Before reading this post please watch the video in my previous post.
This is my youngest son. I think he’s pretty cool. He’s a lot of fun, very energetic, and incredibly smart. He’s a very talented athlete – he swims, plays baseball, does parkour, runs, and excels at all of them.
He has ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and a Mood Disorder “otherwise unspecified,” according to the official diagnosis he received at age 6.
We removed him from his first preschool before he was asked to leave.
We found another preschool with an incredible teacher who didn’t see him as a problem. She recognized his talents and natural ability to mentor and had him help the younger children in the mixed-age class. He thrived.
In Kindergarten, we were called to meet with the teacher on the second day of school. Joshua was put on a behavioral plan, which I referred to as the “Scarlet Letter” because he wore a piece of paper pinned to his shirt that would be marked if he didn’t follow the rules.
In 1st Grade we were called to meet with the teacher and counselor on an almost-weekly basis. The teacher had zero understanding of ADHD. When Joshua hid behind the coats after getting in trouble , she would see him smirking (he does this when he’s embarrassed) and decided that he was just doing it for fun. It took 3 visits to the Principal before I finally got her to understand that he needed the evening to calm down before he was ready to discuss “his behavior” with her. Because this wasn’t the way she did things. Well guess what, this wasn’t the way I did things before Joshua, either.
It wasn’t until 2nd Grade that he got a teacher who finally understood. Who realized that he needed time to calm down and that if she just ignored him when he hid in the coats or tore up his paper or fidgeted incessantly, he would eventually go back to work. Who praised his efforts and accomplishments rather than bringing attention to his every mistake.
He’s now in 3rd Grade and is doing much better, thanks to a team of a psychiatrist, play therapist, counselor, caseworker, and a great teacher. Thankfully our health insurance covers some of the costs associated with mental health, but we still pay a large amount out of pocket. And I worry about all the parents out there who can’t afford these costs. Who can’t pay for play therapy (not covered), drugs (very expensive if you don’t have insurance), psychiatrists (incredibly expensive).
Do I think Joshua’s a dangerous threat? No. Have his words and actions in the past scared me and made me think he might be? Yes. Children with mental illnesses are much more likely to commit crimes and end up in jail than the general population. So we keep a close eye and stay vigilant, especially as he gets older.
I hope more attention will be given to the mental health issue in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. But if it isn’t, and if we focus all our efforts on hating the killer and debating gun control, we’ll have missed an opportunity to bring to the forefront an issue that desperately needs discussion, and an opportunity to create some good from such devestation.
Here’s a great article that inspired mine.