In the balance

Invitation for discussion: ADHD


Hello. I am interested in your experiences with ADHD. I am a mum of four, three girls, and one boy aged ten, who is ADHD positive. I am myself British, as are the elder three of my children including my son. But I live in Germany and truth be told, I feel often quite lost in the whole German system. I am a foreigner living in a foreign land. Which is all fine and dandy when everything is running without a hitch, but when faced with a disorder like ADHD, I am forced to realise my inadequacies.

For instance: the diagnosis of ADHD only finally came aged nine, would this have happened more quickly had I had a better understanding of the school system/the health system/the language?

It strikes me that I have never stopped doing/fighting/crying/worrying/questioning/researching/making appointments on behalf of my son since the start of school.

And I am continually astounded by the amount I have been criticised/accused/yelled at/insulted by people who my son and I are supposed to hold respect for.

Both before and after the diagnosis.

Is Germany particularly poor in dealing with ADHD children (and their parents, for that matter)? Is it because I don’t know the system? Are other countries better?

Apparently, a primary school class here should expect to contain three or four ADHD children. If that’s the case, where is the support for those children? The teachers? The parents?

My overall impression at the moment is one of a ‘pass the buck’ phenomenon. The teacher blames the parents for their child’s poor behaviour in class and their inability to concentrate. We go to the GP the GP blames the school/teacher/system and does nothing. Many visits later you are finally referred to a psychiatrist who blames a missing chemical, makes sympathetic faces and then after another few months (mostly of doing nothing) hands out some medication.

Meanwhile the child becomes more and more disturbed and the parents more and more disillusioned.

Surely, experienced, well-trained teachers should be able to spot those three or four children, have a quiet word with the parents (note: not shriek at them in the corridor in front of other parents and pupils, “Your child needs a psychologist!” – this just makes the teacher look irrational, the parent annoyed and the teacher is no longer taken seriously).

Parents could then go to a GP or pediatrician, explain the situation at school (probably the one at home too). Who could then refer onto the relevant professional without much fuss. Instead of informing the stressed out parent that under no circumstances would they feed their own children Ritalin. Although, it becomes apparent that their children are actually not attempting to climb out of upper floor windows to see the moon better, or dismantling the antennae from toy aeroplanes to test the actual power of the electricity in the socket, rather than do the homework that the school demanded must be done in the bedroom. Not under the watchful eye of the mother. (The teacher had already taken the time to inform me that my son’s lack of concentration was indeed caused by me sitting with him to do his homework).

It occurs to me again and again that had my son been diagnosed, and thus medicated age six or even seven, he would probably not have encountered the problems that he then met in the following three years: the aggression, the bullying, the lack of social development, the frustration, the loss of friends, the tics.

And I am 100% positive that we would have spent much less time at the hospital.

The reason being, he would have been on medication, Ritalin. And Ritalin actually works.

It doesn’t fix everything and we are still having some teething problems.

But on it he can read and importantly, enjoy a book (not just a picture book).

I can read his handwriting.

His tics have stopped. Completely.

His sleep has improved.

He can sit at the table for lunch without jumping out of his seat. Though not necessarily for dinner.

But for me, the most magical thing of all, is, for a few hours a day he stops being impulsive. He really can: Stop. Think. Decide. Like we taught him. Instead of just do.

Now, really, I could go on and on about experiences, like when his school tried to ‘sell us’ the all day school in town with small classes. We went with open minds (despite the bad reputation) and found a school for children and/or parents out of control. The focus that of discipline. No support. No counselling. No therapy.

I could tell you about all the busybodies who criticised and advised. Stop the sugar and the e-numbers, the computer games and TV. To start with supplements and discipline. To be honest we tried it all. And more. With no change whatsoever. If you are the parent of an ADHD child, I’m sure you’ve met them too.

I would like to know your experiences. Your opinions. Hear your voice.

Thank you.

10 thoughts on “Invitation for discussion: ADHD”

  1. Wow. I find it disgusting the attitude of the teachers you have encountered. Here in Canada (although I knew there were some issues) it was my son’s grade 2 teacher (so my son was 7) who pointed out to me that perhaps we should have Joshua checked out and talk to our Dr. She approached me privately and was very nice about. If it hadn’t been for her it probably would have taken longer to get Joshua’s diagnosis of ADHD and later Aspergers. In Canada if you have a diagnosis of ADHD it doesn’t really mean much in terms of having extra help in the classroom with a TA (teachers assistant) However, if you have a diagnosis of a learning disability, Autism (incl. aspergers, pos-nos, etc..) you are entitled to an IEP (individual education plan) and a TA either part time or full time. As well, my son was just approved to use a laptop in class because of his really weak motor skills. Now after that has all been said it is important that the parent continue to push for everything. The parent has to request a meeting regarding having an IEP / TA etc.. because the teachers (unless they are like the one my son had) won’t do the work for the parent. lol I have been extremly fortunate in that mny children are in a very supportive and knowledgable school with very good teachers. They have all taken courses and gone out of their way to learn about issues such as ADHD, Aspergers etc.. I am worried about next year though when my son has to transfer to middle school. we will be looking at schools over the next 6 months to determine where he will best fit in.

