Navigating Treatment for Childhood ADHD: One Mom’s Story

boy sits at school desk holding a pencil and reading a book

Signs of ADHD

I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. If I think back on things, I can acknowledge small, tell-tale signs that ADHD was developing in my son’s brain. Things such as loud vocal outbursts as a reaction to minor or insignificant things {read: impulsiveness}. Or the constant humming or whistling during quiet moments. Or those times he came home from school and began crying because the kids in his class were too noisy, and he couldn’t concentrate on the teacher’s lessons.

Still, he was a top student in school, and I chalked those signs up to him just being more sensitive to noise, and his own noisiness being part of his unique personality. This past August, we made a transatlantic move back to Houston, and I knew attending a new school, and learning a whole new curriculum could be complicated for my kids. They were so excited about their new school, and I was pleasantly surprised that they transitioned so smoothly.

After a while, my son’s graded schoolwork came back home at the end of each week, and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw his low scores. My little math wizard began struggling with his math homework, and he started asking for step-by-step guidance from my husband and me. My bookworm was miserably failing all of his reading comprehension quizzes. I was in complete shock and disbelief.

Then, I got a call from his teachers. They were lovely as they approached the issues they were observing in the classroom. It still stung to hear it. They mentioned his inability to follow through with assignments – not because he didn’t want to, but because he had a difficult time remembering what was expected of him. He seemed to have a disconnect between understanding how the parts make up the whole in all of the critical thinking assignments. And then, there was his overall distraction. Any sound or action taking place in the classroom would cause him to look up from what he was doing, and he would lose all focus and forget to return to the work.

His teachers and I discussed that some of this could be just because he was still adjusting to life in America, as well as entirely different teaching methods. They also reassured me that third grade is hands-down the most challenging elementary school grade because that is when more critical thinking is introduced to students, and it requires them to flex new brain muscles they aren’t aware even existed. We agreed to keep a close eye on him and see if anything improved in the upcoming weeks.

He continued to struggle with homework at home, his grades declined even more, and I eventually got a second call from his teachers. Not only was he struggling academically, but now he was beginning to cause disruptions with his peers. His teachers attempted to move him around to different groups of kids. Still, he was the common denominator in all of the arguments. As his teachers kindly delivered this new information, I took a deep sigh and told them I believe he might have ADHD and that I would get him checked out.

Searching for Answers

I quickly learned that most child psychologists, neuropsychologists and psychiatrists were out-of-network {despite our great insurance plan} and that their fees were exorbitant. Not only that, but it would be months before an appointment would open up for us. Every day, people were asking me how I was liking being back in America. All of the sudden, I had a very sarcastic answer, directly referencing the healthcare system in which I was fast becoming reacquainted.

I couldn’t wait for months when my son was struggling so much right now at school. My brilliant boy was beginning to lose self-confidence by the minute. He needed immediate attention, and after recently investing in a house and two cars, I couldn’t afford these out-of-network doctors anyway.

I began filling out the stack of paperwork that Texas Children’s Hospital {the go-to system for in-network mental health doctors in Houston} requires before referring any mental health physician. On the very top of the stack was a letter to parents, explaining their understanding of the long wait times involved with referring doctors, and even longer wait times to see the doctor once you are matched. Due to this challenge, they provided a list of doctors and clinics in and around the Houston metropolitan area that we could choose to contact if we needed more immediate attention. Many of these doctors accepted insurance, but also had very long waitlists. Then, I noticed a walk-in clinic. I called and they said it was first come, first serve, and they accepted insurance.

Frustration with the System

One Tuesday morning not long after, I took my son out of school, and we walked into the clinic hopeful and ready for help. Four long hours later {I will spare the details of this unenjoyable experience}, it was our turn. After speaking for a few minutes to a “nurse” who was dressed in normal clothing and turned out to be a nurse-in-training, I was skeptical this clinic was right for us. She asked all of three questions about my son. I asked if it would be helpful for me to provide more information. She let me proceed, but she took very few notes. She left the room and came back informing us the doctor was ready to see us.

