The First Day of Sixth Grade — ADHD Style

The story of one boy's journey from academic frustration to empowerment, thanks in large part to one teacher's unwillingness to accept the easy answer.
Success at School | posted by Edie Brown

Crash! Bang! Ahhh!

So goes the first day of school for many ADHD families. Long after the alarm's gone off, your child is still in his bedroom. Doing what? Who knows.

"C'mon and eat your breakfast. The bus will be here any minute." You walk into the bedroom and stare. Complete bedlam. Let the battle begin...

Let me tell you about a boy I know named Nicky. By the time he reached 6th grade, Nicky had settled into an academic routine that he and his mom turned into a daily mantra. That was not always the case. Way back in the second grade, Nicky got lucky when he was assigned to the classroom of Ms. Brown, a.k.a. The Professor.

At that time, Nicky's favorite subject was PE; his least favorites were reading and math. He loved moving around and hated doing things that he was terrible at. When his mother dropped Nicky at school, The Professor asked her why she thought he struggled. It must be the ADHD, she said.

She always carried his IEP paperwork in her purse. Reading goals, math goals, writing goals, organizational goals, and behavior goals. They discussed all of them and how they related to school. Dyslexia was something they’d never considered, until Ms. Brown probed deeper into Nicky’s strengths and challenges.

Imagine Nicky's astonishment in learning that his difficulty in reading, interpreting letters, and understanding words had a name. And then there was his learning disability in math (dyscalculia) and writing (dysgraphia) — so many new words for old, familiar reasons to hate school. No more. Who knew that you could have ADHD and a learning disability at the same time?

Once Nicky could describe each of his new goals in his own words, he smiled and said another new word, "Empowerment."

Fast forward four years to the first day of sixth grade.   "Time to get up, sweetie," his mother called from downstairs. 15 minutes later Nicky filled his backpack with a brand-new calculator, a 3-ring binder, and 6 file folders.  His binder had a pencil case with 3 pencils, 2 pens, colored pencils, 2 highlighters, and an eraser. 

Over breakfast, his mom reminded Nicky to pack his math packet and summer reading report in the right folders. They were. "Honey, did you put paper in your binder?" No answer... swish. After double-checking together, they put everything in Nicky's backpack and zipped it closed.  

Say it again..."Someone has to read to me, I get a calculator, someone writes for me, I can have graphic organizers, and I can sit near the teacher. EMPOWERMENT!"

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