ADHD at School: The Honeymoon Is Over
My hope that this school year would be different for my son ended on Day 4.
School and ADHD are a lethal combination. That’s true for my son, Ricochet, who has attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), SPD, learning disabilities, and a gifted IQ. I could fill a book with stories about his school struggles. Oh, wait…I did.
His school journey so far has been filled with characters like Miss Gulch or Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz and everything in between. Each year I have high hopes that Ricochet will succeed at school. Each year I crash into a pit of despair as my fantasy bursts.
Most school years, I am hopeful for a month or two. Come October, the hope fades and the honeymoon ends. This school year, when Ricochet started sixth grade, the honeymoon ended on Day 4. That’s right, Day 4. I feel like the roller coaster took off with a neck-jerking startle before my safety bar was lowered into place.
Since Ricochet attends a charter school (a brand-new school), there isn’t a school bus to take him there. I always drive him to and from school anyway, but the lack of busing meant parents had to form carpools. I took the opportunity to join a carpool in my area.
As he had done on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ricochet sat on the front porch on Thursday morning waiting for our neighbor to pull up. When she arrived, he jumped up and climbed into the backseat. His friend across the street jumped in as well and packed the car with four sixth-grade boys and one mom. And off they went without fanfare.
Thirty minutes later, my phone rang. I held my breath as I answered. As soon as she introduced herself, a knot formed in my throat. A call from the carpool mom 15 minutes after they should have arrived at school meant trouble.
“Hi, Penny. Ricochet is upset this morning, and he is still in my car in the school parking lot,” she explained.
I shoved my computer off my lap and ran to get dressed, still listening, but knowing I was going to have to race out the door. Here we go again, I thought.
“He says the boys were too loud, and the noise overwhelmed him,” she said. “He’s feeling sick now. Can you talk to him?”
“I’m so sorry!” I said. “Yes, of course, I’ll talk to him.”
“Momma…” I interpreted through his sobs. “The boys were yelling and now I feel sick. I can’t go to school. I want to go home.”
“Ricochet, I’m sorry that happened,” I said. “[Your driver] is late for work now. You have to get out of her car.”
“No, Momma!” he screamed. His crying and wailing hijacked our conversation.
“Listen to me, Ricochet. Get out and go to the office and tell them I’m on my way. You have to let her get to work. I’m putting on my shoes right now.”
“OK, Momma,” he answered and told the carpool mom I was on my way. My many apologies to her would have to wait until the emergency had passed.
I arrived at the school 15 minutes later, and he was calmly sitting in the director’s office. I could see his despair in his downturned smile and slouching posture. I was relieved to find him calm.
That relief was short-lived though. As soon as Ricochet realized that I wasn’t taking him home, he spiraled into a meltdown that was heard throughout the school. It lasted nearly two hours, his brain completely hijacked, with the guidance counselor, special-ed teacher, and his Momma by his side. When I tried to leave, he bolted out of the school frantically.
Although I protested taking him home, I was not going to be able to leave without him. He was not going to be able to go to classes that day. The school personnel assured me that they supported my decision either way, but also told me it was OK to take him home.
So I cried “Uncle,” and packed him up and drove home, the weight of my perceived failure heavy on my shoulders.
The one bright light in this day was the kind, gentle, understanding support we received from his special-ed teacher and guidance counselor. They never tried to shame him into better behavior. They saw that he was a sweet boy in crisis, not a manipulative kid trying to get his way.
Because Ricochet was attending a new school and it was a new school year, I didn’t have the chance to meet with them about my son’s needs. I guess Ricochet showed them himself that day. But now we have a plan, and Ricochet knows who has his back when school becomes too overwhelming for him.
Of course, I will be driving him every morning in the quiet of my car. Farewell, honeymoon. Welcome back, my stressful partner — the reality of raising a child with ADHD.