When Child1 first got diagnosed, our Psychologist recommended specialised schooling and she gave us suggestions of some really nice ones. The schools recommended all followed a mainstream curriculum but they had specific things in place that were helpful to kids with ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia and LD issues and all sorts of conditions. I guess our Psych knew what we were in for. We were OBVIOUSLY still in denial because really, according to us we were going to sort this thing out chop-chop. I still laugh sometimes at how completely naive we were back then…
My DH and I would not hear of it. We felt that our child would be singled out. We felt that it would draw more attention to his “issue”. We felt that he would be self-conscious about something that he had no control over.
Deep down, I think that we felt ashamed. Embarrassed even. We couldn’t imagine having to tell people that our kid goes to “that” school. I remember thinking that we were giving up on our child before he even started school. We were already assuming that he wouldn’t cope in a regular mainstream school. And so we didn’t follow that particular recommendation.
We ended up enrolling our boy at a lovely little Catholic school where he thrived. He had FANTASTIC teachers who understood and LOVED him – I made sure to go and meet up with them early in the year and I kept in regular contact with them. He got a really good foundation at that school and we just loved it for him.
At some point (I think he was in Grade 2) I realised that as DIVINE as the school was, it wasn’t right for him specifically, based on WHO he was. I now knew a lot more about ADD/ADHD and what we were dealing with as well as what we were potentially in for. And I started to panic about Grade 4 which is a HUGE jump from Grade 3. So my DH and I (and his teachers) went back to the drawing board and decided to explore different options for him.
We went to an open day of one of the schools that were recommended by our Psychologist – we were essentially following a recommendation a good 4 years after it was made. I walked in there and I just knew that the school was PERFECT for him. I could feel the nurturing environment and when I saw the other kids I just knew that he would love it.
But I cried. A LOT. Because it felt like I was giving up.
It felt like the professionals were “right” when I desperately wanted this to be a mistake. Looking back, I think that we were DEFINITELY in denial, even though we were actively treating our sons issues and acknowledging what was there – I suppose we were just going through the motions.
My DH was brilliant through it all. So very practical – I think he treated the whole thing like a “project” and took his emotions out of it. He told me to pretend that this wasn’t my child and make decisions in that context. I couldn’t do that. I just cried ALL. THE. TIME. I guess we all have different ways of dealing with things?
Anyway, after that open day we looked at two other private school options that were similar to the government one that we looked at and even though both those schools were very good, we didn’t see our son there – we didn’t feel that warmth and that nurture when we walked through the front door.
So we went ahead, enrolled him and he got a place there about a year later. I CRIED huge tears on his last day at the old school. He was sad too.
As with any school there are things that irritate me – no school will ever be perfect. But ultimately, my son is THRIVING. He gets all the therapies that he needs at his school at no extra cost to me. He is in a class of 12 learners. He has teachers who understand that he learns differently and teach him in a way that suits him – he no longer feels weird, because there are others like him – some even worse.
In essence, this is what I’m trying to say:
- Don’t discount recommendations from professionals. Even if you are not comfortable or ready to take the next step, at least check it out so you can get an idea of what’s out there – I am happy with how things worked out for us but things could have gone VERY differently and I have occasionally wondered how different our lives would have been if I’d enrolled my son at that particular school since Grade R.
- Work through your emotions – there will be MANY of them. You may feel shame and anger and embarrassment and despair but one day you will wake up and realise that things are not so bad and that ultimately there is hope. These emotions will come and go and come and go. This is normal.
- Pray. A lot. Really, I cannot tell you how much I prayed in those early years – I think it saved my sanity.
- Do NOT underestimate what the “RIGHT” environment and teacher can do for your child. I have to say that we have VERY blessed with my sons teachers over the years. It’s like they were chosen JUST FOR HIM. I wish I had money to send them on a holiday every year. After the BRILLIANT work that they do for him and with him I’d say they deserve at the very least, a trip to Mauritius or something.
- Hang in there. The uncertainty does pass. Seriously.
Will do a post tomorrow on alternative ways of treating ADD/ADHD.