    1. Hi Chantel.
      Thanks for your comment.
      I, too, am disgusted by the attitude of the teachers. And also the doctors. We’ve actually been to the education department and complained. We wanted to take our son out of school and send him to another school, but we’re not allowed. It’s also against the law to home school here. There are no teaching assistants at all. Though he did have some extra reading/writing help for his dyslexia. As did our elder daughter.
      I find the doctors a big problem too, because of the lack of working together that happens here. It’s very typical to be passed from one doctor to another and for responsibility to be avoided. It would be true to say that I have totally lost my confidence in the majority of the doctors. In general, I do think the intentions are good. But the whole system is based on money and is therefore in a mess. A real shame because there are elements of pure brilliance in the system.

      I am worried because he starts back to school next week, with yet another new teacher. I have no idea how it will go. But I will absolutely stand my ground firmly, if and when problems arrive. I find it all very stressful though.

      Our good news is we have found a secondary school which has a very good reputation, and we want to send our son there. Of course, I can’t know how it will be for him, but I do feel optimistic. I keep hoping we’ve been through the worst. One more year to go and then he’ll be off to high school.
      Then only one more child to put through primary first school.

      I wish you the very best with your search for a middle school for your son.
      It’s inspiring to hear from other parents. So thank you again.

  2. Based upon my experience as a Speech and Language Pathologist: In a number of educational setting in the US, a child with ADHD must demonstrate that his/her educational progress has been significantly impacted by their ADHD before services are provided. Significance has been related to a discrepency between intellectual level and academic performance as measured by standardized test…in theory sounds good but not as effective in providing appropriate treatment and positive acqdemic experience as it could be.

    1. Thanks for your comment. He did an IQ test here. But we found out that that however, is not standard procedure. The diagnosis is based on a questionnaire filled out by the teacher and the same one by the parents. Each answer responds to a point and the points are then tallied. There’s one discussion between parents and psychologist for around 30 minutes and one meeting between (yes, just one) between the child and the psychologist – for about 10 minutes.
      I could not get my head around this at first. How could a proper diagnosis be given on such a small amount of contact with the actual patient? After many sleepless nights we took our son to a psychiatric unit at the local hospital for a second opinion. We were told that our Doctor is acclaimed in her field. And that they would actually do less to diagnose him.
      We expressed our uncertainties to the doctor, and we did receive extra consultations at the beginning, to ask questions and talk about his behaviour. Sometimes our son was not present, but a few times he was. Then she would see his behaviour, first hand. Constant interruption, fidgeting, eyes darting about the room. Impulsively at one point, he head butted the desk. People reading this may think he was attention seeking. But it was more like a tic. He butted the desk and then continued talking as if unaware of what just happened. Quite cheerily, to be honest. Interestingly, the doctor became very unnerved by his behaviour. My husband and I were pleased that she actually saw him as he actually is. Because in a one to one for ten minutes, he can hold it together quite well at times.
      That calmed us somewhat, but the only thing that really, truly made me believe the diagnosis was the research I did myself.
      However, I know that many ADHD sufferers also have other problems too. I absolutely still feel that he has not been properly assessed for anything else. As does my husband. Before medication he had started to develop daily tics. The start of Tourettes. Research told me this is quite common for people with ADHD. Luckily for my son, this has disappeared with the use of Ritalin.
      I think as a parent you want the absolute best for your child. Being the parent of an ADHD child is very confusing. They act out so you discipline them more and the problems just get worse instead of better. You question your own abilities as a parent, even though in my case, I have 3 other children who are doing great. By the time you’ve tried all of the remedies offered by all and their cat, and you finally get to meet the mythical psychiatrist. You’re exhausted. And desperate. The whole family is now falling apart and you want to shout from the rooftops, “I need help!”
      Then although we had a diagnosis, we still felt no one was actually helping our son. And I noticed that the older he became the more intensive the symptoms became. We always had to wait several weeks between appointments and I often felt the situation was spiralling out of anyone’s control.
      If I’m honest, despite her qualification, I’m not really satisfied with our psychiatrist. She’s offered him no proper therapies (apart from medication) and I would still like him to be assessed for other conditions. But having looked at our options, apparently, she is the best this area has to offer.
      Still, I keep digging. Maybe I’ll find something. I haven’t given up all hope yet!

  3. I am shocked with the reaction you’ve received. You mentioned you’re british? Is there an ADHD association in England that could advise you, even if you’re in Germany? I wonder if there’s any european group that can advise you…like a european version of the “ACLU”? I think a good resource, but it would be expensive I think because it’s long distance, is to call up the “well-known” ADHD experts. There’s an audiobook I’m listening to called “Superparenting ADD…” by Dr. Edward Hallowell. There’s other books on parenting ADHD. If you would like a short list, I can compile it for you….Hang in there & know that you are not alone, your son is NOT horrible, etc,. YOU are not horrible, and other people are saying what they’re saying because they are ignorant. Maybe it’s up to you to “educate” them over there in Germany:).

    Take care & aloha…

    1. I’m going to talk to my husband about that audio book. He’s always trying to persuade me to listen to them!! I have looked up ADHD associations in UK before. For information purposes. Then I opted to look for ones in Germany so I had a better awareness of our rights. So far, I haven’t found too much to help us. But I keep trying. Thanks again for the links. I have been reading through them!
      Take care too!

  4. OK so today, I called my son’s psychiatrist’s office to order his repeat prescription, only to be informed by a message that they are on holiday for THREE weeks!
    They only allow you the prescription in the last few days before it runs out.
    Ridiculous service.

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