Advocacy Is a Must..But Do You Ever Just Get Tired of It?

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    • #60762

      I love my son dearly, but I am so tired of having to advocate for his rights every single school year. I know schools and teachers have a lot on their plates, but just once, I’d like to have a school year go by where I do not have to remind my son’s teachers that he has a 504 Plan, where I do not come away from an encounter with school personnel feeling like a failure and a thorn in their sides. Individual teachers here and there have been great, usually the ones who have a son or daughter with ADHD as well. Others wouldn’t respond to an email or concern if their lives depended on it. In one conversation with his school principal 2 years ago, he appeared unaware that students with learning disabilities can receive accommodations in colleges. He was basically writing off my son from post-secondary education. How do you get into the position of principal without knowing that? Why are public school systems so hard to deal with when all you want are simple accommodations, easily implemented? The private schools in our area are all too expensive or not interested in helping kids with learning differences, so we’re stuck with this school system. When I have suggested that we try another school in the county where I work that allows out-of-district students for a small tuition fee, a much smaller district with smaller class sizes and a good reputation, my son says absolutely not. The devil you know is better I guess.

      Would I be a terrible parent if I just left my son to fend for himself? Yes, I know it’s not an option, but I do daydream about it sometimes. I think about how much less stressful my life would be. I tend to do this especially when it seems that I care more about his grades than he does (and maybe I do truthfully…) I was once given tickets to a talk at a nearby church by John Rosemond, the controversial advice columnist/psychologist who doesn’t believe ADHD is real. I didn’t know who he was, and ended up walking out in the middle of the talk. But I think back now to his description of his teenage son, the one he said met all the criteria for ADHD, and how when he followed a teacher’s advice to just stop helping his son and give him all the responsibility for his schoolwork, the kid rose to the occasion apparently and did well thereafter…well I’m so tempted, even though I think John Rosemond is an a**. My son has 5 more years of school left, counting this year. Right now, that 5 years seems like forever.

      Sorry, I’m venting – and writing this is a little bit cathartic. Anyone else feeling the advocacy pain?

    • #60961

      I get where you’re coming from. At the beginning of this school year, I absolutely dreaded the meetings I knew would be needed. A new Dean of Students was put in place and new teachers. I distinctly remember sitting at Back to School night and thinking “WELL POOP” when the new Dean was introduced. And I was right, first week of school and I was already scheduling meetings. My son did actually attempt to self-advocate, which I was extremely proud of, but it fell on deaf ears and required my intervention.

      The last meeting I spent half the meeting referencing a teacher from last year that was so incredible. “If you speak with Mr. M you’ll see that these accommodations were actually implemented by him and work extremely well and do not cause a disturbance to the class.” “If you can refer back to the IEP, the issue you are addressing has been addressed with a coping strategy that proved effective.” “No, we are not using his diagnosis as an excuse but rather a cause. My son works tirelessly on his coping strategies so that he can be successful in school.”

      It’s difficult, trying and tiring – but I remember what a struggle it must be for him on a daily basis. He has to put in twice the effort as his peers every single day. He’s maintaining his emotional response, controlling verbal outbursts at inappropriate times, focusing on this one assignment when there’s like 10 million other things going on around him, attempting to pick up on social cues, attempting to interact with peers, etc. etc. etc. So while I may wish that I didn’t have to spend my lunch break in the deans office AGAIN, it’s worth it if I can relieve just a little pressure from him. Not to say I don’t vent …. believe me I do! It’s my coping strategy…LOL.

    • #61018

      John Rosemond is entirely wrong about ADHD, but his strategies work well even for kids with ADHD.

      ADHD is diagnosed based on a failure of executive function. We can’t diagnose it based on the organic condition of the brain, only the symptoms. There ARE kids who become magically “nonADHD” with the right environment and training–in presentation. And yes, these kids didn’t actually have ADHD in the first place. Rosemond has mostly worked with terrifically terrible parents. A lot of kids with terrible parenting will look ADHD at face value. But I learned a long time ago in my work with children that some magically transform with a decent environment (which most teachers are incapable of giving–let’s be honest) and some don’t because they can’t, and you can even watch some struggle and fail.

      My kids don’t have behavioral issues anywhere. I can’t make them do anything, but I can sure make them wish they had. No casual adult thinks they are ADHD, even off meds, because they have learned a great deal of self-control.

      BUT they need heavy coaching to develop things like time management skills and attention management strategies. If they were in an institutional school, the teacher would have to redirect them back on task at least twice an hour, and I would have to have the teacher manage homework until age 10 or so. It’s just beyond their capacities before then. Without drugs, homework would take absurd amounts of time. And left to their own devices, they complete NOTHING in group situations without meds as grade school kids. Every other kid comes home with some elaborate project–mine walks out with a box of pieces, saying they didn’t have any time!

      Figure out what’s within your child’s capabilities and ONLY as for accommodations for things truly well beyond his grasp. The goal isn’t to ensure nominal success but to give a child both a chance to succeed and a chance to fail, if he isn’t working hard enough. If the adults see the child working, they’ll usually come on board pretty fast.

      My college kid has accommodations for severe disgraphia but none for his ADHD. The school doesn’t even know about it.

    • #61036
      Penny Williams

      All the advocating is exhausting, to be sure. I go through times where I back off for a bit, because I’m just too tired of fighting. It’s practically a full-time job to help our kids succeed.

      My son (9th grade) also seems to not care one bit about doing well. He does everything he can to avoid reading, avoid schoolwork, even avoid school. I know it’s because the traditional way of “teaching” in schools doesn’t work for him — being organized, planning future activities, focusing and staying on task on his own, completing worksheets (he has dysgraphia as well), writing essays, test-taking, busy work, etc. He avoids because it’s extremely hard for him to succeed. He’s learned that he doesn’t “fit” and just stopped trying. Of course, I encourage him to do well so he can achieve the career he’d like (computers). But, I also recognize that grades aren’t everything and he is learning, even if he can’t show it in the way school expects.

      Some kids just aren’t good at school. There are a lot of very successful adults with ADHD who barely scraped by in K-12.

      I do believe in natural consequences, but you have to be very careful with stepping back and letting kids with ADHD “sink or swim” — be sure they have the skills and developmental maturity that they can truly do it on their own, if they want to.

      You’re Going to Need Bigger Carrots: Middle-School Discipline Truths

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #76392

      All I can say is I’m just starting down this road, and I’m already exhausted. Thanks for sharing.

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