The Moment I Became my Child’s Advocate 

The Moment I Became my Child’s Advocate 

The Moment I Became my Child’s Advocate 

This month’s blog might sound familiar to parents of a child with ADHD. It was the moment in time I was spurred to advocacy, thanks to a teacher who didn’t believe ADHD was real. His disbelief was my wake-up call, a true gift for the years ahead.

For many parents raising a child with ADHD, I imagine there is a moment when they are spurred to advocacy. I can still remember mine. It came during an IEP meeting with Lee’s third grade teacher who didn’t believe ADHD was real. As I laid out the accommodations my child would need in the coming year, starting with more time on tests, the teacher shifted around in his chair before he spoke.

“Lee doesn’t need more time on tests, she could just use some more self-discipline.”

My cheeks grew hot as thoughts raced through my mind. How could a child who lacked impulse control magically pluck self-discipline out of the air to manage herself? Or soothe her hyperactive body into submission? Or change a deficit of attention to precise focus? Was he mad?

The accommodations I wanted for Lee included: more time on tests, study materials in advance, and dictating homework responses. When Lee took a test, she’d barely make it through a few problems before time was called, her mind wandering out the window to the clouds. Any distraction in the classroom took her attention away from her paper, as did that feeling of failure when she knew how far behind she’d lapsed.

Since ADHD affected Lee’s ability to process information in a timely way, study materials, like notes, outlines, or charts, would give her more understanding before a lesson was taught. Then, she would be better prepared for a quiz or test. And, dictating homework responses to me was a crucial way to survive dysgraphia, her writing disability which made her fingers cramp. Dictating would help ease the strain of gripping a pencil and bring hours of work down to a reasonable time.

This all seemed so logical to me, but I had been educated about ADHD, and given strategies and coping mechanisms to help my child. Her third grade teacher had none of these, just an old-fashioned belief that ADHD, somehow, didn’t exist. And, he seemed to think, if children who had problems keeping up with schoolwork were more self-disciplined, they could perform well on tests, study, and do homework with ease.

Fortunately for Lee, no one in the room that day was on this teacher’s side. His comment about self-discipline fell on deaf ears. But he did give me a gift. I knew in that moment, the fallacy of his thinking could have led to my child’s loss of precious accommodations. From now on, I would be my daughter’s advocate and stand up for her rights in school.

At the end of the IEP meeting, all of the accommodations I requested were granted. It was as if the words, “self-discipline” had disappeared with the teacher when he returned to his classroom. But I knew I would come across other people, in the years to come, who might have similar misguided beliefs. It was my role now to educate and give my child a chance to succeed.

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