It’s normal to have to tell your toddler 1,000 times to follow a direction, right? It’s normal to have to tell your preschooler every single day to sit still in their chair at dinner, right? It’s normal for your kindergartener to stare off in space, have the teacher call you multiple times in a week, and have to buy 18 pairs of gloves because he can’t keep track of any of them, right?
He’s my first child. He’s just a boy. All kids his age are like this. These are the things I told my husband when he commented on his behavior AGAIN. These are the things I told MYSELF when I was worried. AGAIN.
But eventually, I knew something was going on. I was pretty sure it wasn’t autism. Was it a processing issue? Was he just immature? Delayed in a couple of areas of development?
And then one night I was nursing my baby daughter in the dark and started googling. Late-night googs done by a worried parent. You too?
Turns out my son ticked Every. Single. Box for ADHD. Impulsive? YUP! Disorganized and forgetful? 100%. Can’t focus? OF COURSE! Difficulty making and keeping friends? So much it broke my heart!
After many tests and checklists and meetings, my son was officially diagnosed with ADHD in second grade. We decided to start meds to help him focus and get through the day. Meds also to help with his anxiety. IEP meetings to get special ed services started for him. Accommodations in class to help him pay attention to the teacher, earn rewards for turning in work, folders for each class.
All the things! Your basic special needs parenting welcome basket!
Meanwhile, at home every day seemed like the movie Groundhog Day. I had to tell him what to do every day to get ready for school. Same directions to sit still and eat breakfast. Put on your shoes. Stop making stupid faces in the mirror and brush your teeth. I would cry and be burned out by the time I had to leave for work at 7:00 am. DONE!! And then the evening would be the same.
Wake up the next morning — said the exact same things to him.
During his years in elementary school, I cried during every single one of my meetings with the school. As a special ed teacher for 15+ years, I had been on the other side of the table. I was giving the testing scores. I was telling parents about the concerns I saw. Now, I was the parent getting the bad news. Getting the phone calls from the principal.
My heart broke time and time again to see my little guy struggle so much just to get through the day. I cried because I had to explain his behavior to my parents and my husband and his teachers. I cried because I had to explain his behavior to extended family members who think ADHD isn’t a thing and just due to bad parenting.
I cried because I had to fight so hard to make his school care about him.
This past summer I probably worried about 7 years off my life thinking about my son in junior high. Lockers, different schedules, turning in work, teachers expecting more, keeping track of his computer, making friends, puberty and hormones, etc.
BUT…my son has surprised me in ways I never expected!! He can open his locker. The 8 different classes a day are great for him because he gets to move a lot. He turns in all his work online so there aren’t any papers to keep track of. HE CARES ABOUT HIS GRADES!!
HE WAS ON HONOR ROLL!!
Now, I know the struggles are not over. ADHD isn’t going anywhere. And he turns 13 in a few weeks. Pray for me!!
But I am here to tell you that a child with autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays WILL still make progress. They WILL still grow! Your heart WILL still explode when you see these changes.
Do they happen at a different rate? Absolutely!
Do they need a lot of extra help? Most likely!
But find the wins! Find your tribe! Celebrate the fact that it’s been 78 school days since the last phone call from the principal!
My current win — my son is almost 13 years old and still tells me he loves me every time he leaves the room!
I try to remember this when I open his drawers and see all of his clothes mixed up and jammed in so everything is a wrinkled mess. AGAIN!