Saturday, February 28, 2015

ADHD in da house!

I'm an ADHD mom! I don't have it, as far as I know, although there are some moments I wonder!

I'm in the club now - the special ed mom's club. Eh - it's okay, there are a lot of nice folks here, but it's not what I would have chosen.

But do you know who did choose it for me? The Lord. My son has ADHD - he is A Dude Heavenly Designed.

My son is fun and exciting! Things would be a lot more buttoned-up around here without him. He can do flips on the trampoline, gymnastic front supports on any surface before him, and he has mastered every physical task he's ever tried.

He has memorized every word he has seen on paper. He is a great reader when he can sit in one place to do it. He is fast at math, he understands science concepts easily, and he has amazing hand-eye coordination. He is smart and engaging, he has rarely met a stranger, and he's as sweet as pie to his loved ones. My mom would never forgive me if I didn't also mention that he loves nature and the environment.

He is not a great writer, attention deficits make it very hard to get ideas from the fast brain into the physical realm to write. Handwriting is difficult for him, given his druthers he won't do it. He frequently does not finish work at school, has little concept of time, and forgets that you've told him to get dressed within seconds after you've said it.

And God has a perfect plan for him.

The first step was to figure out if his exuberance was a part of an organized personality or was there something else going on? We then officially adjusted to an ADHD diagnosis. It was hard! Hard to accept that your child is not "normal," whatever that looks like, and that he might struggle with this for his whole childhood and into adulthood. Then as school became more demanding we had to get a feel for what kind of special needs he'll have and what kind of learner he is. Did we want to try medication or behavioral support? Therapy? An IEP? What is an IEP? Section 504 plan? What is Section 504? Are there other disabilities?

In our case we don't currently qualify for special education services like an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; PL 94-142). He will have the same education plan as his neurotypical peers (my new favorite word - neurotypical) but with accommodations.

Maybe he'll complete all odd or even problems, maybe he can type instead of hand-write, maybe he can have a special chair that helps him receive the sensory feedback he needs to sit still. There are a lot of things good teachers automatically do for different students, like giving preferential seating for students with glasses, and a 504 plan will allow those accommodations to follow the student from teacher to teacher so that each one does not have to reinvent the accommodation wheel.

I've been involved in special ed for over a decade as a music therapist, so I understand a little bit of some of the legalese and history behind these educational protections for students with special needs, but most parents don't. How on earth are we supposed to figure this out on our own? There are groups and agencies, yes, but that doesn't make it any less overwhelming.

So this week we are going to have a 504 meeting with the Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP), the classroom teacher, an administrator and little old me to start discussions on how to best help my child succeed in school, how to "level the playing field" so he is able to benefit from his education as much as his peers who are able to sit still and complete their work in an organized fashion.

This kid will likely not have the school success that some neurotypical (love) students have. We will struggle with homework, remembering to bring home assignments, tests, behaviors, teachers who may or may not "get" the kid with ADHD, medication levels, therapy techniques, insurance issues, which parenting books to read, and finding activities he will enjoy and be successful.

We know that school is not a measure of life success! It's a measure of academic success for students who are made for school.

We will always have to deal with the reactions and expectations of other people who sometimes don't believe that ADHD actually exists and that it is a result of low intelligence, disorganized behavior, or poor parenting.

This can leave me feeling very alone.

But we are never alone. No matter whether my son is the only young man in the world who has ADHD or if there are millions of children who live and excel with it. I'll never be the only one to love my child, protect him, stick up for him - I will always have his Creator to do those things. A Dude Heavenly Designed by a heavenly Creator.

I was also heavenly designed to be a parent to this kid. I might trade the ADHD for perfect attention if that didn't change my child. I might. But it is a part of him just as having musical talent is a part of me. Can we be the same person without our idiosyncrasies? I don't think so.

I'll be trying to make sense of this as time goes on, and my guess is I'll probably be entitled to a degree in special education by the time schooling my children is done! I'll take it.

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