I was happily driving to my new College friend’s place on her invitation. She was Ligaya and I was really starting to like her as she was a silent, yet a very courageous girl. I knew she was not from a very comfortable family background as she herself told me about her family history a few weeks after we became friends. I felt really bad after listening to it but she didn’t show any sign of sadness or of anger either. I tried to read her face but it was calm and impassive as usual.
I was at the doorstep of Ligaya by now. It was a small house just as I have pictured in my mind but surprisingly clean and tidy. I was about to ring the bell when a little boy around 9 came dashing towards me. “Oh! This must be Ligaya’s brother” I thought. Every time she mentions her little brother, her eyes turn to a cloudy look of affection. “Hey Kid, where is your sister?” I asked the round faced, adorable child. “Oh. She was here” began the child and he was babbling at top speed the next minute. “She was there, no no she wasn’t!!! Ha-ha! She is busy you know!!! Or didn’t you know that? You’d better know that you know.....” and he continued his meaningless babbler that I found it really irritating. It was hard to figure out if there was any meaning at all in what he was saying. “Um...Sorry I couldn’t follow you...” I began politely but then Ligaya appeared out of nowhere to save me. I got distracted and stopped wondering what's wrong with the kid. “Hey! Where were you girl?” I jumped forward to greet her. Ligaya welcomed me in her usual calm way. “Sorry Melly Girl, I was doing Joe’s laundry” She replied.”Let's go inside”.
“So this is how life must be to Ligaya, doing all the work herself” I added a mental note.”Her parents were separated when Joe was only three, and both of them have married again leaving Ligaya and her little brother to live on their own. They were sending the kids money every month, but hardly paid them any visits. Ligaya had to leave Joe at a neighbours place when she was away at school and College. I wondered how he might be feeling about this when I heard this story from Ligaya the first time.
Ligaya has prepared a nice tea for us. I gladly sat for tea as my stomach was doing uncomfortable black flips. But I couldn’t help noticing Joe was acting weird again. Ligaya has made him seat with us and he was fidgeting, also squirming in his chair. I raised my eyebrows at his sister, but she seemed quite untroubled by her brother’s freaky behaviour. I didn’t dare say anything too, so I continued munching a bit of homemade apple cake. Then Joe started playing with the food dishes. In a second, he was rolling them on the floor and was throwing the food around. My mouth hung open in shocked surprise. I wouldn’t be surprised if a three year old kid behaved like this, but this wasn’t the usual behaviour of a 9 year old kid at all! But Ligaya was smiling like a mother who caught her little infant in a cute piece of mischief. “C'mon now Joe, stop it like and behave like a good boy!” But Joe wasn’t showing any interest in becoming a good boy! He was now chopping a piece of meat with his fork that a part of it came flying and hit my face. “Oh Melly, I’m so sorry. Joe didn’t mean any harm!” Ligaya’s face was so apologetic that I managed a smile though I was beginning to feel really annoyed.
“Let's go have some fresh air”, then she escorted me to their small garden. We sat on a bench beneath a heavily grown mango tree and I thought I couldn’t keep quiet about Joe anymore. “Ligaya, is Joe always like that?” To my utter surprise, Ligaya was smiling with ease. “Oh yes! He is a darling, isn’t he! He is such an energetic child! Even his school teachers complain he doesn’t pay attention to work and all. But at the end of the day, he gets top results!” “Oh’ I began “Oh, well....but is it normal for a kid at his age to behave in this way?” Ligaya threw me a look as if I’m crazy. “Why not! He is so active and full of life! That’s all”. That was it and I had to surrender. But my suspicions about Joe’s strange behaviour didn’t fade out of my mind even weeks after my visit to their place.
Weeks after the above incidents, I was having coffee with Ashley at our favourite coffee shop. Ashley was one of my best friends who were a final year medical student. We were sharing details about our day to day life when the memory of Joe suddenly sprung up to my mind. I described Joe’s peculiar behaviour clearly and Ashley listened quietly. But I could notice his eyes light up with a hint of understanding. “I have an idea” Ashley began to talk after I ended my explanation. “But I need to examine the child better. There is a mental disorder named “Attention Depict Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD. Joe might probably be suffering from that.”
“What? Is that really an illness” I asked. I haven’t heard much of it before. “How would a child get it? Does it come from genes?” I questioned surprised, while the quite, serene face of Ligaya crossed my mind, a much different nature from her brother’s. “No. it doesn't have anything to do with genes.” Ashley began to explain patiently in his smooth voice. “The most probably reasons for this could be ; A death or divorce in the family, a parent’s job loss, or other sudden change, Undetected seizures or Problems with schoolwork caused by a learning disability.In Joe’s case it’s the loss of his parents. Over a 5% of children get affected by this globally. When a child gets neglected, they could react to it in different ways. Look at your friend Ligaya for an instance. She has responded to the loss of her parents in such as way that she has made herself a strong, impassive character”. I nodded approvingly at Ashley’s comment on Ligaya. She was one of the strongest characters I ever come through. She was even tougher than most of the boys I knew. I have rarely seen her shed a tear at all. “See...” Ashley continued. “The same situation has resulted in a much more different way in her brother’s behaviour. Probably because he was too little when their parents left them and that was the very age a child needs parental attention the most. The symptoms of this disorder start before a child is 7 years old. Some of them are ; Fidgeting and squirm in their seats, Talking nonstop, Dashing around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight, Having trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time and Being constantly in motion.
Things were much clear to me now. Joe is suffering from this disorder and Ligaya had no idea about it at all. Like most of the adults, she thinks it’s just being full of life. “Would he grow out of it when he becomes elder?” I shot another question at Ashley. He looked pensive. “Maybe he will. But no one can say. An Adult who has this disorder could be dangerous too. He could either harm others or harm himself to get attention. He would be always full of rage. This kind of a person rarely leads a normal life at all.”
“Oh god! Isn’t there a cure for it?” I almost cried. Ashley smiled. “Of course there is. We should take the child to a good psychiatrist and get treatments. No I can’t do that…” he added, catching my eyes travel to his face hopefully. “We need a qualified doctor to do the treatments”.
When I let Ligaya know all about this, she was difficult at first. She held on to the belief that there is nothing wrong with Joe and he is just full of life. But when Ashley explain her every detail of Joe’s peculiar behavior plus the comments she got from Joe’s school, she had to believe us at last. Ashley even told her facts about elderly patients he have met and the unsuccessful lives they lead. She finally agreed to take Joe to a Doctor.
Years passed by and Joe completely got cured under a special supervision of a well experienced Psychiatrist. But that incident left me loads to think about. When I got married and had children, I never made them feel lonely, insecure or left out. I always found time for them despite how busy I was. I kept them on my lap when I went home after work and listened to their long descriptions of how the spent the day. My husband was even better than me at it. He found time to play with them too! I was really happy to watch them grow like beautiful and merry blossoms. After switching off the light in their room one night, I kept watching their calm, sleeping faces. I couldn’t help but wish that every parent in the world would give attentions to their kids like we did, to avoid catastrophes like the childhood Joe!