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A mother's progress report

A mother reflects on how she has made progress, just as her middle school son with AD/HD has.

By Katy Smith

It's early August, and my thoughts turn to the new school year. When my son, John, enters middle school next month, we'll both face new challenges. He's excited and a little worried at the prospect. Outwardly, I remind him of his strengths and promise him my support. Privately, I wrestle with fear and doubt.

Wistfully, I reflect on John's progress since kindergarten. With the help of his teachers, school psychologist, and doctors, he's learned to understand and manage his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) well. At age 11, he's an honor roll student, well behaved, and respected by his peers. But he still struggles every day.

A wake-up call

In a recent conversation with my sister, I shared my pride in John's progress — and my concerns about middle school.

After listening patiently, she said, "I'm proud of John too. But do you realize how far you've come? You're his coach, advocate, tutor, and mentor all in one. Don't worry about middle school. Just build on what you've learned, and you'll be fine."

Parallel progress

My sister had a point. That evening I sat down with a pad of paper and drew two columns. In one column, I listed John's accomplishments from kindergarten through fifth grade. In the next column, I jotted down the ways I'd grown along with him.

My own progress report looks like this:

  • Flexibility: If one idea fails, I don't panic. Instead, I'll try a different approach. For example, when John had trouble taking swimming lessons in a large class, I located a swimming school with small classes and a special needs program.
  • Assertiveness: I've learned to trust my judgement. Now when I voice concerns to the school and other professionals, I do so with confidence. I've also become more comfortable asking others for help. During John's early school years, I advocated on his behalf. Perhaps I acted as a role model for him because he now participates actively in our teacher-parent meetings.
  • Research skills: I'm good at finding resources. Because John takes medication for AD/HD, I keep up with current medical research. My decisions are based on scientific facts and my son's individual needs. I'm less swayed by popular opinion. I'm a mother, not a politician!
  • Teamwork: I've learned how to collaborate with John's doctors and teachers in a positive way. My network of other parents has expanded. And because of my experience, I can now reach out and help others.

This is a report I can feel good about. John and I will continue to grow as we move from year to year. Middle school will be a challenge but not an obstacle. After all, look how far we've come! I think I'll call my sister and tell her the good news.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

08/27/2010:
"Thank you so much for sharing your report. I have a daughter with ADHD & SID and I do just what you have done. I have gain a lots thru the past 11 years and became a private tutor to other children with special needs. I have change because of her needs and without it I my not know that I am able to do it. "
08/23/2010:
"As a parent of two boys with dyslexia, I found assertiveness a very big challenge. Too often, as parents, we disagree with the professionals, or our gut feeling tells us things are different. If we hesitate or don't speak up, our children pay the price. "
08/17/2010:
"This made me sad to read. It felt like it was all about the mother; her grade was based on her child's grades. How scientific are drugs practiced on kids. Are there any long term studies? A child subverting his own physical demands for activity to function academically is questionable. The value to conform was more important than the child's personal needs. I can understand the difficulty on a personal level with my child. However, I believe that if she could not adjust to the demands of her school with out drugs, I would find another program that would better suit her and save the academia for when she was ready."
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