Our Diagnosis Story
I’m not quite sure where to start because looking back now over the past 10 years of my daughter’s life there are so many warning signs but when you are in the thick of parenting ADHD warning signs can also look like normal childhood. As an infant Pickles (no of course that’s not her real name) was colicky, the only way we could stop her from crying in the middle of the night was by bouncing her on an exercise ball. Yes this was complete torture but this is what I signed up for as a new mom…and I was colicky as a baby. I toughed it out.
At three years old we noticed she was squinting her eyes a lot! Her pediatrician examined her eyes and diagnosed tic disorder. Immediately my mind went to Tourette’s Syndrome but the doctor reassured me that tics were common in toddlers and it would likely go away with age. I felt reassured but still ached for my little girl as I watched her uncontrollably squint her eyes again and again and again.
At 31/2 we began to see some behavioral problems at school and this really baffled and saddened me. I had quit my career to dedicate myself to raising my children…I was in this 150% how was my kid getting in trouble at school? I never got in trouble at school…I couldn’t relate. She knew the difference between right and wrong but still seemed to make the wrong choice. In addition she seemed so much more high-strung than all the other kids…almost like I gave her a bowl of sugar for breakfast instead of the organic home cooked meals I had lovingly prepared. Pickle’s brother had entered the scene right about the same time she started preschool so at first I credited her misbehavior to an adjustment for a new sibling. I did mention my concerns to her pediatrician.
In addition to the behavior problems at school my mommy radar had picked up that something else was going on with my daughter. When she walked through a room she would reach out and rub her hand along various surfaces (the sofa, table top etc). Also, she would intentionally step on toys left on the floor. The thing that drove me crazy the most was she never seemed to notice that her face was covered in food, at like EVERY meal. Again, it wasn’t too out of the range of normal for a preschooler but I just sensed that something was up. I reported my concerns again to our pediatrician.
What the Experts Said
The summer before Pickles turned 7 our pediatrician listened to my concerns and had broached the subject of starting ADHD medications. My husband was adamantly against the medications so plan B was to meet with an educational psychologist and perform a sleep study (she was having some issues sleeping too). The educational psychologist was ridiculously expensive and not covered by insurance so we chose to have her do a one time assessment. Her advice after a bunch of paperwork and a brief meeting with us was there were definitely sensory issues that we should address through Occupational Therapy (OT) and one month later we started OT.
Our OT was amazing but the world of Occupational Therapy is a good subject for another blog post. The focus of Pickle’s OT was on Sensory Processing Disorder (a condition in the summer of 2013 that wasn’t formally recognized by the medical community).
We followed through with the sleep study and put another huge dent in our pocket-book. To discuss the findings we met with a neurologist who added a diagnosis of anxiety to her growing list but there were no problems with her sleep.
In the fall of her 2nd grade year we found ourselves at the pediatricain’s office again for Pickle’s well child visit. She was now 8 years old. She was still having some behavioral and social problems both at school and at home but maturity had helped a bit. It was a visit with the pediatrician that I will never forget. We had tried Plan B, I was keeping a close eye on diet but the problems persisted. We walked out of the office our cheeks wet with tears and a diagnosis for ADHD in her file and a prescription in hand.
This of course is not where our journey with ADHD ends. It’s more like the day we realized what we were up against. The parade of doctors visits continued but I won’t go into more detail on that today. Today I just wanted to share with you how we arrived at an ADHD diagnosis.
I feel like this post woudln’t be complete without a review of the criteria used to diagnose ADHD so here goes:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual specifies four diagnostic criteria that a patient must meet before he/she can be properly diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). If the answer to these four questions is “yes,” ADHD is the likely diagnosis.
Does the individual exhibit any behaviors suggestive of hyperactivity, inattention, or impulsivity? (yes, yes and yes)
2. If these behaviors are present, did they exist before the age of seven? (yes) In other words, are they chronic? (yes)
3. If present, do these behaviors negatively affect two or more areas of the individual’s life—for example, at home, in school, or with relationships? (all of the above)
4. Are there any other psychiatric disorders that might explain these behaviors? (well maybe sensory processing and anxiety) In other words, are they pervasive? (oh yeah sensory processing isn’t recognized yet as a disorder so I guess yes)
Why does this process have to be so messy? I wish someday there can be a simple blood test to identify ADHD. I didn’t give up my fight against ADHD (in fact I’m still fighting…just using different tactics). We went on to visit psychiatrists and Pickles underwent a full psychological assessment that confirmed the ADHD diagnosis and ruled out autism. Today I am confident we have the right diagnosis but the journey to get here was SCARY people!! Please follow along in our journey if you find yourself in the same shoes and hopefully our story can shine a light on your path.