Something Caught My Attention…

While reading Tertia and Doula Mel’s blogs over the last while (they’re sisters… in case you didn’t know). Tertia mentioned Mel had a dilemma concerning her son Daniel’s schooling, and asked that we pop over and tell her what we thought. Then Mel posted about her dilemma herself. Mel’s dilemma was whether or not to tell her son’s teachers he’s an ADDer and that he’s medicated. It got me thinking about what Damien and I went through till now- concerning his teachers and his ADHD diagnosis. I thought I’d let you all in on how I handled it over the years- and why… basically expanding on the comments I left on their blogs.

As most of you may know, Damien was diagnosed with ADHD when he was six years old. He has been medicated- first with Ritalin and now with Concerta (also Ritalin but a long acting form) – since he was 12 years old.
AD/HD is a controversial issue on its own, and medication makes it even more contentious a topic of discussion. Every single person you mention it to- parent or no- has an opinion on it.
So how did I deal with Damien’s teachers?
Well, he was diagnosed just before he started grade one. And I was in total denial until he started grade one the second time. I was convinced he was just super smart and his teachers had something against him and didn’t know how to handle him. I took any hint that he may have a problem as an affront to how I raised him and an attack on my being a young single parent.
Once I accepted Damien’s diagnosis as- to use his psychiatrist’s words- a text book ADHDer. More than ten years later I now know there is no such thing… and this is where a lot of the controversy around the disorder stems from.
But that’s another post.
To start with, I had exactly the same dilemma Doula Mel blogged about.
To tell or not to tell, that be the question here bunnies.
And let me just reiterate- I had a hard time telling my own family about Damien’s diagnosis, let alone teachers! I was going to handle this.
To tell his teachers from the beginning that he’s been diagnosed with ADHD means labeling my son. A label that’s far from favourable. To tell means the teachers see him as different slash difficult slash trouble-maker slash labour intensive from day one, so Damien never gets a chance to create his own first impression, or a chance to show what he can do.
On the other hand, not telling them means he gets labeled as naughty slash loud slash fidgety slash disruptive… usually all of them from day one.
And sadly, once the labels are applied, there’s no turning back. No amount of sweet talk, meetings, letters, phone calls or begging can change a teacher’s mind. Usually, in my experience at least, whether you tell the teachers or not the meetings and phone calls steadily increase over the course of the year… in equal proportion to the unfortunate ADHDer’s non-performance in the class.
Once you add to the ADHDer’s daily and weekly routine the extra lessons, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and various doctors visits their lives get really complicated. And their lives are very different to their classmates!
There are of course pros and cons to telling your ADHDer’s teachers about your child’s diagnosis and treatment.
And I must just say- before anyone goes berserk and accuses me of hating teachers or some such madness- in my eyes teachers are absolute saints and I would never be able to do what they do!
But… and you knew there was a “but” coming didn’t you… there are some teachers, especially when the kidlets hit grade 5 and upwards and have several teachers and are changing classes and such, there are some teachers who do not believe AD/HD exists and refuse to make any concessions in the child’s favour, or to help the kid out in class. Mostly, the “cons” of telling revolve around these teachers. There will always be one or two teachers who believe your child just needs better or more or different discipline. And these same teachers will tell you as much- even if they’ve never met you and have no idea what your home life is about. And of course- this is where I get all indignant because again- I take this a direct assault on how I have raised my son.
Yes, I am touchy. I have never denied it.
And there are those amazing teachers who bend over backwards to help your child out in class. Keeping in contact with you; making sure he writes his homework down; eats his lunch; remembers to pack his stuff and so on. These teachers understand that an ADHDer cannot immediately switch from English to Math between periods simply in the process of changing classes. These teachers understand that having a kooshball or small lump of prestik to fidget with while listening may help them concentrate on what’s being said while they keep their fingers busy… That rewarding an artistic ADHDer with the chance to draw when their work is finished even if its not an art class will very likely motivate the child to finish his work. These teachers are few and far between- and be sure to make sure they know you appreciate it if you are lucky enough to be blessed with a few of them.
The “pros” of telling your child’s teachers your child is an ADHDer are surprisingly many, and sadly it took me years- way to olong- to learn this…
Did you know that South African ADHDers are entitled to concessions at school? That officially diagnosed ADHDers who get a letter from their doctor are entitled to extra time in exams and tests and perhaps even taking oral instead of written tests. It has to be arranged with your school of course- and if you manage to get these concessions in place I suggest you follow up with them regularly to make sure they are indeed following through.
I am one of the few single moms on this planet to have been lucky enough to be able to afford to send Damien to a private school for grade 6, 7, 9 and now 10. Grade 8 was a totally disastrous attempt at a mainstream school. The schools he goes to cater specifically for ADHDers. And for the most part I have not had to explain and talk and negotiate as much to the private school teachers as I did to his mainstream school teachers.
It makes a huge difference in his and my life when he fits in at school, when he’s not the odd one out, the weirdo anymore.

