Lyric Shadoin, 7, is one of 6.4 million children in the U.S., or 11 percent of all school-aged kids, diagnosed with ADHD. About 6 percent of kids ages 4 to 17 take medication for the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder is often seen as an ailment of the well-to-do, Lyric shows another side: Research indicates that children of poverty are more likely to be diagnosed. So are children affected by divorce, violence and substance abuse. Today Lyric missed his afternoon pill and is refusing to take it.
Lyric’s grandmother, Terry Gautier-Byrd, sorts his medication: two in the morning and one in the afternoon when the effects of the first two wear off. Lyric was diagnosed at 3 when a teacher suggested he be tested. "Three years old is young to start medication. His mother was hesitant, she just hated putting him on medication that young, and I did too. But we determined that for his well-being it was best because he had turned into an unhappy child, and if he’s unhappy we needed to do something about it. He cried a lot, he got angry, all of the symptoms," Terry said.
Terry's husband Pat Byrd, Lyric, Terry and Lyric's mother Traci Shadoin attend Sunday Mass at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, which Terry attended as a child. Terry attended the church as a child. "He’s been on four different medications through the years, but we seem to have hit on a pretty good combination now. As long as he gets it on time, and gets it every day," Terry said. Sometimes the routine gets upset by changes in schedules between his grandmother and mother's home, and his mother's variable work schedule.
Physical activity is an important form of release for kids with ADHD, especially boys, who are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with the disorder. After school, Lyric will play in the back yard on the trampoline or play baseball, either with his sister or with his grandfather Pat. His grandmother says Lyric has not been a social kid until recently; he preferred being with his family rather than having play dates. He continues to be uncomfortable with group activities.
Terry asks her grandson Lyric to clean up the mess he has left behind in the kitchen, after pulling stuff out of the garage to play with. As Lyric's primary caretaker, Terry knows that even a small annoyance might send Lyric into a crisis.
Traci has been working for the last three years at the Clinique stand of Belk's department store, where sales are not soaring. Her income is 15 percent below the government-defined poverty line. Lyric's father has not been in contact with him since he was born. As a single mom with three children and limited income, Traci is able to get medical assistance through the federal Medicaid program operated in Mississippi. All of Lyric’s medications are paid for by that program. Some 14 percent of children in Mississippi have been diagnosed with ADHD, a trait shared with several other southern states.
Lyric sits at his desk during a science lesson. According to his grandmother, Lyric is good at school, but he sometimes finds homework overwhelming. He'll get angry and frustrated by homework. "They send a homework packet home for the entire week, when he sees that total five days homework packet he’s overwhelmed with it. He either thinks he has to do it all at once, and that’s too much for him, and if I say ‘no, you only have to do one day’ then he’s constantly looking ahead to see ‘well on Thursday I have to do this, on Friday…’ He worries about those other four days," Terry said.
Lyric hugs his grandmother Terry as she visits him in school, where Terry also had Traci's other children educated. "My wish for him is that he can just lead a normal child’s life and I think it is coming," Terry said.
Pat, Terry's husband, picks up Lyric at the end of his school day. As Lyric made progress in his social skills over the last months, he started asking Pat to wait for him on the other side of the field outside the school so he can walk to the car by himself.
McKenna, Lyric and Terry on the couch in the living room. McKenna splits her phone time between texting and snapchatting. Lyric is playing a game. Screen time appears to be both a consequence -- and a potential cause -- of ADHD, research shows.
Lyric and Traci at the supermarket doing some shopping after Traci's shift for the evening's dinner. "I can’t wait to see the person that he becomes. He’s got a lot of talent and he is very different. I hope to see that he is off his medication by then, I hope he grows out of it, as I think any mother would. It is going to be interesting to see where he’s at. I see him doing something very patriotic, as patriotic as he is," Traci said.