Thursday, August 25, 2011

ADD: Snapper's Story

I love Snapper. She will turn 9 in a few weeks. She is sweet, compassionate, and intelligent. If I could bottle her energy and sell it, I would make a fortune. The kid could (and has) run 1.5 miles at school, then gone on to swim a mile at swim team, and comes home full of energy and ready to ride her bike or roller skate. Ten months ago, after years of frustration and struggle to follow directions and complete simple tasks, Snapper was diagnosed with ADD. 

We conferenced with her teacher, filled out a pile of paperwork, and met with her pediatrician. We made diet modifications and decided to put her on a low dose of medication to allow her brain to function better. Our goal was not to calm her down, but to allow her to function in such a way as to reach her full potential. We experienced some bumps as we tried to find the right interventions and medication dosage for her. Ten months later, we have finally found the perfect balance. The combination of a high protein, low sugar, complex carb-rich diet, coupled with intense exercise, intervention at school, and the right dosage of her medication has turned Snapper's life in a totally different direction. Though her ADD symptoms have been present since she was 3, they really began to interfere with her everyday life when she was 6. It all came to a head a year ago. At the beginning of last school year, a simple math worksheet would take an hour for Snapper to complete unless I was sitting with her, coaching her through it. When she did complete it by herself, it was full of errors. Writing assignments caused a torrent of tears, and could take as long as two hours. The prospect of taking a test gave her an upset stomach. Her teacher often described her as being frantic. Cleaning her room was torture. I couldn't even have her unload the dishwasher because her head was always in the clouds, and she would drop dishes. It was difficult to have a conversation with her because she would change the subject so frequently, and left thoughts hanging. She even used to regularly get in the shower with her socks or underwear still on. 

Life is different for Snapper now. Every day she comes home from school, unpacks her lunchbox, gets a healthy snack, tells me about her day, and settles in to do her homework. Last Thursday she calmly told me that her class had taken a diagnostic math test, and she had "quite enjoyed it." Yesterday she started with math, which was 2 pages. After she knocked out the math, she pulled out her book, set the timer, and read for 20 minutes. Then she got out her reading notebook and wrote a full-page log of what she had read. She used her dictionary to look up two new vocabulary words, which she copied into her notebook. Then she put her papers in the proper place in her binder, packed her books and binder in her book bag, cleaned up her space, and headed to her room. Without help. Not even a peep from me. Independently completed her homework in 1 hour. When I checked her math paper, she had not made a single mistake. Her reading log--which isn't due until Friday--was beautifully done. No tears, no struggle, no frustration, no errors.

Over the last week, Snapper had made a huge mess of her room. This always happens if I don't step in and make her clean it up every day. I let it slide this week, and it was really a pit. Historically, when her room has gotten this bad (because of my neglect) I will tackle it myself. The amount of mess she had in there would have been enough, a year ago, to crumple her into a heap on the floor in tears of total overwhelmed-ness, and she just could not do it. An hour and a half after she entered the pit yesterday, she called me in. This is what I found.

All her clothes neatly folded and organized on the shelves. Not a toy or earring or scrap of trash on the floor. I opened drawers. I checked corners. I snooped and poked and prodded. And guess what? Everything in that bedroom was put away in its proper place. It is neat, organized, and clean. She even dusted and vacuumed! I'm telling you, it's a miracle. She has come so far! I am so thankful for a good doctor, for great books to educate Matt and me about the specifics of ADD, and for successful interventions on Snapper's behalf. Snapper's self-esteem took a major boost yesterday, and she is loving life.

*Lest I make this process sound like it has been simple, let me assure you that this is not the case. The decision to put her on medication was a very difficult one. But as our pediatrician put it, if someone has poor eyesight, you get them glasses. If a child has cancer, you get treatment. If Snapper's brain is constantly in chaos because it doesn't function as it should, you get help for her, even if help comes in the form of medication. It took us three tries to find the right dosage, and the times when the dosage was wrong were hard for Snapper. Too low a dose just took the edge off. Too high a dose made her nervous, jumpy, fearful, and tearful. But now we've hit the sweet spot. Snapper will tell you that she can turn off the noise in her head. Her thoughts don't get sucked into space. She doesn't constantly feel like she's forgetting something. When she tries to focus, her brain does what she tells it to do. She isn't always nervous anymore. When she looked at the mess in her room, she automatically came up with a plan to conquer it, and it became a challenge, not a nightmare. 
Difficult process? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!


E. Charlotte said...

Wonderful! I'm so glad to hear she's doing so well and as a family you have made such progress! Way to go Snapper!

Smarshie said...

Wow, Emily! I am LOVING getting caught up on your blog. And I am so happy about Snapper's progress. I'm sure it's been frustrating trying to find the proper balance, but it sounds like it's finally here.

Lori said...

I'm so glad that you've seen great results - I can imagine how difficult of a decision that was for you. Praying!