Before and During: How Success Stories Get Started

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hints for focusAs the parent of an ADHD-inattentive child, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. I know there were times at our house when life seemed to be one steady stream of prepping for the next test and whacking away at assignments in bite-sized chunks.

Flash cards, IEP meetings, and peppermint tea – we were always thinking of the next strategy for ADHD.

While I don’t mean to imply that we’ve arrived and have it all figured out, I do want to encourage you. Success may start slowly, but it always starts.

Don’t forget to notice triumphs no matter how small.

In retrospect, I realize we’ve had a year of successes for Lesley. For her sophomore year, she started out using Concerta but had our psychiatrist’s green light to self-regulate a bit and use as needed. She never stated something like “I’m giving it up this year.” It was more of a gradual process, reassessed as she went through the year.

She continued to use strategies that worked well for her. For instance, she studied in the library instead of her room. She talked to her teachers about having a little extra time on tests. When she needed extra help, she was more comfortable talking to the teacher after class and asking questions.

Because we live in the Middle East, Lesley’s choice for high school included boarding school, and she chose a school in Europe. Before I moved here, I couldn’t imagine sending any 15-year-old away to boarding school. Everyone knew that only evil stepmothers in Disney movies would do such a thing.

Lesley was keen to go away to high school despite the fact that she’s always been a homebody. She’s never been wild about sleepovers, and until now, she’s never even participated in a sleep-away summer camp. How could a kid like this succeed in boarding school?

In the early days, I wondered what we were thinking by following this plan. While September was rocky with tears and homesickness, Lesley persevered. October looked better. By the time we came to visit on parents’ weekend, we realized that she was studying hard, making friends and enjoying adventures like zip-lining and rock climbing on the weekend. In November, she toured Venice, Italy as part of her curriculum. (I know. Grueling course of study, huh?!)

We came together as a family in December for winter holidays, and she was ready to return to school in January. She auditioned for the spring musical and landed a solo. She was stressed out with finals because she’d never had comprehensive final exams before, but in the end, she was fine.

Do we have it all figured out? No! She’s home with us now, and if you saw her room right now you would ROTFL or something like that. She’s trying to overcome nail biting – and she should probably get started on summer reading since June is over. But we’ve had a year of successive successes – and I wanted to document them here.

We’ve come a long way from the 15-year-old who got cold feet in September and begged us to take her back to the Middle East. I consider each step Lesley took this year an example of “God sightings.” For each one of them, I’m very, very grateful.

What are your successes? Small or great. Share them below.

Comments

  1. Bridget Brambilla says:

    Thank you for inspiring me and giving me hope! My daughter Erin was diagnosed this year, and we are just trying to find our way. She had a terrific second grade year at school thanks to an organized teacher who didn’t sweat the small stuff. We did have a laugh when the teacher found 2 mittens (mismatched) in the back of Erin’s desk in June, along with some goldfish crackers. 🙂 I wondered where those mittens had gone to!

  2. My son James was officially diagnosed with ADHD last year as a high school sophomore, although I sort of diagnosed him myself when he was in 8th grade. Seventh grade was… hard. We did a lot of taking away video games (his favorite thing) for missing homework assignments and trying all manner of coercion to get him to “get it together”. Guess what? It didn’t help. We were in constant punishment mode, and our relationship suffered. Eighth grade started out even worse until I found this website and realized he had ADHD. (thanks Kayla and Brock!) My light bulb moment: Nobody does the homework then forgets to turn it in out of willfulness- something else is going on. I read a dozen or so books to learn all I could about ADHD. We implemented all kinds of organizational and behavioral strategies on our own and he did okay freshman year with LOTS of help from me. We did not want to put him on meds so we kept plugging away with our strategies. Sophomore year was harder as the work got harder and expectations for independence increased. He was sinking in spite of all of my help and I was very stressed out. It wasn’t working, and I just couldn’t do it any more, so we took him to the pediatrician and got the formal diagnosis. James started on Vyvanse and got a 504b in the middle of his sophomore year. Not only did the meds help him focus, but they made him more motivated. The way he described it: “When I’m on the meds, I start to space out in class, then my brain says No! Pay attention! and I feel guilty if I don’t listen and focus.” There were several new things being said in that sentence: he was aware of his thought process, aware of the spacing out, able to choose not to, and also experiencing internal motivation. It’s not like everything became perfect, but more things became… possible. Second semester he earned a B average, same as freshman year, WITHOUT my help! Now junior year he’s using all of the organizational systems, he’s on meds, has the 504b and he’s off to a good start. Not perfect, but good. And our relationship is more positive because it isn’t all about me nagging and prodding him. It’s still hard to imagine college even though it’s only two years away. But he’s come so far in the last two years, I suppose anything’s possible!

    • Thanks so much for sharing this encouraging story! Stand outs in the above: “he was aware of his thought process, aware of the spacing out, able to choose not to, and also experiencing internal motivation.”

      “It’s not like everything became perfect, but more things became… possible.”

      This is truly wonderful to read.

  3. Brock,

    We are living in the Middle East as well and having difficulty finding resources and school support. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!!

    • Thanks for writing. Many times when you live overseas, all the rules completely change. Truly, you are your child’s best advocate, wherever you live. If you’re not sure what resources would most benefit your child, you may want to pay for testing when you’re in your home country. A good psychiatrist with experience in this area can guide you into what services are most needed.

      Once you have your child’s exact needs documented, you have a very strong case to walk into your school and ask for what’s needed.

      Usually, the progression is that you would ask the teacher first, and if you can’t enlist their help, you go up a level to the principal. If you don’t find help there, you go to to the school board. Let us know how things work out. – Brock