Guest Blogs

A Day in the Life of an ADHD Advocate

Between working with doctors on my ADHD daughter’s medication adjustments and advocating for her special education, I spend a lot of time in ADHD-related appointments.

A highly customized schedule, which is a hallmark of the best school planners.
A highly customized schedule, which is a hallmark of the best school planners.

Another day, another ADHD-related appointment. Today’s outing was a med check with Natalie’s pediatrician.

This time, instead of making any major changes in Natalie’s ADHD medication, we’re just adjusting doses. Thank goodness. Natalie is taking Ritalin LA twice a day now, with fairly good results, and starting today, we’re moving up to what we hope will be the ideal dosage. I’m crossing my fingers.

Whew. It’s been a long journey since the special ed teacher’s report at Natalie’s fall teacher’s conference had me rushing to call the doctor for med help. Natalie’s ability to focus was up and down, we were told. The measures they use to track her learning were really inconsistent. She wasn’t progressing like she has in earlier grades.

My mind went immediately to medicine, and the long, hard journey of trial and error began. Now that we’re back to Ritalin, I’m having second thoughts about how much of a factor medication really was in the first place.

I do believe that some med adjustments were coming due, and that using Ritalin LA will, in the end, offer more consistent symptom control than short acting Ritalin.

But…I’m not convinced that was the main issue.

Natalie started her educational career by receiving early intervention services at home. When she turned three she transitioned to preschool, and was in a great classroom that integrated kids with special needs and typical learners. She was pulled out part of each day for special ed from the very beginning. Her teachers tried various learning situations, and their data showed that Natalie learns best not 1:1, and not in a large group. She learns best in a small group with either one or two other children.

The school provided this exact situation during Nat’s special ed time throughout preschool, early kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade. At that fateful fall conference, I heard, for the first time, that, now that Nat’s in second grade, the special ed teacher has a group of eight kids every time she works with Natalie.

I’m convinced that the number of kids in the group is a bigger factor in how Natalie is (not) learning than medication.

I did a little bit of wimpy advocacy about this problem. I emailed, and then talked briefly with the principal. This is typical around the state, and at the second grade level, I heard. The special ed program goes over budget every year anyway, and now there’s added pressure on the budget due to the economy. I could talk to the district’s head of special ed, but it wasn’t likely to make any difference.

Today I discussed this issue with Natalie’s doctor. She’s sending us to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for a developmental evaluation. If they make recommendations, I can ask that those be included in Nat’s IEP. It’s worth a try.

Another day, another ADHD-related appointment…

Getting Ready to Go Back to School

Is Your Child Unable to Focus in Class? How to Help Teachers Understand

Cope With an ADHD Diagnosis… Together