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February 01, 2012 10:00 PM

Living With ADHD

Sioux Falls, SD

You've probably heard of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The two disorders are fairly common, affecting as many as three to five percent of all children in this country.

But as common as they are, they're not always understood unless you're the one living with it.

Teresa Grimes was still discovering things about being a mom when doctors discovered her daughter, Tristen, had ADHD.

"Whenever you have some sort of diagnosis, especially a behavioral one, you're always concerned about, 'Oh what's this going to mean in the future?' But I think you have to stay reeled in with anything, just like anything else you have to take it day by day as it presents itself," Grimes said 

She's been taking ADHD one day at a time for more than nine years now. Tristen is now 16 years old and, like any other high school sophomore, likes to hang out with her friends and play sports. But living with ADHD, means life isn't always like any other high school student. 

"If I'm not directed toward something I'm more likely to wander off and so I guess that gets me into trouble a lot," Farnsworth said.

At an age when homework and keeping up with assignments is key to success, having ADHD makes everything more difficult.

"Its really hard to focus for me, like I listen but I don't at the same time," Tristen said. 

That's where tools such as a calendar and journals make things a little easier.

"I have a calendar in my room which has everything I have coming up or that I have done, and then I also have a planner that I have that records it all. I also journal, write journals, about what happened," Farnsworth said. 

Tristen also gets help from a software offered through her high school to help her stay on top of things.

"Echo, we can put notes in and it has all of our assignments in. And if you click on your class, you can look up your grade and if you have missing assignments," Tristen said. 

Without this kind of organization, Tristen's life would be a lot harder to handle for everyone in this family.

"Things that I think help them be successful is learning how to manage their time and to be organized. I mean, all kids need this but I think kids with ADHD have a little bit extra that they need," Grimes said.

A little extra reinforcement from mom has also helped keep Tristen on the path to success.

"When she was younger, you know, you use a lot of positive reinforcements and tangible rewarding as far as grades and things. Like now that she is older, she needs to see the benefits herself so that it can prepare her for college," Grimes said.

Yet there are times when all the organization in the world isn't enough. 

Sometimes what it actually takes is that Tristen needs some down-time, just to sit down and reflect," Grimes said. 

Down time and good sleeping habits may be just what the doctor prescribes.

Doctors say having ADHD is like having someone constantly changing the channels in your brain, making it extremely hard to focus.

Tristen was diagnosed with ADHD in the fourth grade. That's usually the age of onset.

"If that's going to hit, it's going to hit in the fourth grade or sixth grade. Those are usually the two grades that are hit the hardest," Sanford Health General Pediatrician Dr. Mailloux said.

That may be because that's when the demands of school begin to build.

"That's when you get their grades dropping like a rock. And they cant get their grades up because they can't get their work done. And as a result, they don't do well on their tests," Mailloux said.

Yet although five million children have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD over the past five years, studies now show some of them may not actually have it.

"There is a big difference between having a problem paying attention and having attention deficit disorder. There's a huge difference," Mailloux said.

Knowing that difference and accepting it, means that Tristen's ADHD is something that will be with her forever and that she'll need to continue to manage. 

"I think if I continue to do it, it will stick with me through college and after college. I think that would be something that would better for me in the long run so I am going to try to keep doing it," Tristen said. 

If you are concerned your child might have an attention disorder, you should see a doctor. But medication, Dr. Mailloux says, is not the only answer.
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