Darin, age five, had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder one month previously. His mother, like many parents of children who have just received that diagnosis, did not know precisely what the diagnosis meant for her child, the implications for his learning, nor the best course of action to take. Darin's mother, like many parents, had opted to try Ritalin first. The medication did improve his concentration, but his mother wanted a more natural alternative.
The child smiled as the interview began. His mother explained that he had some difficulty following instructions at home (2). His mother couldn't seem to find a teaching approach that worked for Darin. Both mother and son became frustrated on a regular basis. His mother reported that he started daycare at three. Darin corrected her, "No, I was two." Darin's mother described him as very generous and happy most of the time. "He doesn't have a good time playing by himself. He needs a lot of reassurance that he's being good or doing the right thing (2). He frequently asked his mother, "Am I being good?" or "Am I being quiet?" Darin told me, "I try to be good." He would offten tell his mother, "I try to be good, to do the right thing, but my head doesn't let me."
Darin had problems listening (3) and following rules (3). (We noticed at this point in the interview that he appeared shy and did not answer our questions.) His mother had to ask him again and again to do things (3). He just didn't seem to act on her requests. Specific problem areas were being unable to settle down at night to go to sleep, to stay quiet, and to stop bothering his brother. (At this point Darin hid his head and cried. He then curled up in a ball and withdrew.)
"Darin gets really unhappy when he's reprimanded. It makes him cry. He just wants to be good. It takes time for him to settle down at night. I have to go in three times and eventually spank him five nights out of seven to get him to go to sleep (3). The wrestling, kicking, and hitting are hard to stop" (Darin looked very embarrassed.) His mother reported that "The feedback from school is that he has difficulty settling down for structured activities. He is unable to sit still, messes with his neighbors, and has a blatant disregard for direct requests (3)."
Darin argued constantly, even over the simplest requests (3). He always engaged in dialogue. His mother continued: "Yesterday he saw some cookies. I told him he needed to wait until lunch to eat them. He kept asking me about it for five minutes. He tells me when he thinks something is unfair. If I say 'white', he says 'black' when we discuss anything at all. He'll be certain that he's right. It's very tiring for me. He wants things his way and becomes upset if they're not. He cries very easily."
"He's enthusiastic about everything (2). He's very impatient (3). He can't wait for things to happen (3)." (We noticed Darin was moving his leg restlessly.) "He needs a lot of affection in an almost frantic, anxious way (3). It's a desperate kind of feeling. He clings (3). He doesn't like when I read or even talk to someone else (3). He's very possessive of me (3).
If his brother is on my lap, he wants to be there, too. When he travels, he becomes fidgety and pesters his brother. When he spends time with his dad, from whom I'm divorced, he wants to come home after a few hours. He calls me to say he misses me. He tells me he likes to spend time with me more than with his dad."