ultimately…it’s up to you


Once again, we have experienced the ADHD rollercoaster at The Johnston’s. My body and mind consumed with ways to figure out what’s going on with our boy. Is it more than ADHD? Just when I think it is, I am reassured by research and my cyberfriends, on {a mom’s view of ADHD{ that it simply is ADHD.

Simply? I wish it were that simple. There is so much information that we, as parents, need in order to make the future for our children happy and successful. So much of our advocacy relies on the outcome of this. I will do anything for our boy. i won’t stop, until I feel what he has in place is more than “good enough.” So I want to thank you all now for being there for me when I am weak. I am hopeful that I can return the support by answering some questions regarding your and a teacher’s role in the special education process.

As a kindergarten teacher, I encounter children and their “ADHD-like” behaviors on a daily basis. I battle with what I know as a mom of a son who has severe ADHD (diagnosed in kindergarten) and how to direct a parent in the right direction without spelling out that 4-letter acronym, IADHD. As teachers, we are not allowed to say this to a parent. I am not a diagnostician. While I am not a Doctor, I’m an advocate for children who struggle in the classroom setting. I know it when I see it. In fact, I was the one who pursued it when my son was in kindergarten, the teachers did not think for one minute he had it. I am passionate about helping children and providing an environment where they can be successful. However, it can be very difficult when a parent doesn’t “see” what I see yet I am amazed when parents disclose to me, “Oh, my husband has it.” Or, “Oh, his cousin has it, or his Aunt.” What baffles me is when parents don’t pursue further evaluation from their pediatrician. For teachers, it stops there. My hands are tied, I can say no more except make accommodations and modifications in the classroom.

I knew I couldn’t rely on a diagnosis from the school and you shouldn’t either. It is very rare if they do when entering kindergarten, they actually don’t make any references, to ADHD until a child is six years old. So, if your child is four or five entering kindergarten and you suspect that your child has ADHD, it is up to you, not the school, to start the process of getting a diagnosis. The quicker they get a diagnosis, the better chance you have at getting services from the school.

Without a diagnosis, the process begins like this:

I teach in New York. The system in place at my school I is as follows. I confer with the principal to begin the process of an IST meeting (Instructional Support Team). An IST is the first step. The IST team can consist of the regular education teacher, administrators, the reading specialist, speech therapist, the school counselor, and the school psychologist. At the meeting, I discuss and show examples through anecdotal records, test score, etc. that the child is having difficult time remaining on task, working cooperatively in small groups, demonstrating self-control, and other important life long habits for learning. The team discusses ways to modify the program to meet the individual child’s needs in an effort for the child to be successful in the classroom. Recommendations are made. A letter regarding the meeting goes home to the parent (with the recommendations made for school and home). The team reconvenes in a few months to determine whether the modifications are working and to report any new information that can give insight to the child’s learning style. If there is success, then we continue with making accommodations and/or we refer the child to a CSE team.

The CSE (Committee of Special Education) meeting includes the parent, a parent advocate, the Special Education Director, the classroom teacher, a special education teacher, the school psychologist, and based on other areas of concern, an occupational therapist, speech pathologist, physical therapist, and the guidance counselor. At this meeting, it is determined what further evaluations and testing needs to be done based on the areas of concern from both teacher and parent. A parents’ insight to their child is invaluable at these meetings. This is when you need to inform them of all the symptoms your child is exhibiting. While we all (the CSE Team) have the best interest of the child at heart, the parent is the one that needs to advocate for their child. I say this as a parent and a teacher, because I know how different a child can look at home and at school. At my son’s CSE meeting, the committee was speechless as they read the psychiatric evaluation at one of his CSE meetings because they did not see the behaviors at school that are seen at home. Ultimately, it is up to you to paint the picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. I had to be an informed parent about ADHD if I wanted my child to get the services he rightfully deserved from the school system. I knew more about ADHD than they did because I actually live it. So to there defense, unless you live with it, you can’t possibly understand the form it takes on each individual child. I had to prove that in fact ADHD did impact the school setting for him, and that they needed to see how it manifested itself. It was a grueling process, but in the end, he now has an IEP that is tailored to meet his needs.

The process of evaluations can take months, even a year before services can be put into place to meet the needs of your child. It is frustrating, overwhelming and disheartening that this is the way the systems works, but at this point, it is what it is. I wish it were different. I wish I could change it, but I can’t. You need to be your child’s advocate. Ultimately it is up to you to get a diagnosis and be on top of the special education process if you want the process to move more quickly. Furthermore, you need to continue to read and research everything you can about ADHD so you can be the informed parent your child needs for their success in school and in life. You need to educate others about this invisible disease. Be proactive and the rewards, while slow, can be so rewarding.

My son is my pride an joy. Someday, he will know that I never gave up on him. That I never backed down for his rights and that he is understood not only by me, but those who educate him.

Melissa Johnston

Melissa Johnston is a wife, mother of two and an elementary school teacher in NY. Her elementary-aged son is diagnosed with ADHD.

Melissa is passionate about helping parents and educators understand the meaning of ADHD. As a teacher, she believes it is vital that children who are diagnosed with ADHD are taught to their learning style. In order to do so, she believes children’s needs need to be met in the classroom setting, along with other accommodations that provide support with this neurological disorder (ie. Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech and Language, Counseling, and Behavior Therapy).

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About the author

Melissa Johnston is a wife, mother of two and an elementary school teacher in NY. Her elementary-aged son is diagnosed with ADHD. Melissa is passionate about helping parents and educators understand the meaning of ADHD. As a teacher, she believes it is vital that children who are diagnosed with ADHD are taught to their learning style. In order to do so, she believes children's needs need to be met in the classroom setting, along with other accommodations that provide support with this neurological disorder (ie. Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech and Language, Counseling, and Behavior Therapy).

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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