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Updated: Wednesday, 02 Mar 2011, 4:45 PM CST
Published : Tuesday, 01 Mar 2011, 7:29 PM CST
That is what he calls "a major deal." For his parents, it's a minor miracle. Then there is Josie Dickson, Andrew's college counselor at St. Andrew's.
"I'm sure you remember being in the first or second, third grade and the teacher was always saying, 'I wish Billy would sit down; he's just squirmy as a worm on a hot brick,'" said Dickson. "It wasn't that Billy wanted to do that; he simply couldn't help himself."
In this case, though, 'Billy" is Andrew and 'squirmy' doesn't quite get there.
"He was squirrelly," said the boy's father Frank Hunt. "He couldn't sit still in his chair, was always looking out the window."
That's not all: As a small child, Andrew would incessantly punch the buttons on the family's VCR machine.
"You could tell him 'no' and you could tell that it registered," his father recalled. "He knew what 'no' meant but it didn't make any difference to him. He just had a very inquisitive mind; he would just keep exploring. So that's one of the ways we knew he was a little bit different."
There were plenty of other ways. As the boy grew, he started collecting things.
"Andrew would bring things home with him that he would find laying on the ground," said Frank Hunt. "Trash, we called it trash: Bottle caps, paper clips, ink pens. I used to keep a zip-lock bag full of the ink pens that he would totally disassemble and reassemble them in ways that they did not go together. This was the type of thing that he would do."
Perhaps the worst news, though, came from school.
"He was disruptive," his dad said. "He was disruptive of other students. We were asked to talk to him and so we talked to him at home. We said, 'Andrew, you cannot talk and listen at the same time.' And he looked at us with a straight face and he said, 'Yes I can; yes I can.'"
It was time for a trip to the doctor.
"I was medicated, I think from first grade all the way through May of my sophomore year," Andrew said.
The medications worked. Andrew was able to focus and concentrate more when he was on them. But there were some gnarly side effects.
"The medication had symptoms that I didn't like," the boy said. "The big issue was loss of appetite. The medication deprived me of the desire to eat. That was an issue because I wasn't gaining weight; I wasn't getting bigger; I wasn't getting faster and that was a problem."
The drugs also interfered with Andrew's sleep and when he came down off of them at the end of the day, his parents found him to grow increasingly irritable.
Besides, the medicines only went so far. Family members still had to pour their hearts into daily life with Andrew.
"We always had to make sure that he knew what he was expected to do," said his mother Donna Hunt, "and then constantly remind him: This is what you're expected to do. These are the consequences if you do them; these are the consequences if you don't do them. So there was constant instruction."
"You just have to be very, very patient, be very loving and you've got to be persistent," Frank Hunt said. "I probably nagged him quite a bit when he was younger but he needed that. He needed that until he could learn to start nagging himself."
Andrew, too, knows how hard it all was on his family.
"My brother and my dad helped me," he said. "I would write down my school assignments on a list and then have check boxes next to each one. You have that there when you're doing your homework, so it's a physical image of what you need to get done; you can look and see, this is what I need to get done.
"For people who suffer from ADHD, they have to deal with a thought process. They have to go through the loops of: This is something that I need to get done; so I should be doing this instead of something else, so then, being able to do it. I have to tell myself to focus and concentrate and I have to tell myself to get it done. It's a matter of self-discipline and self-control."
So it went, for a decade. Along the way, though, there were plenty of good times and calm moments. Andrew and his older brother, Kyle, enjoyed hunting with their parents. There was football, golf and track in the family life, and of course, dreams.
Frank Hunt had served in the U.S. Air Force and Kyle considered following in his father's footsteps. But he really wanted to go to West Point. Meanwhile, Andrew soaked up everything he could about a warrior's life.
"I've always loved the military," he said. "I've always loved military books. I've always loved the history and heroes like Doolittle and Patton, Eisenhower and MacArthur. So that was kind of a big deal for me."
So one day a couple of years ago, the entire family set out on an adventure to San Antonio for a recruiting function called, "Academy Day."
"We talked to some of the officers who were recruiting for the academy and they told us that ADHD does keep a lot of people out," Andrew remembered. "But if you've been off the
medication for two or three years, that's a good mark."
The boy made up his mind. He would quit taking his medication.
"It was a major eye-opener when I found out there was a school that you can go to that makes you into a leader," he said. "And it helps you become an officer and I was like, 'I want that.'"
Kyle wanted it, too, and after being accepted at both the Air Force and Army academies, he made his decision and headed for West Point.
"It was a major deal for the family," Andrew said. "It was a huge accomplishment."
But if little brother was to join Kyle in a cadet uniform, there was some hard work to be done.
"I was like, I need to get off of this medication and go these next two years and get good grades without the medication; that should make it easier for me to get in," Andrew said. "It was hard at first; I had to redouble my efforts of keeping myself in check, making mental notes and then making actual notes to help myself stay focused so I could get my work done."
His father, initially reluctant to endorse the strategy, was astonished.
"He just seemed more focused," said Frank Hunt. "He seemed like he had set a goal for himself; this is what he wanted to achieve and he worked really hard to achieve that."
Then came the disappointment: It was a letter from West Point.
"You have been medically disqualified for admission to the United States Military Academy," was its sad story.
But that letter was quickly followed by another saying that because of Andrew's "solid record of accomplishment," the academy was seeking a waiver. Then, came a third piece of mail with the good news that the waiver had been approved and that Andrew was bound for West Point next fall.
His parents are proud of both of their boys and grateful for the way things are turning out.
"It takes a tremendous amount of patience when you're dealing with a kid who has ADHD," said Frank Hunt. "The way they are when they're small is not a very good predictor of how they're going to be when they grow up, when they start to mature. Andrew was handful when he was in elementary school and he could have very easily been asked to not come back; he was disruptive enough for that. But St. Andrew's never gave up on him. Everybody loves Andrew and they kept being patient with him and working with him. Without St. Andrews, without the support that we got at this school and without the small classrooms, the outlook could have been different for him."
Andrew's mother, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, is upbeat.
"I've seen a lot of children come through there with a lot of success stories," she said, "but it takes everybody working together to allow that student to be successful."
She knows that millions of children in the United States are walking around with ADHD and she wants to reach out to their families.
"Use all of your resources and don't give up," she urged. "Don't give up. When you feel like you're going to give up, don't give up!"
Meanwhile, on the track at St. Andrew's, a coach shouts, "On your mark, get set, go!"
A dozen or so boys launch into a sprint. A half-track later, Andrew Hunt crosses the finish line far ahead of his classmates, his eyes fixed on his future as a leader.
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