"She Must Have ADD"
Melinda's mother came to talk to me about her daughter before she brought her in.
She told me, "Her teacher says she must have ADD. And she says she won't do her work — just puts her head down on the desk or wanders around the room. Melinda complains all the time that she has no friends. Do you think I should put her on medication?"
It seems that Melinda's parents divorced two years previously. Her father was caught in an affair with a younger woman who attended their church. Melinda lived with her father, her sister and her father's new wife and her two children. She didn't get along with them.
The next week I met Melinda, 10, for the first time. She seemed rather anxious about our meeting. When I introduced her to the drawing pens and paper, her face lit up. She also liked the sand tray.
Our weeks were filled with expressive efforts on paper and in the tray. She didn't like to talk much about her life. But, over time, I learned that she was ridiculed at school by the other girls. She didn't talk much about her father.
Periodically I would hear from her mother. Things seemed to be looking up at school a bit. Drawings gradually began to reflect and upward trend.
As the weeks past, she began to be more animated and fun-loving. She would even tease me and giggle sometimes.
As her mood and confidence grew she began to tell me things that happened at school. More people were interacting with her. She was having fun at school now.
I will never forget her last sand tray.
She divided the tray in two and put a bridge between them. On one side was a girl in street clothes with long brown hair like Melinda's. On the other side she placed some figures of women and girls in swim suits and low cut formal gowns.
When it was time to tell her story, she explained that all the girls at school wore their clothes too tight or they were too revealing. But the girl on the other side of the bridge didn't like to dress that way. She didn't care what they thought or said. She could do what seemed good to her.
Here was a child, discouraged and isolated, who lived in the presence of a less than perfect example of morality and appropriateness. Yet, before my eyes, she was working out her own values! Quite incredible.
At our last session she drew one final picture—of herself—so I wouldn't forget her. She gave me a hug and was off, a happy girl.
Three months later I had occasion to speak with her counselor on another matter, and asked how Melinda was doing. She smiled and said, "Melinda is doing well. Her grades have improved and she is the most popular girl in the school—a real leader."