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My son’s journey with ADD

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I could fill volumes with stories about my oldest son – the one born on my birthday.  Today, I want to share one particular story, experience really.  My son was diagnosed with “ADD” when he was in Kindergarten.  He was five.

He was getting in trouble in school.  But he wasn't being a nuisance.  He just wasn't doing what he was told.  He was being curious.  Get him tested, they urged us.  So we did.  Fortunately we found a doctor who specializes in the misdiagnosis of ADD/ADHD and he encouraged us to have him tested for giftedness as well.  The results?  We have a very bright child with ADD tendencies.  Put in the right environment, the “tendencies” shouldn't be an issue.

He was bored.  When told to color one page red, the next page orange, and the next page yellow, he would ditch that in search of something more stimulating – more valuable.  Realizing that his placement at that school wouldn't be doing him any favors, we found a better school.

In first grade, he thrived.  He had an amazing teacher who really helped heal his damaged self esteem.  He liked school.  He didn't get in trouble.  He had an amazing second grade teacher as well.  Both teachers, trained in gifted learning, understood our son.  They knew how he was thinking.  However, in second grade, his teacher informed us that he was having trouble attending.  He would often be “lost in his own world” and have trouble finishing work.  Out of an act of desperation we decided to put him on Vyvanse.  We wanted to give it a try.  Well, it worked.  Of course it worked.  He was able to do his work and attend in class.

Third grade was more of the same.  His teacher wasn't fantastic, but she also really didn't do him any favors.  No longer in a cluster (gifted) classroom, he seemed to just bide his time and stay under the radar – much like he likes to be.  He had no issues in class and passed third grade with flying colors.

This year he is in fourth grade.  He is a big kid now, oldest grade at the elementary school. Fourth grade means responsibility and accountability.  And his teacher is not a softy.  But she loves those kids.  My son has had some growing pains with his new teacher.  However, they seem to be working it out.

We took our son off of the medication as of November 11th of this year.  But why?  It was working so well?  We knew that our son could experience any of the myriad of side effects of this medication.  We were hopeful of course, but realistic.  Lately, our son's anxiety has seemed to have gotten worse.  He started picking his skin as a nervous tick.  His personality has become flat and dull – he has no interest in doing anything.  No zeal or pep that he used to have.  And when he is angry or disappointed in himself, he tells us that he would rather die than feel like that.  Seems pretty extreme for a 9 year old.

So, now what?  Knowing quite a bit about GAPS, I have decided that we will focus on his gut – his second brain.  We have removed gluten and dairy as of November 12th.  In two weeks, we will reintroduce dairy to see if he has any reaction.  I am pretty confident he won't and that dairy will be easily reincorporated.  While he is off gluten and dairy, I will focus on healing his gut with the proper nutrients, probiotics, and vitamins that he needs.

I did a personality profile on him recently to help us gain insight to our oldest son.  According to the results, our son is an INJ (introverted, iNtuitive, judging) with the T (thinking) or F (feeling) coming in later as he matures.  When reading the profiles of the T and F, our son seemed to fit the F description better.  Reading further we discovered that only 1% of the population is an INFJ making it the most rare of all the types.  My husband and I were in a terrible car accident when we were in college.  I only mention this because my husband has always felt that we survived that accident for a reason – specifically so that our son could be born and be able to do something great.

I am sharing this story with you because I plan on documenting his progress along the way back to his old happy self.  I will check in when we add dairy back to his diet with a full report.  I will share any challenges that he may have at school – none so far.  In fact, the only thing I have noticed the past two days is that he has been in a good mood.  Laughing. I am going with my gut (and his) on this one and I think I'm right.

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journey with ADD - ohlardy.com


  1. Hey there – my girlfriend and I started a paleo 30-day challenge 3 weeks ago and that’s how I came across your website. I subsequently stumbled on to this article from your brussel sprouts recipe. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve had ADHD my whole life and would highly, highly, highly recommend keeping your son off meds until he can decide for himself. I know you’re probably being inundated with opinions and suggestions from this article, but I thought I’d offer some first-hand experience, for whatever it’s worth.

    Like your son, I was also bored in school. I always had “Talks out of turn” marked on my report cards. I was placed in the “gifted” classes sometime in mid elementary school, also like your son, because of placement testing. I can’t tell you how much this helped me. The out-of-the-box thinking that these classes encouraged was priceless to me. To this day, those classes were by far the most impactful and educational classes I’ve ever had. I got so bored with things that I felt I already understood; I still do. I get waves of an indescribable, sweaty, antsy feeling when I’m doing something that takes too much prolonged, tedious attention.

    My parents never put me on any meds, though, which I used to regret, but am now so very grateful for. I got tested for ADHD on my own in college and was found to be worse than 99.99% of the average population for inhibition and attention span. I think it’s pretty hard to quantify something like ADHD, but it was definitely an indicator that I wanted to look in to.

    Anyway, long story short, I started taking Adderall. It helped with my attention problems. A lot. But after a while I realized that I wasn’t making anyone laugh, and I wasn’t laughing much myself. I felt fine for the most part, but a large part of my personality was rooted in being the “funny guy.” Adderall completely changed my personality. I talked to my doctor about it and he said “That’s what it’s supposed to do – change your personality.” Well, that wasn’t worth it for me. It took me a while to get off of the Adderall because it was so helpful in getting work done. I could stay up for 15 hours and write 50 pages of notes and ace a midterm, but at what cost? I wasn’t me anymore. I had lost my spark. And that’s really what you’re talking about in this article: the loss of your son’s spark. For whatever reason, I’ve found that ADHD medications make me something close to someone with Asperger’s. My brain misses social cues, makes me slightly awkward, and, most detrimentally, removes my ability to detect comedic timing. I can identify people on ADHD meds with pretty good accuracy now. It’s really weird, because you hardly notice it when you’re on it. I could only really tell I was different in hindsight, when I was no longer on any medication.

