Child Misdiagnosed With ADHD Making The Grade After Real Problem Found - News, Weather & Sports

Child Misdiagnosed With ADHD Making The Grade After Real Problem Found

By Lori Lyle

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 explains.

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 session.

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 recalls.

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 says.

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 the back."

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 you."

"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," Michelle says.

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.

Online Reporter: Lori Lyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever

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