I have just spent sometime venturing through the blogosphere of mothers with children with ADHD.  I was so impressed with these brave women that write about their experiences, triumphs, and challenges in raising their children with ADHD.  Many of their accounts truly broke my heart.  This is an excerpt from Penny Williams blog “A Mom’s View of ADHD” where she describes her experience of trying to find a good fit for educating her son with ADHD:
“I live in search mode these days, ever since my son Luke, age nine, was diagnosed with ADHD in 2008. I am searching for the medication, therapy, classroom accommodation, product that will make his life with learning disabilities a little easier. I guess you could say I’m searching for the magic bullet, but I don’t think that’s really accurate anymore. It was true the first year or two — I was looking for an “answer,” something to erase his ADHD symptoms. Then I realized that that “something” doesn’t exist. I didn’t think I was looking for a cure for ADHD because I knew that’s not possible, but that’s exactly what I was searching for nonetheless.

My focus in my search now is different, more refined. I am searching for tools to help him compensate for his differences, for environments where he can learn and prosper, parenting methods best suited to his needs, treatments that teach him the skills necessary to have a happy, successful life despite ADHD (and dysgraphia, SPD, Executive Functioning Deficits, and a gifted intelligence). This search is intense and stressful for me, his parent. There’s a lot of {self-inflicted} pressure to be diligent to find all opportunities and to make choices that will only have positive outcomes. In the area of making appropriate choices that lead to positive outcomes, I have failed miserably this year.Luke has struggled in school since the day he walked into kindergarten. Yes, the very first day. While it should improve each year with treatment, maturity, growing self-awareness and a diligent advocacy for accommodations and resources in school, it has not improved for Luke. I feel like we have been standing in the same place for three years, paralyzed, while the world continues to move on all around us. In our minds, we’re moving and working, but we’re getting nowhere.

That feeling of helplessness became overwhelming to me earlier this year. I fought hard with the school but mostly we just received lip service. I watched Luke struggle to fit in an environment that was clearly the opposite of what he needed. I knew he needed more help. I had to find that for him. “
I think Penny encapsulates the very real struggle that many parents go through that have children with ADHD.  As a developmental optometrist I work everyday with children that have been diagnosed with ADHD.  I see in their parents’ eyes the same sentiments shared by Penny.  While I do not claim to have a magic bullet, I do have tools that have helped many of of my patients that have vision problems that can often mimic or complicate ADHD.
Dr. David Damari, Developmental Optometrist and Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development wrote a great research article, “Visual Disorders Misdiagnosed as ADHD,” that gives several great case studies of patients with ADHD  who had developmental vision problems. He speaks in the article of how similar the symptoms are for children with common developmental vision problems and those of children with ADHD.  He also describes in detail case studies of children that were misdiagnosed with ADHD and instead suffered from vision problems that affected their ability to perform well in school, learn, read, and maintain their attention.  He also references other research that shows the correlation between ADHD and Convergence Insufficiency, one of the leading developmental vision problems in children.
Probably, though most compelling are the stories from parents whose children were misdiagnosed with ADHD.  Here is a story from the parent of a child from the website, “Vision Therapy Success Stories”:

“Recently, “Sarah” came into the office just to talk to Dr. X. She was so excited .she was no longer struggling with reading and schoolwork and couldn’t wait to thank him. She is no longer taking Ritalin and is doing well in school.

Prior to seeing Dr. X, Sarah struggled to do the work required of her in high school. She found reading burdensome, was unable to finish her homework in a reasonable amount of time, and was unable to keep up with all her assignments. She was feeling frustrated and discouraged. Sarah had been put on Ritalin in order to help her focus on her work, but she continued to struggle.”

Bottom line, if your child is stuggling with attention in school, check to be sure there is not a vision problem.  To find a Developmental Optometrist near you that can diagnose and treat these types of vision problems, please follow this link.