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What the New School Year Brings as a Mom of a Child With ADHD

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As I walk into Target, I immediately see gigantic back to school signs and can practically smell all of the #2 pencils. I see kids with their parents going over their school supply list, making sure they got the correct number of notebooks and folders and the right brand of markers.

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The kids look happy and excited, and so do their parents, quite understandably. Without realizing it, I’m staring at them and smiling, too. I can’t help it. Seeing the bright smiling faces of today’s youth excited about going to school makes me happy.

But my smile quickly fades as my 7-year-old lets out a sigh and asks, “Are we done yet?”

My child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and for us, the words “back to school” create quite the opposite effect. Instead of excitedly counting down the days until the first day of school, my child has been crying every day as she sees the X’s on our calendar getting closer and closer to the start of school.

My child is very smart, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother. My child talked in full sentences before she could walk, and she hasn’t stopped since. She says some of the most profound things I have ever heard and has an incredible way of thinking outside the box. She’s one of the most imaginative and creative people I know.

Although her teachers have recognized these characteristics about her, they’re not going to be measured, graded or accounted for in school. She isn’t going to get A’s in creativity or thoughtfulness, that’s for sure.

On every single report card last year, my daughter’s teacher commented that she needed to know her math facts better because she took too long to answer them. Despite spending extra time doing math drills with my child and getting her a tutor, she still wasn’t able to answer the teacher’s math facts as quickly as she would have liked.

It’s not that she didn’t know the answer, and it’s not that she didn’t know how to solve the problem. Kids with ADHD have a difficult time focusing. They were born with these magnificent minds that allow them to think about several things at once. With time, hard work and patience, they’ll learn how to manage and organize their thoughts to give their teachers (and as an adult later, their bosses) what they want.

I wish I could tell you exactly what type of management that would be, but ADHD affects everyone differently, and so the management will be different for everyone. (For example, my husband has ADHD, and what worked for him as a child doesn’t work for our daughter.)

What breaks my heart is knowing that my daughter tries her absolute best in school, but because of the way her mind works, she may be regarded by her teachers and classmates as unintelligent, lazy and even disrespectful. And if they see her that way, I’m concerned that maybe she’ll start believing it and ultimately begin behaving that way on purpose because it’s the easier route.

I would never describe my child as any of those words, but that’s because I understand her mind and behavior. If you’re lucky, your child may get a teacher who actually understands how ADHD affects children and will be willing to make accommodations for your child. If that’s the case, consider yourself blessed. For the rest of you, your mamma bear claws may have to come out, and you’ll be fighting every day to get the teacher to understand your amazing child the way you do.

You will always be your child’s biggest advocate. Never be afraid to speak up and ask for the help your child needs and deserves.

My child goes to a small private school and will enter the second grade this year. These second graders have been at this school together for two whole years now and have already formed their own little cliques.

My daughter is hilarious and can be a lot of fun to be around, so kids tend to gravitate to her at first. However, if my daughter keeps interrupting them or gets upset, these kids leave. They don’t know she has ADHD or what ADHD is. They don’t understand why she acts the way she does, and at that age, they’re simply too busy being a kid to try to understand.

Fortunately, my child’s best friend “gets” her, and I absolutely love her for that. For the kids who do stick around, they discover my daughter is an amazing friend who they can always count on to put a smile on their face and isn’t afraid to stick up for them. They find out she’s definitely BFF-worthy.

With a new school year, comes homework. By the time my child gets home from school, she’s drained. She has just spent seven hours at school trying her best to get her brain to focus in order to please her teachers and fit in with her classmates. And now the teacher is requiring her to do math worksheets, language arts worksheets, spelling and 20 minutes of reading.

What I have learned to do to keep my child interested, engaged and stimulated during homework is to turn it into a fun game for her. You name it, I’ve probably used it. From moving around Shopkins toys as math counters to me using a ridiculous Maleficent voice (her request) when quizzing her on her spelling words, if it makes her happy and gets her to do her homework without tears, I’m down.

As time goes by, though, what has previously worked sometimes doesn’t cut it anymore, so I have to think of new ways to make homework fun. Yes, it can be time consuming and never-ending, but so is parenting. This is what my husband I signed up for seven years ago when we decided to become parents. 

After school is over for the day, I usually see other moms rushing their kids off to soccer practice or a scouts meeting. My daughter has actually been begging me to let her join the Girl Scouts. But instead of taking her to a scouts meeting, I need to take her to child psychiatrists to discuss her ADHD medication and child psychologists for behavioral therapy sessions.

I also need her to test wiggle seats and fidget toys to see what’s going to help her stay focused. I need to send emails to her teacher, asking how she did at school that day. I role play with her in pretend social situations to help her become a better friend. I read her books about other children with ADHD, hoping she will relate to the characters and learn from them. I research all I can about ADHD.

I am busy worrying about her. I am busy loving her. In other words, I am busy being her mother.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 2, 2016
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