Updated on April 22, 2009
K.M. asks from Meridian, ID
23 answers

Hi Mamas,

I suspect my 13 year old daughter may be suffering from attention deficit disorder. We are getting the ball rolling to get her tested but all the signs are pointing here. It just all seems to fit and make sense.

What can I expect from here? I want to make sure that I handle this whole process appropriately to get her the help she needs. What questions should I be asking along the way? What happens if I encounter the attitude that she's "just lazy and could do better if she applied herself"? How can I make sure that her teachers will assess her appropriately since they are not licensed psychologists?

If this is actually what is going on with her I want to get her the help she needs before she turns into a problem child. She's very bright, sweet and sensitive but just has problems paying attention in class and at home and it just spirals downward from there. I don't want her to flunk out of school as a result or have serious behavioral problems down the road.

I should also note that she does not have the hyperactivity portion of this disorder - just the inattention and the impulsivity.

Any help or advice you can give would be great!

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So What Happened?

WOW!! Thank you all so much for the great information and feedback! I think the reason we've missed this before is because she did seem like such a normal child just being distracted with normal childhood things. We are good, healthy eaters but could definitely tweak the diet a little further so I will definitely research that issue. I should add that the reason her teachers are giving an assessment is just to evaluate her in class for the school psychologist that is going to do the formal assessment. Again, thank you all for the information! I'd better get busy reading...

Featured Answers



answers from Salt Lake City on

As far as teachers and the school, once she has a diagnosis she is entitled to and IEP - and individual education plan that specifies goals for her, academic and behavioral, as well as accomodations the teachers and school must make. You will meet with the special education specialist and the teachers to work it out and they have to follow it. It's the law so don't let the school or teachers brush it off or not follow it.

For behavior, medication is an option to help, but realize that it only makes it possible for her to pay attention and control her impulses. She still needs to LEARN how to. Medication may not be a long term option either. So plan on behavior modification whether or not she gets medicated. Find things she is interested in, that hold her attention, and help her transfer those skills to other things. And if you can use her interests to help her learn, all the better.

You are her mom and you know her better than anyone. Be her advocate, be her support, and be her cheerleader. She needs you!



answers from Denver on

Sounds like she is a normal healthy 13yr old girl. If she does have a ADD ADHD my sister-in-law opted to go to a nutritionist rather than medicate her son and had good results. It was an expensive diet, and did not completly solve the problem, but did alleviate the symptoms enough for him to suceed in a class room and at home. She also had to schedule time to spend with him one on one as this attention was necessary for him.

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answers from Denver on

Hi, K.,
ADHD/ADD is a medical diagnosis and teachers alone cannot make that determination. If they are recommending she be evaluated, you can have that done at the school for free,b y requesting an evaluation for special education or seek a private evaluation. You can find information about your legal rights if your child is found to have a disability such as ADD at

ADD is very treatable with medication and with behavioral intervention. You may choose to work with a psychologist who can help you and the school develop a plan to help her be more focussed, on task and organized, all things that are difficult for kids with ADD. If you choose to use meds, you will need to work with a psychiatrist. You can find a lot of info on all these issues at .

Peak Parent Center is the Colorado Parent information and resource center on children with special needs. Their website is full of resources on school and therapy referral info. . Parent to Parent of Colorado is a statewide parent support network where parents share info on doctors, schools, treatments, family support, etc. I'm on the board - our website is .

If you don't live in CO - let me know and I'll send you all the right info for your state.

Hope this info helps! take care, S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

WOW. Lots of advice here.

My daughter is "classic" ADHD, and the best advice I have: Read "Driven to Distraction." It's written by a medical Dr. with ADD.

Certain that she DIDN'T have ADD, I started reading it with a highlighter to see if they had anything that I could relate back to my own daughter. Yah - the first three chapters are entirely highlighted.

