Believe the Signs Your ADHD Kid is Sending


When Alex was three years old and in daycare, I was pulled aside by the caregiver and told that he was not behaving in circle time. No surprise. He was always in motion and never sat in one place for long. She told me that they had a talk, then she shook her finger in his face and asked, “Now, what did I tell you?”
He hid his eyes, avoided looking at her, fidgeted with whatever filled his pockets that day and finally ducked for cover and whined to be picked up. She persisted. Now curious, I asked him myself what she had told him. He whimpered and clenched his fists and runched up his little face and hid on my shoulder. Finally hiding his eyes, he haltingly pushed out a mere five words that still trouble me.

Stay where you get put.

If your head is spinning around all the implied meanings of “stay where you get put” don’t frustrate yourself. On the list of things to NEVER say to a gifted child with ADHD, that one ranks pretty close to the top.

While ADHD was suspected, Alex was far too young to get a definitive diagnosis. Preschool through 4th grade, he performed on average, had friends, played outside, just a normal 9-year old boy. I was occasionally pulled aside to be told something that he did that was original or unexpected or disallowed, or that he was “really smart.” Then 5th grade hit. I’d been warned that it would be tougher now. But I never dreamed it would crush my kid to bits.

In 5th grade, my son had experienced enough failure to leave him discouraged. He became deeply depressed. And I completely missed it. I knew there were school issues, but I didn’t see the signs that he was in despair. A birthday came and went, and he did not want a party. He became angry and non-communicative. He banged his head on the wall.

All the signs I missed.

I’ve spent the last eight years or so learning about the implications of ADHD and it’s comorbid conditions. Then the gifted portion came into play, but didn’t explain his uneven performance in a college prep school. He had a drastic decline that led to failing classes. There had to be something else wrong. What was I missing?

When I think back to that day at preschool, I realize that he was communicating with me, but not talking to me. He’s now almost grown, and I’ve finally figured out that my son communicates best in gesture or action, not language.

The way he draws in a deep breath and blows it out again means This is hard for me and I don’t want to talk about it.

Absolute silence and refusal to answer means I am really tired and can’t think right now. This is augmented by hiding behind his long hair.

Rapid talking about things that interest him (and bewilder me) is a good sign that he’s feeling positive. When he is feeling positive, he’s the most alive and happy.

He enjoys learning about things that intrigue him. Those things are not essays and lab reports and textbooks that drag on forever. I’ve made the mistake many times of reminding him, during those rare moments of glee, that he has homework to do.

All along, Alex has told me what he feels, what he needs and how he operates. I missed the signs so many times. If I could do it all over again, I would watch him for clues. I would not scold for doing things off-key. I wouldn’t nag about homework or cleaning his room. I would try harder to see the world as he sees it.

Stay where you get put.

It was never about staying put in circle time. It’s about escaping the box (or brain) that entraps you. Every child needs to be heard and understood, no matter how they communicate. Don’t miss the cues.