“Mama, I’m not broken anymore, I CAN be happy!”
These were the words our four-year-old spoke after years of suffering in his own body. As a parent, I’ve never experienced greater heartache than not being able to help my hurting child.
Our son was expelled from three preschools in 11 months.
No, we are not bad parents.
We were simply fighting a losing battle and everything we tried failed. Our days were filled with screaming and rage, and he never slowed down. Even his own siblings were afraid of him and refused to play.
The steps towards diagnosis seemed endless. Sleep studies, surgery to correct apnea, evaluation after evaluation…but after two long years, we finally had an answer: ADHD.
Our son was diagnosed just shortly after his fourth birthday.
Yes, a child can be accurately diagnosed this young.
Parenting a child with ADHD is a 24/7 balancing act of patience, flexibility, and structure.
You cannot do it alone. Even with a diagnosis, therapy, and medication to help manage his impulses, schools would not accept him due to his track record. He was slipping through the cracks of the early childhood system, even at our local district.
Then, everything changed this summer. I sought out a private school recommended by our pediatrician. He promised me they had a different approach to learning, and it was developed for children like our son. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
We signed him up for a six-week summer camp at Walnut Lake Preschool & Developmental Kindergarten. It’s a non-profit, private preschool founded by doctors and staffed by teachers, therapeutic supports, and volunteer family consultants. We worked as a team to communicate our child’s strengths and weaknesses and we actively shifted our approach as a unit if something was not working.
Fast forward three short weeks and our life was unrecognizable. Our son showed more progress than he’s had in years. He started communicating with us verbally, not physically. He made friends and developed a love for school that has never existed. Our son is HAPPY! I cannot emphasize this enough.
Each day my anxiety lessened on my way to pickup. I no longer braced myself for the dirty looks from the other parents who had certainly heard about my son.
I can finally lay down my unjust badge of dishonor: “bad parent of the explosive child.”
We were all there for a reason, most with very similar backgrounds. It was a level playing field and we were not there to keep score. We found a home where our children are understood, embraced, loved, encouraged and my son was never judged for a disorder he’s learning to control. He could finally socialize with his peers in a safe environment — something we took for granted before he was no longer welcome in a traditional childcare setting.
The effects from his progress ripple through everything we do and everyone he interacts with. We’re able to have a conversation with him without being screamed at. His siblings are excited to include him without constant fear of hair pulling or punches. For the first time in four years, our family can go to the park, the pool, a ballgame, a friend’s birthday party, without having an explosion that forces us to leave five minutes after our arrival.
Three weeks in the right environment is all it took for our son to verbalize that he wasn’t broken anymore. ADHD is a lifelong diagnosis, but together, we are learning to live without its constant control over our son.
—Guest Submission from J. Monroe