Sarah Wall’s Story
Not a typical child
Almost 14 years ago, my daughter was born. I knew right from the start that there was something a little different about her. While typical newborns sleep anywhere from 14-18 hours a day, my little peanut slept 11 hours. Total. In 90 minute increments.
Into her toddler years, she was a bundle of energy. She didn’t, she ran. She didn’t sit, she bounced. And she talked, constantly. She vibrated. And she still never slept. It was exhausting, exhilarating and fascinating to watch this small human never stop moving.
As she grew older, it was no longer fascinating, it was worrying. It wasn’t that she didn’t try to listen. It was that she couldn’t stop herself from doing things. There was no filter between thought and deed. I used a stroller long past the age where she could walk on her own, simply to keep her safe. I decided to homeschool. I feared her being labeled. She would struggle to fit into a public school classroom.
The diagnosis that changed everything
I had long suspected that she would qualify for a label, but like so many parents, I didn’t really want to have her evaluated. I didn’t want invasive testing or medication that I’d heard horror stories about. But one day, everything changed.
She was 6 years old, and she sat at our kitchen table, coloring a picture, chatting happily with me while I folded laundry. Her feet swung rapidly, as she concentrated on doing her best on this picture. And she really was doing well. I finished folding and told her I’d be right back after I put a few things away. I was only gone for a minute or two. When I came back, my happy little girl had her head down on her picture, sobbing her heart out.
It turned out that in a fit of distraction and impulsiveness, she had scribbled over her coloring. She was horrified and heartbroken that she had “ruined” her own hard work. She began to call herself names, like “stupid” and “can’t do anything right” — things I would never have said. As I tried to comfort her, I realized it was time to get help. This .. thing… whatever it was, was getting in the way of my baby’s well-being.
I got a referral from our family doctor to a pediatrician. In the weeks before the appointment, I filled out forms and questionnaires. I had other forms and questionnaires filled out by community support. It was a little more challenging because we homeschooled. But finally, we were in the doctor’s office.
While I chatted with the doctor about my concern, he kept one eye on my daughter, as she played happily with the toys in his office. She flitted from one activity to the next, never spending more than a few minutes with any one thing. After about 20 minutes, he paused and looked at me.
“Your daughter has ADHD. She is a classic textbook profile.”
Treatment and coping
He went on to explain exactly what ADHD was, what her particular type of ADHD was, and how exactly the treatments available worked. I made the decision to use both medication and behavioral strategies to help my daughter cope with her diagnosis.
The medication was a game-changer. She blossomed! Her moods improved. Her learning took off. I could hardly believe this was the same child. She was bright, eager to help, and finally, her personality shined. The medication, rather than turning her into a zombie-like I had feared, allowed my child to be herself, for the first time.
Homeschooling my ADHD child
Homeschooling became a joy. The medication we used gave her the chance to learn coping strategies for herself. And we could customize her education to fit her needs. She had learned to read at an early age, so I was able to help her advance rapidly through language arts. But it was amazing to be able to leave her with scissors, and know that she wouldn’t cut her hair, clothes, or skin anymore.
We could take it slower, we could do it in little spurts here and there, and we could continually switch between topics because we homeschooled. Homeschooling allowed us to tailor the methods to her needs — which changed from year to year.
She still fidgeted, bounced, moved around a lot and chattered. The little magic pill she took every morning simply made it easier for her to learn to cope. Homeschooling allowed us to be able to teach her how to control herself, without damaging her self-esteem.
Growing up ADHD and Homeschooled
The years have flown by, and we’ve had many changes to our family. But being homeschooled meant that she and I had a stable connection. We always met over the school work, and we’ve had many conversations about life, education, and character over math questions and science experiments.
As we entered puberty, the hormonal changes and ADHD added an extra dimension. Homeschooling gave us the flexibility to adjust. When she needed naps, when she needed space, when she needed quiet, or noise, or activity, or day-dreaming time, I could give her that. Because we homeschooled, we had complete control over our day, and she could have what she needed to cope.
Homeschooling saved us
ADHD, especially when it’s severe, like in my daughter’s case, can be as devastating as learning your child has a terminal disease. But for us, homeschooling has allowed us to be incredibly flexible and tailor the method of education to fit her needs. Homeschooling gave me the ability to see when we truly needed outside help. We were able to have the stability and connection we needed to cope with some of life’s hardest challenges. And with homeschooling, I am able to give my daughter the time, space, and skills she needs to cope for the rest of her life. Homeschooling means that ADHD isn’t going to stop my daughter, but that she’ll be able to use the gifts of ADHD to succeed instead.
More About Sarah Wall
Sarah is an amazing single parent of 6, including the new addition, born summer 2017. She and her princesses live in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where they enjoy homeschooling, playing and growing together as a family. She runs XeraSupport.com, a virtual business support agency, from home. Sarah blogs at www.RaisingRoyalty.ca and you can find her on Facebook or Twitter @RaisingRoyals, or on Instagram or Pinterest @xerarose.