Sitting across from my daughter’s third-grade teacher, listening to her talk about my daughter, my heart was bursting with pride. “She’s our social butterfly. She makes friends with everyone, is very helpful to everyone, and I wish we could clone her…”
Fast forward one year later and I am sitting across from the principal at my daughter’s school, listening to him defend the teacher that dumped over my daughter’s desk for the whole class to see, all because she didn’t stack her books correctly inside of her desk. “She is messy, doesn’t follow directions, and her assignments are never turned in on time.” I was stunned into silence after I had spent the last 48 hours practicing what I was going to tell this teacher about how wrong he was to dump over my daughter’s desk to try to embarrass her into submission. I went home and cried until there were no more tears to cry.
Later that week, I attended an open house at the school and another parent overheard me talking to the teacher about my daughter’s struggles with school and homework and making friends. When the teacher moved on to speak with other families, a parent I’d never met came up to me and put her hand on my arm. “You should have your daughter tested for ADHD. The teacher will never tell you that you can have her tested and get help if she receives a diagnosis.” My first thought was “My daughter doesn’t have ADHD; why should I have her tested?”
I spent the next few days watching my daughter continue to struggle to focus on her school work, struggle to keep her backpack from looking like a bomb exploded inside, and the constant stream of notes from her teacher telling me how things were just not getting any “better”. Even the workers at her daycare were concerned about her lacking social skills.
I was reeling from the possibility that my smart, beautiful daughter could be “broken” somehow. How did this happen? What did I do wrong? I wondered why her older sister didn’t have these struggles. Being a single parent only added to the weight of the situation.
In the meantime, my daughter and I spent many nights crying our way through homework and tests and social situations that most kids and parents didn’t think twice about getting done. Well-meaning friends and family gave me advice and opinions, ranging from there’s no such thing as ADHD, to just get tougher on her, to if no one else in the family has ADHD, how did she “get” it.
My daughter and I talked about ADHD and how a diagnosis could help us, but all my daughter could hear was that she would have to be “different” than the other kids. My heart broke for her, and the gravity of the decision was weighing me down. She cried. I cried. We cried together. Something had to change.
I was angry…not at my daughter or her teacher, but at the fact that I had to make such an important decision alone.
After I cried out all of the tears, I got busy. I researched ADHD…the warning signs, the treatment options, and how to handle the stigma and the judgment that I was certain would follow us if she was diagnosed with ADHD.
In the end, I agreed to have her tested. The test didn’t really involve my daughter directly. I was given a questionnaire to be completed by all of the people in our lives that knew her best…myself, her father, her teacher, her pediatrician and a few other others.
Everyone’s answers would be combined and the school psychologist would make the final decision as to whether my daughter’s life would change forever…
The day of the meeting was strangely calm. It was not a long meeting, but the time seemed to go by slowly. I cried, and even laughed a little as I heard each person talk about my daughter. My daughter received an ADHD diagnosis that day.
I remember hearing about behavior modification and IEPs and medication options. It was overwhelming news to hear, but a wave of relief swept over me. The troubles we had been experiencing now had a name. It made it a little bit less scary for both of us.
But the diagnosis was just the beginning…we’ve learned so much more about having ADHD…the good, the bad and all the in-between.