School can be the most painful thorn in the bum of parents raising a child with ADHD. It’s a constant battle to get the school to accept and truly understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, offer the accommodations they need to achieve success in a learning environment, and then consistently implement your child’s tailored plan. I’ve been fighting for five years and I’m still spinning my wheels. That’s 1,825 days. Actually, it’s Read More
Parents everywhere are inevitably anxious for school to end by the first of May. Parents of kids with ADHD and learning disabilities get a jump on this. I don’t know about you, but my desire to reach the end of a school year starts in [more…] November, about a month after the honeymoon period ends. By mid-November, I’m counting down the days until Thanksgiving break. By early December, I’m holding my breath in anticipation of the holiday hiatus. It keeps going downhill until I reach a point of no return, begging the universe to have mercy on us and speed up time until we reach the last day of school. That usually starts in March.
Please, please! Let his days go smoothly.
Please, PLEASE! Don’t make me go to another IEP meeting.
Come on! PLEASE don’t make me try to explain my special kid to school staff one. more. time.
Now it’s almost the end of May. I’ve been begging and pleading for more than two months, but my cries can’t be answered. What I want is for my son to have a smooth day like a neurotypical kid, to not have any homework, to be okay with going to school. There’s no magic though, so my son will continue to struggle — and I too, by extension.
I’ve actually resorted to paying my son, Ricochet, to complete fifth grade. Yea, you read that right.
Monday Ricoceht didn’t want to go to school… again. He begged me to let him stay home “just this once.” The problem was that it wasn’t just this once though — a rough school year meant he’d already been absent the 14 days the school district allows before mandatory summer school.
“Just twelve more days, Buddy,” I plead as we sat in my car in the school parking lot.
“I don’t care!” he fired back.
“But you made it through 173 days already, just twelve more and you’ll be finished. You’ll be a sixth grader,” I reminded him. “Besides, today’s field day — it’s gonna be a fun day!”
I tried to exude enthusiasm. Ricochet wasn’t buying it.
“What if my friends aren’t at school today? One was absent yesterday and the other went home early,” he said. Worry was written all over his furrowed brow.
It was at that moment that I realized he was upset and resisting school because the last few weeks are unpredictable. There’s field day, award ceremonies, End-of-Grade testing, and more that all throw the predictable schedule out the window. Routine is the glue that holds this kid (somewhat) together. Without that, he’s like a tiny fish in a big pond who doesn’t know how to swim. The anxiety that causes sends him into a tailspin.
Monday morning I was pretty desperate to get him into school. There was no way summer school would be anything short of a nuclear meltdown, and PTSD from other recent school refusal battles was ramping up my own hair-trigger anxiety. So, I offered to pay him for the remaining twelve days of school — $1 per day for each day he doesn’t complain about going to school and hops out of the car at the curb on his own.
Was it the right parenting choice? Probably not. But I need to end the madness. I am frustrated, frazzled, and downright exhausted. I’m counting down each and every day until the end of the school year, too. $12 seemed a small sum to pay to try to hold on to my very last strand of sanity until the end.
Ten days and counting…
It’s pretty common knowledge that many individuals with ADHD will have co-occurring mental health or developmental conditions (also called comorbid conditions), like oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, bipolar, tourette’s, and more. The CDC states that as many as 30-60% of children diagnosed with ADHD will have at least one comorbid condition. With that statistic in mind, [more…] parents must be diligent to discover all their child’s weaknesses and struggles, not just attribute all issues to ADHD. While labels are unfortunate, knowledge is power — you can’t treat something that is undefined.
My son, Ricochet, was diagnosed with ADHD shortly after his sixth birthday in 2008. I suspected sensory processing disorder (SPD) as well, but the Behavioral Specialist that originally evaluated him felt it was simply typical ADHD. I knew sensory issues were part of it then, and Ricochet’s first grade teacher and I both knew he had a handwriting disability. No one else was ready to see all that I saw in my son though.
About six months after evaluation, still struggling to get a handle on Ricochet’s issues, the doctor recommended he have an occupational therapy evaluation. That validated my suspicion of SPD. It also showed distinct issues with handwriting. The OT was on board, however the school still was not.
While Ricochet had the most wonderful first grade teacher (I called her Ms. Marvelous in my book, Boy Without Instructions, because she was just that.), the special education department refused to provide special services on the basis of handwriting issues, nor for his ADHD that year.
During his second grade year, I realized Ricochet’s writing issues were more than just the mechanics of handwriting — he was struggling with planning, organization, and descriptiveness in written expression as well. This discovery shocked and overwhelmed me. I really didn’t know how to help him with the process of writing — it comes so naturally for me.
The private OT kept working with Ricochet on handwriting and his teacher and I used graphic organizers and scribed for him to help with the written expression component. He was still incapable of writing down his thoughts on his own. By the middle of fourth grade, his learning disability in writing was undeniable and the school granted him special education placement and services.
With each new year, as we peeled back the layers of the onion that is my kiddo, we would discover more and more layers underneath. In fourth grade, anxiety became a significant issue for Ricochet, and he had a full meltdown in the classroom. That year was so traumatic that we had him repeat fourth grade to have a gentler year and to be closer in maturity to his classmates. He was on or above grade level in all academics so we actually had to beg and fight to have him retained.
Now in fifth grade, a new layer has appeared that, quite frankly, I’m shocked wasn’t one of the outer layers. We are in the process of having Ricochet evaluated for high-functioning autism (what was formerly diagnosed as Asperger’s). His social skills have shown little improvement as he ages and he still can’t read body language and tone of voice at all. He’s still very literal, only seeing black and white — I once mumbled under my breath when Ricochet was five or six, “You’re gonna be the death of me;” and he immediately began to cry, thinking that literally meant he was going to kill me. He is also still very focused on only a few interests and largely inflexible. Many of these things could have been attributed to ADHD early on, but their lack of improvement signals that there may be comorbid high-functioning autism at play as well. We had the parent meeting at TEACCH yesterday and, with our interview and the large package of materials and questionnaires I provided, the autism specialist and physician decided a full autism evaluation is warranted. We should have a definitive answer on whether or not we add HFA to Ricochet’s ever-growing alphabet soup this summer.
Go figure, my kid is one of only 18% of all children diagnosed with ADHD that have three or more comorbid disorders.
What conditions does your child have in addition to ADHD?
Recognize the ADHD Effect on Family
So often, parents of a child with ADHD are consumed by their child’s disability and special needs, and forget about themselves and the rest of the family. It’s a crucial mistake that can cost you and your loved ones dearly, and affect your child with ADHD as well. ADHD affects the entire family, and that must be Read More