“He doesn’t qualify for an IEP anymore.” I couldn’t believe I was hearing those words.
After eight years of being on a 504 Plan and an Individualized Education Program (IEP), my 7th grader who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) no longer needed these services. These words were sounds of joy; like the feeling I have on Christmas every year. Like how Buddy the Elf felt when he sees Santa in the department store. Walking out of his middle school, I felt proud. I felt like I had won the nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a daytime drama TV show. My son was the actor in our soap opera we called life, and my role was to support him. I worked hard to receive my nomination, but my kiddo worked even harder. While I am not so naïve to think the words “he does not qualify” will remain through his senior year, for now we celebrate.
ADHD: Before the Medication
On April 30th, 2006, I was overcome with love as I delivered a healthy baby boy. Given a strong name of Oakley, we had big dreams for our chubby son with Viking blood. Of course, we all dream of wonderful things for our children, but my dreams as a new mom were not realistic.
For the first year I thought for sure we wore the carpet down to the pad in the hallway from walking and rocking with him. He became a permanent fixture on my chest and in my arms. And I loved that fixture so very much, but it became tiring nonetheless. There was no way we risked laying him down when he was finally sleeping. The thought of another five miles up and down the hallway was terrifying. This meant going to the bathroom while holding my new human fixture. While challenging, I learned to master this skill. Selfie high five!
Fast forward to more than 4 years later, our son was non-stop, hyperactive, impulsive, had poor attention, acted very unsafe, and was emotional. He was diagnosed with ADHD. I was providing Occupational Therapy services at the time and did not need to seek a second opinion. Since he was one year old, I knew that he had ADHD. While my heart sank for a minute, I knew it was go time; time to start in that Best Supporting Actress role.
Initially, we chose to not medicate him. But after he rode his bike in the street (for the 100th time) and was almost hit by a car, we decided that his risks could be deadly. We then decided to go the medication route. The mom guilt of giving him medication was hard, every single day.
ADHD: Beyond the Medication
I knew that medication alone was not going to make my son “act normal”. I knew that the medication in his body would last for 8-12 hours, and then our Tasmanian Devil would return just in time for bedtime. I could see the transition happen every day: his body would go from relaxed (think of the feeling you have after a massage) to a bucking bronco within minutes.
I also knew that I didn’t want my son to take medication for any longer then he needed. To this day, it continues to be a work in progress with many setbacks of medication and dose changes over the years. I believe that by going beyond just taking medication and finding additional services, you can help your child learn self-awareness of their body and how to adjust to difficult situations throughout their day.
The F-M community has wonderful resources available to help your child, just like they helped mine. These additional services are in no specific order and I recommend researching those of interest to make sure the service fits your child’s needs.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
OT services help provide adaptations or coping strategies within the home and/or school for organizing daily tasks, self-awareness, increasing attention/focus, listening and sequencing skills. It can also provide outlets for hyperactive behavior, whether it be swimming or setting up the old couch cushions for your child to jump on.
Working with a mental health professional can help your child with any fears or anxiety they struggle with (children with ADHD may also be diagnosed with anxiety).
A reflexologist helps to release energy and anxiety from the inside for a holistic approach while providing body awareness.
Chiropractors can help the body heal from the inside by aligning the body and brain for optimal functioning, while also helping a child with awareness of their body.
Speech Pathologists can address executive functioning skills, including organizing and planning out tasks needed to complete daily expectations at school or at home.
Children with ADHD may have difficulty processing information during class, therefore falling behind and/or needing 1:1 learning to meet educational requirements.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)/504 Plan
These are school services that provide modifications and accommodations to your child throughout his or her school day. Contact your child’s teacher or school administration for more information.
With the right services and support, your child can succeed in school and at home. Now, go win that Best Supporting Actress role!