Over the last few months, I had talked continually to friends and family about how fantastic Sarah was doing in school. She was improving with her reading and writing, making friends and after being selected to play violin in the school orchestra; life felt great!
I have also learned, however, that normality in our family doesn't happen for very long and that soon, issues could arise! A year ago we were called into the school most days, so with everything being so quiet on the Western front, I knew that things couldn't stay peaceful forever.
Then, just like the direction of the wind, things changed and I was called into the school to meet with one of Sarah's teachers.
She told me how Sarah wasn't concentrating in class, was disrupting others, acting like the 'class clown' and had even thrown in a cartwheel during one lesson.
Sarah and I have talked about this for a while now, and I am encouraging her not to keep throwing in a cartwheel in the middle of the corridor, but this is proving harder than I first thought!
I asked for a meeting with two of her teachers, and the Deputy Principal and we met yesterday for a chat and an update. They have asked for Sarah's report from the psychologist. I was reluctant to give this, as the last time she saw the psychologist, it was over a year ago, and she was a very different child.
They are going to put some goals into place for her, which I appreciate they can't do without that report and one thing I want to try and avoid (like the plague) is taking Sarah for another assessment with another specialist, so the old 'very different Sarah' report will have to do! There are lots of amazing specialists out there doing amazing things for these children, but I am MOAM (Mum on a mission), and I believe that I am the best person to know what Sarah needs (for now anyway). Every family is different, every child unique, but for us right now, we feel that 'we got this'.
We talked about sensory things that may help (weighted teddies, Velcro strips under the table, etc.), but the teacher, although very supportive, felt that some of these might distract Sarah and not help calm her down. I thought about all the things that help her at home, and we discussed if they could work in school?
Sarah's favourite thing is watching H20 (Mermaids) on Netflix. I can get Sarah to do her homework, practice her recorder and violin, then tidy her room and the playroom, all for the golden ticket of 'watching TV after dinner'. She once put together Alex's train set so beautifully, and after I made a big fuss of her and thanked her for helping Mummy and being so great, she said: "Mummy I am only doing this as I love TV so much"!
She also told me that tidying helped her to feel calm, she liked order, and it relaxed her. I asked the teacher that if she saw Sarah losing concentration and was getting up down and from her seat, please could she give her some tasks; let her tidy some books, run an errand to reception, hand out some sheets to the class.
She thought this was an excellent idea and agreed that she would try it. They also agreed to let Sarah doodle in class. The teachers were fantastic, and I credit them so much for their support and understanding. We also discussed exercise and felt it would be great if Sarah could do this before school. We walk to school (well she cartwheels all the way), and I am finding that this is helping, but we she probably needs to do more (this I am working on).
I also came across the most fantastic website called 'ADHD kids rock". A young teenage boy by the name of Jeff Rasmussen blogs and talks about living with ADHD and how best to parent and teach these kids. He has developed some impressive 'teacher flash cards' which I bought and can't wait to receive.
You can check them out and Jeff's amazing work here.
It was also agreed to give Sarah weekly goals, only two, with lots of praise and rewards when she meets the goals at the end of each week. I will be informed of her progress every Friday, and we have told Sarah that she can get an extra $5 that week if she meets her goals. The whole approach is positive, full of praise and rewards but giving her clear boundaries. I feel this is so important as these kids who are behind in various subjects, are often very intelligent. If they are given an inch, they will well and truly take a mile, so clear boundaries are so important!
One of the things that Sarah's teacher said blew me away and I will love her forever for saying it.
"We are trying to fit Sarah in a box, a box that she can never fit in. We have to work with her as best we can to help her reach her potential".
What a beautiful lady and thank you so much! This is exactly the type of support and understanding we need for our different, unique kids. They need boundaries, love, support and understanding. These conversations will be happening a lot I am sure, right throughout Sarah's school life. I have been having conversations with her teachers since the tender age of three. There isn't a teacher yet who hasn't called me in to discuss Sarah's behaviour.
I used to feel sad, disillusioned and overwhelmed, but now I feel positive, strong and empowered. I hope that I can help and support other MOAM's too and make the world a happier, better place for our challenging, unique, kids!
* Names have been changed to protect identities