Child Misdiagnosed With ADHD
Making The Grade After Real Problem Found
Gene Variation Can Boost Risk of Diabetes, Thyroid Problems
by Lori Lyle, wave3.com, Louisville, KY, May 2, 2003
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Diagnosing and treating a child with Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder can make a world of difference for that
child. But what if the diagnosis just doesn't fit, and your
child is still struggling? It could be something you've never
heard of, yet "hearing" is what it's all about. Lori Lyle
Weekday mornings inside of Michelle MacKenzie's southern Indiana
home you'll find her home schooling her daughter, Kimberlyn.
There's no school bell or chalkboard, but class is definitely in
Michelle started home schooling Kimberlyn after second grade and
two years of frustrations. "In first grade, it would take her a
long time to do her homework assignments at night," Michelle
Initially, Michelle thought it was part of adjusting to a full
day of school, that Kimberlyn would catch up.
But she didn't.
By second grade, Kimberlyn's already low grades dropped even
lower. And both mother and daughter were becoming increasingly
frustrated and concerned. "She was hiding her papers from other
kids," Michelle says. "And from us."
It's tough for Kimberlyn to talk about those trying times, to
remember why she was hiding her papers. "Because I was afraid
the students would laugh at me."
It wasn't that Kimberlyn wasn't trying. She was trying very hard
to not only meet her parents expectations, but also her own.
"I would look on the chart in the school room," she says. "Look
down at the "F." It would be bad. It just wasn't good, she says,
wiping away tears."
So Kimberlyn would often complaining of stomach aches, not
wanting to go to school. "She even would call herself stupid,"
Michelle asked for testing, and the school diagnosed ADHD.
"Sometimes I got distracted by the kids running around in the
hallways," Kimberlyn says. "I could really hear this one kid in
Michelle says she would tell Kimberlyn to do things, and
although she clearly appeared to have heard her, "she'd always
say, 'Mommy, I didn't hear you.'"
Even so, Michelle says the ADHD diagnosis just didn't seem to
fit. And Kimberlyn's pediatrician also disagreed.
Then Kimberlyn failed a routine hearing test, with little sis
Robyn nearby, doing what little sisters do -- making noise.
However, Kimberlyn passed a second hearing test in a soundproof
booth with no problem. That's when the audiologist began asking
Michelle if Kim was having problems in school.
The diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder. Audiologist Melanie
Driscoll explains. "There's some type of breakdown ... and the
brain doesn't process the information that the ear is hearing."
This phrase may sound familiar to many parents: "I didn't hear
"Sometimes when a child says, 'I didn't hear you,' that doesn't
mean they didn't hear you," Driscoll says. "That means they
didn't understand what you were telling them to do. That goes on
a lot in the classroom. It's why a lot of children with Auditory
Processing Disorder are categorized as behavioral problems."
It's estimated that three to six percent of children have an
auditory processing problem. In a school system the size of
Jefferson County, that's as many as 5,700 kids. But few are
diagnosed, and others are misdiagnosed.
"I've had several children come in that the psychologists report
said possibly ADHD," Driscoll says.
In the Greater Clark County school system where Kimberlyn was
first tested, "many of the characteristics you see with auditory
processing are also characteristic you see with ADHD."
Clark County is now staffed with experts specially trained to
recognize auditory process problems.
Meanwhile, math remains a dread for Kimberlyn, but she is
learning it and understanding it. Whereas before the diagnosis,
she was making little or no progress. "It was a little scary,"
Now, with the word, 'stupid,' out of the equation -- as well as
the tears -- Kimberlyn says she's feeling more confident about
her school work. And so is Michelle. "I think she can do
whatever she sets her mind to."
Auditory processing problems can actually be corrected, or at
the very least improved, if the diagnosis is made early enough.