For most people, school vacation means freedom and flexibility — but there's no summer holiday from ADHD.
by Sarah Kaczmarek
I've been on the countdown for the last five months. The daily stress of wondering what Hadley is doing, how is she doing, did she keep her hands to herself, did she call someone a name, how many stickers did she get, has taken its toll. But when May finally arrived, I didn't find myself counting down; I found myself wishing she had just a little more time. I felt like Hadley and her teacher were finally at a place where they'd figured out what was working.
But I still felt like we both needed a break from the daily rigors of school. For the summer, I decided to send Hadley to the daycare she attended prior to kindergarten. They have great programs and they've always loved her there. As an added bonus, there's now a tutor on site, including through summer. I was looking forward to the changes that I've read the new youth director has implemented. I was really excited for her first day of daycare — that is, until I read the new paperwork.
I understand that there need to be rules, but when I read the new four-strike policy I felt my blood pressure rise and panic set in. The parents and the kids sign an agreement affirming that we understand the rules. Hadley may understand them, but the question is, will she remember them? I was worried about how this would go. Would they be flexible, would they save these strikes for extreme behavior, or would they really follow this policy to the letter? I had to believe it was reserved for extreme behavior; otherwise they wouldn't have any children in daycare. We'd have to see how this went, but I was still telling myself a break is a break.
I picked Hadley up from her first day at daycare, free from sticker charts and the rigid structure of school. Heck, we even skipped her morning protein shake — no focus needed here, right? I walked in ready to hear about her day and she said, "I had four time-outs and the boy in the blue shirt says I can't come back." Whoooshhhh went the elated feeling I'd had all day, knowing my break from worry has ended.
Reality had set in. I jumped into action. The next morning I sent an e-mail to the youth director asking her to share with the staff that Hadley has ADHD. She was aware, but I think it is important the staff know, too. I think it changes their approach and helps them summon some additional patience. I shared with them my tips for helping her be successful, just as we did after her meltdown with her after-school program.
I sent a sticker chart to daycare the next day and served up her usual protein shake. Since getting her back on the sticker chart, making sure she had her shake, and e-mailing the daycare, she has shown tremendous improvement this last week. She's been at 80-85% for success — exactly what you'd expect from any child her age. Both her morning and afternoon teacher have told me that my e-mail was very helpful, and she has been doing well. I'm so thankful that they immediately jumped on board. I can only hope that first grade goes this well.
There is no such thing as a summer break from ADHD, but sticking with what works gives me a break from worrying how I'll keep her in daycare...for now.