School, Separation Anxiety, and the child with ADD and ADHD-PI

 Separation Anxiety, and the child with ADD 
Children and adults with Primarily Inattentive ADHD tend to have internal comorbidities such as anxiety and depression. The Hyperactive Impulsive subtype are more likely to have external comorbidities such as Oppositional Defiance disorder and Conduct disorders. I had major separation anxiety as a child. I was convinced that if I went far away from my family that they would move away and forget to take me. Even when I was old enough to realize that this was a ridiculous notion, I still was anxious. I did not spend the night away from my immediate family until I was 15 years old.

When I was 13, my sisters and I were invited to spend the weekend with friends of the family that lived in upstate New York. The lake house where they lived was a kid's paradise. The house had a game room with a bar for snacks; the lake had canoes and water toys. My sisters were having the best time ever. I was miserable. All I wanted, from the moment I arrived, was to go back home. My home was 4 hours away and our family friends tried everything to ease my home sickness. Nothing worked. My mother came to get me and my sisters stayed.

My sisters insisted that I was the strangest specimen of a kid that ever walked the face of the earth but my mother was somehow nonplussed. I believe that she probably knew that I would be unable to stay and that she would have to come get me. She had lived with me for 13 years and knew that I arrived on the earth with some major separation issues.

My aunts and uncles report that as a baby, my poor parents were unable to leave me with anyone because I would cry and vomit and make such a major stink that after a while no one would agree to babysit. School was no better. I cried and vomited my way out of Kindergarten and when I was forced to attend 1st grade, I completely spaced out and stayed spaced out for 11 out of 12 years.

The one year that I did not space out was 9th grade. That year, my first in public school, my mother was vice-president of the PTA and was on campus all the time. Having my mother there, eased my anxiety and allowed me to attend better to school.

My eleven year old, Primarily Inattentive, son did not fall far from the tree. It is kind of interesting to me that even at eleven, he follows me around like a duckling following his mama. Because having my mother around made school a less stressful place to be, I vowed that if I ever had kids that I would be at their school a lot. And so I am. I run the school lunch program, I make teacher appreciation lunches, I help in the classrooms, I help with fund raisers, and grounds clean up and this year I was invited to be on the school's Board of Trustees.

I am immensely lucky that my kids were accepted into a school that truly cherishes parent involvement and that allows parents to be an integral part of the school. I love one of the statements of values of this school. Paraphrased it states that, above all else, a good school should be a good place for people to be. Interesting things should be going on. One should be learning a lot and learning how to better learn. School should be a place one looks forward to going in the morning and is somewhat reluctant to leave at the end of the day. School should have a great many activities going on that involve parents, teachers and students. I am also very lucky to have a health care job that allows me to work flexible hours.

We know from innumerable studies that all kids do better when their parents are involved in their schools. We also know that a great many parents do not have the time or financial resources to do so. For kids with separation anxiety and ADHD, parent participation in school is essential. We must try to find ways to include working parents in the every day school life of young children.


  1. I'm Tyler and I'm 19 years old, I have ADHD-PI and I'm not diagnosed but I'm sure bipolar disorder is emerging, it would be odd if it wasn't considering my father had it. I enjoyed reading this article and reading how involved you are with your child especially because you know they're going through what you did and you don't want your child to feel the same unbearable pain you did and the pain and struggles s/he has no control over. Can you promise me one thing though? When s/he wants to stop taking medicine, let them make that decision, especially of s/he feels they have it under control. I started taking medication at five and decided to stop taking it at nine (for my ADHD-PI) and I'm just glad my mom let me make the decision. I think I may need to start again though, and I need to go see a doctor about seeing whether or not I have Bipolar disorder. At the moment I'm taking Prozac because I've been fighting depression for so long and I started taking them a few months ago and my mood has a done a full 180 degree flip but much too often I get drastic mood swings where I'm not mad or sad about anything, I'm just sad and feel empty and my heart hurts, I literally have heartache and for no reason at all because I know how amazing my life is and how blessed I am. Thinking of that makes me feel better but not completely, but I know better than to feel sorry for myself because I have it great. It's just, I can't control these feelings and my racing, hyperactive mind but I've had to deal with it all my life, I've made it this far and I know everything will be just fine, but it's hard. ADHD-PI, my gift and my curse, I guess. I'm just grateful it's my brain that's hyperactive and not my body. God made me the way I am so I could mature quicker and learn about life and it's hardships and growing stronger, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My prayers go to you and your family.

  2. Hey, Thanks so much for your note! I promise you that my kids will
    only take the meds if they feel it helps them. Right now neither is
    on meds and during the school year only my hyperactive son takes 10 mg
    of short acting Adderrall per day. My adhd pi son is controlled with
    coffee and so far, he is 12, so good. You will do better and better
    with the inattentive symptoms as you age and it sounds as though you
    are taking charge of the depression demon which will help you as well.
    Thanks for sharing your story and please keep in touch!!


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