Well time did not come to a screeching halt. We were on the eve of Rachel’s most dreaded 18th birthday and last night she said family prayer, in it she slipped in a little personal request, “God if thou will please stop time for me.”
Thinking about our oldest becoming a legal adult started me thinking about her life. As the oldest there is no doubt she is the child we learned on, our guinea pig in parenting. That is especially true when it comes to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as she was the first diagnosed.
There is no good way to put into words Rachel’s brilliance or her struggles educationally. She was about two years old when she drew the boy next door playing basketball. There was a face, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hair, body, with circles for all the major joints, feet, hands, and a basketball. Developmentally that is astounding.
But as she started school there was no end to her struggles. She wrote her letters perfectly, but they were just art to her. Perfectly formed but they had no meaning and she could not recall what they stood for or what sound was associated with then to save her life.
As we worked and worked with her and she started progressing she was plagued by a younger sister who would blurt out the word she was agonizingly trying to sound out. It was a never ending battle that raged in our house daily after school for hours on end. Despite the years spent struggling, reading and math were like foreign languages to her and no matter how hard we tried or how many ways we tried she could not break the code.
I remember Mark and I many times trying to convince Rachel that she was smart, but one time in particular really sticks out and stings. As Mark and I told her how smart she was and she argued back. She stopped the conversation, pulled out a spelling pretest with a big red F on it and said,
“See I am not smart... I am a failure.”
Our highly intelligent, amazingly artistic 8 year old could not be swayed. To her core she felt she was a failure. It didn’t matter at that point what we said she wasn’t buying. She had all the proof she needed.
One of my biggest regrets has to be not seeking help for Rachel earlier.
It was sixth grade before we would get her help. Before she would get the help she needed. The help she deserved. I took her to a trusted friend and pediatrician and she was on medication the next day. People have all kinds of things to say about medication, good and bad. There are experts and studies to support whatever position that you want to hold onto.
There was, however, no greater proof for me than her excitement the next day as she greeted me at the school with the news that she had gotten a 90% on a math benchmark test. She had never ever passed a math benchmark test before. Never.
I have said before that medication takes you most of the way but is not a cure all. Rachel didn’t ace every test or assignment placed in her path since she started medication but she was drowning before and it gave her the power to swim.
Our last self esteem/intelligence talk was only a few months ago. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter how many successes she has had since she started medication, and she has had many, she still battles that rough start, she can’t get that big fat red F out of her mind.
I can’t help but contrast that with our youngest son Jaren who started medication in kindergarten. Of course by then we knew what to look for. When he started kindergarten I told his teacher that we suspected ADHD, filled her ear with the family history. I told her we were watching to see when, not if, to put him on medication. She clearly thought I was crazy and assured me that I was over reactive.
It wasn’t three months into school when she grabbed me after class and indicated that Jaren was, “not available to learn.” Jaren started meds with in a month or two. Jaren has never doubted his intelligence or his ability to learn. Largely because he has had the benefit of everything we learned from parenting Rachel.
He is not scarred by those years of frustration, the hours of work to get one assignment done, the supplemental programs, summer long work to retain, not to mention seeing and feeling the difference between him and his peers that Rachel had before we got her help.
Mark always says, “IF ONLY will kill you.” That you have to live by phrase “NEXT TIME” and that is true. Rachel has made it and we have worked one day, month, year at a time to better meet her needs. Despite her own doubts she is a good solid student and an amazingly creative and talented young woman.
But if I knew then what I know now I would not wait to get help, I would pursue it with a vengeance that would make any mother bear proud. I would go to my pediatrician, if I was not satisfied with the answers I got I would seek a second opinion. I would not wait to do all the research and reading that I did after I was given her diagnosis.
I would not be afraid of any diagnosis because now I know the power of knowing, accepting and doing. Today I would encourage anyone facing the same road as our family to do the same.