I wasn't planning to write about this. I'm afraid that I'm betraying confidences, but this blog is fairly well insulated from my real-world life. I believe that my husband reads it from time to time, but he has never talked to me about it. So I'm going to spill some beans because I'm having trouble right now.
Our older son was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) at the end of 2009. He had been having intermittent problems at school but in the past year his marks had started going all over the map--but mostly markedly down, even in the subjects he loves. Our son is gifted. He was tested in Gr. 6 at the request of the school and has been in a gifted programme since Gr. 7. He is now in Gr. 11.
S. reads books on physics for fun. He reflects on the state of the world constantly, reads the newspapers and is much more aware of current events than most adults. He is a profound thinker. He also cannot sit down and do an assignment. He just can't gather all his thoughts and mould them into a coherent whole. In a classroom setting, he is a delight. He participates with great animation in discussions and always has something interesting to add to the debate. He is not disruptive (there is no hyperactivity involved in his disorder). In fact, some teachers have called him a good influence on his fellow students, even a role model. Take him out of the classroom, though, and almost nothing gets done. He procrastinates, his self-esteem is dropping like a stone and yet he still can't do anything.
I know I have to be there for my son, but it's hard. I'm not perfect--far from it. I procrastinate too. We all do. But generally speaking, I am extremely well-organized, a self-starter and pretty much always on top of what has to be done, both in my personal, blogging and professional life. I could not be a successful self-employed person without having these traits. So in profound ways, I am the opposite of my son. Like most people, my husband has a regular 9 to 5 job; he too is generally fairly well organized and does a good job. I know that he is highly regarded in his field. He is currently writing a book; he didn't pitch the idea to anyone: the publisher approached him to do it.
And we have a son who is brilliant, but floundering.
Although I never would have thought it possible, I have now come around to the idea that our son could benefit from medication. In fact, it was due to him starting medication for the ADD that we found out about his heart defect. As you know, he has just begun the medication again. When the medication works, it is said to work almost instantaneously. So far, with our son, we see no results. Either it does not work, or the dose is too low. He has been started at a rock-bottom dose, so the work of adjusting it has just begun. Next Friday, the dose goes up. We'll see.
Let me make it clear right now: I do not think that diet has anything significant to do with ADD. First, he has an extremely well balanced diet: lots of fruit and vegetables, very little refined sugar or flour. I have started doing reading on ADD and so far have not found any credible study that points to a relationship between diet and ADD. There is also another element that food purists seem to have trouble comprehending: controlling an adolescent's diet is a losing proposition. The hate and frustration it causes totally cancels out any nutritional benefits. Anyway, fortunately, he has a taste for good food and even left to his own devices, he is not a junk food junkie.
PLEASE DO NOT ADVISE ME TO CONTROL HIS DIET. If you do, it will be crystal clear that you are not reading what I'm saying.
What I do know is that ADD is related to significant differences in the frontal lobe of the brain between ADD and non-ADD people. This is the area that controls self-regulation. Medication is not the only solution, though. He is now seeing a psychologist and has begun working 1-2 times a week with a coach who is also a teacher. Her role is to help him find appropriate strategies so that he can focus and get his work done.
Unfortunately--and perhaps due to the fact that he sees me as everything he is not in terms of organizational skills--I cannot discuss anything with him. He perceives asking him if he's doing his homework, or finished a particular assignment, for instance, as the height of harassment. He is slightly more open to what his dad says. I am required to studiously butt out at all times. This is the rough part for me. The woman whose work depends on almost instantaneous results must sit back and watch her son turn in circles, not knowing how, if and when things will begin improving.
So this is what's trotting around in my brain right now.