Denise’s Story

ADHD – from a mothers point of view

This is Denise’s story…

When I became a mother for the first time, I thought it was the happiest day of my life. But it was soon to become my worst nightmare.

My son was very sick as a baby having middle ear infections and tonsillitis on a regular basis. From about 6-8 weeks he started sleeping less and less, both during the day and the night. By the time he was 6 months old the only way I could have a good nights sleep was to sometimes send him to  over at his daycare mother for the night. As he grew older he also became very aggressive, having fights with children much older than himself.

By the time my son turned 3, I was at my wits end with him and threatened to drop him off at the nearest orphanage. Yes I know, this sounds very cruel, but that was exactly how I felt. So his daycare mother sat me down and said: “I think your son might have ADHD!” I said: “What on earth is that? I’ve never heard of such a thing before in my life!” She explained it to me and suggested I have him tested. I was desperate enough so I made an appointment with a paediatrician.

What was bothered him the most was my son’s inability to talk ….… his first words were at 18 months, and he spoke for the next few months.  Suddenly he stopped and didn’t utter a word for the next 5 – 6 months!  Then he started again, added a few more words to his vocabulary, and stopped again.  By his third year, he had stopped talking 3 times!  The paediatrician was convinced the aggressiveness was more frustration than anything else and referred me to a speech therapist and an occupational therapist.

The therapists were in agreement: “He definitely has signs of ADHD, but he’s still too young for an official diagnosis!” I felt how the carpet is being pulled out under my feet! I asked them what I should do in the meantime, because this kid was driving me up the wall! They suggested I started with therapy and see where things go. His daycare mother suggested I have a look at his diet.

All he wanted to eat was sweets. Nothing else! And he polished the one bottle of coffee after the other! I stopped it and all hell broke loose! He was suffering from withdrawal symptoms but I pushed through and started reading everything and anything I could find on ADHD.

One day I was reading a magazine and found an article on ADHD and diet. The more I read, the more I realized that they were talking about my son. I phoned the lady who wrote the article and she referred me to ADHASA and this is where our roads met.  By joining ADHASA I received a booklet which gave me all the ins and outs with regards to diet. I did exactly as they suggested, kept up the therapy and a year later I could already see a huge change in my son.

My son’s speech was still a big problem so the therapist suggested that I have his hearing tested. But the test showed he has 100% hearing.

This journey was far more difficult than I could ever have anticipated. Neither the family nor my husband worked with me and often I felt “I’m a bad mother” and was tempted to give up! But giving up is not in my nature. Not when I’ve set my mind to something. So with a lot of fights and tremendous patience I won my husband over.  As soon as he started seeing the difference in our son’s behaviour, he started working with me. Slowly but surely things started to look up.

But my son was still not sleeping!

So at the age of 6yrs I took him to a paediatrician who specializes in children with behaviour and learning disabilities. He referred my boy to a psychologist as well and by the end of that day, the doctor confirmed our suspicions. My son had ADHD, the reason for his sleeplessness was the fact that his brain didn’t shut down at night.

Because I’d already had success with changing his diet the doctor suggested I kept to the diet and gave him medication to help him sleep. The medication ‘trained’ the brain to shut down at night. That first night, at the age of 6yrs, he slept through for the first time … I said a little prayer, thanking God for small mercies!

Near the end of that same year we had him tested for school readiness. Our hard work was paying of. He went from a shortfall of ± 2 years to 6 months. They suggested that we keep him back to give him chance to pick up on that small short fall. So we did, and it proved to be the best thing we ever did.

When his daycare mother – who also did preparation for school – started preparing him for “big school” she discovered that he doesn’t hear some of the sounds. After another visit to the speech therapist and an audiologist it was found that he has Auditory processing disorder which means he doesn’t hear the high frequency sounds and was given a special hearing aid.

I started wondering – will he be able to cope at school? Will he adjust sufficiently? I started checking the grade 1 teachers’ backgrounds and found that one of the teachers also had ADHD. So I made an appointment with the principle, made copies of all his medical reports and set of to school.

I went straight for the kill … in hind sight this wasn’t the best way of going about it but it worked. I told him straight out, this is what we have done so far; this is our planning for the future.  I then asked: “Are you and your personnel willing to take up the challenge and work with me, or do I seek someone who would be willing to work with me.” It was important to me that they work with me, that we work as a team!  I also told him I did my research on the teachers and I wanted my son to be with the teacher who had ADHD. Instinctively I recognised she would know how to handle him as she had battled with the same things as he!  Strangely we agreed on everything!

Today my son is 13 years old and everything he touches changes to gold. Academically he has an average of 60-70%, with maths being his strongest subject. He enjoys art classes and receives A’s for his art work at art festivals, he takes piano lessons and passes his exams with flying colours every year – and remember, some of the sounds he can’t hear! He likes playing chess and soccer and does very well in everything he tackles. He had a big fear of water and so we took him for swimming lessons; he swam his first gala last year! This year he has started with photography lessons.

He is a well balanced, very active child with lots of friends and very popular with all his friends and teachers. His mothers pride and joy!