We all know that there are plenty of children who attend and graduate from public or private school, and turn out just fine. Many grow up to be leaders of their community, hold down very important jobs, and lead fascinating lives. There are also many who become awesome adults, despite really poor living conditions, abuse and neglect, or disabilities. While this is wonderful, and assures me that there are teachers out there that really do care about the children that they teach, and that there are children who have a firm conviction to succeed, it does not make me feel confident enough to play Russian Roulette with my child’s future. Sending your kids out into the school systems of today is hard enough, but sending out one with a problem is sometimes unbearable. One such problem is ADHD.
For those of you who do not have it, but has a child who does, it is a condition that comes in many shapes and sizes, takes years and years to overcome (if at all), and is not something that many people are forgiving of. As you can imagine, having ADHD makes being successful in school very difficult, if not impossible. For those of us who have put our children in public school, 504 plans and IEP’s are commonplace. Problem is, they almost never work efficiently. First, you must have a whole team in place at the school to help make the plan effective. This team usually consists of the parent(s), the teacher(s), the principal, the guidance counselor, and the special education specialist. Second, that team must be open to new ideas, scraping and revising old ideas, and dealing with the stress of not having any more ideas. Most 504 plans are made up of a few standard rules and guidelines for the teacher to follow, which will make life easier for the child at school. Common items on the list are:
1. Sitting at the front of the class, so they can focus.
2. Hand signals that the teacher can use with the child, so that the whole class doesn’t know that little Susie needs to pay attention.
3. Reward charts posted on the childs desk, so they can see how close they are to getting a treat, as long as they can keep it together a little longer.
4. Allowing the child to get up and move around every once in a while, so they will fidget less while sitting at their desk.
5. Sitting right beside the teacher’s desk, so that there is no way that they can not focus on their work, talk to their neighbor, or ever hide from the other kids that they have a problem.
The third, final, and most important ingredient to this 504/IEP Soup, is to have a teacher who actually cares about your child. If they don’t care, then absolutely nothing will work, no matter how many new and effective ideas you can come up with. The saddest part? If your child is with a teacher who does not like them, thinks that ADHD is a crutch, and cannot wait until the year is over so they never have to set eyes on your child again, there is almost nothing you can do about it.
Almost nothing….. You can take your child back from the system and homeschool them.
As an ADHD person myself, it was one of the greatest gifts that I could give to my daughter. The typical school setting goes against our very natures. Everything that my daughter and I remembered from school, we threw out. We didn’t “Un-School” exactly, but we beat to our own drum now, and that is a good thing. I am sure that there are plenty of homeschool critics out there that would say that a structured school setting teaches an ADHD student discipline and is essential to being successful in the outside world. The reality is, most people with ADHD are shamed into appropriate behavior, which causes a whole host of problems, or totally ignored and allowed to flow through the system until they graduate. Search for statistics on ADHD teens and adults, and the findings are sobering. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances are developed, as their use will calm the mind, as an ADHD person has a zillions thoughts in their head, and has a hard time focusing on tasks.
Inappropriate and mismanaged relationships usually occur due to the life-long embarrassment of never “rising to the occasion’, ‘fitting into the right mold’, or ‘living up to their potential’. Not living up to their potential and fitting into the right mold leads back to the drugs and alcohol. This vicious cycle goes on, and it is not a cycle that you want for your child.
Now think about this: Instead of a hit or miss, one year is great and the next year is horrible approach, why not offer your child a loving atmosphere in which to learn discipline and self-control. Afterall, consistency is key, knowing that someone sincerely cares and will try to understand is essential, and having the right curriculum for their learning style is crucial to real success for an ADHD person. ADHD is big in the homeschooling communities, because there are many children who are effected. By becoming the teacher yourself, you are sure that your child is receiving the kind of care and understanding that is necessary to help them become independent. You can make adjustments as needed when a curriculum is not working, you can allow your child to walk around while reading a book, or to take breaks while doing seat work because they are about to climb the walls. You can understand and except that they are not always physically or mentally able to resist their impulses, they are not always doing it just to drive you crazy, and they can be taught to manage their ADHD with hard work and guidance that you and the Lord provides. Most importantly, you can love them, forgive them and allow them the freedom to begin again…..and again, and again.
On a side note: Not all parents who have ADHD children, actually have ADHD themselves. As a Girl Scout leader and homeschooler, I have witnessed many frustrated families struggle with this. Some parents firmly believe that their kids are being rebellious, difficult, or that they have severe behavior problems. Their answer to this is strict punishments and extreme measures, thinking that in turn, it will keep their kids from being so extreme. Other approaches parents have used are, giving in, giving up, or completing tasks and chores themselves because it’s just easier. Take it from me, these approaches will not help your kids in the long run. If you are struggling with this, read my post on ‘Scrambled Brains: Inside the Minds of your ADHD Child’. I am not an expert, just someone who had the good fortune of being raised by great parents. They helped me deal with my ADHD and in the process I was able to retain my self-esteem.