When my son was in Kindergarten the teachers told me he couldn’t sit still and he wasn’t keeping up. They suggested that he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He was in a private school at the time. I thought then that he was probably just not mature enough so I kept him back again in Kindergarten the next year.
I received the same complaints the next year so I took him to be evaluated by a psychologist. He gave us paperwork to fill out from our perspective on our son and gave the teachers paperwork to fill out from their perspective. He also studied our son’s behavior in office visits. Our son was not in any way belligerent or disobedient, he just couldn’t seem to focus or sit still for long periods of time. He tested a little above the line on the Attention Deficit side. The psychologist told us that he was not ADHD, just ADD. That he mostly had trouble focusing on anything for more than a few minutes but he did not have the hyperactivity which generally caused bad behavior. Since he was just six years old I wanted to try to help him modify his behavior instead of putting him on medicine.
I suppose it never occurred to me that he was ADD before school started because I just assumed he was a typical boy who just didn’t like sitting still for one thing very long. I would move him from one activity to another to keep him busy and happy which always worked well. I did notice that he needed way more structure in his life. I have a daughter who is seven years older than my son. She was always content in whatever situation she was in, loved sitting and reading, playing with toys alone, listened to everything around her. She was easy to take on errands, to nap, and to entertain herself if I was doing housework.
Both of my children took naps, had definite meal times, and bedtimes. I could sometimes deviate from the schedule with my daughter, if nap time or bed time times were off a little bit it was not a problem. With my son if you missed nap time or bed time even by a little it would throw him off and he couldn’t sleep. If he was going on errands with me it couldn’t be for too long because it would seem to throw off his entire day. I found that keeping him on a schedule was crucial in keeping him balanced.
In his first grade class at the private school the teacher still had complaints and suggested that we move him to public school because they have the funds and programs to get him extra help. At this point I was a bit upset and overwhelmed. A personal friend, who happened to be a teacher, knew about a program at the local college that was Professor led but student driven to test for learning disabilities, eyesight, and hearing. I called them up and scheduled a date for my son to be tested; I was thrilled because I wasn’t aware of a program like this anywhere else and it was free of charge. They were so thorough; he went from room to room with the kindest people. It took about six hours to complete.
When the results came back I was so happy to find that he had no learning disabilities, no eye problems, and no hearing problems. This ruled out so many things. This was an important step to take before putting him into the public school system. According to my friend that I spoke of above, who also happened to be a public school teacher, if you get them into public school and they get put into special classes they often get “pigeon holed” into the learning disabilities slot. And for some this maps out the remainder of their school experience which they are unable to break away from even if they have the ability.
I moved him to public school in second grade armed with the diagnoses from the university and also the results from the psychologist. His second grade teacher was a lovely person who did everything she could to accommodate my son. She did want to have him tested by the school specialists to which I offered up our tests. I’m so glad I had these done on my own. Halfway through the year I did start him on a low dose of ADD medicine which seemed to help him focus and made the teacher happy. But by the end of the day when the medicine started to wear off he became irritable and unhappy. He didn’t like the medicine. We tried others but it was always the same.
In third grade he asked me if he could not take the medicine. He told me that he would work hard to focus. I felt so sorry for my boy. His third grade teacher was such a wonder! She was kind, fair, and strong. We sat down and talked to her and laid everything out on the table. I was so thankful she was the kind of teacher my son needed. He knew how to take advantage of the too nice and didn’t perform well under the not so nice teachers. It all comes back to balance. She agreed to work with our son without the medications and see how it went.
That year was a great year because my son actually worked harder to focus; the teacher didn’t set him up to fail and did all she could to help him out. He would take his tests in the library in a quiet corner. She gave him extra time and let him move from place to place (with permission) when he needed.His grades actually came up an entire grade that year. She also put in a recommendation that our son be put with a particular teacher the next year and spoke with the new teacher about him ahead of time. That dedication to help even extended to his fifth year of grade school. His time there was a great foundation for him and gave him so much encouragement.
The public schools do offer extra help but they are also very understaffed and many times overcrowded. It’s very important as parents to keep on top of every aspect of your child’s education. I know that sometimes funds are in short supply these days with many families. But there are programs out there like I found at the university to have my son checked. It’s the same as going to the doctor and taking the first opinion about a possible surgery or illness; don’t take that opinion without having it checked out. The public schools do have so many programs that are helpful but sometimes kids get into programs and stay there even after improving.
My son spent many years in remedial reading classes which helped him immensely. My daughter and son both had speech therapy for a lisp which proved to be very helpful. I am not suggesting that the programs are bad; I am suggesting that you stay informed and get your own diagnosis for your children. Often when there are so many students and not enough staff the child is misdiagnosed. It takes time to truly evaluate a child with learning disabilities.
If your child has ADD or ADHD it’s important to keep them very structured. They have enough confusion going on in their heads to keep them busy without living a life without structure. They need consistent bed times, study times, and to get up around the same time each day. It’s important that they have a structured play time also, not running around aimlessly but with purpose. Building something, riding their bikes, roller skating, playing structured games with siblings and other children are all ways to help. Free time should be limited to quiet time with supervision, not running loose without guidance.
I believe that we need to help our children with ADD learn self control and not rely solely on medication. Their lives will be much easier in the long run if they learn to monitor their behavior and work at understanding their feelings. My son is older now and is beginning to understand what situations trigger emotional responses in his life. He knows what he must do to get things accomplished and realizes that keeping himself on a schedule and occupied in productive ways make his life easier. These are tools we as parents need to work to give our children with ADD for a happier and more fruitful life.
Ken Myers the editor in chief is a frequent contributor of gonannies.com Ken helps acquiring knowledge on the duties & responsibilities of nannies to society. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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