So, I feel like we know each other well now. Or at least you know me. I know that I’m taking over the conversation. Sorry about that. It’s so like me. Here, cut this up, black forest cake.
I’ve mentioned my son’s neurodiversity a few times now and I want to share a little more about how that journey unravelled. And yes, unravelled is a good word. I unravelled with it.
First let’s set the scene. Briefly. Before I was a parent I had heard of ADHD, but to me the word was interchangeable with hyperactivity. And that’s it. I didn’t give this ‘thing’ too much thought, because you know, it didn’t really touch my life at this stage. I couldn’t even say that I was ambivalent about whether it was really a thing, because it was never on my radar.
Then I became a mother to a spirited baby. Well, did my life turn upside down or what.
I had no idea what I was doing, in general. Obviously like many other new parents, I had lost the instructions on the way home from the hospital.
I’ve already talked a bit about his first year of NO SLEEP, so we won’t rehash that. (Perfect parent that I am, my son will probably tell you his hate of sleep as an infant is my most favourite tea party topic).
Fast forward to when JJ was maybe about 15 to 18 months old, we noticed that he was a little different from other children his age, at least the ones that we knew. When I met up with other mums at a park for some simple fun, while they were all sitting around chatting, I was running after my cheetah. He wasn’t a big fan of playing on playground equipment. Where the other children were. He was a big fan of running. Out of the playground.
So, I was the mum who was always rushing off mid- sentence, crazy haired and dive bombing to save my precious bundle from running in front of oncoming traffic. This continued until JJ was around 5.
He was known for his high levels of activity in day care, but no one really talked to me about anything during this time. In hindsight I wish that I had asked.
Along comes his Prep year. Instinctually I felt concerned about how he was going to manage with his busy little body at school, but everyone reassured me – all kids struggle at the beginning, but after a while they will all settle down.
You ALL promised me.
It didn’t take long for his Prep teacher (let’s just call her Miss Trunch) to ambush me daily when I came to collect JJ from school. I’d receive a public complaint from her about my son’s disruptive behaviour in class.
“He keeps fidgeting” she said.
“He keeps chewing things, fingers, objects – you have to stop it, it’s unhygienic!”
“He can’t sit still on the floor – does he have worms”
“He’s damaged my mat whilst sitting on the floor. See – he’s pulled all that string out”
“He’s distracting all the other children – they keep turning around because he makes them laugh”
You get the picture. I started to get butterflies in my stomach every time I came to pick him up from school. What really became devastating was that JJ would be sitting in his blue ‘time out’ chair every afternoon when I came to pick him up. His classmates wouldn’t waste a minute to rush over to report this to me, “JJ was on his blue chair again today!”
His blue chair. How absolutely awful.
I knew I had to act because he was only in Prep and already, I could see a trajectory to a negative self-image, a reputation with teachers, other students and their parents, and social isolation.
But ………. NOT ON MY WATCH.
I called a meeting with Miss Trunch. And I demanded that she tell me what’s going on.
Ok, I didn’t actually demand. In reality I felt very vulnerable and with a wavering voice, asked her about the disruptions in class.
Now I just want to stop for a minute. Let me clarify, Miss Trunch wasn’t a horrible mean teacher. I know I’m flavouring her as a she-devil, but she wasn’t. JJ thought she was the best teacher in the world. It was obvious that she cared for the children she taught.
But she obviously struggled with JJ, and it came out in the way she spoke to me about him and how she managed his behaviours in class.
During our meeting she said: “I’ve never had so much trouble with a student before. I’ve even asked the Teacher’s Aide who’s even more experienced than me (she must have been 300 years old). She just said there is nothing you are doing wrong. It’s just how JJ is.”
Well. Ms Trunch – that’s your clue.
She described his behaviours in class, which mirrored the behaviours he had all his life, like his high energy levels, trouble focussing. Oh….so like this isn’t normal???? My Brain took over the meeting, as I had obviously been frozen by my motherly emotional distress.
“Have you had experience with other children with this level of energy? “My Brain asked.
Her response was some facial expression that I couldn’t interpret. But let’s just say it wasn’t a big warm smile.
My Brain then asked the million-dollar question (I had no idea my Brain had actually thought about this until it blurted it out) – “do you think JJ has ADHD?”.
To be honest, after my Brain had this epiphany, I can’t remember any more of the interview, except she finished the interview quickly after wishing me luck.
I wish I could say that the rest of the Prep Year passed differently following this meeting, but alas, he was in the blue chair almost every day for the rest of the year. That stupid blue chair.
Within weeks of this meeting we made an appointment with a psychologist to get an answer to that question: is this ADHD? Or is there something else that could be going on?
Next week I’ll continue this little or huge journey of ours, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear about other journeys in the neurodiverse world!
And of course, feel free to take some of my virtual black forest cake with you!
See you again soon!