Today our son was officially diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Four more letters to go with his other diagnoses of SPD (sensory processing disorder) and FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome).
We’re also expecting him to be assessed for ASD (autism spectrum disorder), though the outcome of that is uncertain.
Each of these diagnoses tells a story about our son, how he perceives the world, and how the world perceives him:
- Why won’t he sit still?
- Why won’t he listen?
- Why won’t he do as he’s asked?
- Why won’t he pay attention?
- Why is he making that noise?
They also bring with them perceptions/questions/judgements from the outside world about us as parents:
- Did my wife really drink whilst pregnant?
- Is she an alcoholic?
- Can’t we control our own child?
- Why do we let him be so naughty?
- Why do we let him play on his tablet?
- Why are we so strict?
- Why do they keep repeating themselves?
None of those questions should matter. Most relate to the past – alcohol in utero has caused our son to have organic, irreversible brain damage. Nothing can take that away.
That same brain damage means that when it looks like our son won’t do something, it’s more likely that he can’t do it – quite simply, he doesn’t function in a neurotypical way.
He tries though. He tries so hard. That’s what makes it so difficult if he doesn’t succeed.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, in fact often, he succeeds – it is that which masks his brain from the outside world.
Imagine being asked to drive a car (which involves coordination, observation and listening amongst other skills) when you’ve broken your leg.
Ridiculous, right? But you were able to drive yesterday, so it’s expected you do so today.
That’s how it is for our son. Except instead of a visible, easy to understand, disability; his is hidden, and complex.
That’s where the alphabet soup comes in. Not FAS, since it seems so few people are aware of it, and far fewer actually understand it (most of those being carers of children on the spectrum). Possibly SPD, since there are ways to help people to understand how that impacts the way he experiences the world. Moreso ADHD – particularly since it is becoming more widely recognised as a “thing”, rather than just a label for “naughty” children. At least people will have heard of it and are more geared up to support it.
Time will tell whether the alphabet soup is a help or a hindrance. In the meantime, I’m off to a search engine or a book store to understand more about how I can help my son.