Cotillion class was my mother’s idea.
I am in seventh grade, and Mrs. Millet is adamant about teaching us how to waltz. As she starts pairing off the boys and girls, I run to the end of the line. I figure she will run out of girls before she gets to me, and I will be spared the agony of dancing. Not quite. Suddenly, I hear her say, "Blake, since there are no more young ladies, you’ll waltz with me!"
I can’t say I ever came to love Cotillion, but I realized that it — like social-skills class, homework club, and learning how to work with teachers — was part of my mother’s master plan to help me learn how to function with my attention deficit disorder (ADHD). My mom has been my biggest supporter and best teacher. Here are some of the lessons she taught me outside the classroom that helped me so much in it.
Recognizing expressions and learning social cues.
My mom enrolled me in a social-skills class in fifth grade to help me read facial expressions. Everyone can read expressions, you may be thinking, but that is not the case with ADHD children and adults.
I had to learn to recognize when someone was angry, annoyed, impatient, or surprised. The class also taught me to wait my turn and not to interrupt when others are talking. As a result of that class, I became much better at making friends and behaving myself in school.
Joining the homework club.
When you’re a disorganized ADHD student, you can easily miss an assignment because it wasn’t written in your planner, not know some of the answers on an exam because you lost your notes, or accidentally be rude to friends by forgetting to meet them at lunch.
My mother realized this and took charge of my daily schedule early on. Every day after school, she would seat me and my sister at the kitchen table for Homework Club. She’d help us make outlines, offer tips, and check our assignments.
As I gradually took control of my schedule in high school, I learned the logic behind her actions. I still use the study strategy my mom taught me. Several days before a test, I check the relevant chapters, divide them into a study plan, gather my notes (and search for missing ones), and stick to the study schedule. I also remember to eat a high-protein breakfast on exam day, although the cafeteria meal can’t hold a candle to my mom’s test-morning specials of eggs and ham.
Making friends with my teachers.
No, I don’t mean setting up play dates. Kids with ADHD are often misunderstood by teachers because we don’t fully explain ourselves, or stand up for ourselves when unjustly blamed.
I remember when my assistant principal, Mrs. Sullivan, thought I was using my slingshot to shoot pebbles at other students. Actually, I was shooting pebbles to watch their trajectories. (One of my hobbies at the time was making rockets, and flight patterns interested me.) My mom spoke with Mrs. Sullivan, but she told me I’d be speaking for myself in the future. “You need to talk to people, Blake, and present your case logically, so they understand what is going on in your mind. On the other hand, you need to understand why they are concerned.” It’s advice that I’ve followed many times.
My mother has always treated ADHD as a difference, not a deficiency, as something that had to be managed so that I could get on to the good stuff. I’m getting there today because of her years of support, wisdom, and, of course, love. Thanks, Mom.
This article comes from the Summer 2009 issue of ADDitude.
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