A conversation about ADHD -Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Straight talking parent Monique had experienced the high octane play of her boys as toddlers and expected things to settle as they got older. However for one her boys that energy never abated. She went from thinking that ‘they’re just boys’ to ‘maybe something’s not right’. She gives us a candid snapshot into her life with Joshua who has ADHD.

When did you realise that your child had a learning need?

Joshua has always been a jumpy kid, but you don’t know if that’s just him or there’s something extraordinary. He didn’t seem to grow out of that and started making little noises and it got worse as he started to get into school, friendships got complicated.

We put him in clubs although he was sporty and co-ordinated he got kicked out because he couldn’t concentrate. He wasn’t being selected. He was always put in defence on the football field and he’d end up with his back to the game, looking off into the trees.  

You have to piece it together. And you compare him to his brother and think maybe there is something else here, but then you just go along with it. You don’t know how he operates at school and at home he doesn’t have to sit still and concentrate as you do at school, so it isn’t so obvious. 

Although at school he was put at the front of the class. When he was given instructions, he was hanging back and seeking confirmation before he started the activity. He was always getting distracted in class. 

Then in Year 3, he was given a CAT test. (CAT stands for Cognitive Ability Testing. They are a bit like IQ tests for children, identifying their potential and some of their strengths and weaknesses. They are not a compulsory test but many schools do use them.) The CAT score came back as above average, which was not reflected in his school report. We had always been told that he needed help or needed to be put in the front of the class. So we knew then that he was really capable but he had problems with processing and short term memory and focus. There was a disconnect between intelligence and achievement.

If he is given tasks, he needs them broken down, which makes sense why he was always hanging back, asking for re-clarification. 

Did you get support from your school in diagnosing your child’s learning needs?

Kind of, in funny ways. We spoke to the SENDCo (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator) as we were looking for reassurance. She suggested we go to our GP for a diagnosis.

Although it was another parent in Joshua’s class that told me directly that she thought he had ADHD. He is disruptive in class and essentially, she was a bit “direct” and said I should get him diagnosed because his behaviour was affecting her daughter!

To be fair, she knew what she was talking about, she used to be a teacher and has children with ASD, so I knew she had a sense of what was going on. I went to the GP to be referred privately to see a Child Development Consultant. We had private insurance which covered an initial assessment for a diagnosis.

Has having a diagnosis helped your child’s learning?


It’s important to recognise that every child is different, personalities are different and they often have co-existing things which may or may not be diagnosed.

Sometimes they develop their own coping mechanisms and they get through life, if not and they’ve become disruptive to other children, you need a diagnosis to help them. It’s a label. Ultimately the end point of a diagnosis of ADHD, is getting on medication. There are no alternative therapies, at least not offered by the NHS.

The medication has made a difference when he uses it. 

Through word of mouth I was recommended a communication therapy. Actually both the “direct” friend and the Consultant we saw, highly recommend this behavioural therapy group class but the kids were a whole different kettle of fish. Joshua didn’t relate to them, so he didn’t continue.

Can you share some of the challenges you and your child have experienced?

There is a sinking disappointment feeling that they aren’t being involved in things and you don’t want it to damage their confidence. Society tolerates that sort of jumpy, loud behaviour to a certain age but after that you can become annoying to others around you. 

He makes noises especially when we are all getting ready in the mornings or when he is anxious and it is worse if his brother is around. It can be part of ADHD. It’s tricky because you don’t know if it’s his personality, or whether he is getting labelled and it’s hard to know if he plays up to it. He definitely uses it to annoy his brother too. It is better when he is on his own and you can have a lovely conversation with him.

We’ve been talking recently about how to deal with the noises, do you ignore him? He is able to stop, but equally you don’t want him to think his own family doesn’t want him to be himself. 

He has medication which helps. But he says “I take it to help me not you”. He’s often happy to be bouncing off the walls, singing loudly absolute nonsense. He likes to remind us that the psychiatrist says “Joshua doesn’t need changing it’s just to help you focus” She’s not had to share breakfast time with him though!

He also has oppositional defiance which is a common trait of ADHD and it can be very hard to get him to do anything. 

What would you say are some of the positives you and your child have experienced?

Joshua is actually very sweet and smart and has a lot of empathy for other kids.

When his friends are down or something humiliating had happened, he sort of goes over to them and is really sweet and supportive.

They say that people with ADHD have a superpower which is hyper focus and it’s true for Joshua too. He is above average in computer stuff. He’s really good at tennis. He can focus on tennis but more competitive sports or team sports can be hard. 

If you can get on top of it, the skills that you learn along the way, make you realise that you can conquer anything. If you can overcome those sorts of struggles in your childhood you can learn to surmount anything. 

What are the top 3 things that you have learnt that you can share with parents going through the same experience as you?

Speak to other people who you think can help and have a conversation with another parent who has been there already. There seems to be a lot more to get from that than official channels such as school or the NHS.

Joining an ADHD group on Facebook has been helpful. The group helps you to feel like you aren’t the only parent, thinking that everyone else’s kid is normal, and you are struggling and your kid is struggling. 

It saved us time initially, to get a disgnosis privately and that did mean that we could show the report to the school so they could put some provisions in place for Joshua. But the private insurance doesn’t cover the prescription for medication which would otherwise be free on the NHS. And the annual review with the consultant is not covered in the private insurance. This is something I hadn’t realised at the start of it all.

It is about getting them through childhood without their confidence being knocked. It is so much easier once you’re an adult. 

Thank you to Monique for sharing her story with Level Up Kids. Both her and Joshua’s names have been changed to protect their privacy. Joshua is now 11 years old and just started high school. So far, he is really enjoying school and is coping with the transition. Monique is wondering if she can skip breakfast times and come back home when everybody has left.

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