Inattentive ADHD and the Dreaded Phone Call From School
It was only the 8th day of school and there was a phone message from my inattentive son's teachers. He had just started sixth grade. Gee, I thought, it hasn't even been two weeks and already they are calling. I was prepared for the worst. I had run into the school psychologist at lunch three days earlier and she had asked if my son had been getting his coffee in the morning. "He forgot to drink it on Wednesday and Friday" I said. "I have now packed him a thermos of coffee with his lunch so that if he forgets in the morning he can drink it at school."
What had happened in class I wondered? Was 6th grade just too hard? Was he out of it completely in school? Was he already falling behind? Had he already not turned in a million assignments? I had asked my son how things were going and he had said that everything was fine but sometimes my sons responded that everything was fine when things were much less than 'fine'.
I called the teacher back. She said that she was calling because she was concerned that he seemed a bit 'distracted' and anxious and that he was sometimes off in his own world. She said that she was mostly concerned about his placement in 7th grade math. The majority of the kids in his class were in 6th grade math and she felt that, though he had done 6th grade math last year, that 6th grade math might be a better placement for him.
She was calling to advise me that the first 7th grade math test was coming up. She wanted me to know that if he did not score an 88, or above, on the test that he would be placed in the regular 6th grade math class. She explained that he needed to maintain an 88 average to stay in the advanced class but that I should not be too disappointed if he was placed in the regular class as he would have another chance to be in advanced placement math in high school.
I explained to his teacher that my inattentive son was very capable at math though he despised it. I told her that it was O.K. with me for him to be in 6th grade math but that I thought that he would want to stay in the 7th grade math class. I told her that if she told him that he needed a score of 88 to remain in the advanced math class, that he would score above an 88.
I also explained to her that he drank coffee for his inattentiveness and that it helped him. I told her that he could seem a bit distracted and socially immature but that he was an extremely capable student. I explained to her that he was easy to teach as he liked to follow the rules and please the adults in his life. Lastly I asked her to kindly hold his feet to the fire and to tell him what she wanted from him and with a bit of nudging, coaching, prompting and lots of encouragement, he would deliver what she requested.
She was polite and sweet but I could tell that she was unconvinced. She tried again to explain to me that my son had ADHD and that math made him anxious and that he might not do as well as I hoped. She said that she had a hyperactive son who also struggled at school. I told her that he did have ADHD but that he had Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI) and that his school struggles were different from the struggles that my Hyperactive/Impulsive son had in school. My inattentive son's lack of hyperactivity and oppositional behavior made coaching and prompting a more effective tactic than it was for some children with Combined type or Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD.
I asked her again to just give the "coaching,prompting, nudging, encouragement" method a try as it had worked well for me and for his previous teachers. She agreed to give this a try. So far, 7 weeks into the school year, he has, thank God, done very well. He scored a 92 on the first math test and has scored above a 90 on every test that they have had so far (no matter what the subject) and he has scored a 100% on every one of his vocabulary test.
I believe that coaching works best for Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI) when the inattentive person is aware of the challenge at hand, aware of the barriers to the challenge and buys into the plan to 'slay the dragon'. It seems obvious but it is important to remind the inattentive of exactly what the goals are, of why they may not succeed and to give them strategies for avoiding their pitfalls.
My mother constantly told my teachers that I was smarter than I appeared but she did not set high goals for me. I now know that if my mom had told me that she thought that I could score a 92 on my math test, that I would have probably busted my but proving her right, especially if a teacher was pretty sure that I could not do that well.
As a parent, I know what my children are capable of. Parents of ADHD-PI children should make a habit of expecting as much of them as they are capable of delivering. I take every opportunity to tell my son's teachers (and my son) that what you see is not necessarily what you get. My ADHD-PI son may be anxious, immature, distracted, and a bit out of it at times but it is my job, as his mother, to remind him, and anyone else who might think otherwise, that he is smarter than anyone thinks and more capable than anyone knows.