It helps you see what is in store if it's left unchecked. Not scary, just practical. Highly recommend!



answers from Denver on

My 4 year old son was diagnosed with ADHD last November. At first it was hard to except. But I did a lot of research about ADHD and how to deal with it. We tried changing his diet, using homophathic remedies, but it just wasn't enough. We had to turn to drugs that treat ADHD. And let me tell you, it was the best thing for him. He is not a zombie or anything like that. He is in Pre-K at Primrose School, but learning at a Kindergarten level. He was smart before taking the medication. Since taking it, he has improved. We also have gotten him into soccer and he will be playing t-ball this summer. One of the most important thing to remember is to stay calm. It is a leason I have had to learn. But if you can remove calm, everything will be work out.



answers from Denver on

If you'd be interested, I'd be happy to talk to you about some natural products that have helped a lot of kids with similar issues. If it interests you just let me know, like most moms I too like to see if I can help solve the problem before putting them on prescriptions.




answers from Pueblo on

Hi K.,
I will have to agree with alot of the other mom's that suggested tweaking her diet to less sugar and processed foods to more natural choices. If you look at my oldest you'd think she has ADHD but the story is she put sugar on her cereal in the morning, without the sugar she is fine. She seems to be more sensative to sugars and caffeen and if she gets too much she's fidgity, jittery, and cannot pay attention to anything or anyone. My mom works at a mental health center and she sees this all the time and is always talking about it. Kids on meds when they just need to cut out the pop and juice, she has even seen it with kids allergic to soy!

While I don't have a teenager yet I do remember my teen years quite well and those middle school years are just hard all around. An A student becomes a C or D student but then it picks back up by the time they get into high school. These are just awkward years. She may be distracted by friends, boys, peer pressure, hormones, grades, fitting in, ect... it can all be very overwhelming at this age. I know it happened to me.

So before you put a definit diagnosis on her, try tweaking her eating habits and lifesyle some, that may be all she needs. Make sure she is taking good vitamins too!! Good luck!




answers from Grand Junction on

I have seen amazing results in turning that around with nutritional products. A lot of problems come from deficiencies in nutrition. Give me a call if you would like more info. Good-luck



answers from Grand Junction on

Hi Kristen,
I am a recreational therapist who also works with helping people to learn about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation from cell phones, wi-fi, etc. I have come across a lot of information linking ADD/ADHD to exposure to wireless technologies. There are things that you can do to protect your daughter. We actually have my step-daughter wear a BioLife Pendant to school (which has wi-fi in it) and she says that with it on she feels VERY focused, wants to learn and doesn't get headaches. It would be my pleasure to help you further with understanding the connection and the solution. [email protected]



answers from Provo on

I don't know where you are but thought I would take a chance that we might be in the same area and give you the name of my younger brother's psychologist. He also had problems with ADD but without hyperactivity. He didn't get treatment until he was 16--no one really caught on because he was never hyper or out of control. Anyway, if you are within 50 miles of Provo, UT it would absolutely be worth it for you to take your daughter to see Newt Bryson. Newt is a psychologist, so he doesn't prescribe medications, but he works in tandem with psychiatrists and other physicians who can. He is also familiar wtih all of the medications that are available and will recommend what would be the best if it thinks it is warranted. However, he is most effective simply at getting through to the child. He specifically works only with children and he is AMAZING!!! I can't begin to tell you how much he helped my brother. We were afraid he wasn't going to graduate. He made up nearly a year's worth of high school and was actually on the honor roll for his final report card his senior year. He went on to college and has a bachelor's degree in computer programming, and is now married with two beautiful daughters. I shudder to think of where he might be now if it wasn't for Newt. This is his office contact info:
Phone: ###-###-####
Fax: ###-###-####
1034 N 500 W
Provo, UT 84604
Good luck with your daughter!! It sounds to me like you're on the right path in being diligent about her teachers and treatment.



answers from Denver on

Check into Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)---there is some overlap between ADD/ADHD and SPD. My sons have SPD as well as inattention and impulsivity. When tested they were found not to display ADD/ADHD signs and when my one son was put on ADHD meds (early on, prior to OT and recommended by my pediatrician) they did to him what they would do to you and me (granted you and I don't have ADHD :0)---they made him hyper. When they received OT therapy it made all the difference. Many ADD/ADHD kids benefit from meds and OT therapy because of this SPD overlap.

Here's a website to learn more on SPD:

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Best wishes.



answers from Salt Lake City on


What is it that your daughter wants to pay attention to?
While it is true that she may not want to show her undivided attention to lecture, what gets her full attention?

As someone that worries about all the labels that we are putting on children... what will this label serve?
I highly recommend the following book: Please Don't Label My Child.

Wishing you and all parents like you all the best,
With my whole heart, C.



answers from Denver on

Kids with ADD & ADHD usually improve at some level when food additives and sugars are removed form their diets.

