Sunday, February 14, 2010


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.


  1. Hi Wendy. Difficult to see your son unable to reach his potential. And you must feel quite powerless when you're unable to even nudge him in the right direction.

    Presumably he is on a sub-theraputic dose right now so hopefully they won't take too long to get him up to a level where it will actually help him.

    I really hope the meds work our for him.

    Perhaps the other possibility - as structure suits him so well - is some sort of boarding school, where he would have supervised homework/ study sessions and constant stimulation.

    Bearfriend xx

  2. I have nothing helpful to add. Just mother to mother I wanted to offer my support!

  3. I feel your pain wholeheartedly. My son has an autism spectrum diagnosis, as well as an ADHD diagnosis (many doctors don't diagnose them separately now, but that's how he was diagnosed when he was five). Intellectually, he is highly intelligent; at or above grade level in virtually every subject. But due to his behavior & social issues, he can't handle being in the general ed classes at school. He goes to various therapies, which do help, but the issues persist. Its sooo hard to watch him struggle & be virtually helpless to do anything about it.

    I love what you said about the the "diet" being a factor. I feel the very same way, its not worth the grief it would cause our home & my son. So unless someone could furnish me with lots of indisputable proof that it would significantly help him... thanks, but no thanks.

    Hang in there... I know its hard... but things will get better. Even if he doesn't want to listen to you right now, I'm sure he knows you love him and just want to help. :)

  4. I have very similar problems with my son. No solutions, just an ear to lend and a shoulder to cry on.

  5. Hi. At the age of 39 I was diagnosed with ADD last year. The meds did not help me until the dose was high enough, and even then it was kind of subtle. It wasn't until I skipped a day that both me and my DH realised how much they helped!
    I am mensa level intelligent and managed to get through school (grades slipped in last few years but I still passed) and into a good job.
    For your sons sake I am so glad he was diagnosed now. He can now realise his potential.
    I know this is what you are already doing, but please be patient. It is about 6 months since I was diagnosed and I am still learning how to do things better even with the meds. I cannot imagine a time I won't need them, even though I am told it will come.
    Good luck to you and your son.
    Oh and having a brain that is different to 80% of the population has benefits... I promise!

  6. Oh, I feel your helplessness in dealing with an uber-smart-but-still-struggling teenager! My almost 19-year old son was diagnosed with Aszperger's last year and he suffers from depression (as does his father). Highly gifted, he tests well and has always had tremendous academic success. His struggles have always been emotional/social in nature. Medicating him helped so much because it made him able to take charge of his own care...he felt able to cope and, therefore, was able to get the skills to succeed with (like the poster above wrote) a brain that is different from 90% of the population. Seeing him get better, even if you can't be the one to help, is the most gratifying feeling. Take a deep gets better as they get better.

  7. Why not try him on the meds and see how gets on? They are A trial doesnt commit him to staying on them. Until you try you wont know.

    If you want any information about them you know how to find me!!

    There are literally thousands of kids on the meds who do well.

  8. Thank you all for your great comments and support!

  9. I am so sorry that your son and your family has to go through this!! I have no experience with ADD but i sure hope that the medication starts to work for him quickly.

  10. I have a son like that. I wanted to let you know that as grey as I got raising him, he is doing fine now. Almost 20, in college, very quirky as he always was. But brilliant and has learned to cope with his attention issues in his own way. He did spin circles for years. I never thought he would be ok as an adult, but he is. I am so proud of him. Hang in there, your brilliant boy will find his way and be so glad you loved him through it.

  11. Raising kids is heartbreaking isn't it? I watched my son blow four years and I couldn't say a word because he would always react badly. His father could say a little bit but not Mom. Sigh. My son is brilliant and has no ambition whatsoever and there is nothing I can do to change that. Good news is he's finally turning it around and he's doing it himself.

    I hope your boy gets through it and that you get through it too.