Daragh Crowley was upset in school -- and mum Janice knew why, writes Celine Naughton
Just months after Daragh Crowley started primary school his mother Janice was told, "Your son is out of control."
"But he's only five years old!" gasped Janice.
It was the start of a long and frustrating time for mother and son as Daragh became increasingly unsettled and disruptive at school.
"He was getting into trouble all the time, moving his chair, walking around the room when he should have been sitting and hitting out when other kids teased him," says Janice.
"To make matters worse, he was making no progress with reading, writing and arithmetic.
"If a child taunted him for not being able to read, he'd shout at them or push them. The teacher said he was bold, but I knew he wasn't. He was no trouble at home, so I knew there was a reason for his behaviour.
"I wrote to the school board of management and eventually they had a psychologist observe him in the classroom and she referred him to the child guidance centre at the Mater Hospital."
Daragh was nine when he was diagnosed with ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) -- a neurobehavioural condition characterised by either significant difficulties of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness or a combination of the two.
"We moved him to a school with smaller class sizes and, even though he couldn't read when he started there, he made fantastic progress within the first year. He was prescribed medication, but I didn't want to give it to him because I'd read that it could stunt a child's growth among other side effects.
"The doctor put it this way, 'If he were a diabetic, would you deny him medication?' So I give it to him on schooldays to help him concentrate. Without it, he can be hypersensitive to background noise and distracted by the slightest thing. Now, at 14, he's over 5'4" and is fast catching up with his twin brothers, Simon and Alex, who are 18!
"Since starting secondary school two years ago, he has developed a love of history, art and English. For a boy who couldn't read at the age of nine, he now devours books, loves writing and even plans to be an author when he grows up.
"Although he's not very sporty, he does Tae Kwon Do and plays basketball.
"I'm so proud of him because he's overcome a lot. As well as ADHD, he was diagnosed with a co-ordination disorder dyspraxia, which used to be known as 'clumsy child syndrome'. When he was younger, some kids called him names like 'Retard!' and at one point he didn't want to go out the door. He was anxious all the time. Now he has great empathy for others.
'I wish people would be a bit more understanding. Don't assume that a child who appears unruly is a brat. Kids with ADHD act out because they're frustrated. I remember Daragh banging his fist against his head saying, 'I'm going to end up stupid. I won't be anyone.' "That spurred me on. If you had told me then that in his first year exams at secondary school he'd get four As, two Bs and four Cs, I wouldn't have believed you, but that's what he achieved. It's been a hard-fought battle to get him the help he needed, but he's getting on great.
"However, I'm convinced there are lots of kids sitting in their bedrooms who won't go outside for fear of being bullied and many parents feel isolated because neighbours don't understand that these children are not bold, they're trying to deal with a condition. They need our support, not condemnation."