Thirty years ago, I began to search for solutions for our daughter diagnosed with ADD at a time where there weren’t many. It didn’t take too long and I found a book by Dr. Fiengold. He was the first to make the connection between food additives and sugars in processed foods with hyperactivity. After reading his book, I knew I had to change my purchasing habits, not only for our daughter, but for the entire family. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. We drastically reduced the amount of sugars in our diets and eliminated all food additives. Within a couple of weeks, our daughter was a new child!
We found that my daughter could not tolerate most of the additives in our food supply. For her food colorings and nitrates would always trigger ADHD symptoms. Nitrates are in all packaged lunch-meats, and most pork products like ham, bacon and sausage. She's grown and married now, but, today, nitrates still give her headaches. Red and yellow food colorings were the worst additives for Jenny and would immediately trigger symptoms of hyperactivity. MSG is another additive that can cause problems. It often produces headaches (MSG actually kills brain cells), not just in people with ADD/ADHD, either. MSG can be hard to identify on products, as it hides in a multitude of names.
I think, you'll find "Healing ADD" by Daniel Amen, M.D to be very helpful.



answers from Denver on

Good Morning K.,

Speaking from experience, DON'T take the schools diagnosis as the answer. Seek outside testing i.e. Children's Hospital, Learning Services Department. My daughter is not ADD/ADHD but dyslexic and the schools can't/won't/didn’t recognize it in their testing. Here in Colorado dyslexia is not considered a learning disability but by having her tested at Children's Hospital, she does have a medical diagnosis and we were able to get her on a 504 plan for classroom accommodations. Her teacher kept telling us that she just needed to work harder and work faster. My daughter is dyslexic, has slow processing speed and no phonemic awareness. . I just about blew up because this was after her diagnosis and being placed on a 504. Her teacher refused to follow the accommodations put in place by the 504. Generally ADD/ADHD students qualify for IEP’s and get more help from the schools because it is considered a learning disability. Here is a link to a website that I have relied on to learn more about learning disabilities, not just dyslexia but ADD/ADHD and many more. They have a great data base, archive of articles and a monthly newsletter that is so informative.

Another avenue to check into is food allergies. There is a book called “Is This Your Child?” written by Dr. Doris Rapp. (She is a pediatric environmental allergist) The book walks you through a rotary diet to eliminate foods that your child might be allergic to. A friend did this with her son when he was in 2nd Grade and has controlled his ADHD with diet for many years. He is graduating from High School in May. There are so many things in our food that many of us are sensitive to. My friend’s son is allergic to soy, corn, wheat, dairy, legumes, citrus and garlic. Corn syrup solids and citric acid are in almost every canned good you can buy. My friend refused to put her son on ADHD meds because they are essentially SPEED.

I hope that this gives you some direction. You are not in this alone. You are your child’s best advocate and you need to be as informed as you can. Listen to your mother’s instinct and pursue finding out what might be the problem. Often times dyslexic children exhibit signs of ADD/ADHD but it really isn’t. It is one of the tools that they use to be aware of what is going on in their environment.

Bless you and remember that your daughter's best interest is at heart.




answers from Denver on

I would check out and see if there is a provider near you. My mom works with it and it does wonders for ADD. Also, for my son, I have noticed foods affect his behavior tremendously. Although red dye doesn't do it for him, that is a common one, but for ADD and in foods. Some of the things that do it for him are the foods that he is (supposedly) no longer allergic to. If we avoid those foods, we can avoid the ADD behavior. When he has those foods, the ADD behavior is absolutely unbearable, and if he does do his school work, is not as good as his normal. GL! I Hope you get some good answers. Kudos for being proactive for it!



answers from Denver on

My nephew has ADHD and the most important thing you can do is take your daughter to a neurologist. They can determine if she is really suffering from adhd or if it is something different altogether.

My sister swears by Dr. Bradford Miller. He's at the children's hospital in Parker.

Go to for advise on school/teacher issues. Your daughter has LEGAL rights if she is diagnosed. You can have an IEP contract with the school so she will have no discrimination issues.

If you have any further questions, feel free to email me and I can give you more info!



answers from Salt Lake City on

I have a 12-year-old son with ADHD who also was a fairly late diagnosis. Congratulations on being pro-active about're already way ahead of most parents in the early stages of this. Here is the advice that I can offer you from a "been there, done that" perspective.

