Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just let me put the pieces together

I had an interesting conversation with a staff person at my son's school today. Although she knows him well, today was the first day she really watched him try to do homework.

"Is he on medication for his ADHD?" she asked when I went to pick him up.

We talked about all the medications he's been on in the past 2-1/2 years. She was shocked. "Because usually they help them to settle down and focus," she said.

Don't I know it?!

We proceeded to talk for at least 15 minutes. She specializes on special ed and she said that his level of academic disability really qualifies for a school to pay for a "shadow," someone who would help to keep him on track. That is...he would qualify if we weren't at a charter school.

You know, at one time, I supported charter schools. After all, being a charter helped our school get back up and running after Katrina. But I'm learning that all the things I've heard about charters are true. They are exclusionary. They find ways to keep out the kids who bring the test scores down. They wear you down until you leave and go somewhere else.

So, on the one hand it was refreshing to have someone really understand what it's like to work with Flipper*, but on the other it was that sad, brutal understanding that no one can/will/wants to do anything about it. (Actually this teacher would LOVE to do something about it, but her hands are tied.)

I feel as though helping my child is like working on a puzzle. I've got the picture of what it should look like - a picture of success with encouragement, self-esteem, and building on strengths. The only problem is that I've only been given half the puzzle pieces. I have to search for the other pieces and they are all in different places - online, at clinics, in doctor's offices, in teachers' classrooms, in learning centers. Sometimes, the puzzle pieces don't even seem to fit, or seem broken. Even more often, those puzzle pieces are out of my budget, so even if it looks like the perfect piece, I just can't buy it. I just can't help my son. I can't create that beautiful picture of success.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

*I'm thinking about giving my son an alter ego. What do you all think?


  1. I saw this article and thought of you: ADHD treatments don't reduce symptoms in most children. http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=673384

    What do you make of it and medication in general. I know it's such a struggle to find the right medication that works. I was talking to my hair stylist whose son was ADHD but she didn't medicate until college and moved him slowly up that path by first having him go to the local Junior College. Now he's away at college and doing great. He takes meds when he feels he needs them but not all the time. She said it was a hard decision to make to NOT do the meds when he was younger but they put him in a small private school with a very small class size and it worked for them.

    1. I've seen this. My gut instinct is that their numbers are a little skewed - I do think I know a good number of kids who are helped at least moderately by the meds. And I can't say that Dylan is not helped. The teachers see a big difference without meds; it's just that even on meds, he can barely focus. Without constant monitoring he will not get anything done. I don't know if it's that his ADHD is just so much more severe, or if we just haven't found the right med.

      I do think he would thrive in an entirely different environment. But I don't see one available, or if I do, there's the cost. I have suggested to him on bad nights that we should find another school and he becomes distraught at the idea.

      I have a friend whose son was on Ritalin from elementary through college. After college he stopped taking the meds. She said she didn't regret a single pill.

    2. A response to that article you saw, Mia. I like Dr. Bertin - he seems to know his stuff and really care about kids w/ ADHD.

  2. I have this other bit of research that white noise (very loud though, like vacuum cleaner loud) works the same as meds for ADHD. I suppose it helps to block out distractions?


    It might be worth a try even for one weekend night?

    1. I could try, although Dylan has never seemed too happy with the vacuum (and it's like nails on a chalkboard to me - the reason I don't do the vaccuming, my husband does!).

      I think there is something to it, though. They say some of these kids do well with headphones listening to music as they do homework. It hasn't helped Dylan, but maybe we haven't found the right sound. There's also a kind of audio training that claims to have reversed autism. It sounds fishy, but a friend of mine knows someone who wrote a book about it.

      Again - lots of options but how do you pick the right piece? And afford it?