Wouldn’t it be nice if the hospital slipped a “This is How You Do This Parenting Thing Handbook” into the diaper bag on the way out with our newborns? Seriously, becoming a parent is arguably the toughest job on the planet and I personally have lost count as to how many times I wished someone would have simply told me what to do in certain situations because, to be honest, I often have no clue.
What I have come to realize in my decade of motherhood thus far, is the fact that all of our parenting journeys are like snowflakes; no two paths are exactly alike. However, we are all going through it and, in some ways, many of us can relate to each other and our struggles as we go. Last year, one of my children appeared to quite simply “coast” through the third grade without any great strides however, there was no real show of concern from the school. I refer to that year of schooling as the lost year.
Like any concerned parent, I began to ask questions and firmly requested more reading and math intervention and for the school to take a deeper dive into why my child might not be thriving in the classroom. I was told that my child was simply “not available to learn” and often turned in assignments that were as if that child wasn’t even in the room for the instruction. I left that school year feeling like there was a box that my child was supposed to fit inside in order to thrive, but didn’t, and so that child was simply overlooked.
I also believe that because my child wasn’t eating crayons under the desk or causing mass-hysteria in the classroom, my child was not a priority when it came to intervention and a plan. That notion alone lit the fire under my butt to advocate like a mother.
After a full school year of concern and unanswered questions, I kicked everyone out of the bus and took control of the wheel. Today, I can say with confidence that my gut was 100% correct and now my child has a 504 plan in place so accommodations can assist with the newly diagnosed ADHD and that race car brain instead of work against it. Since then, lots of milestones have been met and 4th grade has been a year full of triumphs and growth.
I can’t take all the credit. Some teachers are more accepting of children’s learning differences and more willing to think outside of the box when it comes to instruction and understanding. This year, we tested out of tiered reading, have made massive strides in math due to implemented strategies and, most importantly, that child has gained confidence in and out of the classroom, feels more empowered, and is proud of every success.
Here are some of my tips for you if you feel like your child needs advocacy and you don’t know where to start.
Go with your gut!
If you have the slightest hunch something is up with your kid, you are likely right. No one knows your child better than you. That is the first hint your child needs an advocate more than ever.
Talk to people and do your research.
Network. Reach out to your mom-mentors. Join Facebook groups. Ask questions. Read. Listen to podcasts.The internet has made our very big world much smaller and access to information is literally in the palm of your hands. You can learn so much from other people’s experiences and similar struggles. P.S. Having ADHD or any learning difference is nothing to be embarrassed about. I feel the more we talk about things the more readily accepted they become. (Besides, not talking is so 1990’s.)
Challenge the system.
Do not accept what the education system tells you if your gut is telling you otherwise. Had I accepted what the school told me the previous year, my child would have started 4th grade with zero plan or strategy in place. The only one that loses there is the kid. F that!
Get a therapist.
This action was the starting point for us when we felt lost and didn’t feel the school was supporting our efforts. We needed guidance. We began by sharing our concerns and then the therapist took it from there. After several appointments where our child was assessed, it was recommended that our child get a neuro-psychological evaluation. That evaluation would be the feather in our cap when we went back to the school to request a 504 plan. What a difference a year can make!
Don’t wait for a diagnosis. Be proactive.
As you might have already guessed, I am a talker. So, talk to your teachers. Clue them into what is going on and what you are doing on the outside so your kid has an opportunity to thrive in the classroom. We shared our counseling efforts and the fact that a neuro-psych evaluation was forthcoming. The teacher instituted some strategies before a formal 504 plan was in place and that got the year started on the right foot.
This journey is far from over and I know we will face many challenges along the way. According to statistics, kids with ADHD are more prone to depression, anxiety, and self medicating. That is some scary shit and one of the main reasons I am so dedicated to the advocacy of my own kid. I feel that it is our responsibility as parents to educate and empower ourselves so we can transfer those ideals and approaches to life to our kids. I applaud the moms out there who wake up every day and get out on the front lines for their babies. I often say it is the most thankless yet rewarding job there is and we are in it together. It takes a village. You got this.