When the back-to-school sales come 'round, I can only think one thing: I hate when my daughter goes back to school. Yes, my 9-year-old daughter has had a pretty amazing Summer filled with fun activities and plenty of time to relax and recharge, but losing out on those good times isn't why I dread this time of year.
She has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and for her, school can feel like absolute torture. So she doesn't look forward to going back, either. For seven hours a day, she is forced to sit still at a desk. That reason alone is enough to make a child with ADHD go crazy. People with ADHD actually focus better when they are able to move, whether it is getting up and walking around during a lecture or swinging their legs back and forth as they write an essay. Even just using a fidget in the classroom can do wonders for children with ADHD.
However, allowing kids to behave this way and use these tools during class can be disruptive to other students. And, unfortunately for students with ADHD, many teachers have a utilitarian approach when it comes to the their classroom, which I completely understand. I have nothing but the utmost respect for teachers, as they have a huge responsibility to keep about 30 students in line and engaged five days a week. They've got a tough job, and I think it's amazing that they handle the pressure with so much grace. Unfortunately, this doesn't often allow children like mine to be able to utilize behavior modifications and tools to help them reach their full potential and succeed in the classroom like their neurotypical classmates can do so easily.
Besides having the need to constantly move her body, my daughter's mind doesn't have the ability to slow down. Her brain, as magnificent as it is, simply doesn't know how to rest, like, ever. She has a difficult time sorting out what is the most important thing to pay attention to at any given time, especially at school. Just being able to focus all of her attention on her teacher talking about fractions, for example, takes so much of her energy. She sometimes gets labeled as a space cadet, disrespectful, and even lazy. But I know that's not the case — if only people could see what really goes on in her head. At the end of the lesson, her mind is absolutely exhausted since it has been working overtime to keep up with all the stimulus. My poor baby has to try to do this seven hours a day, five days a week. By the time she gets home from school, she feels like she has been through a battle. And, to a certain extent, she has.
Speaking of battles, homework is another big one for my daughter. Homework has always been a struggle for her because, frankly, it's tedious and unexciting. When it comes to assignments that allow her to use her creativity, leadership, or artistic skills, she is a queen. Unfortunately, her homework usually consists of a math worksheet or putting spelling words in alphabetical order — not the most stimulating work for a kid with ADHD. I know the importance of these assignments, but that doesn't make it any easier for her. I make sure my daughter has some time to relax and have a snack before she begins her homework. I also make sure she takes breaks while completing her assignments. I let her do her homework wherever she wants, even if that means laying upside down while she reads. I let her choose what assignment she wants to complete first and last and I reward her with screen time after her work is completed. Despite doing all of these things for her, homework can still cause a massive meltdown when she becomes frustrated and angry with herself for not doing something correctly. My daughter is very sensitive and emotional and is definitely her biggest critic.
But do you know what? You'll always find me right next to her every evening, spending hours helping her with her homework, helping her find ways to control her big emotions, and helping her realize that school and homework will most likely always be a struggle for her, but with time, effort, and patience, she'll find ways to trudge through and conquer all those battles. You'll find me constantly in contact with her school, advocating for her and teaching my daughter to advocate for herself. You'll find me doing my best to instill in my daughter the confidence she needs and deserves to not only make it in this world, but make something of herself in it, too. She's got such a fierce sense of creativity, passion, and persistence — and I know she's going to end up doing something extraordinary when she grows up. She just needs to get through school first.