1. Find out if your school district has a family counseling/resource center. I live in Jordan School District, now becoming Canyons and both districts offer this service. It's a great resource...they offer "intake assesments," short-term and long-term counseling, parent classes for coping with ADHD and a fairly good library of materials on the disorder. All of this is completely free if you are a member of the district. The classes offered by Jordan District are free even if your child is not part of the district; they are offered twice a year and are extremely helpful.

2. Knowledge is power. Go to your library or bookstore and find a book about ADHD...whatever book looks like it works for you. The more you understand the disorder, the better advocate you will be for your child. Read, read, read!

3. You can also join C.H.A.D.D. -- a parent support group-- for a fee and receive their magazine on a regular basis. I find this publication timely, informative and helpful on those days when I feel like nobody around me really "gets it."

4. Once you're "armed" with information, arrange to meet with your school counselor and your child's teachers. Communication is absolutely critical! The best way to ensure your child's success is to work for her good as a team.

5. Most're going to have to develop a thick skin. There is so much stigma associated with this disorder...people who know nothing about it think they know everything. If I were to tell people my child has Diabetes they would treat me with compassion; when I say my child has ADHD they come at me with judgment. Just get used to people saying insensitive things--understand that they are just not well-informed and learn not to take it personally.

6. Hang in there! The fact that you're asking this shows that you're a good mom.



answers from Denver on

The teachers are completely unable to assess her -- that's a very scary thought that anyne would let them assess her. Take her to a behavioral psychiatrist. It's her behavior that needs to be analyzed, and very importantly, it she has a problem, it's her behavior which will have to adapt. (Even if you put her on drugs, it's not as if she can take those drug for the next 70 years -- she's going to have to learn how to live with her proclivities, and the behavioral specialist is an excellent choice to teach her news ways of behaving.)



answers from Pocatello on

I was diagnosed wiht ADD when I was 11, my symtoms were similar to your daughter's. I never had hyperactivity, just difficulty paying attention in school. My diagnosis was a relief to my parents and I because we now had a more clear idea of what the problem was. I was put on an IEP in school and went to a remedial math class, things went well and I was up to grade level in math and everyting else until my family moved (my Dad was in the Army and we moved a lot). My new school was very unhelpful and I ended up losing all the academic progress I had made. My mom decided to homeschool me for a few years, I went to high school on and off and finally just took the GED when I wsa 18, I passed in the 98th percentile. College was scary to me but I soon discovered that I had pretty much "outgrown" my attention problems and I have done well, I will graduate next month (I'm old for a college student, 28, but I did not start until I was 23). So I guess my point is that things can get better and she may outgrow many of her symptoms. I have never taken any ADD medications, my parents and I talked about it and decided that there was not enough compelling evidence that the meds were a good idea. I was particualrly worried that I would lose my personality on the drugs, I loved literature and poetry and I did not want to feel like a robot and lose my ability to write what I was feeling. How to treat ADD is a very personal decision and I don't condem anyone for wanting to take the drugs, it just was not for me. It is good that your daughter is old enough to be a big part of the decisions regarding her treatment. It is important for her to know that kids with ADD are NOT stupid, they are often brilliant, they just learn differently. I think that a supportive school and a good tutor and/or counselor are the best things to use in treating ADD, I hope that you and your daughter will be able to find that kind of support system. Good luck!



answers from Provo on

My son was diagnosed with borderline ADHD in sixth grade. I chose to change his diet to a healthier one without all the processed foods and dyes and it seemed to have helped. I work on the special needs school bus and we don't see many girls. The ratio of boys to girls is about 12 to 1. If there is a problem I would say it is minor and you might be able to take care of it without medication. I feel that people want to place a "name" on things too soon. Whole wheat is great to start because it does not have the bleach in it like the white bread and pasta does. I applaude you for getting things started.



answers from Provo on

Hey there,
I was diagnosed with ADD in fifth grade, along with my younger (by two years) brother. I liked school and I liked my teachers. I tired so hard to pay attention and sit still and focus, but when I got home I was so exhausted from having to pay attention that I drove my mother crazy. I had no focusing ability left by the time I was done with school. Neither did my brother and I think this led to a lot of fighting and a lot of getting in trouble at home. My mom medicated us for a couple years. But I hated taking it. Sometimes if I forgot to go to the office during the lunch hour to get my pill they would call me in over the loudspeaker and that was so embarassing. If I got a little silly sometimes my friends would ask if i forgot to take my pill and I hated that too. So I decided I was going to deal with it myself and I just made up my mind. that worked for me but i know that is not the case with everyone. I dropped out of middle school and went to a private school where I only went three days a week and four hours a day. (Believe it or not I learned way more there than at public middle school) I passed the GED in eighth grade, but decided to go back to high school. As an adult I have it pretty well under control although i can still feel the affects of my inability to focus sometimes. For me regular exercise was and is key. It totally helps me clear my mind and focus. Does your daughter play any sports? It might really help.

