My brilliant, beautiful, talented 11 year old daughter has AHDH. She was tested for it in 1st grade when her teacher told us she was missing 80% of what went on in class. I didn’t know if it was really ADHD or a reaction to the upheaval in her home life. I was pregnant with our youngest at the time and had just started a new job, which is a big change in and of itself. But right before 1st grade started, my mom, her grandma, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I can barely remember how I handled my emotional state or how it impacted my little 6 year old. Then her grandma died that November and we all started grieving hardcore. Getting the news at her first parent-teacher conference, right after my mom died, that my daughter might possibly have ADHD was more than I could handle. We put off testing until her next parent-teacher conference when her teacher basically insisted she be tested. The testing included her teacher and us filling out a bunch of forms on what we noticed of her behavior. Both ours and the teachers came back with her being two standard deviations outside the bell-curve of normal 6 year old behavior. We took this information to her pediatrician who counseled us about possible medications and we found her a child counselor who specialized in ADHD and learning disorders.
Despite all of our interventions, which included getting her on a different medication that actually worked and she felt better and more focused on, we watched our very smart daughter fall behind in reading in math. No matter how much reading or flash cards or homework we did with her, she continued to fall behind. Even with a great 2nd grade teacher who understood her educational needs in a way no one had up to that point, she fell behind. Then we moved her half-way her through her third grade year to a new school and a homeroom teacher that couldn’t be bothered to help her, and she continued to fall further behind. I felt very helpless feeling like no matter what I did, she kept falling behind. Then in 4th grade she had a great teacher who worked really hard with the Special Education teacher to get her tested for receiving some additional help in reading in math. We had to do even more testing, her teachers had to submit to more questionnaires about her learning patterns, and we had to get notes from her doctor. All this came too late because when everything finally came back 4th grade was over. Luckily her 5th grade teacher was amazing and with all that testing and the commitment to her education the special ed teacher has to her, we finally got her the extra help she needs for reading and math. Within two months of being in the special ed program for just reading and math, her test scores tripled. Her SE teacher said that she was the hardest working, highest achieving, and sweetest kid in her class. She’s not learning disordered because she can learn and has proven that she retains new information. It’s getting her to settle down and focus enough to learn those things. And her strengths have always been in the Arts, so presenting topics in an artistic way are what really get her attention. I’ve very proud of how hard she works and how hard she tries. She never gets discouraged and just keeps trying. And I’m incredibly proud that she’s brave enough to separate from her class at a time when any difference among your peers gets you made fun of.
At the beginning of the school year she entered 6th grade. Besides feeling exceptionally old to have a 6th grader, I have been concerned about her educational future from here on out. Next year she goes to Junior High and the things I’ve heard about the local Junior High she is supposed to go to scares the crapadoodles out of me. Then my youngest’s pre-school teacher told me about how she is sending all of her kids to a charter school this year when her oldest entered Junior High. It’s an Arts academy and the more I hear about it the more I think it’s the right place for my daughter next year. Their curriculum is awesome. The student to teacher ratio is smaller so she will get the more individualized attention she needs. And with their focus on the Arts, the curriculum plays to her strengths. Of course she is not on board with this idea because, “I’ll have to leave all my friends!” While she is concerned about her social life, I’m concerned about her life-life. I pointed out to her that after 7th grade my best friend ended up going to a private school an hour away, and we still maintained our friendship and are best friends to this day. I told her we would enter her name in the lottery to see if she even gets in. If she does, she’s agreed to go there with the option that if she really, truly, absolutely and in all other ways, hates it, she can go to the local Junior High.
Besides her educational future, I’m contemplating my own. It was always my intention of going to graduate school and getting my Masters in Social Work. I would like to be an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and work in lots of different fields. But after graduating with my BSW 5 years ago and having a baby, it has been nice to just settle into a job I really love while being a Mom without having to work full-time or concentrate on school so much. It’s been a nice break. Lately I’ve been feeling that nudge in the back of my brain, the same one the lead me to finishing my Bachelors degree, that says I need to be back in school.
Of course my dream is to go to NYU and do their Master’s program. I would love to live in New York for a year. I would love to live in New York for any amount of time. But NYU is hella expensive. And if I’m scared about sending my daughter to Junior High in Utah, what kind of nervous breakdown would I have sending her to a public school in New York City? Luckily for me there is a local University that has a part-time Masters of Social Work program. It’s in a city an hour away, but they have local classes for their part-time program. It would take three years, but it’s only one class at night per week and I could use my current work for my practicum. Win-win, right? Their next round of classes start in 2014 and that’s perfect for my family and future events.
Education is important and I don’t want my kids to ever think, especially my daughter, that you stop working, learning, and improving yourself just because you’re a parent now and have loads of responsibilities. Had I gone the traditional route and earned my degree in 4 years before getting married and having babies, I wouldn’t appreciate so much the degree I have now. I sacrificed a lot (and so did the hubs, my mother-in-law and father who watched my kids so I could go to class) to earn my degree and it’s not something anyone could ever take from me. I want my daughter to have a bright future despite a quirk that makes life harder in a school setting, and I hope I can be an example to her of never giving up even when there are obstacles in your way.