Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ADHD, Or Simply Being Three

It seems that ADHD is the most over-diagnosed disorder among children nowadays. Whenever parents can't (or don't want to) deal with their lively offspring, it's an easy excuse to medicate them into compliance. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that there is no such thing as ADHD, or that any parent should ignore potential indicators of this disorder, but it puzzles me that the number of diagnosed cases of ADHD among 3 to 17-year olds has risen by an average 3% every year between 1997 and 2006 according to a 2008 study conducted by the CDC, which amounted to 7% of children and teens in this age group in 2007.

Why all this unusual collecting of data? Well, I, too, wonder sometimes if Lily might be affected. Everyone who knows her also knows that she is a very spirited girl. She rather jumps and runs than walks, delights us on occasion with the most epic (and random) temper tantrums, is known to play with five things at once and simply hates sitting still. Looking at the symptoms of ADHD I am less concerned with her being hyperactive rather than inattentive. She has sometimes driven me nuts with her inability to focus on one activity, not even a new toy can hold her attention for very long most of the time. Thinking about these things sometimes just makes me wonder.

Having the oldest child among my family and friends with whom I get together on a regular basis, I sometimes feel left alone. Since moving away from Washington we have not yet found a parent group that fits our needs and therefore our primary source of inter-parental exchange is gone. What remains is often-times the internet, and with it its infinite amount of information, which leads almost automatically to a certain degree of (oftentimes misguided) self-diagnosis.

Luckily, there are some people in my life, who have more experience working with a larger number of children at different ages.Watching Lily whenever she sees her, my best friend, who is an elementary school teacher, complimented us on how wonderfully Lily is able to play and concentrate. If a school teacher tells us that our, in my eyes sometimes giddy little girl is able to concentrate better than some of her 3rd-graders I feel ashamed again for watching her, trying to identify patterns in her behavior that are considered abnormal. If one can believe accounts from people who have witnessed me in my early childhood, it is said that Lily is indeed a mini-me (which then again makes me wonder when I changed to be the sometimes timid introvert I am now, but that's a different story).

I don't want to say that people should close their eyes from obvious problems their children might have; if you have a concern, please talk to your child's health care provider about it. But please also note that all children are different. Some are more active, others rather sit in a corner with a book; most likely both of them are normal and healthy as can be, they are just different. I could tell that much about my two girls after just a few weeks after Violet's birth. Most children will not be able to quietly sit through a feature-length movie but rather get up and do something else for a while before returning to the couch, which is perfectly ok. Most three-year olds will rather play with 5 different toys at once than sit down and study the alphabet or numbers. Most of them will rather run around and get dirty than sit at the dinner table and only get up after everyone has finished.

There is a time and place to teach them all these important lessons. But at least during these very early years, let's our children be just that: children. Their lives will be full of pressure and stress early enough. Let's just give them these few years to be who they are and to what they do best without worrying too much or always compare them to the child that is best in the respective area. In future, I will focus more on Lily's own achievements and all the things that bring joy to her.

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