Back to School: Preparing to Be An Advocate. Again.

For all the mystery that can surround complex ADHD there are some things you can know for sure. One of those is: YOU WILL HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CHILD. Period. This will be true in most every facet of their life and most certainly, and probably painstakingly, IN SCHOOL.

The word advocate means “to add a voice.” Something about this definition swells our hearts – even breaks them open a little. It makes Norrine and I wanna get a megaphone to go with our pom poms.

Nor’s story:

Advocacy is what parents of kids with special needs do instead of relaxing, having coffee, working out, spending time with friends, and just about every other optional activity in life. You can (sometimes) still work, use the bathroom, and shower just enough to not stink. In brief, it’s endless and exhausting.

Complicating matters is that when you have a child who is deeply complex, they often present as not so complex upon first meeting.  Some of their disabilities are invisible and it makes creating understanding, empathy, and an effective plan kind of difficult because the other person doesn’t yet see what you are talking about.  It’s hard to be on the same page if you haven’t read the book.  And if you think you have, but you really only read the Cliff Notes and you’re trying to tell me about the book, well…that doesn’t work.

As exhausting and alienating as advocacy can be, it’s perhaps my most important job as the parent of a complex ADHDer.  As Ali often says, if my child isn’t giving up, I’m not either.  

Ali’s story:

I sat with a young mom last week to celebrate her milestone birthday. The conversation quickly turned to her daughter who’s had quite a rough go of Pre-K and is about to enter kindergarten. She’s working toward a diagnosis but things aren’t clear yet. She talked about her hopes of them giving a good match for a teacher. I looked at her with envy. What I wouldn’t give to get a do over with my ADHD+er. I looked at her with sadness. She has no idea what she’s in for.

I can’t count the school meetings I’ve had. Some were promising. Some gutted me to my core. All were nerve wracking and draining. It squeezes your heart like a sponge to put it all out there, unpack your precious ADHD+er, seemingly selling their precious good points to offset the other. It’s not lost on me why some people hire professional advocates. It’s a short walk from calm and coherent to frustrated and desperate.

Our kids need our voice. They need us to turn the volume up. To keep showing up on their behalf. If it’s a hard job for us in a controlled, professional environment, imagine what they face in the flow of every school day. We know you’re tired exhausted. We know you’re hoping for desperate for a good school year. We’re with you. We’re handing you our megaphone.

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