After a few months of my daughter getting into trouble at school for talking, being disruptive, and not staying on task, combined with similar difficulties and tantrums at home, I sought help from her doctor last December. To begin with, the help was more for myself. I was ready to pull my hair out. I didn’t understand how my daughter could be so sweet one minute then become a different person the next. Her mood swings were quick and often. She was easily frustrated in all environments, and I felt like I was losing my mind.
After a month of observation by a children’s counselor, her teacher and I were both asked to fill out a Connor’s test to test for Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). About a week ago, we met with the psychiatrist who confirmed she is clinically ADHD across the board.
I’m going to be blogging about our journey now and then, so I can track our progress and try to maintain my sanity.
In the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of research on ADHD and have learned a lot. I feel quite overloaded and overwhelmed by it all. I’ve learned several things that have brought me a bit of comfort. Kids with ADHD are often very creative and have above average intelligence. Both of these are apparent in my daughter, especially when watching her play.
They typically have sleep disorders, as well, and therefore are naturally night owls. Their brains don’t want to slow down. My daughter won’t naturally fall asleep unless she’s absolutely exhausted. For a few months, at her doctor’s recommendation, I have been giving her melatonin about 30 minutes before bedtime, which helps her fall asleep. When she’s able to get the sleep she needs, her behavior is better and she doesn’t get nearly as frustrated during the day.
This week we met with the psychiatrist again to discuss treatment options. I don’t want to put her on medications if I don’t have to, so I’m trying natural methods first. One difficulty with doing it naturally as opposed to medication is that the results won’t be as immediate. It will take at least 6 weeks before I can tell how or if it’s effective.
The first thing I’m doing is an expensive diet change. We are going gluten free. The doctor also recommends cutting out soy and dairy, but the dairy is a difficult one to eliminate. We’ll get there eventually. We are also limiting refined sugar, even though tests done on the affects of sugar for ADHD kids have shown little or no connection. Things that have shown negative effects on ADHD that we will also be eliminating are food dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate, which seems to be in everything, including allergy medicine – also needed for my daughter. Just an F.Y.I., the Meijer brand for Zyrtec doesn’t contain sodium benzoate. Because of this diet change, I will need to pack her lunch every day, and will have to pack her food wherever we go – church dinner, friend’s house, restaurant, road trips… It’s going to be a lot of work.
Her psychiatrist also recommends we see an ENT or Sleep Specialist to check for physical obstructions to her sleep that may be fixable, such as a possible tonsillectomy. He also said she needs a strict sleep schedule. She needs about 9-10 hours of sleep. Her school serves breakfast, but she can’t eat it, so she has to wake up earlier now so she can eat breakfast before school. In order for her to wake up at 6:30am, she needs to be in bed 8:30pm.
The psychiatrist said the most important hour of the day is the hour before bedtime, which will start at 7:30pm. All lights and screens and noise have to go off. We take a bath to raise and lower her body temperature, which is a sleep trigger, and she gets her melatonin at 8pm. We brush teeth, then we do a quiet, low-light activity such as reading a book or coloring. Her room needs to be as dark and cool as possible, and she needs white noise, such as a fan. This is going to take some serious discipline. She likes falling to sleep with music on, which her doctor said is a sleep disturbance and will take away from the quality of sleep, and she has been falling to sleep with the light on because she didn’t like it dark. We’ve done this for two nights now, and so far so good. She’s not even thrown a fit about the music or lights being off, and has fallen asleep almost immediately.
The sleep schedule is going to be rough. It means we have to be home by about 7pm. All the time. No matter what. No exceptions. This means no praise band practice, late meetings, social time, and dates may be difficult. I will have to find babysitters that will adhere to the schedule. We also have to wake up at 6:30am. Every day. No exceptions. Weekdays, weekends, summer break. Every day. No sleeping in ever.
I’m finding out that having a child with ADHD is very trying and exhausting. I have found comfort in the diagnosis though, because there’s a reason for the way she’s been acting. She is such a creative, smart, and sweet girl, and she needs a little extra help.
This is going to be a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of discipline, and a lot more money, especially when I’m doing this on my own, but if it helps her and keeps her off of medications it will be totally worth it.
If you have any encouragement for me, or experience with ADHD or gluten free eating and can offer some advice, I would be much appreciative. There are moments when I feel crazy for making all these changes and wonder if it will be worth it. It’s so very tiring. I’m going to need encouragement along the way, and I’m thankful I have friends and a boyfriend who are supporting my efforts too.