The Journey In Our Hearts
When I saw sunflowermommie was looking for writers to feature articles for ADHD Awareness Week, I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort. This is a matter that is near and dear to my heart, and something that is a reality for our family.
My husband and I adopted our daughter (who I will refer to as "Bip") at the age of three. At that time, we were told she had been neglected from birth, could not talk (hadn't been communicated with to learn), lacked motor skills, and that the emotional healing process would be great. Having no idea what we were really getting into, we were ready for the challenge. No one can predict the future, nor tell you the obstacles you will face. It was in God's hands and we felt that Him bringing us together was no accident.
I will admit that the path was rough at first. Being first time parents to a special needs child, was a bit overwhelming. But, the cliche "love conquers all", couldn't have been more true. We were blessed with our wonderful daughter and instantly were in "parental mode", destined to do whatever we needed in the best interest of helping our baby girl. My husband and I both worked full time, and after a short time off, I returned to work. Bip was put in daycare, and this was going to be our life. OR, so we thought. I won't bore you with the numerous incidents that led to our decision. But, I will say that we Bip's needs became more evident as she grew older. Due to her inability to communicate, her aggravation grew. She became aggressive (hitting, biting herself and others). Not sure where to turn, we took heed to the words of wisdom of the professionals, not wanting to overlook the possible help she needed. From pediatricians, psychologists, sensory groups, occupational therapists, etc... we left no stone unturned. Still no significant improvement.
A year later, I quit my job. WOW & WOW. NO ONE saw that coming. This decision was definitely God lead. I wasn't getting rich by any means, but our household income was cut in half. I went from a Kasper suit wearing career gal, to a jeans and t-shirt mommy, and I LOVE IT! Now, don't get me wrong, I did struggle with the initial transition, but once I saw the impact the one-on-one attention had on Bip, I was in awe. Was this really what she needed all along??? Ok, I feel like I'm rambling and not getting to the topic on hand. Fast forward a little to the diagnosis. After being told our daughter was THOUGHT to have a host of mental illnesses, we as parents realized, it was none of those. She continued to show progress daily. Yes, it took us two years to come to this, because we are built with the mindset that the professional knows best. We weeded out the diagnosis that we knew were not a possiblity, and soon with the help of our current pediatrician, we concluded that the only accurate diagnosis seemed to be PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADHD, and issues with anxiety. And, while I hate labels, these are those that best describe our Bip.
After three years of attempting to public school setting, we saw Bip slip further and further behind her classmates. Her inability to stay focused had greatly affected her learning. And, her behavior only hindered it further. The resources were there (sort of), but the overstimulating school setting proved way too much. While the other children were comfortable in the classroom atmosphere and focused on learning, Bip focused on survival and being accepted. I did countless hours of research on what our options were. Our daughter had come so far emotionally, but she was not in the right academic setting for her needs. After contacting numerous private schools and being told they really had no additional accommodations to offer, I tossed out the idea of homeschool. Yes, I shocked myself and I'm pretty sure my husband thought I'd completely lost it. He was NOT on board (at first)! It wasn't until the end of Bip's first grade year, when the teacher told us that "whatever she's learning, she is learning at home", did it sink in. I had been working with Bip each summer trying to play catch up for ground that was lost during the school year. That previous summer, when she returned to school, her testing showed a 5-10% growth in all subjects. School was basically only a social outlet for her, which on many days (3 out of 5 usually), she was sent home early for meltdowns.
ADHD is not just a term you give children that misbehave or have hyperactive days. It's a continual mind processing battle. I am surely no type of medical professional, but I live it each day. I can tell the difference when my daughter is excited and unable to focus because she wants to do what she wants to do, verses when she is struggling to process her environment and shuts down mentally because of it.
We recently started our second year of homeschool, and to say that we have been amazed at Bip's potential is an understatement. Children with ADHD need proper accomodations. While we all may get apprehensive in large groups, when you have ADHD, overstimulation often prevents children from being able to focus even on one thing. They can physically hear what you are saying, but mentally cannot process or comprehend it. Being able to homeschool Bip has offered us the opportunity to tailor her school schedule to that of which she can feel success. We use the workbox system and take breaks when needed. Children with ADHD thrive on structure! We have our days planned out and seldom do we stray. Often times, Bip will ask, "where are we going?" or "what are we doing next?" This drives my husband crazy. He's SO not a planner. But, luckily I am! So, I understand Bip's need for knowing what is happening next, structure, and being in control.
I feel like my article was a bit off topic, and may not have focused solely on ADHD. However, ADHD affects DAILY life. It's not something that surfaces here and there. This is how it has changed our lives. We feel blessed beyond measure, that Bip is our daughter. Adoption is a wonderful thing!! Ok, so that's for another post ;) If you have a child with ADHD, stay positive, be an advocate, and find comfort in knowing that YOU know your child best! Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.
Note: If you are the homeschooling parent of a special needs child, I would love to have you tell your story here. Please use the contact form to drop me a note.