I have personally taken on the responsibility to educate everyone I can around me about Attention Deficit Disorder Inattentive Type. This is the one type that goes unnoticed, mislabeled and undiscovered the most. Do you know 35% ok kids with ADD do not ever graduate from high school? It is my personal mission to do all I can to make sure no more kids fall through the cracks. Will you make it yours? I wrote this post almost a year ago but thought now, that I have a whole new set of followers, I would share it again. Please spread the word. A child’s self esteem depends on it. This is our story…
OUR LONG ROAD TO DISCOVERING ADD
There is nothing more guilt provoking than a teacher staring into your face and telling you that you make too many excuses for your child. Imagine sitting in a chair, believing with every fiber of your being that your child is just not learning. Sitting up and wondering each night where everything could have gone so wrong. Confiding in a teacher that you cannot help your child at home anymore, because the hours and hours of trying to teach your child what he couldn’t grasp in school, was tearing your family apart. Imagine thinking a teacher is going to console you and tell you your instincts are right, that she too has noticed something isn’t quite right. It plays out perfectly in your head, which is why you finally have the courage to go in and admit that the problem is bigger that what you, MOM, the person that could always fix everything, cannot fix. Then, imagine that same teacher that you spilled your heart and soul to telling you that you are part of the problem. She has all the answers. “Mrs. H you don’t let your son take responsibility for his actions. He often doesn’t pay attention and is easily distracted. I don’t think he really cares about his school work and you need to stop trying to make excuses for him.” That is the is the moment your eyes start to fill with tears and you throw in the towel. You believe what you are hearing and you second guess yourself and accept that this problem only you believe exists, must have been fabricated in your own head. Imagine hearing this for 3 separate years, and losing belief in your gut feeling that is screaming at you that something really is wrong. That is the point you back off and start to point your finger at your child. The things I would say to him still break my heart. I wish I could go back and save him from all the struggle he has faced the last few years. How awful it must have been to try and do work when you didn’t even understand what the directions were asking to do. Then, getting through the work that is already late with a 10 point deduction, and getting a grade so low, that you would have to redo the entire thing and without any further instruction. Imagine that poor child. Do it over, do it better, read the directions more carefully. That is what he was told.
It is terrible believing you are one of those parents. Believing you have this perfect child and his failures cannot be attributed to laziness and wanting to believe something must be wrong. You make yourself crazy researching and reading up on every sign and symptom of learning disabilities. You finally work up enough courage to suggest maybe he should be tested for special ed. The response, “what kind of parent wants to flag their child their entire life?” Your mind races and responds to the question quietly in your own head, not a very good one. You turn your head the other way and hope the struggle will subside. Before you know it, you wake up and your child is in 5th grade.
I remember getting a call from my child’s 2nd grade teacher. It was only the second week of school and I couldn’t imagine what he could have done wrong in such a short amount of time. I will never forget the sound of her voice and the words she spoke, “I am really sorry to have to tell you this, but I am very concerned your son will not pass 2nd grade. He is way behind his classmates in reading but I will do everything I can to bring him up to speed.” She was an angel in disguise and did so much more than “bring him up to speed”. He stayed in every recess to practice reading and the excitement the teacher shared spilled over into his desire to learn. She was amazing and I will always be grateful to her.
That is the only teacher in 6 years that brought to my attention that something was very wrong. Finally, this year, in 5th grade I was going to make up for turning my head the other way. I was ready to give it a good fight. I was his mother! I knew this child better than anyone else in the whole world, and my only concern was his learning. The school atleast heard me out. There were meetings and questions and meetings and talking and meetings and….well, you get the point. They decided they needed to see this “struggle” for themselves and he was no longer allowed to bring home any work. The Speech and Language Specialist pointed out many times how she would agree to test him, even though his grades seemed fine. His grades? Let’s not forget to mention the most important part of this equation. The 1st few weeks of school, my poor child had 12 incompletes with mandatory ten points off for being late. The papers that came home had 27, 42, 57. However, if you checked the online portal , there were no grades showing up with less than a 70. No wonder nobody understood. The counselor recommended I have him tested for ADD and so I did. Although my answers diagnosed him 99%, the teachers test result showed he was a normal child. That is when I showed the doctor the discrepancy between his actual papers and the online portal. I showed him all the incompletes and the messages from the teacher dismissing my concerns. How much more struggle did they need to see? Although the doctor was confused by the discrepancy of the results, he had enough faith in my instincts to at least explore the possibility that my truth was the actual truth. He started him on a medicine to help with concentration, but asked me to not let the school know. It was important that he see, by documentation through email, if there was any noticeable difference in his work. So, I asked the teacher to send me a daily email updating me about his day.
The next week I checked the online portal and burst into tears. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Grades that were once in the 50′s and 60′s were suddenly transformed into 80′s and 90′s. All those years of struggle! If only I had known. I had heard of ADHD before, and knew several kids that were on medication. I never understood just plain ADD. These are the kids that often go unnoticed. They generally do not have behavior problems, they are good at looking busy, but their head is so overwhelmed with noise that they cannot even concentrate long enough to read directions. This sure explains his struggle with reading comprehension. These kids are often mislabeled as “lazy, inattentive, not working to their ability, and not paying attention to detail”. I felt like taking a giant permanent red pen and writing in gigantic letters DUH! THIS SCHOOL AND THESE TEACHERS ARE PATHETIC! But, that is how they mark something that is incorrect and that is not my style.
Oh! I almost forgot what led me to agree to trying the medication in the first place. The pivotal moment for me occurred one Thursday evening. I was looking through his graded papers and noticed some disturbing comments in red pen. “Duh! Tell me something more meaningful”. Does that sound like something appropriate a teacher should write on a child’s paper after you tell her you believe your son may have a learning disability? That was it for me! Amazingly enough, just like magic, that paper was never to be seen again after I brought it to the principals attention.
My intention for this blog is to educate people on ADD. It is amazing, that a school system, who is educated about this kind of thing, was never able to pick up on it. So, it is my hope to spread the word and prevent this from happening to any other child. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what that something was. My advice to you is simple. YOU know your child better than anyone else. Never place the opinion of others over your own instinct. You do know best.
The school now knows my son is taking medication. At our last meeting, the teacher told me she doesn’t know how he was ever able to complete any paper without it! What a different opinion than in the beginning of the year when she disagreed there was any problem at all. She actually says he is always on task now, hands all his work in on time, and in some ways has become a model student. She no longer writes DUH on anyone’s paper. I believe she is really trying to make up for the injustice and I appreciate it. What I do find troubling though, is that a team could agree they could see him struggle, but because he did not qualify for special ed, and the state did not require them to offer any help, they chose not to. What I did get, just a week ago, was an invitation for him to sit in on 6 week class to help reduce test anxiety. Funny, isn’t the standardized test coming up soon, and isn’t his grade a reflection on the schools performance and not on his learning? I’ll just leave you there with that thought.