As we walked in, he immediately told me he was prescribing a medication I had never heard of. I was taken aback by his lack of bedside manner or compassion for a mother who is new to navigating the world of ADHD. I had so many questions for him. Did my son definitely have ADHD? Oh yes, he said – textbook case. Did he definitely need medication? Absolutely. We could try other methods, but we will get the same results in terms of school performance. Why this specific medication? What are the side effects? When can I expect to see a difference? How do I know this is the right medication? And the correct quantity?

He was patient enough to answer all of my questions, and he even encouraged his nurse-in-training to answer them if she knew the responses. Still, I was agitated that he couldn’t give me a thorough summary of this diagnosis, nor comfort me fully knowing how I must be feeling at the beginning of what could be a very long journey. There were no assessments or evaluations executed on my son {which I was told by many to expect when seeing a doctor regarding ADHD}. I asked as many questions as I could think of, hoping to absorb his answers and not forget. Then he said we needed to come back each month to evaluate the effectiveness and dosage of the medication before refilling his prescription. I walked out of there and told myself there had to be a better way. I did not want to go back.

Help at Last

That’s when I contacted my pediatrician to see if he could take over and help with the medication evaluations. After filling out my own assessment, and having my son’s teachers complete one as well, we met and he did all of the things I hoped the clinic doctor would have done. It was a breath of fresh air to go through all of the facets of this complicated disorder and to feel like our doctor genuinely cared about my son and his well-being.

I’m not trying to discredit the clinic physician. He has a very important role in our society, and I was thankful to have the option of being seen by someone more expediently, as well as having some form of a solution in our hands before the day was done. However, we are fortunate enough to have choices, such as a transfer of care to our pediatrician. And that was the right decision for us.

Since seeing our pediatrician and having a follow-up discussion on how my son is doing on his meds, I finally heard back from Texas Children’s. At this time, we are on a revolving waitlist, with no exact date yet available. If I had the time and resources, I would probably advocate for a way to fix this system. In my opinion, this is so unproductive and leaves many families without hope or solutions to some very real and more immediate problems.

Through a lot of talking, I was able to find a back-up solution in regards to finding a child psychologist. Thanks to our school’s nurse, who is very knowledgeable about ADHD, she highly recommended a child psychologist who takes insurance and can see us in March.

Fortunately, my son seems to be doing better in school, both academically and socially. His teachers have expressed an overall positive difference, and I can see it at home on the weekends as well, when I get to observe him first-hand while medicated. I still believe we have a long way to go, and there is always room for improvement. Plus, things change, and my son’s treatment is likely to require changes too. Still, I am grateful for my instinct to take action. I want to do anything in my power to help him to be his best self, and I want him to never feel ashamed for needing help to be just that.

ADHD Should Not Be a Stigma

I have been very open with this new facet in our lives to my friends and family, and I have learned just how common it is. It seems not one person isn’t touched by a loved one who currently has or once had ADHD. What once might have been considered a stigma, it is now thought of as something very pervasive yet comfortably accepted in our society, and most importantly, easily treated. Each time I bring up the topic to someone, it is received with lots of compassion and willingness to help in any way possible. Although this may be a long road for us, I do not feel alone. Most importantly, my son is getting the care and attention he needs, and my brilliant boy is once again able to shine.

boy with ADHD climbs on rope structure


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Emily Feinstein
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Emily moved to Sugar Land, Texas as a young girl. She studied journalism and psychology at UT Austin, and has experience in newspaper reporting, technical writing, and freelance writing. When she can, she works on writing her first-ever book. Somehow, Emily randomly ends up living abroad for short stints of time. In 2007, while attempting to heal a broken heart, she moved to Bilbao, Spain, and completed a six-month work-study program. Despite swearing off serious relationships, her husband, Oren, swooped in shortly after her return. They struggled with infertility, but were ultimately rewarded with their two precious children, Mayer {June 2013} and Juliet {April 2015}. In 2019, Emily’s family relocated to Montpellier, France, for Oren’s job. They managed to learn the language, forever spoiled their taste buds, and saw some really beautiful things. Now back in Houston, they are eating all the Tex-Mex and enjoying family.



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