Much to my son’s frequent dismay, my daughter-in-law Joy encourages their daughter to express a whole lot of personal creativity.  While she’s learned to draw and paint on appropriate surfaces, “Jordyn, the Gypsy” freely exercises her individuality in fashion: tutu’s and tiaras with pink cowboy boots are considered acceptable attire for school, trips to town or assorted family functions where group photos are on the agenda.

Jordyn is super active and has arrived at an age where she wants to do everything.  She excels in gymnastics, loves swimming and can’t resist a day of fishing with her daddy, but she’s also turned her back on basketball, baseball and a few other “organized” sports.  For the most part, Jordyn likes school, but would gladly “forget” her homework if one or the other of her parents didn’t glean through her backpack every evening.  One wall in her bedroom has been painted with “blackboard” paint and is used to display her weekly spelling words: she seldom has a “test” with less than a grade of “100”.

Last week…a great, full month before school is out for summer vacation…Jordyn’s teacher suggested Jordyn be tested for ADD/ADHD.  My son is not a happy camper.  It’s not that he’s resistant to having Jordyn tested and he will complete and return the “survey” sent by the school counselor, but, like many other parents, he’s concerned where this will lead.

The “push” to diagnose younger children with a “learning disability” started, I think, with teachers who had large classes but no paraprofessional help.  Studies after the fact indicated more little boys than girls were determined to be hyperactive.  Medicating these small problems into compliance was a popular solution, and they were sent to the counselor or nurse frequently.  To further explain the irrational behavior of children, the next step was to add ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder, which later became more inclusive in ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

So, should your child be tested for these disorders if suggested by the teacher?  “It’s normal for children to occasionally forget their homework, daydream during class, act without thinking or get fidgety at the dinner table.  But inattention impulsivity and hyperactivity are also signs of ADD which can affect your child’s ability to learn and get along with others.”

The first step to addressing the problem is to recognize the signs and symptoms.  The SLV Behavioral Health Group has counselors who work in most of the district schools who are there to help you understand the what’s, where’s and why’s of ADD/ADHD and to facilitate testing if you agree it could be beneficial to a reasonable diagnosis.

“We all know kids who can’t sit still, who never seem to listen who don’t follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them…..Sometimes these children are labeled as troublemakers, or criticized for being lazy and undisciplined.  They may have ADD/ADHD…It can be difficult to distinguish between ADD and normal ‘kid  behavior’.

“If you spot just a few signs or the symptoms appear only in some situations, it’s probably not ADD.  On the other hand, if your child shows a number of signs and symptoms that are present across all situations – at home, at school and at play – it’s time to take a closer look.”

You can call the SLV Behavioral Health Group at 589-3671to get the name of a counselor who is either in your child’s school specifically or assigned to the district in general or they can arrange to see you in one of their clinics around the Valley.   Before school is over again this year, it’s a good idea to make plans for the next step: don’t wait until you’re standing in the check-out line in Walmart with school supplies to get the “Uh-oh…I forgot…..” flash of insight.  No, the school isn’t asking for light bulbs on the supplies list.  Yet.

Quote from HelpGuide.org/ADD/ADHD in children

Patt Morgan Lloyd is the Director of Volunteer Programming

San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group