I remember the first time it struck me: my son wasn't like other boys. I had come to pick him up at preschool and found him standing in the parking lot - alone and three years old.
I was infuriated at the teacher for allowing him to slip away, but the truth be told, I was always infuriated with teachers - that year, the next year and the year after that. When they told me he was throwing toys rather than playing with them, I dismissed it as normal, rambunctious boy behavior. When they said he wasn't learning, I was sure they weren't good teachers. But when birthday invitations stopped coming and play dates stopped happening, I had to listen to what the rest of the world was - or wasn't -- saying.
Something was wrong, and unless I did something about it, my child would suffer the consequences.
There's been much debate about whether we're over-diagnosing AD/HD and overmedicating our kids. This much I know: when a child really has AD/HD, there is no mistaking it if you know the signs. He (or she) may fall behind in school because his attention wanders to whatever stimulates him most: the noise in the hallway, the airplane overhead. He may be "internally disctracted" by his own thoughts, appearing dreamy and out-of-it. Like my son, he seem fearless. In fact, he may be so impulsive that consequences aren't on his radar screen. Standard discipline doesn't work because he lives in the moment, never stopping to think of the past or the future.
If you don't do something to help him, his self worth will suffer. Teachers will constantly reprimand him, people in restaurants will stare at him (and at you), and you'll always be frustrated, yelling and issuing time-outs. Pretty soon, he'll start to think of himself as bad, dumb, and odd. He may start hanging out with other misfits - the only kids who will accept him - which places him at risk of substance abuse and dropping out. As an adult, he may not have the skills to hold a decent job. That's not going to happen to my son.