As a mother try to stay in touch with her teachers. As much as i tried to pay attention I would totally space out sometimes and not hear assignments. The regular homework was usually no problem it was routine, but the big projects - I would come home some days and be freaking out because I had this huge project due in like two days and I would swear the teacher never said anything about it and I felt it was so unfair and on and on. My mother would say that she was sure the teacher had given it earlier and I would get so mad because I was sure she hadn't. The problem was that my brain would just literally checkout sometimes but I felt like I was listening the whole time. So if you stay in touch with your child's teachers that may help situations like that.

Another thing is that I am a horrible test taker, especially long ones (I got much better as I got older), but in high school my math teacher finally let me come take the tests at another time because i just couldn't focus when it was during class with all the pressure of finishing. I even had my friend sit behind my chair and would have her kick my chair when she could see me spacing off.
Just remember that focusing takes A LOT of hard work for your daughter. When she gets home from school have something she can do, for me it was best if it was something physical, to unwind and reboost.

Try to find a balance of giving her room for her struggles with focusing but don't give her so much extra special attention, or excuses that she feels not normal.
Also be aware of her diet.
Good luck I hope this helps.



answers from Billings on

This sounds so much like me as a child. I wasn't diagnosed until graduate school! I wish that someone had helped me as a child, but when I was a kid, ADD wasn't regularly diagnosed. People said exactly what you are afraid of hearing about your daughter: "She's so bright, but she just won't apply herself." I was always in trouble for talking out of turn, not staying in my seat, etc. In fact, even as an adult, I have a problem with impulsivity and interrupting, but I work hard to control it. As a teen and a young adult, I eventually learned to pretend I was listening and paying attention, and to many teachers in high school and college, I appeared to be attentive during lectures; unfortunately, I didn't learn much, because I was constantly doodling and daydreaming when I was supposed to be taking notes. Studying was nearly impossible for me, because I couldn't pay attention to what I was trying to read in my text books. As a result, I didn't get very good grades, and I didn't enjoy school very much

You should have your daughter tested. If she does indeed have ADD, then get her the help she needs. She will thank you for it later.



answers from Cheyenne on

I didn't have time to read all the responses, but I thought I'd give my two-cents as a children's pastor...I can usually tell if a kid is just acting up or if the problem is something more, like ADD/ADHD after a bit of time with them. I now have that as a question on my registration form for my children's church. That way I know for sure. I have trained my staff to know how to better handle kids just like your daughter...they just need more frequent reminders to focus and a few more chances to get it right and lots of patience. It has helped immensely with my staff's patience and we are no longer feeling the need to send a child back to parents for just a few minor incidents as we do with some of the other kids...I'd like to say that I can treat everyone the same, but you just can't, people are individuals...

Anyway, to get to the point, talk with her teachers, principal, youth leaders or anyone else she may be in contact with for a long period of time and offer to give them information on ADD/ADHD and, you know her better than anyone, feel free to give suggestions on what works for her...educate, educate, educate. I have had parents who have asked me to not give their kids candy or other things that aggrevate the condition or even gave suggestions on what form of discipline and reminding works best for their kid and I try really hard to listen and remember and let my staff know! It works best when the parents and teachers work together to make sure the needs of your daughter are being met...she's the MOST important reason! If you find opposition to your suggestions and help, I would attempt to find another teacher or bring in the principal or other leadership to the end, again, your daughter's needs are the MOST important! ADD is very common now adays, so I can't imagine that schools aren't training teachers and staff on how to deal with it and what changes need to be made, but if they don't, perhaps ask your pediatrician/psychologist or whoever is educated in this to host a training/Q&A forum for your school/community/etc!

Good luck and don't let anyone make your daughter feel bad because of her is a disability just like any other and is part of her, not her she just needs a supportive network around her to make sure she succeeds!

S., 26, Children's pastor, mom of 17-month-old son and #2 on the way in Aug.

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