Well, that’s my two cents on whether or not to tell your child’s school and teacher’s that your child is an AD/HDer. I hope someone out there gets a little something from this.

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About Angel

Wife, mom, cake artist, Guide Dog puppy raiser, ADHD champion, wedding planner, and tattooed cat slave.

6 Responses to Something Caught My Attention…

  1. Pingback: Don’t Wait For An Invitation! — Angels Mind

  2. Mel says:

    Am agreeing with the lovely Glugster here. Many teachers seem to be so badly informed and educated about ADD and ADHD. I did actually tell in the end but I didn’t mention the meds. He was cool about it all.
    I think I have learnt most from you actually, and the conference of course.

  3. Glugster says:

    Part of the problem with Teachers here are that most of them are not properly educated regarding ADHD. At least, that was the case when I was at school. To make matters worse, there have been a spate of bad press in the last few years, especially regarding Ritalin. If you put all this together, teachers might not actually truly understand what it means to have ADHD and how to handle it properly.

    Having said that though, I still believe it’s better to rather be open about it from the start.

    I’m still learning every day about ADHD from my interaction with Damien and the information that Angel gives me. I still have a lot to learn.

  4. S E E Quine says:

    ` This is what I am *slash* thinking….

    ` I went to elementary school, and if the teachers knew I had ADHD (and that I was being horribly abused at home), I wonder if they would have still violently abused me, thinking I would never develop social skills, or would they have tried to help me?
    ` I think one or two of them would have tried to straighten me out in ways other than breaking me, but I’m not sure the others would have because they thought I was a hopeless case.
    ` *Hahahahahaha! Suckers!*
    ` At my college, I supposedly get Disability Services… though I’ve spent weeks trying to get a math tutor. Hopefully I will before I get another F….
    ` For now, all I want is a real table that I can really sit at so I can do my math without hurting my back.

  5. Dyna Girl says:

    Hey Girl. I am a teacher. I have 4 ADHD students, three medicated. From the teacher’s point of view, I am eternally grateful to know this about my kids’ needs. They get extra help and the knowledge helps me be more patient and creative in the ways that I teach. In this way, my methodology completely shifts to suit the needs of each group. This year we do a lot of moving, a lot of interacting, time to relax and do what modifications to my normal rules (like the drawing time or something to fidget with that you mentioned) a lot of whatever it takes to keep them engaged. Knowing that they have a different way of taking in information and stimulous allows me to teach in a way that they learn best, reducing negative interactions, them standing out, etc…I know a lot of teachers who do not necessarily do much with the knowledge, and that is sad to me. My ADHD kids are doing better than they ever have in school. I credit their parents’ openness. For a dedicated teacher it ought not be any different than knowing you have a particularly shy or day dreamy kid in your class. You do what it takes to facilitate meaningful learning. 3 of the 4 families are in touch with me at least weekly. We compare notes on the week and decide together how to proceed…what is working, what isn’t. It feels so good to see their confidence spike and their interest peak. We do things outside of school when they have done well at the end of a week…skateboard, ride Stella…whatever they want. This is just my opinion, of course. I am very sorry that the teachers you speak of are such a rarity. I have a lot of hope for the younger educators. They are better versed in what to do and a whole lot creative. Anyway, take it with a grain of salt…just my opinion. 🙂

  6. Peong says:

    Its a tough choice. To tell means labeling. To come clean after the fact means making excuses, often to people who aren’t buying it. Is there a lesser to the two evils?

    I’m glad they make concessions at school though. Here is the same, at least at University level. I’ve had at least one student per semester per class hand me the official note allowing them extra time on exams, and quite and distraction free areas with which to take them. I even had a University sanctioned request for a note taker in class. That one was tough for me, and I basically talked the student out of it because the class was project driven, not exam driven, though I did leave the final decision to her. I basically opened myself up to her if she needed any help or had questions. I thought that was a better solution than putting her otherwise confidential status out in the classroom. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision for me, but she managed to do well.

    Overall ADHD is difficult to for both parents, kids and teachers, but just being helpful can go a long way, at least from the teaching end.