|Artwork by Alayah Frazier: That Boy
My 15-year old ADHD son Clark has many of the raw materials for great success later in life: brains, looks, a wicked sense of humor, and an amazing creative streak. Plus he is an exceptional written and verbal communicator…and, most importantly, his mother rocks! *jk*
Clark also has challenges to overcome to realize his potential. Some of them relate to ADHD, such as organization, attention to detail, and follow-through. Others relate to being a teenage boy, such as organization, attention to detail, and follow-through. And some, it is hard to say: where does his sneaky nature come from? why does he have trouble with truth? why does he refuse to listen, or answer the question you ask him? Don’t ever ask this kid what 2+2 equals, because you’ll have a long conversation, and 4 will never come up.
Likely, these last few traits have roots in the ADHD, but I don’t know. All I know is that we do the best we can with what we have, but we don’t settle for less than we have to. For instance, I have often considered whether to seek classroom accommodations for Clark. Luckily, we have had 95% success with teachers who willingly accommodated him as they did the unique traits of any of their students, to the best of their abilities. Mind you, I wouldn’t ask for big changes without going through proper channels; I think that puts too much burden on the teacher. I highly encourage all of you to seek accommodations through your school’s formal process if you have the slightest inkling it is in your child’s best interests. We simply felt with Clark that his ADHD symptoms were non-severe enough that his best interest was in learning to succeed within the most “normal” (whatever that is) environment possible.
We also allowed him to fail actual classes in high school. My decision to cut him loose to sink or swim (I managed to pack two cliches into one sentence, which is a huge accomplishment for a writer *grin*) as a sophomore in high school had to do with the following rationale:
- Clark’s consumption of his medication had finally (FINALLY) become routine and not a source of combat or sneakery
- Up through his freshman year but with decreasing involvement each year, we had provided Clark with a great deal of support in terms of parental help and life skills training from his counselor, such as organizational skills. Bless his heart, we made him fill out homework/test/issues sheets every day in every class, and at one point he also had to have his teachers initial it. By the end of freshman year, we’d backed off to just asking.
- The school district has a nifty online system for the parents to access their child’s grades — I had “Clark progress reports” in real time.
- Clark expressed in urgent terms his desire to show he could succeed independently.
And he failed Algebra twice, Health once, and Chemistry once his first semester of his sophomore year.
But we made some changes on the fly (this is a recap of a past blog, ADHD in a Divorced Family
), the most notable of which was that Clark established full time residence at our house rather than alternating time at his Dad’s. They still hang out as frequently as they can, but only after Clark completes his work to my satisfaction and if it does not disrupt his studies. Clark has stability and a routine now.
Changes I have not blogged about before also are part of our “Right Stuff” formula. We did a pantry sweep and eliminated food products with red dyes (per his doctor’s recommendation),
especially Pop Tarts which broke his sister’s hearts. The Pop Tarts belonged to the girls, but Clark had been thiefing them, so out they went. I told them to take it up with their brother and suggest to him that he follow the rules in the future, hoping for a little peer pressure influence on him. It seemed to help.
We increased the caloric intake and percentage of protein in his morning meal (again, per his doc’s suggestion).
He tended to grab an English muffin or bagel with butter and grape jelly, if anything. I started making his Chocolate Muscle Milk shakes with an ice cream scoop of peanut butter and two scoops of Blue Bell Chocolate Ice Cream (to make him drink it, and because he has become soooooo skinny). This worked so well in increasing his focus and alertness, that he added back a bagel with cream cheese, too; his appetite improved because he expended more effort during the day because he had more energy. We also made sure he carb’ed at night (lots of pasta and rice), per the suggestion of his doctor.
With the Concerta taken earlier, we were able to enforce an earlier bedtime. Bedtime was 10:30, but he hadn’t adhered to it. We started sweeping his room and person for electronics and reading materials at 10:00 and put him in lockdown at 10:30. Before, especially when he was alternating houses, he had a bad habit of reading or playing with his iTouch until the wee hours. And because of the earlier bedtime and the stash of purloined electronics on my beside table, Clark is now more able to rise and shine on time in the morning.
Here’s a big and unexpected change that helped: Clark has a girlfriend. A very calm, smart girlfriend. And to see the personality change that comes over him around her is stunning. His doctor calls it “synchronizing.” Clark slows down and calms down. Amazing. We can communicate with him more effectively when he is standing beside her than we ever have before. How wild is that? And wonderful! Because we see that he CAN do it.
So the final piece to finding the Right Stuff was in learning what motivated Clark, something we could not quite figure out for 15 years. And it is this: Clark wants to compete in Debate, and must remain academically eligible and have our permission; and Clark wants to spend time with and impress a very pretty, very sweet girl who is also in Debate. Cue the Hallelujah chorus. With the key to his motivators, we can do anything!
None of our changes may seem earth shattering, but the difference in the boy living upstairs at our house now versus the stressed kid of four months ago is staggering. That boy told me that he failed at everything he did. This boy told me he’s going to win state in cross examination before he graduates.
And I believe him. He’s got the Right Stuff.
Pamela Hutchins aka Clark’s Mom
Related posts: adhd and school, diet, high school, medication, Pamela Hutchins, treatment