When My Son's Teachers Understood His ADHD, He Was Finally Able To Excel

Heather Jones has watched her recently diagnosed, unfocused son go from struggling to successful, thanks to some amazing and inspired educators.

“I look forward to reading one of your published books one day.”

These were the words in the end of the year thank you card from my 4th-grade teacher. I have no recollection of the gift for which she was thanking me, nor what the rest of the note said, but those words have stuck with me for decades and have been a major influence on my decision to pursue writing. At 10 years old, I decided to dedicate my first book to Mrs. Hunter, and I never wavered on that decision.

When I attended my son’s grade 3 parent-teacher conference last month, his teachers remarked on his love of writing, and inquired of him, “Should we be looking for one of your published books one day?” I gasped hearing those words repeated to my son, those words that had shaped my writing career for so many years.

I was not surprised to hear these particular teachers make such an impactful statement. What these two amazing women did not know was how hard my son had struggled before they came into our lives and how far he has come since.

From kindergarten through grade two, I could feel my heart race whenever I picked him up from school and saw his teacher approaching me. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” filled me with dread.

My son is a good kid. His SK teacher once remarked that he has the biggest heart she has ever seen, which is the highest praise a person can receive in my books, but my son struggles with staying focused in class, and judging appropriate behaviour. I knew as soon as I locked eyes with his teacher on the playground there would be an imminent discussion about distracting his friends or playing too roughly, or simply being unable to stay on task. None of these discussions were unfair, or uncharacteristic of my son, but they were so disheartening for him and for me.

During my first interaction with his current teachers, about a month into school, I asked if he had been doing okay with staying on task and getting his work done. They looked at me like I had three heads, and I have never been so thrilled to be deemed crazy. One of his teachers mentioned that she gave him a clipboard on which to do his work and allowed him to move around the room as he worked. He completed his tasks without issue. I fought tears in that moment. A clipboard. This teacher had looked at my son, recently diagnosed with ADHD, unable to sit in a chair for long periods while also focusing on his work, and she gave him a clipboard. I knew in this moment what a difference these teachers were going to make.

They saw my kid, they really saw him, and they wanted him to succeed as much as I did.

Shortly into school, my son came home with a fistful of paper money. He explained that in his class, it was used as a reward for good behaviour, positivity, etc. As much as it pains me to admit this, my initial reaction was to wonder if he had traded something with other kids for theirs, or if he had taken some from his teacher’s desk. I’m not proud of that assumption, and I never let on to him that I had suspicions, but my kid never came home showered in rewards for behaviour. Over time, it became clear he was legitimately earning these dollars and other rewards as well. He was so proud to tell us he had the most in the class and to tell us all about what he had done to earn them. You could see the pride beaming from his eyes.

When he received his first report card, we looked it over, and he had improved in every area. There was not a single place, both in effort areas and in actual grades, where he was lacking in. He was no longer struggling. It was the first report card that he had looked at and not burst into tears with disappointment in himself.

At the conference, we learned he had been asked to predict what the report would say, and he had estimated himself to be much lower. It broke my heart.

Then I watched his teachers talk to him about how hard he had been on himself, and how proud he should be of himself. Their words filled him with confidence. He is trying his best, and he is succeeding—the confidence in himself will come. He has always held himself to a high standard, and I am so grateful to his teachers for helping him meet and exceed his own expectations this year.

We have reached the point where I no longer cringe when I see his teachers make eye contact with me at pick up. I ask him how his day was, and anticipate a positive response. These amazing women have brought out the best in my child. They have always seen him for the remarkable, kind, smart child he is, and have found ways to help him see that about himself too. I don’t think they realize the impact they have had on him and on our family. We are moving next month, and there is a very good chance my son will have to switch schools. It pains me to think of him leaving their class, but I know that the gifts they have given him over the past four months will stay with him wherever he goes.

“He is a good student!” said with enthusiasm and genuine eyes. Words we had never heard without a qualification before, and words that filled our family with joy and pride. Never underestimate the power of a good teacher, they can impact your whole life. I think I will start my search for Mrs. Hunter and tell her so too.

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