, but it is easy to fly under the radar at that age, especially as a girl with ADD, I have since learned.
Where Our Educational Issues Began
Second grade is where our battle really began. No matter how much we studied, no matter how many hours we spent doing homework, she would come home with poor test scores. We read extra at night, made flashcards for every test, and would go over her study guides until she had them memorized. She would cry. We would cry. Everyone was frustrated and it was making our home life miserable. I truly did not understand why it was so hard. And, none of that extra work was making a difference. Her grades were C’s and below after the first quarter. I called a parent-teacher conference and went in to talk about what was going on. We discussed a plan moving forward, and my daughter started getting pulled in for centers during class time.
As the second quarter was coming to a close I still felt like something wasn’t clicking. I approached her teacher a second time and said “I feel like she is having trouble concentrating in class, do you think that is a problem?” Her response to me was “Well there are 26 kids in the class, one of them is always doing something so it is hard to pay attention.” Needless to say, I was less than thrilled with that answer so I then called a meeting with the school counselor and principal. I went in and they slid some computerized graphs across the table to me. They then went on to tell me she was behind in math and reading according to their “models”. Mind you, all while calling her the wrong name. I left the meeting feeling let down, confused, and overall just exhausted. If I couldn’t count on school to help me, what do I do? I knew something needed to change.
Bumps in the Educational Journey on the Way to an ADD Diagnosis
My son was in Pre-K3 at a local Catholic school and we had fallen in love with the small environment. After a lot of discussion about our kids, our finances, and what we needed to do, we decided to pull my daughter from her current public school after the Christmas holidays. She settled right in and started the thrive again in a class of 14, we were beyond excited for her and felt like we were moving in the right direction.
Seven weeks later Covid lockdown began. The level of defeat I felt cannot be explained.
Our new school did not offer virtual learning, it was all placed into my hands. So here I am, the one that is NOT a teacher left with my 4 and 7-year-old to now homeschool. I look back now and think of that time as a blessing, we made it through the work at our own pace since not virtual and made things like flash cards and reading fun again.
Third grade started off weird in 2020 as it did for everyone, but one thing for us changed. My daughter was placed in the classroom of an angel. Her third-grade teacher was the first teacher to recognize what was really going on. She is the first person who truly cared enough to team up with me and help my daughter instead of just passing us along. Together we observed her behavior and the things that were going on. My daughter was just shutting down. If she didn’t know something or didn’t want to spend the effort to figure it out, she would doodle a picture. If she didn’t know the answer to math questions she would just make one up. When she would read she would skip words to try and hurry along. She would actually write “IDK” (which killed me but always made me chuckle inside) on her test papers. She was maintaining her grades at C’s and above for the most part, and we were still in the throes of a major hurricane that October and mandatory quarantines every few weeks. Nothing was normal, nothing was easy, and now we were all struggling.
Dyslexia was the first thing to be mentioned because despite struggling academically, she has had basically zero behavioral issues throughout school. She has always been loved by her teachers, a hard worker, and a friend to her peers. In the spring of 2021, we started going through the testing with the school counselor and got on the list at LCMC to have her evaluated. Because of Covid, this was of course going to be a different type of process. Again, we felt like this was finally the right path.
The new school that we transferred her to then announces it is closing.
This cannot be real.
I scrambled as fast as I could and got both of my kids into a new Catholic school, the unknown once again looming in front of me. All I could do was hope and pray that the new school would be as supportive.
The ADD Diagnosis
My daughter started fourth grade and two weeks in I got a call from both of her teachers on speaker phone. My heart dropped, I already knew what was coming. Except, I didn’t. I somehow was graced with two more of the best teachers I have ever met. Two more angels in this journey of ours! They immediately explained to me what they were seeing too, except in a whole new way to me. I had another team of people I could count on. I met with them, the counselor, and the principal that week and felt nothing but support and love from them.
Shortly after this, we were able to get her in with the psychologist that would be working with her and administering tests. We were not able to be with her due to restrictions but she came out with a smile on her face. We met virtually with Dr. Walker who was fabulous and all of the sudden everything started to make sense. They gave me back their test scores, which showed she was on par with other kids her age. I felt a sigh of relief after a year and a half of me playing homeschool teacher. The doctor gave us a diagnosis of ADD and explained that my daughter simply just suffers from a true lack of concentration. When it came to testing, she would get overwhelmed with the idea of completing it and that’s when the anxiety would kick in and she would shut down. My daughter confirmed that is how she is feeling and you could see the relief wash over her when she could finally vocalize what was happening.
The Decision to Medicate for ADD
I never thought I would try medicine for a nine-year-old but after discussing with her counselor, doctor, friends who have done the same, etc. we decided to take the plunge. We discussed it with her and I told her very simply “If you needed glasses to see at school would you not wear them? Well, this is kind of like glasses for your brain, it just helps you think a little clearer during the day!” She understood, and her doctor was also very thorough in explaining it to her. She was just as much a part of the decision as we were, which was important to me. We started her on the lowest dose of Concerta available. A plan at school had also been put in place with accommodations for testing. Her teachers and I talked almost every day in the beginning.
Y’all. It changed our lives. It changed her life.
After a slight tweak in dosage (to ensure it was lasting the entire school day) my daughter soared. She consistently started bringing home As & Bs. You saw her confidence beam as she would jump into my car on Tuesdays to show me her test papers. She would come home and do her homework with no help unless she had a question and read more for fun again in the evenings. Her personality never changed and dulled which was my biggest fear, and you could tell she just felt good. Our family stress decreased dramatically and her happiness shined through. She ended fourth grade by receiving Honor Roll for the very first time which we celebrated BIG! The pride I felt for her was indescribable, she did it.
After monthly virtual visits with LCMC, we said goodbye to Dr. Walker and we now deal with our pediatrician for her visits. We do not give her the medicine on weekends, during holidays, or during summer. For something that overtook our lives for so long, it is now just no big deal and no more talked about than the vitamins she takes.
If you are struggling to get an answer, find the right tribe to help you. Everyone’s path to an ADD diagnosis can look different, but the people you have walking that path with you definitely matter. Keep the faith, things can and will get better.
Do You Suspect Your Child Might Have ADD or 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.