My son, Drew, was always a challenge. He was a difficult baby. I remember a paediatrician smiling at me one day and saying "oh he's advanced". I was quite pleased until I realized this meant "hyperactive"!

He never slept, had colic and frequent ear infections. He also had child hood allergies. At 6 months my milk dried up (probably stress related) so I decided to put him on a bottle and was advised to try Nan formula. He was never a good feeder and it took me hours to get him to take to the bottle. There was no help from the infant nurse unless I wanted to continue breast-feeding. I was basically told I was on my own. Finally, success, he drank from the bottle. I put him down for a snooze (wistful thinking really). About 10 minutes later he was up crying and covered head to toe with hives. He had reacted to the formula!! I could go on but I suspect you can fill in the blanks about his early childhood.

Anyway, trouble really started half way through pre-school. He was constantly in trouble and his teacher held concerns about his ability to cope with school. I decided at this point to go for the head in the sand approach, you know, ignore it and it will go away. Well, that didn't last long. I spent most of his kindergarten year watching my beautiful happy loving boy turn into a resentful angry defensive child. He ran away, hurt the other children, destroyed his work, threw things at the teacher and so forth. Like your daughter (yes I've read your books) he could also be one of the most beautiful charming little people, a real contradiction. The school believed in sending the child home and lecture the mother on her poor parenting whilst making no effort at all to try and help. Every time I tried to enlist their help they hid behind POLICY!! I did many parenting courses, had a hot line to the parent support line (once when I was really upset as he had taken to urinating on his 8-month-old sister they said "hmm sounds like a discipline problem" ) and also enlisted the help of a paediatrician. It got to the stage that I wouldn't put the bin out for fear that the school would call whilst I was out. In his first two years at school I lost count of how many times I had to front up to collect him. A friend of mine (I wouldn't have survived this time with out her ) kept telling me how much Drew reminded her of her son whom at that time had been diagnosed with ADHD. I kept saying "Yes, but he can concentrate when he wants to" and "But he's not always like this".

Year 1 started with promise. He seemed to settle down a bit and for the whole term I didn't get any calls to collect him, that is, until about 2 weeks into term 2 it all started again but this time with a vengeance!! It occurred to me that his worst terms were in autumn and spring. I had thought "Allergy" before but been discouraged by the paediatrician (I didn't understand about allergy and food sensitivity in fact I had never heard of food sensitivity). This time I insisted on allergy testing, Drew lit up like a Christmas tree - all grasses, dust mites, cats, peanuts, in fact just about everything except cockroaches he reacted to! My paediatrician was surprised at the result hence my introduction to the big wide world of food sensitivities. With the aid of a dietician and my paediatrician I embarked on the elimination diet. To sum it up, that term Drew was invited to the principal's lunch - the highest honour - and yes I sent him with his own food. The trials showed
that most of his problems were to do with salicylates (he used to eat a lot of salicylate rich foods) also some food colourings and preservatives his tolerance was reduced during spring and autumn due to the added problem of his environmental sensitivities.

Unfortunately for Drew diet alone wasn't enough. I found whilst I could guarantee bad behaviour if he ate the wrong things I couldn't guarantee good behaviour if he didn't. A week into term 4 and still on a controlled diet he got into trouble. I shan't air all my grievances about that school but after one I believe unfair suspension and yet more calls to collect him I withdrew him from the school. When I told the school that he would not be returning, the deputy head said, "Well, I think we will all feel a lot safer". However hurtful her comments (made I might add in front of my son) it did serve to make what was a difficult decision so much easier. I kept Drew out of school until the following year when he started at a new school.

I fell in love at first interview with his new wonderful head mistress. I had made them aware of his problems behavioural and academic (he was well behind). But I was not prepared for the caring and support that this school offered. Within the first week the counsellor - another gem - had run a WISC test discovering that whilst Drew has no learning difficulties per se he had difficulty with oral instructions (common I now realize among ADHD children).

She also lent me a book soon to become my saviour: "Different Kids". It was through reading this that finally the pieces started to fall into place. I read up on ADHD. It was really quite spooky the number of times I thought, hey, that's just what Drew does. I also attended yet another parenting course, this time however it was "Parenting your ADHD child". It was wonderful to talk to other mothers. The more I learnt the more I realised that Drew did have ADHD.

The new school was not a solution to all Drew's problems by any means. He still had his trouble. The first (and only) time he ran away, he came all the way home. I was speaking to the principal when he turned up she said "well bring him back"... I was stunned but not nearly as gobsmacked as I was when I brought him back and she gave him a pep talk to let him know that she had faith in him and she was going to help him. Within minutes the defiant look was gone and she had him eating out of her hand. I went home with my mouth still hanging open, I was so used to schools telling me to take him away it was bizarre to have one actually tell me to bring him back!

It has taken a long time and a lot of work including sending him to a behavioural center (yes he had food sensitivities and ADHD but he also had years of being the bad kid always in trouble. He used to cry to me that "I try to be a good boy but I don't know how. I'm just not a good boy".) For the first time in years I am starting to see my beautiful happy loving son again.

I recently joined the ADHD support group and I was delighted when I found out that you were going to be speaking. You are an amazing woman who has given so much to so many people. I am sure I am not the first and I know I won't be the last to say THANK YOU!! You helped me to see in language that I could understand (without a Ph.D. that is) what was happening to my son and how to help him. I would like to speak to others about food sensitivities if I can prevent even one child needlessly suffering as my son did. Once again, thank you for all that you do. - Deborah, Canberra