    I could say so much more, but this is about 10X longer than I originally intended it to be. By all means, feel free to write to me if you have any questions. I’m 28 now and have been off medication for about 4 years. I really just intended to let you know that ADD medications have really severe impacts on personality, and, having taken them myself, would never put my child on it. But, obviously, it’s up to you. I really support your mission to try alternative paths. I have a degree in Psychology, and I think a path focused on nutrition and cognitive behavioral therapy is/would have been the best choice for me growing up.

    Good luck.

    1. Matt!

      Thank you for your kind words. Medication was always low on our list of options for helping our son. Realizing their profound affects on our child solidified our initial gut feeling. I believe that a learning environment that best suits my child as well as healing his brain and gut through nutrient dense foods will be the best for him. I am interested to hear how the paleo diet helps your ADHD! Getting off grain could give you some amazing results! Please share!

  2. Wow, what an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. I cheer you on as you courageously invest in healing your son for good! The world needs more moms like you. We cut gluten from my husbands diet a few years ago and saw him amazingly healed of mood disorders. I look forward to hearing more of your story and am so glad to hear your son has had some good days of laughter. Laughter is a gift to be cherished (and fought for).

  3. Your story is so much like mine. My oldest son struggled in kindergarten as well and suffered low self-esteem. He was diagnosed as ADD in the first grade and we agreed to try medication. He improved greatly at school. He was also tested for giftedness and was found to have a very high IQ. He made it through 2nd grade with straight A’s but the medication killed his appetite and he wasn’t growing hardly at all. So this year for third grade I took him off the medication and it’s been really hard. He struggles to get through the day and get any in class work done. He doesn’t enjoy his gifted class anymore because he can’t pay attention long enough to get anything out of it. We changed our diet to real food and use essential oils but it just isn’t enough. His teachers don’t seem to care so much if he gets the work done or not.
    I’m interested in the “better” school your son attends. Did you change school districts or find a private school? I feel like my son needs the right environment but I don’t know how to go about it. I’m a single mom and a full-time student so I’m hoping next year (after I graduate) I can try home-schooling. I also very interesting how removing grains from your son’s diet helps because I’m been considering doing the same. Thank you for your post!

    1. Melanie,

      Our son started out in a private school, but didn’t do well there. We moved him to a public school in a district we live in. My best advice would be to tour ALL of your options. If you son is a good self-starter, check out a montessori environment. I will say that I haven’t heard of any attending issues since he has been off the meds and gluten. He is truly a happier child. I think he would excel if I were to homeschool him since he would have the option to explore what he wants to learn and not get lost in the minutia of busy work. Try cutting out gluten and dairy and see what happens. Perhaps you can find a GAPS practitioner in the area who can guide you. Good luck!

  4. Good luck with your GAPS journey! My son, who is now 13, was diagnosed with ADHD in third grade. We tried different medications but I was never comfortable with the potential side effects.
    We started the GAPS diet in April of 2011. He no longer has ADHD. For him, removing gluten was key as well as any food dyes and he even gets hyper from too many high salicylate foods (oranges, grapes, etc).
    Occasionally we will see some symptoms creep back up but we have found out that those times are directly related to a disorder he has called PANDAS.
    The GAPS diet did amazing things for him and his ADHD so I wish you all the luck!

    1. Barb!

      That is so great to hear! So far so good on being gluten and dairy free. I haven’t heard of any issues in school, but it has only been a week. However, he is a different kid. Agreeable, happy, just nice to be around. Something is working. I believe the meds stifled his little spirit. He is coming back to us and I hope being off gluten will help him with his symptoms as well.

  5. Kelly – I just wanted to add my good wishes for you and your family. You are to be commended for not taking the more popular, much easier way out. You will be in my prayers and I will be happy for you to keep us all posted on your progress.

  6. Hi Kelly,
    We also recently got an ADHD diagnosis for my daughter. We have a somewhat parallel experience, in that this year she has been depressed, and not the cheerful, happy little person that I have known her to be from the beginning. We have a complicated situation– she goes to a private school that insists on providing meals for the students. But they have not respected her food sensitivities this year. So we made the call that she will be the one student eating a packed lunch, because her issues were getting worse through the year, and I think this was because of her diet. She has begun improving right away, since we started packing her snacks and lunches this year.

    I just want to encourage you, that following your gut is the right thing to do. Your son is lucky to have thoughtful parents that are considering all of the options available.

  7. Are there any updates to your journey? My daughter has never been formally diagnosed, but I am 99% sure she has ADHD. This year she has been in kindergarten and academically bored. She is getting notes sent home all the time for her behavior. She is very bright and creative and I have always been concerned about putting her on meds. She has a lot of difficulty with impulse control as well. This puts a strain on all her relationships. I would love an update on your progress! Looking for some encouragement. I also work full time and am very intimidated by the rigors of the GAPS protocol. Thanks!

    1. I am so glad you asked!! I am actually posting an update on Monday! Did you see my last update? https://ohlardy.com/sons-journey-add-update

      Have you ever thought of having your daughter tested for giftedness? When my son was in kindergarten he was terribly bored and I thought about him when you mentioned your daughter’s experience. We had him tested for giftedness first. Turns out he is gifted and that classroom was not the right place for him. We found a different school that changed his life in first grade. I know how incredibly stressful it is to go through what you are going through with your kindergardener. In hindsight, removing him from that school in the middle of the school year is what we should have done. But I kept thinking it would get better. It didn’t. Search your community for a psychologist who does giftedness testing. It is a good starting point. And come back on Monday to find out how my son is doing! A hint, he is doing well, but it is still a day to day thing.

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