What Lies Beneath!
I have searched for years, twelve to be exact, to find out why my beautiful, smart, generous, creative daughter found some every day things really difficult. Why she wouldn’t run to the local shop for a message when other youngsters her age would have been delighted with the opportunity to nip out to the shop. Why she could make friends, but had difficulty keeping them. Why every birthday, Christmas, celebration was a nightmare with over excitement. Why she had massive temper tantrums way, way, way beyond the normal terrible two’s and three’s. Why she was ill many mornings before school when she went to secondary school, and why when she achieved a really good leaving cert did she cry for days because it wasn’t quite what she wanted. She missed her 1st choice of college course by five points. Why was college proving difficult and why did she slip into a depression shortly after taking up with her first serious boyfriend?
We always knew she was bright, she walked early, talked early, asked millions of questions, had fantastic memory and loved to read.
I got suspicious that something was amiss when she was about nine years old. I asked her school to test her reading skills as even though she loved to read she had great difficulty with spelling. They gave her a reading test and said there was no problem, in fact when she did the Drumcondra test at eleven years she had a reading age of just about seventeen. So I figured I had been barking up the wrong tree.
When she went into secondary school she began to be ill each morning. I went to the Principal and asked her opinion. We were concerned that maybe she was being bullied. The principal said she would talk with her teachers and see if any of them had noticed anything. They hadn’t, and as the sick tummy continued, the Principal suggested that she attend the school counsellor each morning before class and have a chat about anything that was worrying her. All her teachers said she was doing great, the only complaint they had was that she was too quiet, but they didn’t see that as a difficulty. I did! Plus while she may have been too quite in school, she was the opposite when she came home. She would open her mouth as soon as she got in the door and talk non stop for about an hour or until such time as I would suggest that she take a breath before she started to suffer from lack of oxygen!!
She also exploded regularly after school, none of her teachers could believe it when I told them about the explosions. Between the school Principal, school counsellor, G.P. and ourselves her difficulties were put down to just being a little anxious. Coming up to her junior cert I bought qualms to help her relax and I was already dreading the Leaving cert.!
Socially things still weren’t good. She had one or two friends, but even at that they only hung around together in school, they very seldom did anything after school. Other parents told me how lucky I was, but I didn’t feel lucky, I wanted my daughter to be out there, having fun , doing teenage things. I even gave her money one evening and sent her off to a local night club with her one friend. She went, said she had fun, but never asked to go again. When her younger sister started borrowing her ID so that she could go to night clubs I really began to feel sorry for what she was missing.
We told ourselves that things would change when she went to College, she would suddenly blossom and have a good social life. But college came and the difficulties became more apparent. She started skipping days and was anxious all the time. My earlier sneaking suspicion of a learning disability re-surfaced. While she enjoyed the subjects she was studying, the amount of reading was causing her a problem. I pointed her towards the disability office at the College. There they did a preliminary test and said they too thought there was a disability such as dyslexia and recommended that she go for a full educational assessment. This she did, but the assessment showed she didn’t have dyslexia, but there was a big discrepancy between her verbal and performance skills, her verbal skills being average and her performance skills being way ahead., nothing really seemed to be wrong according to the assessment. She went back to college and did well in her first year exams. And went back to college the following September. Immediately things went wrong again. She was regularly sick and skipped days. We felt that maybe college wasn’t for her, but she wanted to continue. By Christmas she couldn’t cope any longer and she dropped out. She decided she was going to work full time and very quickly got herself a decent job. She lasted four weeks! Couldn’t cope with the travelling and had no energy for anything else. Had a headache almost every day. She gave in her notice .
We sent her to the GP because we were concerned about the anxiety, headaches, and general lack of get up and go. Doc said she was suffering from depression and treated her for that.
We told her to give herself time to heal, sent her on a holiday and told her to take whatever time she needed before deciding to either go back to college or get another job. She took six months off and eventually decided that she wanted to go back to college. We had our doubts! We were right! Within a week she was back to square one, getting sick on the bus, headaches and not feeling well. This time we were ready! I had joined the giftedkids.ie website and found the discussion forum fascinating. I put up some posts about the difficulties we were having, and someone posted back “have you ever thought of ADHD? I hadn’t, simply because of the “H”, she’s the furthest thing from hyperactive that I have ever come across! The poster then pointed out that in girls the “h” is often suppressed, or can be verbal as in talking non stop!!!
I was directed to some articles, and no wonder the website logo is a light bulb! One of the articles pointed out that many women are treated for depression, indeed suffer from depression, because of undiagnosed ADHD! Ping! That light bulb flashed on! I sprang into action, I phoned the disability office at the college and asked how do I find out if my daughter has ADHD. They told me to go to my GP and take it from there. I didn’t have time to waste, so I phoned the educational psychologist who had done the educational assessment., she told me I would need a clinical psychologist. “Where do I get one of those” I asked, she told me to go to my GP and take it from there, again I didn’t have time to waste so I got onto the giftedkids.ie forum, and there I got what I needed.!
I contacted a clinical psychologist and after a number of visits and a referral for a second opinion she was finally diagnosed as having mild Asperger syndrome with secondary ADHD. It was a bit of a shock for her, but not for me, I knew all along that something wasn’t adding up, and in conversations with her since she is glad that there is an explanation for why things were so difficult for her. She now gets loads of help in College, she has someone to take notes for her, she is allowed to sit her exams in a more quiet environment, and she can have extra time at exams if she needs it. We have a lot to learn as a family, and she has a tough job ahead of her in learning how to properly organise herself, learning how to cope in social situations, and how to keep her frustration levels at bay. Only time will tell how it will all work out.
Watch this space………………………………..............
Disclaimer: This is not an expert site, it is run on a voluntary basis and as such is based on opinion and experience but we hope that it acts as a signpost for educational resources and other support services for Irish families with exceptionally able children. By using this website you accept that any dependence by you on such information, opinion or advice is at your own risk.