For Melodee Simons, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a family affair that spans three generations.
Growing up in Kansas in the 1950s, Simons couldn't concentrate worth a lick in elementary school, where she struggled to read more than a page at a time and was held back a grade.
“Back in those days they didn't know what it was,” recalled Simons, 63, who moved to Oklahoma City as a teenager. “We were just hyper kids. That's what they called us.”
Simons was never diagnosed, but her son and three grandsons were.
The three boys attend Ridgeview Elementary in The Village, where Simons has been a parent liaison for the past 25 years.
She has become something of an expert when it comes to spotting ADHD symptoms, including her own.
“I still can't sit very long,” Simons said. “All of a sudden I get this antsy feeling that I have to get up and move.”
ADHD makes it hard to focus and pay attention and can make it difficult for a child to do well in school or behave at home.
Some school-age children with ADHD are hyperactive and have trouble controlling impulsive behaviors.
“You can't take ADHD kids and give them multiple tasks and expect them to get them done,” said Debbie Johnson, a former school nurse who is a health services administrator for Oklahoma City Public Schools. “You have to break it down.”
Simons knows a candidate for ADHD when she sees one.
“If they come into my office and they're all over the place or they're hyper, that's a pretty good indicator,” she said.
Another sign, according to Simons: “If you've got a child that can't sit down and watch a whole movie by the time they're in the first grade (they could have ADHD).”
Prescribed stimulants such as Adderall have worked wonders for two of Simons' three grandsons, one of whom made the honor roll after taking the drugs. The third is too young for medication, she said.
Simons listens to concerned parents and suggests they document behaviors exhibited by their children at home.
“They tell me if they can't sit down and focus,” she said. “I can't tell a parent that that's what it is. I can tell them they might want to see the doctor.”
As for Simons, she's learned to live with her condition.
“As you get older you learn to adjust,” she said. “I think a lot of people don't realize they have it.”
Back in those days they didn't know what it was. We were just hyper kids. That's what they called us.”
Parent liaison at Ridgeview Elementary in The Village