At Last, Schooling That Fits My ADD/ADHD Child's Needs!
The day Katie began at Willow Hill, I worried. “What if she doesn’t like it? Then what will we do?”
When she got off the short bus at the end of the day, I asked how it was, and she said, “Good.”
“Just good?” I asked, deflated. “So you really didn’t like it?”
“Are you kidding, Mom? I loved it. The teachers understand me, and the kids are so nice.”
I was thrilled. Her sixth-grade year went beautifully. She made friends and blossomed in ways we wouldn’t have imagined. And although Katie seldom said so, she loved school. “Katie, honey, I don’t like the sound of that cough. You should stay home from school.” “No way, Mom. I have perfect attendance. I’m not blowing that.”
What shocked me, though, was when the drama teacher pulled me aside one day and said, “I’d like to give Katie the lead role in You Can’t Take It with You. I’ve never given the lead to a sixth-grader before, but I know she can handle it.”
“My daughter, Katie Gallagher -- with the blond hair and blue eyes, about this tall?” I asked, sure that there had been some mistake.
“Yes, your daughter. She’s quite talented.”
On opening night, Mike and I were nervous, particularly since Katie was anxious and doubted herself. “What if I can’t do this?” she asked us.
“You’ll be fine. We’ll be right here watching you,” I said, suppressing the urge for a glass of wine (or six).
“Sit in the back!” commanded Katie. “You’ll make me nervous.”
When Katie walked out, she delivered her lines flawlessly and picked up her cues. We sat there -- in the first row -- stunned. We couldn’t believe this was the same girl who desperately tried not to stand out.
Mike turned to me and said, “See what happens when you believe in a child?”
“I never doubted her for a second,” I answered, crossing my fingers behind my back.
Watching Katie struggle at all the things I was good at -- playing sports, getting good grades, making friends -- was enough to leave me, an overachiever and chronic worrier, awake at night, pondering the same question: “How will my little girl get her self-esteem?”
What I failed to notice was that Katie was happier and more self-confident than I ever was. Katie taught me to appreciate the little things in life -- things that most take for granted.
“Daddy, guess what? I answered a question right today at school!”
“You’ll never believe this, Mom. I got invited to a birthday party!”
At one point, I would have done anything to make Katie’s Asperger’s syndrome and ADD/ADHD go away. (“Mike, I wish I could take her to be cured. What’s that healing place in France?”) I learned to stop seeing Katie through society’s ridiculous looking glass of perfection, and to see her through her eyes.
To cure Katie of her disorders would be to take away all the things I love most about my daughter -- her innocence, her wonderful sense of humor, her fighting spirit, her quirkiness. Anyone who knows me, a lifetime subscriber to Popular Pessimist magazine, can’t believe I now see my daughter this way.
Excerpted from Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid, by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian. Copyright 2010. Reprinted by permission of Three Rivers Press, New York, New York.
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