Sure, you can beg to differ with me on that. ADHD, ODD, BPD, LD, etc…etc…etc. They are DIFFERENCES for our children and our students. My friend and teaching partner pointed this out years ago as we sat in IAT/IEP/SST meetings. I liked the sound of that — a difference. A child has a learning difference, an attention difference. There comes a negative connotation with the term DISORDER. Now, I know I’m not going to change that terminology, but I certainly can change the perception with those I speak with.
About three months ago I sat on the other side of the teacher conference table. As a parent. This was not my first meeting in which the differences my son had were pointed out. This was not the first time I felt as though I was doing something wrong in parenting that I had nurtured this difference in some way. My son is Twice-Exceptional. He is profoundly gifted, ADHD, and ODD. Or is he? The behaviors co-exist and it is difficult to determine which one…but we made the decision out of the safety concerns for our son and other children, that we had to do SOMETHING to help him slow his brakes. He is impulsive. He cannot stop. His doctor referred to it once as our son having a Ferrari engine with dune buggy brakes.
So, this morning I did not give him his meds. He has one pill left and I’m saving it for tomorrow. Monday when he goes to school and has to be able to tamper down the “difference”. Then we will call in for the refill to get him through another month.
But, this morning I brought my son and daughter with me to the grocery store. A pretty good adventure overall. Until checkout. He wandered around, pushed the cart around. Put items on the belt. Took items off the belt. Asked questions about what we were buying and why. Asked why the bag of grapes the frazzled cashier had just dropped had to go into the trash and why we had to wait for another bag to arrive as a replacement. He always has a lot of questions and quite honestly doesn’t miss much.
As the cashier who watched my son in full ADHD press this morning said to me with greatest concern in her eyes, “I give you credit.” It was all I could do to not let the tears come streaming down my face as I thought once again that somehow my son had this disorder everyone keeps labeling him with. Until the gentle words of my teaching partner, Jen came through my mind and soothed my soul, “I think of it as a DIFFERENCE.” She is my idol as a parent of a child with special needs. I’ve watched her journey with her own son who has a difference and I am in awe. I think of it as a difference when my friends, Daria and Traci speak about the adventures of their students and they have all of the love for children that many would wonder, “How do you do the job?” It is a difference.
And I suppose in a way it is a difference in perception as well. As I walked out wondering what the future of my child would be, the words of the cashier rang through my head, “I give you credit.” And I walked a little prouder, taller, stronger to my car. Her perception was different, and so my perception of her words changed as well.
I would say, “Thank you for understanding that it isn’t easy. I give myself credit too. It isn’t easy parenting a child with multiple diagnoses. It isn’t easy not being invited over for playdates. It isn’t easy explaining to someone his behavior. It isn’t easy being judged as a bad parent. It isn’t easy reminding family that he can’t control it. It isn’t easy deciding to put your child on medication. It isn’t easy, so guess what? I give myself credit too. I give myself credit for taking comments made by family, friends, and strangers and knowing that we are doing our best. That my son is fine just the way he is and if someone wants to give me credit then I will gladly take it.”