I’m flashing forward from my experiences in third grade in the 1970’s to present-day and my twenty-year-old son. He was diagnosed with ADD when he was fourteen-years-old. (Okay, a bit of a flash back too). For years we wondered if he had ADD or even ADHD. We had serious doubts because other than the fact that he could usually be found at the highest location on a playground, i.e., the very tip top of the tallest play structure, he did not seem to be any more “hyper-active” when compared to any of the other boys his age.
In elementary school, even his teachers told us that he did not seem to be hyperactive, though he was a bit more talkative and social than preferred, but they still felt he fell within normal bounds for his age and gender. In second grade, he and his twin sister were tested using the Raven Matrice. He scored high enough to get him into a special class, which was separate from the regular GATE classes. His sister scored high enough to get into the GATE classroom, but not the special class. This was in San Diego. Then we moved about 45 miles north to the Temecula Valley and the GATE program was different. He never ended up going to the separate class because we moved at the beginning of that school year.
Throughout elementary and middle school, he would win awards for being on the Silver Honor Roll, and his sister would get the Gold Honor Roll awards. (I might talk more about this in future posts).
When high school became more of a struggle for him to get his homework in, we finally had him diagnosed and he was prescribed medication. He ended up taking it for a few months, and was thrilled when it seemed to give him the much needed ability to focus, but then gave up, very strongly refusing to take it anymore because of how it wreaked havoc on his appetite (a condition an underweight, under-tall 9th grader does not need!) and began making him too drowsy to pay attention in class no matter how many times we tried to tweak the dosage. The rest of his high school career was filled with GPAs just high enough to be allowed to participate in school plays until his senior year when his grades spiraled out of control and he barely graduated.
After graduation, he was able to get work fairly quickly and seemed to be doing well, working as a runner/parking lot attendant/kitchen help for a local restaurant. They were amazed at how well he got along with customers, and how quickly he got his work done. While we were not surprised that the customers enjoyed his friendly personality, we wondered if his boss was sure she was talking about our son when it came to his work ethic. At home, it was always a struggle to get him to do his chores –as it was/is the case for our other two children, and to be perfectly honest, my husband and I did our share of chore-dodging when were kids too, so it’s not like he didn’t come by that honestly.
After almost a year on the job, we started hearing stories from him about this new worker who would just rush in right in front of him and take jobs from him and not leave any work for anyone else to do. He would also complain that though he was still working very hard, it seemed that every time he just happened to stop working just for a couple of seconds to catch his breath, that would be when his boss would see him and tell him to get back to work. His schedule would change each month and would be printed up at work for him to write down. There were several occasions where he wrote down the wrong days, which lead to his boss having to call and ask if he was coming in. Eventually, even though they liked him, they had to let him go.
This lead to a long time of off and on unemployment for him. He tried selling knives, he did odd jobs for a friend of his who worked for a property management company, he was even a sign twirler for a while, until the business decided to cut back on the expense of having a sign twirler. During this time, due to circumstances partially having to do with some things I have already mentioned in this post, and due to some other things that I won’t go into at this time, we decided we were doing more harm than good having him live at home rent free, so at the age of 19, we told him we loved him, and then we gave him 30 days notice to move out. For a while, he crashed at the homes of various friends, and when that wasn’t possible, he was literally homeless and slept in a sleeping bag out in the wilderness (we aren’t sure exactly where). He still had a mobile phone (which we paid for) and we told him he could use our address on job applications. Finally, he was able to find a place to live for a few months, paying a small amount of rent that he earned with his sign-twirling job.
When that place became unavailable to him due to his roommates moving out, and he was trying to find a new place to live, he lost his sign-twirling job. So no money, no job, no place to live. We let him move back in again because we felt we had seen some improvement and perhaps some slight signs of maturation on his part. He has now been here a few weeks. He will be turning twenty-one in a month and half. He is unemployed, but looking for work. By my own observation, he does not seem to be looking hard enough.
Last week, I read the post by Jen Merrill, Gifted, Creative, or ADHD? In one of the comments, a young man told his story of living undiagnosed with ADHD. This sounded like my son. The young man went on to say how going on a particular medication has changed his life. While acknowledging it wasn’t magic, he explained how it helped him to be able to work to reach his full potential. When I presented the idea of giving medication another try again to my son, he literally jumped back and almost shouting, said, “No!” I persuaded him to at least listen to the comment from the young man who is twelve years older than my son. He softened a bit, and has now agreed to get an appointment to talk to a doctor about the possibility of giving medication another try. In future posts, I will update with his progress.
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