Tommy began to show impulsive and unfocused behavior at age four when he entered his first year of preschool. I got notes practically every night about how he’d “acted up” during his three-hour preschool class. The inappropriate behavior escalated until his teacher suggested that we have him evaluated for ADHD. We took him to his pediatrician, who used a written test/questionnaire which both the teacher and I filled out.After it was scored, the pediatrician determined that indeed, he did have ADHD. Around the same time, his preschool occupational therapist also diagnosed him with Sensory Integration Disorder.
Feeling a bit confused about the two diagnoses, we made an appointment with a respected psychologist who worked with children. His opinion was that one couldn’t truly diagnose ADHD until the child was a little older, around at least six. He also said that ADHD and Sensory Integration Disorder often shared the same symptoms. We asked him his opinion of medicating our four-year-old. He cautioned against it.
And yet, we were feeling pressure by the school to medicate. So we did. We put Tommy on an ADHD med–Focalin. Tommy became instantly suspicious of the little granules of medication we put on a peanut butter cracker. (We had to open the capsule and extract half of the med granules because we wanted to give him a smaller dosage.) He wouldn’t eat the crackers. That first week, I became very discouraged and called the pediatrician who suggested we try a patch of the same kind of med. The patch was easier for him to “take.” But that night, he acted very confused–one of the side effects of ADHD meds. We took him to the Emergency Room, where the ER doctor told us to stay away from meds with a child so young. We stopped the medication process.
Fast forward to his 2nd year of preschool, age five. With a new teacher, we thought things might be better, but they weren’t. I began to receive the same negative notes in Tommy’s backpack about his impulsiveness and his lack of focus. At the conference with the teacher, I asked her if she believed Tommy had ADHD. She said yes.
The school’s solution was to put him on a behavioral plan to modify his impulsiveness. It involved the use of picture cards which he’d present to his teacher when he wanted to change activities. We also decided to try something new. We began to take him to occupational therapy once a week.
We are now waiting to see if these new therapies work. If they don’t seem to help, we’re probably going to try medication again. We might try Ritalin.
Fast forward six weeks. Recently, we heard from his teacher. She thinks the behavioral plan and the occupational therapy are working to combat the symptoms of ADHD. Thank goodness.
What is the upshot of our ADHD journey?
When a child is experiencing ADHD symptoms at such an early age, it becomes problematic because experts disagree if one can truly diagnose such a young child, and experts also disagree about medicating a young child around three or four. Many people believe that giving the child “time to grow up” is what is needed, not medical intervention.
I personally don’t ever want to medicate Tommy. For the moment, he is unmedicated. And he’s doing pretty well.
This ADHD road is a long one, especially when it begins at such a young age. But millions of people travel it.
Author: Laura Yeager